Wednesday, March 22nd U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel heard final trial arguments in the Shudde Fath et al v. TxDOT and CTRMA lawsuit challenging the construction of an SH 45 Southwest/Mopac South toll loop project without first preparing a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement. TxDOT and its toll agency partner, CTRMA, instead have divided the project for environmental studies into three smaller pieces—each of which (miraculously) is deemed to have “no significant effects” on the environment.

While chopping up the environmental studies into three small pieces, all of their traffic studies assume all three pieces—SH 45 SW Phase I, Mopac Intersections, and Mopac Express Lanes—will be built together, at the same time.

The court is likely to issue a ruling within the next three weeks. TxDOT has already cleared the SH 45 SW right-of-way and initiated staging for construction. The Mopac Intersections expansion is currently set to begin in September absent a court ordered injunction or further TxDOT delay.

Shortly before trial, SOS research uncovered a startling error and two disturbing omissions in TxDOT’s analysis of the Mopac Intersections portion of the project. This piece of the proposed 17-mile toll loop would add six lanes to the southern two miles of Mopac, to be placed in trenches below new crossing bridges at the Slaughter and LaCrosse intersections.

TxDOT’s Environmental Assessment reported the Mopac Intersections project would add 7.7 acres of impervious cover on top of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. In TxDOT’s separate and more recent filing for TCEQ approval of a required “Water Pollution Abatement Plan,” its engineers disclose for the first time that the actual added impervious cover is 15.87 acres. That’s an error of more than 100 percent on the most critical (and among the simplest) calculation of how much recharge land will be paved over – and thus how much stormwater and pollution will be generated and discharged downstream or directly into the aquifer.

We also discovered that the Mopac Intersections project will require the removal of 690,000 cubic yards of Edwards rock and soil, a number that was somehow missing from TxDOT’s Environmental Assessment. And, perhaps most disturbing, TxDOT’s detailed engineering plans fail to show how they will capture, pump out, and treat the polluted runoff from those portions of the highway dug down into the ground, below the natural grade of the adjacent land.

Read the Second Supplemental Declaration of Plaintiff’s water expert, D. Lauren Ross, Ph.D., P.E. and the supporting documents here. pdf Second Supplemental Declaration of Plaintiff’s water expert, D. Lauren Ross, Ph.D (6.63 MB)  Thank you once again to everyone who has donated so generously and volunteered in support of the Keep Mopac Local effort. Stayed tuned in the weeks ahead.