[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 18 (Thursday, January 28, 2010)]
[Notices]
[Pages 4619-4621]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-1707]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Transit Administration


Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement on 
Transportation Improvements Within the Blue-Line Corridor in Shaker 
Heights and Warrensville Heights, Cuyahoga County, OH

AGENCY: Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Department of 
Transportation.

ACTION: Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.

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SUMMARY: The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Greater 
Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA or RTA) are issuing this 
notice to advise interested agencies and the public that, in accordance 
with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), an Environmental 
Impact Statement (EIS) may be prepared for the proposed transportation 
improvements in the Blue Line Corridor and extended areas located in 
Shaker Heights and Warrensville Heights, Cuyahoga County, Ohio.
    The EIS will evaluate the following alternatives: (a) A no-build 
alternative; (b) a Transportation System Management (TSM) alternative; 
and (c) various build alternatives that emerge from the scoping 
process. Scoping will be accomplished through meetings and 
correspondence with interested persons, organizations, the general 
public, and federal, state and local agencies.
    The EIS will address the need to: (a) Improve mobility and 
accessibility in the corridor; (b) minimize adverse environmental 
impacts of the transportation improvements; (c) provide long-term, 
cost-effective transportation infrastructure and services; and (d) 
enhance regional economic development.

DATES: Comment Due Date: Written comments on the purpose and need for 
the improvements, and the scope of the alternatives and impacts to be 
considered, should be sent to the address listed below in ADDRESSES by 
February 11, 2010. An interagency scoping meeting will be held on the 
following date:
     Monday, February 22, 2010, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the 
Warrensville Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, 22035 
Clarkwood Parkway, Warrensville Heights, Ohio 44128.
    The location of the scoping meeting is accessible to persons with 
disabilities. Any individual with a disability who requires special 
assistance to participate in the scoping meetings should contact 
Maribeth Feke, Director of Programming and Planning, The Greater 
Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, 1240 W.6th Street, Cleveland, 
Ohio 44113-1331. Phone: 216-566-5160; Fax (216) 771-4424; E-mail to 
BlueLineExtension@pbworld.com no later than a week before the meeting 
date in order for GCRTA to make necessary arrangements.

