Thursday, March 15, 2001

Sierra Club admits flawed study

Group says findings on highway in error

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Sierra Club, which used research findings to bolster its opposition to a proposed highway along the Little Miami River near Newtown, acknowledged Wednesday its numbers are flawed.

        The Sierra-endorsed study claimed the $77 million rerouting of Ohio 32 would increase traffic congestion, not alleviate it, as the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) believes.

        OKI supports building a 10-mile stretch of elevated highway from Fairfax to near the Clermont County line. The Sierra Club opposes it for a number of reasons, including environmental impact on the river.

        “I regret that there was a mistake; that's not good for anyone,” said Glen Brand, the national Sierra Club's Midwest organizer. “But (the author) stands by his primary conclusion that it's a poor transportation investment.”

        The study by White River Junction, Vt.-based Resource Systems Group was commissioned by the national and Ohio Sierra Clubs, and heralded last week by the local chapter at a press conference. A key conclusion is that “All of the Eastern Corridor study's estimates of travel-time savings are predicated on ... reductions in traffic volumes. Resource Systems said its study showed such savings estimates to be “discredited.”

        The author now calls that conclusion “weakened.”

        “That would likely change some,” Resource Systems Senior Project Consultant Norman Marshall told the Enquirer. “We're all concerned that we didn't get things right the first time.”

        He did not say specifically that he stands by his primary conclusion, noting that he would have to wait for the correct data to make that judgment.

        Mr. Marshall said he would begin working on revised traffic-count estimates as soon as today. “I want to make sure everything is just right,” he said.

        “They (Sierra Club) laid out the accusation that we misled the public, and that's not accurate,” OKI spokesman Allen Freeman said. OKI questioned the Sierra Club's figures after the press conference.

        The highway, which would more closely connect Interstates 71 and 275 via Red Bank Road, is just one part of the $800 million Eastern Corridor renovation project, which OKI says will ease congestion in eastern Hamilton County and fast-growing western Clermont County.

        The Little Miami River is one of three in Ohio on the National Wild and Scenic Rivers list.


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