The Environmental Process
Purpose and Need
The first step in the environmental process is to develop a Purpose and Need Statement. This sets the framework for the remainder of the environmental process, and serves as a benchmark against which various improvement alternatives are evaluated. The Purpose and Need Statement identifies issues to be addressed by the Southern Gateway project and defines specific reasons for the project.
The project team will begin by developing seven broad corridors for a potential river crossing that meets the project Purpose and Need. Preliminary data, technical evaluation and public input will allow the project team to reduce the number of corridors to four and narrow them to 2,000’ wide. This process will be repeated once more – with an even greater degree of technical detail and public involvement – helping the team narrow the corridor options to three. The three remaining corridors will then be subject to in-depth environmental and technical analysis.
At 2,000’ wide, the three corridors will provide ample room to lay out a number of alternative routes for a new river crossing. The project team will develop the alternatives with input from the public and interested stakeholders, and with oversight and involvement from several state and federal agencies. Detailed technical studies will narrow the field to three potential “build alternatives” and document their anticipated impacts on the natural and man-made environments.
Documentation and Decision
All of the important technical data collected and analyses conducted by the project team will be contained in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS also will contain a summary of public input gathered over the course of the environmental process, and will describe how the Memphis metropolitan area might change as a result of proposed transportation improvements.
Federal and state guidelines direct the process of developing, reviewing and approving the EIS. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) will be circulated for public review, and will be the subject of an official public hearing. Comments from the public and government agencies will be incorporated into the document and a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) will be published. The FEIS will identify the preferred alternative and will serve as the basis for future improvement activities.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has responsibility for providing ultimate approval of the document through a Record of Decision (ROD). That approval allows the preferred alternative to proceed to the next phases of development – design, right-of-way acquisition and construction.
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