High occupancy toll lanes ignoring the potential for a environmental justice violation
Rodgers, Charner Lynn
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In the US transportation system, environmental justice (EJ) issues are regulated by a variety of laws to ensure that all have fair treatment with respect to implementation of policies. If State Departments of Transportation adhere to all regulations properly but unconsciously, then an underlying negative impact on a community may still exist as a result of a newly implemented project. Since the implementation of High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes are fairly new, and since there have been numerous concerns from the public about their discriminatory nature, a decision support system is needed to identify potential EJ violations and issues when implementing a new or converted HOT lane. No prior model exists. The goal of this research is to assist state's Department of Transportation (DOT) in the early stages of the development of an HOT lane by developing a Potential Environmental Justice Violation Model that will help state agencies predict potential EJ violations before additional resources are invested into a project. By developing a model, this study identifies and classifies characteristic drivers of potential EJ violations related to communities' economic, social, or health and safety status. The Potential Environmental Justice Violation Model (PEJVM) allows state DOTs employees to define and evaluate the distribution of impacts in the relevant categories. The model provides a method for transforming complex qualitative and quantitative data about a project into a user-friendly format where the results can then be visualized using a spider radar diagram to determine the level of impact of each identified variable. The PEJVM was validated using two previous anonymous HOT case studies and demonstrated using the Interstate 85 Case Study in Atlanta, Georgia. This model offers a uniform method of identifying potential environmental justice violations when implementing a HOT lane. The model will also help inform state agencies of potential violations early in the planning stages of HOT lane projects so that the agency can solve any potential EJ issues before additional resources are invested.