National Environmental Policy Act
NJ TRANSIT is conducting the design of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Route 440 Extension Project in accordance with the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) procedures for new transit projects. As part of those procedures, FTA must make a determination about the project’s environmental impacts in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). After the NEPA review, FTA can approve development of the final design for the project and potentially provide funding.
NEPA Environmental Assessment
For the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Route 440 Extension Project, NJ TRANSIT prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) in accordance with FTA’s NEPA regulations. The EA describes the project and evaluates its potential to result in environmental impacts. The EA covers a wide range of environmental issues, as required by NEPA. These include the following, among others:
- Social conditions – Effects on land use, parks and recreational resources, and neighborhood character and consistency with future plans and public policies that affect the neighborhood.
- Acquisition and displacement – Identifying any properties that must be acquired for the project and the current activities on those properties.
- Visual and aesthetic conditions – Changes to important views in the community resulting from the project.
- Cultural resources – Identifying any historically significant structures and possible buried archaeological resources and evaluating the project’s effects on these resources.
- Traffic and transportation – Potential effects on traffic conditions on local roadways, effects to parking, and improvements or impacts to public transit, including the rest of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system.
- Noise and vibration – Evaluating the potential for noise impacts on nearby residences.
- Air quality – Assessing the possibility of increased air pollution from the project, such as might result if traffic congestion were to increase.
- Infrastructure and energy – Potential conflicts with existing infrastructure, such as buried utility lines; adequacy of existing infrastructure to meet new demands from the project.
- Hazardous materials – Identifying areas of known or possible contaminated soils or groundwater and developing measures to manage those areas during construction to minimize risks to construction workers and the community.
- Natural resources – Assessing the project’s effects on plants, habitats, animals, birds, and aquatic resources (e.g., the Hackensack River).
- Environmental justice – Identification of minority and low-income communities that could be affected by the project and outreach efforts to involve those people in review of the project.
- Construction impacts – Effects of the project’s construction activities on traffic, noise, air quality, community character, and other environmental issues.
The EA was completed in September 2013. The EA was made publicly available and comments were accepted from the public on the document for a 30-day comment period ending October 21, 2013. During the comment period, a public meeting was held on October 8, 2013, to solicit comments.
Following completion of the comment period, based on its review of the EA and comments received, FTA issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the project on June 27, 2014. The FONSI marks the final step in the NEPA review of the project.