I-95/Scudder Falls Improvement Project Status Update
The FHWA issued a NEPA decision and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Project on June 14, 2012.
Current Significant Project Considerations for 2013:
• Public Private Partnership (P3) Decisions
In response to a request by then-Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey that the Commission consider using a Public Private Partnership to carry out the I-95/Scudder Falls Bridge Improvement Project, the Commission in August 2011 provided a notice to proceed to KPMG/Nossaman LLP to provide financial/legal advisory services on whether to pursue a P3. Specifically, the consultants were tasked with providing the Commission with analysis, background and other information to assist Commissioners with making a "Go/No Go" decision on whether to move forward in delivering the project as a P3. The draft report prepared by KPMG/Nossaman LLP is currently under review by the Commission.
• Environmental Permitting
The FHWA issued a NEPA decision and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Project on June 14, 2012. The FONSI enables the Commission to move the project forward to final design and construction. A FONSI is issued when environmental analysis and interagency reviews find a project to have no significant impacts on the quality of the environment. The Commission is now in the process of obtaining the various environmental permits needed fo rthe project.
• Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)
The Commission must establish a new Memorandum of Agreement with the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Transportation to address the final design and construction phases of the project. The Commission has circulated draft documents to PennDot and NJDOT and received initial comments from each of those agencies.
• Archaeological Investigations
As identified in the Programmatic Agreement (see below) as mitigation measures to be undertaken by the Commission for the project, archaeological digs were undertaken in the vicinity of the anticipated location of the Pennsylvania abutment for the replacement Scudder Falls Bridge and in the area of the NJ Route 29 Interchange. The field work was conducted by an archaeological team from AECOM, the project's design management consultant. All artifacts found during the field investigations were analyzed and catalogued. Final reports were prepared and submitted to the Pennsylvania and New Jersey SHPOs for review and approval. The final disposition of artifacts was made to the respective State Museums in January 2013.
Recent Noteworthy Developments
Following is a brief summary of significant milestones since the release of the project's initial Environmental Assessment document on December 9, 2009:
Tolling - In December 2009, the Commission authorized tolling to be instituted on the Scudder Falls replacement bridge to help finance the project's substantial costs. The Commission will employ "cashless tolling" technology as a means of generating revenues without the need of a conventional barrier toll plaza that would compromise the project's congestion-reduction and safety-improvement objectives.
Federal TIGER/TIFIA Financing Applications - In 2009 and 2010, the Commission sought federal financial assistance to help carry out the project. The Commission filed an application for a grant from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program (economic stimulus package) and twice applied for a low-cost Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan. The Commission was unsuccessful in these efforts, further underscoring the necessity for establishing tolling at the replacement Scudder Falls Bridge.
Execution of the Project as a Single Contract - In April 2010, the Commission approved a "Statement of Intent" to move forward with the project under a single contract and to include the design and installation of a walkway to serve pedestrians and bicyclists.
Public/Private Partnership (P3) - In July 2010, the Governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey requested the Commission to consider using a Public Private Partnership (P3) to carry out the project. KPMG/Nossaman, who are the Commission's financial/legal advisors for a P3 Go/No Go decision have completed a draft report.
Threatened and Endangered Species - The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), a project cooperating agency, issued a final Biological Opinion on June 11, 2010, wherein a "No Jeopardy" determination was made with regards to impacts on threatened and endangered species. NMFS has reviewed the Addendum to the Environmental Assessment (See below) and found no need to revise this No-Jeopardy opinion.
Programmatic Agreement - In 2010, the Commission entered into a Programmatic Agreement that identifies the mitigation measures it will undertake to address project impacts to the Delaware & Raritan Canal in New Jersey and archaeological sites within the project area in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The agreement was executed by signatory agencies - Federal Highway Administration and both the NJ and PA State Historic Preservation Offices - and three concurring agencies - the Commission and the NJ and PA Departments of Transportation.
Authority to Toll - At the end of January 2011, the Commission received a communication from the Federal Highway Administration affirming the Commission's legal authority to toll the replacement bridge and the need for the Commission and the FHWA to complete a tolling agreement for the facility. In September 2012 the Commission received confirmation from the FHWA that a tolling agreement is not required for the project under the new MAP-21 legislation.
Traffic Diversion Study - In September 2010, the Commission's traffic consultant, Jacobs Engineering, drafted a study and analysis of traffic diversions that might occur once tolling (southbound direction only) is implemented at the replacement Scudder Falls Bridge. In May 2011 the draft study report was updated to address comments made by the transporation agencies. The study concludes that traffic diversions resulting from tolling the new Scudder Falls Bridge will have minimal impacts to the local roadways and bridges.
Addendum to the Environmental Assessment - On November 30, 2011 the Notification of Public Hearing on, and availability of public review of, the EA Addendum was published in area newspapers, and on the Commission's I-95/Scudder Falls Bridge Improvement Project web site. The 30-day public comment period ended on January 3, 2012. A Public Hearing was also held on December 15, 2011 in Langhorne, PA.
Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) - On June 14, 2012 a FONSI was issued for the I-95/Scudder Falls Bridge Improvement Project.