[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 114 (Tuesday, June 15, 1999)]
[Pages 32083-32085]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-15141]

[[Page 32083]]



[Public Notice No. 3061]

Office of Mexican Affairs; Issuance of a Finding of No 
Significant Impact for Farm to Market Road 3464 From Interstate Highway 
35 to the Laredo Northwest International Bridge (Bridge IV), Laredo, TX

AGENCY: Department of State.

SUMMARY: Notice is hereby given that the Department of State has issued 
a finding of no significant impact on the environment for Farm to 
Market Road 3464 from Interstate Highway 35 to the Laredo Northwest 
International Bridge (Bridge IV), Laredo, Texas. On October 7, 1994, 
the Department of State issued a Presidential Permit (``Permit'') to 
the sponsor, the City of Laredo, Texas (``City''), for construction of 
the Laredo Northwest International Bridge (``Bridge'') between Laredo, 
Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Issuance of the Permit was 
predicated, in part, upon the Department's Finding of No Significant 
Impact (``FONSI''), which it made on October 3, 1994, concluding that 
the issuance of the Permit would not have a significant impact on the 
quality of the human environment within the United States.
    The Permit specifies that it relates to construction, operation, 
and maintenance of the Bridge ``facilities,'' which include ``the 
bridge, its approaches, and any land, structure or installations 
appurtenant thereto.'' For purposes of the Permit, the approach road 
(``Approach Road'') consists of an extension of Farm to Market Road 
(``FM'') 3464, connecting the Bridge to the nearest crossroad, FM 1472 
(``Mines Road''), as specified in the City's February 1994 permit 
application and in the environmental assessment upon which it was 
    Following issuance of the Permit, the City became interested in 
realigning FM 3464, including the portion to be constructed as the 
Approach Road, approximately 1,000 feet to the south of the location 
described in the February 1994 permit application and environmental 
assessment. (The realignment would cover not only the Approach Road, 
but also the portion of FM 3464 beyond Mines Road, extending to 
Interstate Highway (``IH'') 35.)
    In 1997, the City initiated an environmental assessment 
(``Assessment'') of the FM 3464 realignment project proposal's 
potential environmental effects. Four alignment options were considered 
(the original alignment, the proposed realignment and two alternative 
routes) from IH 35 to the Bridge. The Assessment was prepared by 
Parsons, Brinkerhoff, Quade & Douglas, Inc., of Austin, Texas, and is 
dated December 1997. It was amended on February 16, 1998. The Federal 
Highway Administration (``FHWA'') acted as the lead federal agency 
supervising preparation of the Assessment. In March 1998, after review 
of the Assessment by a large number of federal, state and local 
agencies, the FHWA made a ``finding of no significant impact'' on the 
quality of the human environment within the United States with respect 
to each of the four alternatives. The Laredo City Council then passed a 
resolution accepting the alternative realigning FM 3464, from IH 35 to 
the Bridge, 1,000 feet to the south of the initial alignment.
    In late 1998, the Department, acting in a manner consistent with 
its regulations for implementation of the National Environmental Policy 
Act in the context of its responsibilities with respect to Presidential 
Permits, conducted its own independent review of the Assessment. 
Thereupon, the Department proposed to adopt the Assessment and make its 
own ``finding of no significant impact'' with respect to each of the 
four alternative routes between IH 35 and the Bridge. For purposes of 
the Permit, the Approach Road consists only of the extension of FM 3464 
to be constructed between Mines Road and the Bridge. Nevertheless, 
since each alternative alignment of the Approach Road has been 
presented as a component of an alignment that would extend all the way 
to IH 35, the Department's analysis has included review of each roadway 
alignment alternative in full.
    The Assessment that the Department proposed to adopt was reviewed 
by numerous federal and sub-federal agencies (many of which had already 
reviewed it in the context of the FHWA process). Each Agency, with the 
exception of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, has expressed no 
objection to the Department's proposed action and has approved or 
accepted the Assessment, provided, in certain cases, that mitigation 
recommendations are followed (as described below). These cooperating 
agencies are: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of 
Treasury, U.S. Customs Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 
U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Health and Human 
Services, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, International Boundary and 
Water Commission--U.S. Section, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. 
Department of Agriculture, U.S. Federal Highway Administration, U.S. 
General Services Administration, U.S Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and 
Naturalization Service, Texas Water Development Board, Texas Department 
of Transportation, Texas Historical Commission, and Texas Natural 
Resource Conservation Commission. The Texas Parks and Wildlife 
Department, citing its preference for Alternative 1, which in its view 
``impacts the least amount of critical habitat and reduces the 
potential for wildlife and vehicle collisions,'' indicated that it 
unable to support a FONSI with respect to Alternative 2. The U.S. 
Department of the Interior has advised the Department that there is no 
``critical habitat in the area under examination as that term is 
defined in the Endangered Species Act.''
    For the reasons set forth in the summary, above, and based on the 
foregoing analysis, a finding of no significant impact is adopted and 
an environmental impact statement will not be prepared.
    The environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact 
are available for inspection in the Office of Mexican Affairs during 
normal business hours, from 8:15 AM to 5:00 PM. Please contact David E. 
Randolph, Coordinator for U.S.-Mexico Border Affairs, U.S. Department 
of State, 2201 C. Street NW Room 4258, Washington, DC 20520, telephone 
(202) 647-8529.