ADDRESSES: Written comments on the purpose and need for the project, 
alternatives to be considered, scope of the analysis and the impacts to 
be considered should be sent by February 11, 2010 to: Maribeth Feke, 
Director of Programming and Planning, The Greater Cleveland Regional 
Transit Authority, 1240 W.6th Street, Cleveland, Ohio 44113-1331. 
Phone: 216-566-5160; Fax (216) 771-4424; E-mail: 
BlueLineExtension@pbworld.com.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephen Polito, Federal Transit 
Administration, Region 5, 200 West Adams Street, Suite 320, Chicago, IL 
60606. Phone: (312) 353-1552; Fax: (312) 886-0351.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: FTA, the federal lead agency, in cooperation 
with GCRTA, the local lead agency, may prepare an EIS for proposed 
transportation improvements in the Blue Line Corridor and extended 
areas. The lead agencies will also seek the cooperation of the Ohio 
Department of Transportation (ODOT); the Northeast Ohio Area 
Coordinating Agency (NOACA), the Metropolitan Planning Organization 
(MPO) responsible for transportation planning in metropolitan 
Cleveland; the City of Shaker Heights; and the City of Warrensville 
Heights.
    The transportation improvements are being defined through an 
Alternatives Analysis. Issues and alternatives will be identified 
through a scoping process in accordance with the regulations 
implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as 
amended. The scoping process will include refinement of the purpose and 
need for the project, and the identification and evaluation of 
alternative design concepts. It also will provide the basis for the 
selection of a preferred design concept for inclusion in the regional 
transportation plan. Subsequently, alternative alignments and designs 
that are consistent with the selected concept and scope may be 
addressed in an EIS.
    The RTA is evaluating the potential extension of the Blue Line 
Rapid Transit Route beyond its current terminus in the Warrensville--
Van Aken area of Shaker Heights. A major bus transfer center is co-
located with the Blue Line, forming a major hub in RTA's service 
network. The major transportation improvement to be evaluated by this 
alternatives analysis includes light rail, bus access and circulation, 
and pedestrian access.
    Although RTA completed a Major Investment Study (MIS) on this 
corridor in 2001, and a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was 
initiated with the MIS, no recommendation for a locally-preferred 
alternative was made. Since then, the City of Shaker Heights has 
completed a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Study of the 
Warrensville--Van Aken area, resulting in recommendations to redevelop 
the area. Major components of that plan are to: (a) Reconfigure the 
existing six-leg Warrensville--Van Aken intersection into a standard 
four-leg intersection; (b) modify the surrounding roadway network to 
accommodate the intersection reconfiguration and to improve 
walkability; and (c) to generally enhance the economic development 
opportunities in the area. Reconfiguration of the Warrensville--Van 
Aken intersection includes the relocation of the Blue Line's Van Aken 
station and the associated bus transfer center from the northwest 
quadrant to the southeast quadrant of the intersection. The City of 
Shaker Heights is currently engaged in another related project, the 
Warrensville--Van Aken Intermodal Facility Plan, which will guide 
redevelopment in the area of the relocated rail transit station and bus 
transfer center. The roadway reconfiguration project and the Intermodal 
Facility Plan are on-going, concurrent with the Blue Line Corridor 
Alternatives Analysis study.
    Taking into account these existing plans, the Blue Line Corridor 
Alternatives Analysis study will evaluate the potential extension of 
the Blue Line in accordance with requirements of the FTA New Starts/
Small Starts/Very Small Starts Program. The study will incorporate a 
community outreach and engagement program, designed to obtain and 
incorporate the opinions and ideas of the stakeholders and general 
public into the development and evaluation of the potential 
alternatives to extend the Blue Line and relocate the bus transfer 
center. The Blue Line Corridor Alternatives Analysis study consists of 
three phases, as described below:
    Phase 1--Alternatives Analysis: The Alternatives Analysis will 
identify the transportation and development needs of the extended Blue 
Line Corridor and a preferred strategy for meeting those

[[Page 4620]]

needs. In doing this, the Alternatives Analysis will carry forward the 
work performed under the 2001 Blue Line Extension MIS, the 
Warrensville--Van Aken TOD study and the Warrensville--Van Aken 
Intermodal Facility Plan. The outcome of the alternatives analysis will 
be a local consensus on a preferred alternative, for which 
environmental documentation would be developed in Phase 2, and FTA 
documentation for entry into Preliminary Engineering under FTA's New 
Starts (or Small Starts or Very Small Starts) Program can be prepared.
    Phase 2--NEPA Documentation: This phase addresses NEPA 
investigations and environmental coordination. The NEPA investigation 
will begin in the alternatives evaluation phase, with identification of 
environmental fatal flaws and sensitive areas for each alternative as 
part of the alternatives screening. This will include input obtained 
through the community engagement process.
    Phase 3--FTA New Starts Coordination: The project team will 
coordinate with FTA to ensure that all reporting requirements related 
to the project evaluation and rating, the financial capacity of the 
project sponsor, and the technical methods and planning assumptions 
used to prepare the travel demand and cost forecasts are met.

