After analyzing air-quality figures at one of the city’s most heavily trafficked intersections, the Palm Coast City Council has determined that it isn’t worth pursuing further analysis along Florida Park Drive, where residents have complained of dirty and polluted air they claim is harmful to health.
“If our worst-case scenario is far better than the standard, then Florida Park, which is far from being our worst case, is even better,” Palm Coast Mayor Jon nets said, summing up what the analysis shows: pollution levels at Palm Coast Parkway and Cypress Point Parkway are well below the threshold of air quality standards that would trigger further analysis. Florida Park Drive sees much less traffic that that intersection. So air quality there is almost certain to be even better than at the city’s busiest intersection.
The matter was before the Palm Coast City Council Tuesday in the latest in a series of discussions caused by residents’ complaints about traffic on Florida Park Drive, and council member Heidi Shipley’s attempts to address those concerns. It’s been a recurring issue over the years, but Shipley, as a new council member, gave residents new impetus to press for changes again. What specific changes they are asking for, however, has bee more difficult to understand.
Last June the council ruled out changing traffic patterns on Florida Park Drive, seeing no unusually heavy traffic and only cause for unintended consequences if patterns were somehow rerouted. The council has asked for and been granted more speeding enforcement from the sheriff’s office. That hasn’t quelled complaints about the 8,000 cars that travel the road every day.
Next on the city’s attempts to address concerns was air quality. City staff gathered “base information” (in City Manager Jim Landon’s terms) to let council members decide whether they want to take the next step, meaning deeper, and more expensive, air-quality analysis along the road.
Air quality is defined by federal Clean Air Act standards and driven by the prevalence (or absence) of certain pollutants such as ozone (or smog), lead or carbon monoxide, 75 percent of which is produced by vehicles. Air quality is influenced by topography and geography: air can be trapped in certain places, shifted by wind, rain, temperatures, and so on. (It is measured by some 200 monitoring stations in Florida.)
Nowhere near the sort of air quality that would trigger health concerns.
The National Ambient Air Quality Standard for carbon monoxide is 9 parts per million over an 8-hour average not to be exceeded more than once per year. Measures are taken near intersections and weight for worst-case assumptions such as weather, traffic and site conditions. Estimates are based on one-hour and eight-hour concentrations of carbon monoxide. If concentrations exceed 35 parts per million for a one-hour period or 9 parts for an eight-hour period, further analysis is required.
The city took measurements at Cypress Parkway and Cypress Points in 2008 ahead of construction planned there. The highest-measured one-hour test was 9.3 parts per million, the highest recorded for an eight-hour period was 5.6 parts per million.
“So the implication for Florida Park Drive is,” Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts said, “if we sought traffic of the same volume on Florida Park as we see at Cypress Point and Palm Coast Parkway, then we can extrapolate and say, we’re still going to be way under. The reality is, I live right there, I don’t see anything approaching Cypress Point-Palm Coast Parkway traffic.” “You’ve got two factors,” City Manager Jim Landon said. “Not even close to the volume, and you don’t have a signal that causes them to stop.”
A city analysis put it boldly: “If Worst Case intersection passes screening, no additional analysis required. This is the case for Florida Park Drive.” (Additional analysis would have meant further screening at a cost of between $8,000 and $10,000 per pollutant.)
Landon said “it’s basically a waste of time and particularly of money to analyze it further, and expect that you’re going to get results that are worse than Palm Coast Parkway.” He added, “Even at our busiest intersection, we weren’t even close to go to that next step.”
“Recently we’ve been accused of not protecting the citizens in this way,” council member Jason DeLorenzo said, “but it should be known that all of our transportation projects, as proscribed by the DOT,w e run those screenings so we understand the impacts the new roadway is going to have on pollution, on environment and on the citizens.” If there are problems, state and federal grants require local governments benefiting from those grants to take steps to address the issues.
“The point is that we believe that there’s nothing further to do, and if you did you’d be wasting your money,” Landon said, hoping to close the discussion on Florida Park Drive. “We’ve exhausted about all our efforts.”