Factors Considered

    The Department considered thoroughly four alternative alignment 
options in this case, described in detail in the Assessment and in 
summary fashion as follows.

Alternative 1

    Utilize the alignment of existing FM 3464 between IH 35 and Mines 
Road and extend that alignment to the Bridge as approved in the October 
1994 Permit.

Alternative 2

    Build a new roadway approximately 1,000 feet south of that 
described in Alternative 1.

Alternative 3

    Initially re-stripe existing FM 3464 as a one-way roadway with 
traffic traveling southwest toward the Bridge; in addition, construct a 
two-lane, one-way roadway 290 feet south of existing FM 3464 from Mines 
Road to Auburn Road and expand the separation to a maximum of 1,500 
feet beyond Auburn Road, with traffic traveling Northeast toward IH 35. 
Ultimately, the roadway would consist of a reconstruction of the one-
way facility from Mines Road northeast to IH 35 as a four-lane

[[Page 32084]]

controlled access facility with frontage roads.

Alternative 4

    Build a new roadway approximately 500 feet south of that described 
in Alternative 1.
    Three other options are addressed in the Assessment: (a) a no 
build/do nothing option; (b) a transportation system management option; 
and (c) a mass transit option. The Department has determined that these 
options, each of which is an alternative to construction of the Bridge 
itself, are not feasible.
    In considering option (a), the no build/do nothing option, and 
option (c), the option of the City providing expanded public 
transportation services between Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, 
Tamaulipas, the Department notes the continuing increase in commercial 
truck traffic on the existing Laredo bridges. (Trucks use IH 35 as a 
staging area and line up on IH 35 for several miles during peak travel 
periods, waiting to cross the existing downtown bridges.)
    The Department also notes the significant need for effective 
transportation of people, goods, and services between the United States 
and Mexico. (The value of imports and exports between the U.S. and 
Mexico increased 71% to $129.7 billion between 1992 and 1996.) Trade 
with Mexico is likely to continue to increase as a result of the 
increase in twin plants or maquiladoras located in Laredo and Nuevo 
Laredo. The most significant travel demand relates to commercial 
freight. The provision of mass transit services for the existing 
international bridges would not meet projected commercial, non-
passenger demands. Moreover, fiscal constraints face the City's 
passenger transit system. In sum, increasing population, urbanization, 
and commerce in the Laredo area mean that existing problems of air 
pollution and traffic congestion caused by heavy truck traffic will 
continue to cause the quality of the environment of the Laredo/Nuevo 
Laredo downtown areas to deteriorate if no acceptable alternative route 
for such traffic is provided. These options were considered thoroughly 
in connection with the Department's review of the City's 1994 permit 
application (see October 3, 1994, FONSI, 59 FR 59268 et seq.). They 
were not chosen at that time and a decision was made then to issue the 
Permit. For the reasons described above, the Department's 1994 analysis 
applies with at least equal force in 1999.
    Option (b), the transportation system management option, would 
involve re-routing heavy, commercial vehicle traffic from two existing 
international bridges in Laredo (both of which connect to the Mexican 
State of Tamaulipas) to the Laredo Colombia Solidarity Bridge, which 
provides access to the Mexican State of Nuevo Leon. Such an alternative 
approach would effectively deny heavy commercial vehicles direct access 
to Tamaulipas. In so doing, it would also damage or destroy the 
livelihood of long-standing and vibrant business interests in 
Tamaulipas. Such economic dislocation could, in turn, have negative 
effects on relations between the United States and Mexico. Accordingly, 
the Department finds option (b) not to be viable.