I. Scoping

    RTA and the FTA invite interested individuals, organizations, and 
federal, state, and local agencies to participate in establishing the 
purpose, alternatives, schedule, and analysis approach, as well as an 
active public involvement program. The public is invited to comment on: 
(a) The purpose and need; (b) the alternatives to be addressed; (c) the 
modes and technologies to be evaluated; (d) the alignments and station 
locations to be considered; (e) the environmental, social, and economic 
impacts to be analyzed; and (f) the evaluation approach to be used to 
select a locally-preferred alternative. Scoping comments should focus 
on the issues and alternatives for analysis, and not on the preference 
for particular alternatives. (Individual preference for particular 
alternatives should be communicated during the comment period for the 
DEIS that will be prepared subsequent to the Alternatives Analysis 
study. Refer to FTA Procedures below.) Comments may be made at the 
meetings or in writing no later than March 15, 2010 (see DATES and 
ADDRESSES above).
    NEPA ``scoping'' (40 CFR 1501.7) has specific and fairly limited 
objectives, one of which is to identify the significant issues 
associated with alternatives that will be examined in detail in the 
document, while simultaneously limiting consideration and development 
of issues that are not truly significant. It is in the NEPA scoping 
process that potentially significant environmental impacts--those that 
give rise to the need to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement--
should be identified. Impacts that are deemed not to be significant 
need not be developed extensively in the context of the impact 
statement, thereby keeping the statement focused on impacts of 
consequence consistent with the ultimate objectives of the NEPA 
implementing regulations, which is ``to make the Environmental Impact 
Statement process more useful to decision-makers and the public; and to 
reduce paperwork and the accumulation of extraneous background data, in 
order to emphasize the need to focus on real environmental issues and 
alternatives * * * [by requiring] impact statements to be concise, 
clear, and to the point, and supported by evidence that agencies have 
made the necessary environmental analyses.'' (See Executive Order 
11991, of May 24, 1977.) Transit projects may also generate 
environmental benefits; these should be highlighted as well. The impact 
statement process should draw attention to positive impacts, not just 
negative impacts.
    Once the scope of the environmental study, including significant 
environmental issues to be addressed, is settled, an annotated outline 
of the document will be prepared and shared with interested agencies 
and the public. The outline serves at least three worthy purposes, 
including:
    1. Documenting the results of the scoping process;
    2. Contributing to the transparency of the process; and
    3. Providing a clear roadmap for concise development of the 
environmental document.

II. Description of Study Area and Purpose and Need

    The RTA completed a Strategic Plan for its future capital 
investments. The plan examined both the opportunities for expansion of 
RTA's system, and the constraints placed on it by RTA's financial 
capacities. Financial plans are suggesting that RTA will have to be 
very prudent in its capital investments to develop highly cost-
effective improvements while maintaining its significant existing 
infrastructure. The Shaker Heights TOD plan suggested a relatively 
short extension of the Blue Line south and west of the existing station 
site.
    The Shaker Heights TOD plan and the Blue Line Extension MIS provide 
a starting place for the Alternatives Analysis. The study area is 
within the urban settings of the City of Shaker Heights and the City of 
Warrensville Heights, but it also includes the communities of Highland 
Hills and North Randall. The project is bounded approximately by 
Interstate 271 to the east, Interstate 480 to the south, Warrensville-
Center Road to the west, and Cedar Road to the North. The project area 
contains a diverse mix of medium-density residential developments, 
retail centers, large office developments, recreation uses of a golf 
course and horse racing track, and the major institutions of Cuyahoga 
Community College and the new University Hospital's Chagrin Highland 
Campus.
    The purpose of the Blue Line Corridor Extension is to: (a) Develop 
transportation improvements that reach new transit markets located to 
the south and east of the corridor; (b) improve transit connections 
between downtown Cleveland and the southeastern portion of the region; 
(c) improve access for existing users of the corridor to destinations 
within the study area; and (d) promote redevelopment and/or development 
along the existing and extended Blue Line corridor. Among the defined 
transportation needs assessed in this document are the following issues 
and items.
     There is no direct freeway access from the southeastern 
portion of the region to downtown Cleveland or University Circle. This 
lack of direct access makes travel by personal automobile and transit 
difficult. Travelers must either take a longer interstate route (I-480 
west to I-77 north) or congested and slow regional arterials.
     The bus and rail options for inbound travelers are limited 
and suffer from the same lack of direct routes as those operating 
personal automobiles. Bus service to downtown can either operate 
indirectly on freeways or use congested and slow regional arterials. 
The existing Blue Line offers an expedited ride on an exclusive 
guideway, but is limited because it does not have direct access to the 
freeway network, nor does it directly access University Circle.
     The RTA has limited park-and-ride opportunities in the 
study area for transit service to downtown Cleveland and University 
Circle. The nearest RTA park-and-ride lot, Southgate, only has 28 
spaces, and is not adjacent to the

