What is an EIS?
In June 2006, RTD FasTracks began a comprehensive planning study of
transit alternatives between Northwest Denver, Arvada and Wheat Ridge.
The finished product of this study, an Environmental Impact Statement
(EIS), was completed in November 2009. The Gold Line EIS selected a
recommended alternative, identified the impacts that may be caused by
its implementation and recommended ways of mitigating these impacts.
NEPA,the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, requires that federal agencies prepare detailed analyses of any actions that significantly affect the quality of the environment. Environmental Impact Statements are the result of this requirement.
Since 1969, EISs have been produced on virtually every type of activity, such as oil and gas development, scientific research in Antarctica, protection of wildlife habitat, and construction of light rail and commuter rail lines. NEPA requires that the Gold Line EIS include:
- A community involvement process
- A clear statement of the transportation needs within the corridor
- An analysis of all reasonable transportation alternatives that address these needs
- Study and full disclosure of impacts on communities and environmental resources
During this phase, the Gold Line team met with community members to provide information on the project. Scoping helped RTD FasTracks to identify community issues and values that influenced the alternatives being considered in the EIS. In addition, it established the defined Purpose and Need of the project that served as the benchmark from which all alternatives were evaluated.
Evaluation of Remaining Alternatives
In order to narrow the field of transit options for the corridor, RTD FasTracks then evaluated transportation alternatives that met the project's Purpose and Need. NEPA requires each alternative to be evaluated on potential environmental issues in twenty categories, including land use, economics, wetlands, air quality, traffic, etc. In the cases where environmental impacts exceeded allowable limits, mitigation measures were evaluated to determine how much the negative impacts could be minimized or eliminated.
After completing detailed evaluation and considering public input, RTD determined the Preferred Alternative (PA) for the Gold Line. The PA is the alternative that receives high levels of public support, provides the highest projected ridership of all rail alternatives, results in fewer community impacts and is within the corridor budget set by RTD.
Preliminary Engineering Studies of the PA
After selecting the PA, RTD FasTracks began preliminary engineering studies of the recommended alternative. These detailed studies determined exact details about the likely impacts of the PA and recommended mitigation measures to address them.
Draft EIS and Final EIS
NEPA required that RTD FasTracks publish a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) documenting the entire process and clearly detailing its recommendations. The publication of the Draft EIS began a 45-day public comment period when the public could review the report and submit comments. Two public hearings highlighted the comment period, which concluded on September 1, 2008.
RTD FasTracks responded to every Draft EIS comment in the Final EIS. The Gold Line Final EIS contained the final analysis and project recommendations and was released on August 21, 2009. This formal document was submitted to the Federal Transit Administration for review. After reviewing the Final EIS, FTA issued a Record of Decision (ROD) in November 2009 approving RTD's request to complete final design and construction of the recommended alternative. This concluded the EIS process for the Gold Line.