|Issue 274||June 19, 2000|
- Warn of Traffic Back-ups, Health Risks -
On Monday, June 5th, almost 300 people crowded into the first of two public hearings to discuss a proposal for a 1.2 million sq. ft., $500 million luxury mall near the intersection of I-95 and I-91 in New Haven. Out of the fifty speakers, thirty argued against the Galleria Mall, citing the increased traffic from the project, particularly the environmental and public health costs of emissions from idling cars and diesel trucks on the interstates (MTR #259).
The public hearings were ruled necessary by a Hartford judge in response to a lawsuit brought against the State of Connecticut by coalition of local businesses and citizens. The suit charged that similar complaints aired at a public hearing in 1999 had not been sufficiently addressed in a study commissioned by the Department of Economic and Community Development which found that the addition of the mall would have "no significant impact" (FONSI).
The DECD study reports that the Galleria Mall is likely to draw 2,261 vehicle trips per hour at peak traffic hours. The majority of these added trips would be expected to pass through the I-91/ I-95 inter-change. But the study does not consider the congestion and air quality effects of this added traffic on the inter-states, concerning itself only with the local roads adjacent to the project area.
Critics point out that the south-bound inter-change already sees large-scale back-ups. Its one lane currently handles 1,000 more vehicles per hour than the 2,000 it was designed to allow. Adding possibly another 1,000 vehicles in 2001 - the mall's projected opening date - would only exacerbate congestion levels that won't improve until planned corrective construction is completed in 2012.
Nancy Alderman of the group, Environment and Human Health, Inc., told the Campaign that more hours of idling trucks could substantially increase the amount of diesel particulates in the air for New Haven neighborhoods near the inter-change, leading to increased risks for respiratory diseases and lung cancer. She also warned that the mall is "not just a local problem, but is going to be New England's problem if it happens", threatening to delay goods delivery via truck from Maine to Washington DC.
Mall opponents are in for a difficult fight as both Governor Rowland and Mayor John DeStefano of New Haven have backed the mall, earmarking $32 million and $25 million in subsidies for it respectively. The state Office of Policy and Management must approve the DECP's findings in order to release an additional $28 million in state financing aid granted to the developer by the state legislature. The second public hearing is scheduled for July 6th.