Analysis of the Environmental Assessment Submitted by the City

    The Assessment submitted by the City provides information on the 
environmental effects of the four alternatives outlined above regarding 
the alignment of FM 3464. On the basis of the Assessment and 
information developed by the Department and the other federal and state 
agencies in the process of reviewing the Assessment, the Department 
makes the following determinations regarding the impact of these 
alignment alternatives.

Air Quality

    This project is in an area that is in attainment of the National 
Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Concentrations of carbon 
monoxide under the worst case meteorological conditions are not 
expected to exceed the NAAQS at any time. While there is potential 
during the construction phase for any of the alternatives involving new 
construction to adversely affect air quality in the short term, even 
these effects may be mitigated by requiring contractors to minimize 
exhaust emissions through emissions control devices and to limit 
unnecessary idling of construction vehicles.

River Channel and Floodplains

    Each of the four roadway alternatives would cross three stream 
channels: Las Manadas Creek and two unnamed drainage areas. Channel 
realignments are currently not anticipated. Roadway construction may 
involve some channelization and excavation within the right-of-way for 
the placement of culverts. The U.S. Department of the Interior has 
stated that Alternative 2 would be acceptable to it provided certain 
mitigation recommendations made by its Fish and Wildlife Service are 
followed. The Fish and Wildlife Service has requested and the City has 
agreed to work with the Texas Department of Transportation to 
accomplish appropriate culvert designs for incorporation into the 
roadway planning to provide safe and viable travel corridors for 
endangered cats. The proposed project will not alter the existing 
hydrological characteristics and will not increase backwater elevation 
in the Rio Grande River, Las Manadas Creek, or the two other large 
drainage areas by more than one foot. Encroachment on floodplains was 
analyzed to determine any effects caused by the roadway in the event of 
the 100-year flood. The Bridge and roadway will permit the conveyance 
of the hundred-year flood, inundation of the roadway being acceptable 
without causing it or the Bridge significant damage.

Historical and Archeological Resources

    In October 1996, an intensive cultural resource survey was 
conducted for the corridor containing the roadway alternatives. In 
addition, a single corridor from 0.5 miles north of the current 
alignment of FM 3464 to 0.5 miles south of the proposed FM 3464 
realignment's southern-most right of way, which includes each of the 
four alternatives, was investigated for historic standing structures 
through a ``windshield survey'' and archival map review. Each 
alternative was found to affect a number of prehistoric sites that had 
been disturbed previously. No historic properties were listed in the 
National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and no pre-1950 standing 
structures were observed 0.5 miles north of the existing alignment of 
FM 3464 nor 0.5 miles south of the southern-most realignment proposal's 
southern right-of-way. One archeological site would be impacted by each 
of the four alternative routes: state trinomial number 41WB429. The 
Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) completed a program of 
archeological testing at this site and based upon the results of that 
study the Texas Historical Commission concurred with TXDOT's 
recommendation that the site lacks significant research potential and 
therefore is ineligible for inclusion in the NRHP. In reviewing the 
project according to the procedures set forth in 36 C.F.R. 800, the 
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation's guidelines for the 
implementation of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act 
of 1966, as amended, and in light of the absence of properties eligible 
for inclusion in the NRHP, the Texas Historical Commission concluded 
that the proposed project including each of the four access road 
alternatives will have no effect on historic properties.

