Over the last year and a half I have been fortunate enough to prepare traffic studies for several large scale developments. These have been part of – jargon alert – AUARs (Alternative Urban Areawide Review) and EISs (Environmental Impact Statement). These are environmental impact documents required by the Minnesota Legislature through the Environmental Quality Board (jargon – EQB) for large developments. I have several great professionals who I can refer you to if you have nuanced questions about the difference between the two types of studies (as they say, check with your professional to get specific advice), but here is my quick generic assessment.
An EIS is usually done for developments that are very definable, i.e. a stadium. AUARs are typically done for large areas that will have a mix of commercial/residential/office uses. An EIS analyzes one development scenario where an AUAR usually analyzes at least two development scenarios. Once an EIS is done, it remains valid forever unless the development is significantly altered. On the other hand, an AUAR has to be updated every five years until the development is completely built out. I am working on a traffic study for an AUAR update right now because the orginal AUAR expired. The development is about 2/3 built, but they have to get their AUAR update done before they can break ground on another building.
There are many nuanced, valid reasons for determining if an AUAR or an EIS is the correct environmental document to prepare. If I was a city traffic engineer, I would prefer AUARs because you are analyzing the impacts of multiple development scenarios. An AUAR also allows you to reassess the situation every five years. If I was a developer, I would prefer an EIS because I wouldn’t have to pay for an update in five years and I wouldn’t have to worry about being bitten in the future (by stricter regulations, impacts from other developments, etc.).
p.s. Please forgive my brief blogging hiatus. I enjoyed a few days off last week and have been paying for it this week.