Frequently Asked Questions
What is NEPA?
A national commitment to the environment was formalized through the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. NEPA establishes a national environmental policy and provides a framework for environmental planning and decision making by Federal agencies. NEPA directs Federal agencies, when planning projects or issuing permits, to conduct environmental reviews to consider the potential impacts on the environment by their proposed actions.
NEPA establishes a supplemental mandate for Federal agencies to consider the potential environmental consequences of their proposals, document the analysis, and make this information available to the public for comment prior to implementation. The environmental protection policy established in NEPA, Section 101, is supported by a set of "action forcing" provisions in Section 102 that form the basic framework for Federal decision making and the NEPA process.
While NEPA establishes the basic framework for integrating environmental considerations into Federal decision making, it does not provide the details of the process for which it would be accomplished. Federal implementation of NEPA is the charge of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which interpreted the law and addressed NEPA’s action forcing provisions in the form of regulations and guidance (Federal Highway Administration).
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and NEPA
Transportation projects receiving federal funding must undergo the NEPA process and documentation of the process. FHWA is required by NEPA to examine and avoid potential impacts to the social and natural environment when considering approval of proposed transportation projects. In addition to evaluating the potential environmental effects, FHWA must also take into account the transportation needs of the public in reaching a decision that is in the best overall public interest.
NEPA requires, to the fullest extent possible, that the policies, regulations, and laws of the Federal Government be interpreted and administered in accordance with its environmental protection goals. Environmental reviews involve an interdisciplinary and interagency process. FHWA works cooperatively with other Federal and state agencies during the environmental review process. This coordinated review process includes input from the public, as well as from other agencies, to guarantee that all environmental protections, as well as all other issues are addressed. (FHWA)
How are environmental impacts assessed?
Environmental resources to be studied in the Environmental Assessment will be identified based on Study Area characteristics and will be consistent with NEPA and FHWA requirements. The NEPA process will consider resources with additional regulatory requirements, such as the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act (Section 106), as well as resources that are typically identified as a concern for the public, such as traffic noise. Once environmental resources are identified, impacts to those resources from the project alternatives will be identified. If impacts occur, the designers will work to evaluate ways to avoid and minimize impacts. If impacts are unavoidable, mitigation measures will be developed.
What is the project schedule and process?Preparation of the Environmental Assessment (EA) is currently underway. As part of the Environmental Assessment, WYDOT will continue to collect environmental data, refine the recommended alternative identified in the 2008 feasibility study, and solicit and consider input from members of the public as well as agencies. The Environmental Assessment will evaluate impacts of the project and identify mitigation measures. Jacobs Engineering is beginning work and should have preliminary plans completed by February 2020. After the Environmental Assessment is completed in late 2020, the Federal Highway Administration will issue a decision document to conclude the NEPA process for the project which is anticipated to occur in late 2022. Final project design could be completed by 2024 or earlier.
What are you doing about the truck rollovers in this area?
The refined preferred alternative will incorporate design components to reduce truck turnovers, including wider interchange loop off-ramps and potential wind reduction measures such as wind walls.
Traffic isn’t that bad in this area. Why do we need to replace the interchange now?
Traffic is expected to nearly double throughout the project study area by 2040. Additionally, the interchange is outdated compared to modern interstate design standards. The traffic safety assessment conducted for this area revealed that the interchange experiences more severe crashes than the statewide average. The tight geometry of the loop ramps, short acceleration and deceleration lane lengths, and entering/exiting vehicle weaving movements contribute to frequent side-swipe and fixed-obstacle crashes. The interchange also currently exhibits some unique safety issues, such as vehicle blow-overs caused by high winds. Under heavier traffic conditions, crashes are likely to increase if no safety design improvements are made.
Will this the project affect local business?
The project may alter some business access. Project construction may temporarily affect traffic patterns. WYDOT will closely consider and minimize disruption to adjacent property owners and business operators. WYDOT is actively working with those businesses to understand their needs and concerns related to the interchange. For situations where property acquisition is unavoidable, WYDOT must comply with the policies and provisions set forth in the Uniform Act.
What agencies are involved with the project?
WYDOT is working with local, state, and federal agencies as part of the NEPA process to identify and design a replacement interchange that best meets current and future transportation needs while minimizing environmental impacts. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is the lead federal agency on the project.
Will the members of the public have opportunities to provide input and participate in the process?
Yes, public input is encouraged throughout all phases of the project. This includes attending public meetings, reviewing information through the interactive project-dedicated website, and attending local events featuring the project. Comments can be provided at these public events and anytime through the project’s website: http://www.i25i80.com. Public meetings and local events will be announced through the project website, email updates, and local media.
When will construction begin?
Constructing the new I-25/I-80 and I-25/Lincolnway interchanges is contingent upon WYDOT securing construction funding. WYDOT is actively seeking federal funding for construction.
How is construction anticipated to impact traffic?
WYDOT is committed to minimizing traffic impacts during construction. As part of the project the I-25 alignment will be shifted to the west and the I-80 alignment will be shifted to the south to facilitate offline construction of the mainline bridges and to reduce impacts to right-of-way in the northeast quadrant of the interchange. Additionally, shifting the alignments simplifies construction staging, minimizes construction duration, maintains the existing number of lanes through construction, improves safety by isolating construction from traffic, facilitates bridge replacement, and increases the project’s life expectancy while minimizing long-term bridge maintenance costs. Construction is anticipated to occur in three phases (see proposed construction phasing here).
What are you doing about the truck rollovers in this area?
The new interchanges will incorporate design components to reduce truck turnovers, including wider interchange loop off-ramps and potential wind reduction measures, such as wind walls along the elevated portion of the new flyover ramps.