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Traffic engineer Ketcham: DEIS will be "another massive cover-up" of traffic issue

So, it wasn't just the bloggers who offered tough criticism of the Final Scope for an environmental impact statement for the Atlantic Yards project. Brian Ketcham, the traffic engineer who heads Community Consulting Services, warns that "archaic" methods and resistance to community input show that the upcoming Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) "will be another massive cover-up of the issue that most affects surrounding neighborhoods: traffic."

Ketcham spoke Thursday night at a forum in Brooklyn Heights and also handed out documents, including a tough statement criticizing the Final Scope, which was issued by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

In his statement, Ketcham said:
By choosing to hide behind the archaic, simplistic City environmental practice of only analyzing isolated intersections near the site, the DEIS will ignore the spillback that causes traffic back-ups the length of Fourth Avenue, Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

Ignoring the East River crossings

ESDC continues to offer a strikingly narrow claim, as I noted: that that "the study area was developed to account for the principal travel corridors to/from the site and is bounded on the north by Tillary Street/Park Avenue, on the south by Eastern Parkway/Union Street, on the east by Grand Avenue, and on the west by Hicks Street." (Emphasis added)

Ketcham continued:
By not even looking at the effects on the BQE, the DEIS will ignore what we all know, that when traffic is crawling on the BQE, the overflow is flooding local streets.
By omitting the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges altogether, the DEIS will ignore these traffic chokepoints.
By leaving out major approach roads like Third, Sixth, and Seven Avenues, Schermerhorn, Lafayette, Ashland, Vanderbilt, and dozens of side-streets, like Pacific, State and Dean, the DEIS will ignore impacts on the real world bypass routes that Forest City Ratner's own consultant, Gridlock Sam, advises drivers to take to avoid congestion.

"[F]or all the talk about 'community benefits,' FCR and ESDC intend to ignore the public in the environmental review," Ketcham added, noting that all three community boards--CB2, CB6, and CB8--all called for more modern traffic modeling. He called for the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN)to be equipped with the tools and expertise to test the impact of Atlantic Yards on all affected streets, highways, and transit.

"It is entirely inadequate for the scope of the DEIS to get away with a one-liner for subway service demand," he wrote, because it's still unclear what measures would be used--and the choice of measuring tool affects the analysis.

The DEIS is due by early June. After that, there will be at least 45 days for the community to comment, and for the state agency to hold a public hearing. Project critics hope for a much longer period to gain technical assistance to respond to the document.

More delays coming

Ketcham, who last year said that the enormous scope of development in and around Downtown Brooklyn was cause for a pause in the Atlantic Yards plan, also distributed ominous results from a recently completed traffic model.

The average travel speed in Downtown Brooklyn last year was 6 mph. Given the development planned for the area in the next few years, his estimate for 2012 was 4 mph. And, after the full buildout of Atlantic Yards by 2016, speed would go down to 2 mph.

Total travel time (hours) would increase 75% in 2012 from the 2005 baseline, and 345% by 2016. Emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and volatile organic chemicals would go up about 63% by 2012, and about 275% by 2016.