Downtown Crossing: Environmental and Health Concerns Need to be Addressed 

On November 10, 2012, environmental advocates and concerned citizens held a press conference at College Street and North Frontage Road calling for a revision of the development of the Route 34 East / Downtown Crossing plan.  The New Haven Environmental Justice Network and the Yale Student Environmental Coalition are concerned the plan as proposed will do little to address environmental and health hazards – including respiratory disease, asthma, and other health impacts – related to Route 34 traffic. The groups, which will be present with signs and banners, chose a rush hour conference to underline the impact traffic has on this area.

The current development plan expands road surface to accommodate commuters and support new development of office space and parking garages. The predicted increase in traffic will lead to more dangerous streets and also worsen already environmentally poor air quality standards.  Vehicles onRoute 34 annually emit over 34.6 tons of hydrocarbons, 13,548 tons of carbon monoxide, and 29.8 tons of carbon dioxide (from study in 2000).

Vehicle use is presently the largest contributor to the state’s air pollution problem. Vehicle emissions are believed to present the greatest health risk to Connecticut residents include ozone, particulate matter, acetaldehyde (intensifies asthma), acrolein, benzene (carcinogen, eye and respiratory tract irritant), 1,3-butadiene (neurological effects), formaldehyde, and diesel exhaust.

Specifically, emissions hazards include:

Fine particulate matter (PM): Studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of health problems, including increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing, or difficulty breathing; aggravated asthma; decreased lung function; and development of chronic bronchitis, etc.

Ozone: Exposure to ozone can aggravate chronic lung diseases, reduce the immune system’s ability to fight off infections in the respiratory system, and aggravate heart disease.

Asthma:  About 9 percent of Connecticut’s youth have asthma.  Inhalation of vehicle emissions is harmful to asthmatics. It can affect their lung function and may promote allergic reactions and airway constriction.  New Haven has the highest asthma emergency room admissions in Connecticut.  18% of New Haven’s school children have asthma.

It is imperative that development both supports economic development and human well being. Projects that focus disproportionately on developers’ interests generally fail to serve the community well, create significant hidden health costs, and can limit other long- term growth. The New Haven EnvironmentalJustice Network and the Yale Student Environmental Coalition, call for the City to amend the Route 34plan to better support alternative transportation, significant pollution decreases, and create and environment welcoming to walking and biking.

A human health impact study needs to be completed for Downtown Crossing, both for Phase One and full build-out to fully understand the hidden environmental and  health costs of this project.

Read more about community concerns with Downtown Crossing.


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