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freeway network. Commuters desiring to park-and-ride at the 
Warrensville--Van Aken Blue Line terminus must first deal with 
navigating the local street network, and then must park over \1/4\-mile 
from the station.
     Travelers who do use the existing roadway system 
experience significant congestion. Congestion occurs on all local 
freeways, with I-480 experiencing a LOS of F during both AM and PM peak 
periods. This congestion results in a loss of time and productivity for 
those traveling to and from the study area. Many of the arterials also 
experience LOS of D or worse.
     Outbound commuters who live along the existing Blue Line 
corridor in both Cleveland and Shaker Heights have connectivity issues 
using transit to connect to jobs and retail located within the study 
area.

III. Alternatives

    The scoping meetings, other community meetings, and written 
comments will be a major source of alternatives for consideration in 
the Alternatives Analysis. Transportation alternatives proposed for 
consideration in the Blue Line Extension will include:
    1. No Action Alternative--Existing and planned transit service and 
programmed new transportation facilities to the year 2030 with no new 
change to transportation services or facilities in the area beyond 
already committed projects.
    2. Light Rail Build Alternative--Extension of the Blue Line south 
and west of the existing Warrensville--Van Aken Station site at the 
northwest corner to the southeast corner of Chagrin Avenue and 
Warrensville-Center Road; from the existing location south to the area 
of Interstate 480; or from the existing location east to south east to 
the area of Interstate 271.
    3. Transportation System Management (TSM) Alternative--Other 
technology alternatives: TSM will include signal prioritization of bus 
transit corridor(s) through the use of GPS chips and signal controller 
upgrades.
    Based on public and agency input received during scoping, 
variations of the above alternatives and other transportation-related 
improvement options, both transit and non-transit, will be considered 
for the Blue Line Extension project.

IV. Probable Effects/Potential Impacts for Analysis

    The FTA and RTA will consider probable effects and potentially 
significant impacts to social, economic and environmental factors 
associated with the alternatives under evaluation in the EIS. Potential 
environmental issues to be addressed will include: land use, historic 
and archaeological resources, traffic and parking, noise and vibration, 
environmental justice, regulatory floodway/floodplain encroachments, 
coordination with transportation and economic development projects, and 
construction impacts. Other issues to be addressed in the EIS include: 
natural areas, ecosystems, rare and endangered species, water 
resources, air/surface water and groundwater quality, energy, 
potentially contaminated sites, displacements and relocations, and 
parklands. The potential impacts will be evaluated for both the 
construction period and the long-term operations period of each 
alternative considered. In addition, the cumulative effects of the 
proposed project alternatives will be identified. Measures to avoid or 
mitigate any significant adverse impacts will be developed.
    Evaluation criteria will include consideration of the local goals 
and objectives established for the study, measures of effectiveness 
identified during scoping, and criteria established by FTA for `''New 
Start'' transit projects.

V. FTA Procedures

    In accordance with the regulations and guidance established by the 
Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), as well as the Code of Federal 
Regulations, Title 23, Part 771 (23 CFR 771) of the FHWA/FTA 
environmental regulations and policies, the EIS will include an 
analysis of the social, economic and environmental impacts of each of 
the alternatives selected for evaluation. The EIS will also comply with 
the requirements of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) and with 
Executive Order 12898 regarding Environmental Justice. After its 
approval, the DEIS will be available for public and agency review and 
comment. Public hearings will be held on the DEIS. The DEIS will also 
constitute the Alternative Analysis required by the New Starts 
regulations.
    The Final EIS will consider comments received during the DEIS 
public review and will identify the preferred alternative. Opportunity 
for additional public comment will be provided throughout all phases of 
project development.

    Issued on: January 20, 2010.
Marisol Simon,
Regional Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2010-1707 Filed 1-27-10; 8:45 am]
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