Effects to identified environmental resources including farmland and farm severances will be evaluated with attempts to minimize impacts. Public input will be sought to help identify evaluation criteria and determine which alternative best meets the needs of the McLean County, Bloomington, and Normal.
The EA will include a detailed noise assessment for the Preferred Alternative. The assessment will identify all sensitive land uses (residences, parks, schools, etc., as defined by FHWA traffic noise regulation) where there is a potential for noise impacts. The assessment will identify existing noise levels and calculate the change in these levels associated with the proposed alternatives. The analysis will be conducted following Federal and State traffic noise regulations and policies.
Noise walls are typically considered for noise mitigation. In keeping with IDOT’s traffic noise assessment policy, any noise abatement measure must be determined both feasible (can it be constructed and will it achieve a specified traffic noise reduction level) and reasonable (a combination of noise reduction goals and a benefit-cost analysis) in order to be considered by IDOT for implementation. Where noise walls are found to be both reasonable and feasible, the public and immediate property owners will be notified. A public meeting or hearing will present the results of the traffic noise analysis and proposed abatement measures. The viewpoints on proposed noise walls will be solicited from residents who would benefit from the abatement, and the viewpoints determine if a noise wall will be constructed.
The impact, if any, on property values will likely vary depending on the location of the property in proximity to the project. Some properties may see an increase in property value due to the improved accessibility of the properties. Other properties may see little or no change in property value. Property valuation is determined from a variety of factors, many of which are not related to the proposed transportation project (such as market performance).
The alternative evaluation process includes a detailed analysis of the environmental effects of the alternatives under consideration. Farmland impacts, including severed tracts, tracts with access change, and prime farmland are evaluated during the alternatives evaluation process. Alternatives with disproportionately high impacts will be eliminated. Additional agricultural impacts will be analyzed in detail in the Environmental Assessment Analysis. At that time, the alignments will be refined, the number of impacted farms will be determined in addition to number and acreage of landlocked parcels, uneconomical remnants, miles of adverse travel per tract, and tract severances. Access to residences and farm tracts will also be evaluated in detail. The process results in the selection of an alternative that minimizes impacts to farmland as well as many other environmental and socio-economic criteria.
Safety is also an important component of the ESH project. The proximity to schools and areas such as parks is considered and safety will be studied. The ESH will be designed with the safety of its users in mind.
During Phase II final design (after the EA is complete), coordination with impacted property owners will assist in the identification of field tile locations. Exploration trenching will be conducted on both sides of the right-of-way prior to construction to locate any unknown tile that may be impacted by the newly constructed roadway. If any are found, they are replaced within the right-of-way with stronger concrete pipe to protect against the structural load of the new roadway.
The impacts of the alternatives on the Kickapoo Creek watershed were considered in both the Macro Analysis and Alignment Analysis evaluation of alternate alignments. Impacts considered included acres of wetlands affected, acres of floodplain affected, number of stream crossings, and acres of riparian (or bank vegetation) affected. These impacts were considered cumulatively, and alignments with disproportionately high impacts were eliminated. None of the alignments carried forward for analysis in the Environmental Assessment Analysis cross the main branch of Kickapoo Creek. Impacts to wetlands, watersheds, and water quality will be investigated in detail during the Environmental Assessment Analysis for the alignments remaining under consideration. A Focus Working Group (FWG) composed of local citizens has been being to address how to incorporate sustainability in the ESH design and construction.