[[Page 32085]]

Land Use and Local Development Impacts

    The current area land use along the existing FM 3464 corridor is 
predominately warehousing, light industrial and commercial. Short-term 
development impacts are considered insignificant because of the site's 
rural nature and consist of increased traffic resulting from roadway 
construction. Alternative 1 (expanding FM 3464 while maintaining its 
existing alignment and extending this roadway from Mines Road to the 
Bridge) may result in minimal traffic delays as a result of 
construction activities. Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 each involve building 
a new roadway within 1000 feet of existing FM 3464 and traffic would 
use the existing facility during construction activities. Long-term 
impacts will be determined by the rate and intensity of development 
associated with the Bridge and roadway construction between it and IH 
35. Under Alternative 1, development would likely continue to be 
centered around the improved roadway and traffic patterns would not 
likely change significantly. If Alternative 2, 3, or 4 were chosen, 
development would probably be centered around the relocated roadway 
facility. Though traffic patterns would change, the existing roadway 
would remain open to traffic and would be maintained as a city street.

Threatened and Endangered Species

    None of the four roadway alternatives would result in a significant 
reduction in range and brush land available for habitat. In October 
1996 a biological survey was completed regarding the Bridge facilities 
and alternative road alignments (an area of almost 441 acres). The 
survey area has two riparian woodlands/wetlands areas comprising 55.4 
acres. No endangered plant species were found and impacts to threatened 
or endangered plants are not anticipated under the four alternatives. 
Impacts to endangered ocelots and other wildlife may be direct in the 
form of death through vehicular collision. Such direct impacts appear 
to be lowest for Alternative 1 and similar as between Alternatives 2 
and 4 as each of these alternatives would involve construction of a new 
roadway across linear habitat features (wetlands and riparian 
corridors) used by wildlife. Alternative 3 includes an additional two-
lane, one-way roadway, which would increase the potential occurrence of 
mortality from road kill. In addition to the mitigation measures 
referred to above (see discussion of floodplains), the U.S. Department 
of the Interior has indicated that Alternative 2 would be acceptable to 
it provided that recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Service were 
followed. In accordance with the recommendations of the Fish and 
Wildlife Service, the City has agreed to work with the Texas Department 
of Transportation so that permanent street lighting is directed only on 
the roadway and not on surrounding vegetation near crossings and 
activities resulting in vegetation disturbance are avoided during the 
general migratory bird nesting period of March through August.

Traffic Noise

    Construction noise is difficult to predict. Provisions should be 
included in the plans and specifications that require the contractor to 
make every reasonable effort to minimize construction noise through 
abatement measures such as work-hour controls and proper maintenance of 
equipment muffler systems. Post-construction traffic noise analysis of 
the four roadway alternatives indicates no impact will result.


    Two potential Palustrine wetland areas were identified occupying 
15.23 acres of the survey area. These lie at the Las Manadas Creek 
headwaters. Alternative 1 would widen the existing FM 3464 crossing at 
the headwaters of Las Manadas Creek wetland and would impact 1.85 acres 
of potential wetlands. Similar direct impacts would be anticipated with 
respect to Alternatives 2 and 3, which would involve constructing a new 
road across the wetland area and could involve 3.72 acres of wetlands. 
Alternative 4 would involve constructing a new roadway across the 
narrowest portion of the wetland along Las Manadas Creek. This 
alternative could produce direct impacts to 1.98 acres of wetlands. 
Cumulative impacts are similar for each of the four roadway 
alternatives. These may include for each, additional non-point source 
pollutant discharge into Las Manadas Creek, increased surface runoff, 
and erosion and degradation of wetland function. Additional 
consultations with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are required in 
order to obtain a permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and 
40 CFR 230, which authorizes the discharge of dredge and fill materials 
into waters of the United States. The City and the Texas Department of 
Transportation have assured the Department that they will comply with 
Section 404.

Environmental Justice

    The Bridge, ancillary facilities and the roadway connection to IH 
35 are located in census tract 001075, which the 1990 census indicated 
had a population of 3,320. The 1996 population is estimated to be 7,167 
and over 96 percent are estimated to be Hispanic. No residential 
population is located within 4,000 feet of the proposed project. Median 
household income was $30,149. Therefore, minority and low-income 
populations will not be impacted disproportionately in an adverse 
manner by any of the proposed roadway alignment alternatives, nor will 
there be any negative impacts to community cohesion or neighborhood 

    Dated: June 9, 1999.
David E. Randolph,
Coordinator, U.S.-Mexico Border Affairs, Office of Mexican Affairs.
[FR Doc. 99-15141 Filed 6-14-99; 8:45 am]