The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) objected to the freeway proposal because, according to DOT's own research, the accident rate for a four-lane divided highway is "slightly higher" than the accident rate for the existing road. (July 24, 1998 EPA Comments)
Both the U.S Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and EPA note that DOT is obligated to show why an alternative cannot be found that would avoid destruction of wetlands, which "are relatively scarce in the Cattaraugus Creek watershed." (February 28, 2006 EPA Comments, Attachment item 5). Recently, USACE has said that, since DOT acknowledges the "upgrade" option--developing four travel lanes along the existing alignment--is a viable alternative, unless disturbance of wetlands can be avoided altogether, the project cannot go forward. (Times Herald, January 19, 2008)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife also objected to the freeway proposal because impacts to wildlife and habitat have not been adequately considered. However, following the intervention of Rep. John R. "Randy" Kuhl (R-NY, 29th Dist.), DOT provided supplemental information for one segment of the project, the three-mile road segment from Springville to Peters Road in Ashford Junction. By reducing wetland fill from 12.2 to 10.8 acres for this phase of the project, EPA found DOT modified the project enough to justify withdrawal of EPA's objections. (July 12, 2006 EPA Comments) On October 6, 2006, USF&W followed suit--not, however, without imposing costly conditions on enhanced measures to replace damaged streams and wetlands.
However, USACE's, EPA's and USF&W's objections remain valid: total wetland fill for all phases of the Route 219 Project would be over 30 acres plus elimination of 37,000 feet of perennial and intermittent streams vs. 11.6 acres and few impacts to streams for the "upgrade" alternative. (June 4, 2003 EPA Comments, p. 2)
Thus, notwithstanding political pressure, there remain serious concerns about whether the stated goal of the Project--to to improve traffic conditions, address safety issues, and enhance economic opportunities--is enough to justify the impacts of the four-lane freeway option.
CCCC and William Norton submitted comments discussing these concerns, and criticizing the piecemeal review of the Springville-to-Peters Rd. segment of the larger project.
Despite the criticisms, DEC issued the applied-for certification that water quality will not be impaired, and DOT bids for construction of the project were published on Dec. 14, 2006.