Sand and Gravel
WEP: elevated expressway through the wetlands
"Elevated structures should be avoided whenever possible unless they are very carefully designed and are graceful and attractive in appearance. Even if well designed, elevated structures are seldom an improvement to the skyline and are more often a blighting element to adjoining property. It is best, even at the high cost of excavation and utility relocation work, to depress highways and surface transportation routes in developed areas. By depressing them they are removed from sight, the sound of traffic is essentially reduced and there is less blighting effect from such a road."
-- Howard County (MD) 1960 General Plan, p. 29
The WEP would be a 30 foot high wall severing the connections between the Nature Conservancy Willow Creek refuge and Fern Ridge reservoir. This wall (of sand and gravel) in the heart of the wetlands park would impede wildlife movement, and during inversions it could trap air pollutants.
The WEP route through the heart of the West Eugene Wetlands would require 1.17 million cubic yards of sand and gravel, much of it for a massive elevated crossing of the train tracks near Amazon Creek. That figure does not include the extra fill required for the WEP / Belt Line interchange. A double trailer gravel truck can hold about 22 yards of fill and is about 40 feet long. Therefore, it would take about fifty-three thousand truckloads of sand and gravel to build the highway, and if those trucks were placed end-to-end, they would stretch for more than 400 miles, nearly the distance from Eugene to Seattle and back.
The related Belt Line widening project (Hwy 99 - West 11th) was projected to require 1.2 million cubic yards of sand and gravel, according to the 1995 EA. A substantial amount of this fill would be required for the Belt Line overpass of the WEP – and must be included in the calculations for the WEP.
ODOT's "Couplet" version of the WEP removed the Terry Street Extended connector, which reduces somewhat the amount of required sand and gravel. However, the admission that the WEP / Beltline interchange would be required for the completed WEP increases the number of sand and gravel trucks needed to build the highway.
The 1997 SDEIS states that “Impacts resulting from ... use [of sand and gravel mines] would need to be assessed in separate reviews.” (SDEIS, p. 4-1) The new DEIS should incorporate the impacts of sand and gravel mining for both the WEP and Belt Line Phase 3 (which would use LOTS more sand and gravel to elevate the Belt Line over the WEP), and how much this gravel mining would contribute toward regional depletion of gravel mine resources.
The 1997 route would use about 4 1/2 times as much sand and gravel as the older 1990 route, not including the WEP / Belt Line interchange requirements. The new DEIS should analyze the impact that WEP / Belt Line Phase 3 construction would have on gravel supplies in the metro area.
“Because differential settlement at [WEP] could be as much as 4 inches, and most post-construction differential settlement is expected to occur within 6 months after the fill is completed, constructing all or part of the approach fill prior to bridge construction will be considered.” Beltline Environmental Assessment (1995), p. 26
“Poor drainage of soils and their low strength properties create both design and construction problems where fill and structures would be placed. For instance, compression and consolidation of soft soil near high embankments could affect any buried utilities located within the footprint, or directly adjacent to high fills. Potential for long-term erosion impacts is not likely to substantially differ between alternatives.” (SDEIS p. 4-1)
This last point ignores that both WEP alignments (north versus south of the railroad tracks) would be devastating, but one would not be much worse than the other. However, the new route (north of the tracks) would be twice as wide as the old route between Terry St and Greenhill Road and would use four and a half times more sand and gravel - the erosion caused by this increase in road size and mass should be discussed in the new DEIS, particularly in relation to the ODOT Charette Alternative and the WETLANDS alternative.
“Because approximately 1.2 million cubic yards of fill material will be required to construct the project [Belt Line widening and grade separation from Route 99 on the north to West 11th Street], it is recommended that if ODOT determines that a nearby noncommercial borrow pit might be preferred and/or necessary, then a study should evaluate the environmental and economic feasibility of establishing such a site in comparison with using other commercial pits in the Eugene-Springfield area.” Beltline EA, p. 26
While this amount of sand and gravel is almost identical to that required by the WEP, this analysis is incorrect. A substantial portion of the Belt Line fill would be to extend the elevated portion south of the railroad track to pass over the WEP and construct the WEP/Belt Line interchange. Lots of fill would also be needed to elevate Roosevelt over Belt Line and sever that connection. If the WEP is canceled, and ODOT’s “Charette Alternative” is implemented instead, only minimal amounts of sand and gravel would be required, reducing the depletion of regional sand and gravel mines.
The SDEIS hints at major design differences between the Approved and Modified projects, but it is difficult to understand the two designs since vertical profiles and artistic renderings were not was included (they should be included in the new DEIS).
The WEP would cross about over the railroad tracks at Terry Street (SDEIS p. 4-52). Later on, the SDEIS claims that it would be only 8 feet high over the wetlands between Green Hill Road and Terry Street (SDEIS p. 5-18). If this latter statement is true, then why would the WEP require massive amounts of right-of-way in that segment (much more than would be required by a 8 foot elevation with side slopes for the fill material)? Wouldn’t WEP / Greenhill need to be elevated to avoid at-grade crossing of the railroad track? “WEP west of Terry to Green Hill Road ... would be raised to maintain a consistent grade for safety reasons.” (SDEIS p. 2-10)
The new DEIS needs to examine if the amount of sand and gravel could be reduced by design changes, including retaining walls and / or pylons (like the Washington / Jefferson I-105 bridge).