In spite of public objections, Missoula County, the State of Montana, and the Federal Government authorized the use of a Categorial Exclusion (CE) as the mechanism for compliance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
fails to consider environmental impacts of the project eliminates public participation,
could potentially cost Missoula County taxpayers millions of dollars
eliminates the Maclay bridge rehab as a viable alternative that is analyzed and considered equally in the decision-making process
An environmental analysis using an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) NEPA procedures would allow for more consideration of the above areas where the CE process is lacking.
Absent an environmental impact statement (EIS), it is impossible to accurately ascertain the cost of either rehabilitating the one-lane Maclay bridge or building a new two-lane bridge on South Avenue West.
Best estimate for rehabbing the one-lane Maclay bridge is $3.5 million
New South Ave bridge estimate is over $13 million – this estimate only includes the approaches.
Missoula County will be responsible for upgrades estimated at $4.25-5 million to improve the roads around the new bridge
A thorough environmental analysis would include impacts to human and natural environments (traffic, safety, social, noise, river, stream, floodplain, fish and wildlife impacts)
The use of a Categorical Exclusion (that excludes an equally considered Maclay bridge rehab alternative) as the NEPA mechanism for decision making short cuts a thorough environmental analysis – (See The Case for a Thorough Environmental Review)
An analysis that includes an equally considered Maclay bridge rehab alternative is needed for decision makers to fully understand and be transparent to the public about the fiscal, social, and environmental impacts.