What is PD&E? What follows PD&E? How long before the project begins construction?
The Project Development and Environmental Study (PD&E) is a detailed process by which major transportation projects are developed by the Florida Department of Transportation.
The objective of a PD&E Study is to perform preliminary engineering studies to address the transportation and safety needs and to evaluate potential social, natural and physical environmental impacts. These studies are used to support the decisions concerning if and where the improvements should be built. This process has been authorized by Florida Statues to comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and to secure Federal Government approval of the environmental documents.
Throughout this study, public participation is encouraged. The public includes individual citizens, state and federal agencies, elected officials, permitting agencies, businesses, neighborhood associations and other interested groups. The public can provide input through elected officials, letters, e-mails or by submitting comments through the website
A major project such as the St. Johns River Crossing normally dictates that the PD&E Study occurs in several phases. The first phase of the PD&E study is the Corridor Study Phase which establishes the general highway location. The second phase is the Conceptual Design/EIS Phase where detailed environmental studies will be conducted and documented in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for review and approval by the Federal Highway Administration.PD&E is followed by design, right-of-way acquisition and construction. The approximate timeline from PD&E Study to construction is typically 10 to 15 years. However, this timeline is subject to many variables that could shorten or lengthen the timeline.
Why consider a northern corridor when it would do nothing but serve as a commuter route?
A northern route is being considered because of the potential impacts the facility would have on the existing regional transportation network. Preliminary traffic analyses show that a northern corridor would carry 20% more traffic than a southern route and would provide an increase in travel savings time for both local and regional traffic.
In determining the best location of the corridor, we have to analyze the different alternatives from the perspectives of many different stakeholders. This includes balancing the commuter traffic needs vs. the commercial movement of freight and goods. We cannot make a balanced decision by considering only one variable when there are many variables that need to be evaluated.
Will FDOT build noise walls to reduce the noise impact to the neighborhoods?
Once a preferred corridor is identified, the FDOT will perform a detailed Noise Study that will determine the impact of traffic noise on surrounding neighborhoods. The study will also evaluate the feasibility of noise abatement measures including noise walls.
What will be the height of the new bridge?
The decision regarding the vertical and horizontal clearance of the bridge will be made in conjunction with the United States Coast Guard. The US Coast Guard has jurisdiction over all navigable waters in the United States.
Why not expand the existing Shands Bridge to 4 lanes?
Given the impact of a new corridor on neighborhoods and businesses, FDOT first looked at the possibility of providing a connection between Branan-Field Chaffee Road in Clay County to SR 9B in St. Johns County by upgrading the existing road system. Our traffic analysis showed that upgrading the existing road network would not meet the need for traffic demand. A 4-lane arterial system would allow continuous access to abutting properties resulting in traffic being interrupted by vehicles entering and leaving the roadway. Also, the traffic lights at the major intersecting streets create additional delay on the highway network
Additionally, widening the Shands Bridge would simply move the traffic congestion bottleneck from the bridge to SR 13 in St. Johns County or SR 16 in Clay County. This additional traffic on SR 13 would be detrimental to any attempts to preserve SR 13 as a scenic highway.
Why not use the power line easement through the Ravines Conservation Area rather than crossing Black Creek at Byron Road?
There are numerous difficulties associated with locating an alignment at this location. An alternative running next to the power lines easement was dropped from consideration because of the impact to the Ravine Conservation Area. Locating a corridor through the conservation area triggers Section 4(f) evaluation as part of the Environmental Impact Statement. Under 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 and Section 138 of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1968, the Secretary of Transportation may not authorize use of federal funds to finance construction of highways through public lands if a “feasible and prudent” alternative route exists. If no such route is available, the Secretary may approve construction only if there has been “all possible planning to minimize harm” to the land. At this time, several alternatives exist that provide a feasible alternative to locating a corridor through the Ravines Conservation Area.
Another difficulty in locating the roadway at this location is the large amount of wetlands in the immediate area of Black Creek and the width of the associated regulatory floodway. A significantly longer bridge than the one for the proposed corridors would need to be constructed in order to span the creek at this location. This would increase the cost by several million dollars further complicating the Section 4(f) evaluation to locate the corridor through the Ravines Conservation area.