Capital Beltway Study
Full Study | Environmental Overview
An environmental inventory of the study area was conducted and it identified the socioeconomic, cultural, and natural environmental resources . The impacts of the proposed alternates on the environment are currently being assessed in greater detail.
Existing land use within the study area is varied. The uses include residential, commercial, parkland, light industrial, and military. Future development in the study area is to be channeled within designated growth areas in order to retain substantial land areas for rural, open space, and low-density residential uses. Approximately 136 parks have been identified within the study area, including stream valley parks, regional parks, and a large number of neighborhood/community parks. The proposed action may result in impacts to some of these parks. Publicly owned parks and recreation areas are protected by Section 4(f) of the U.S. DOT Act of 1966, which requires avoidance of these areas unless it can be demonstrated that there is no prudent or feasible alternate to use and that all possible planning has been considered to minimize harm.
The socioeconomic inventory was based on the 2000 U.S. Census block groups, all or a portion of them lie within one-quarter mile to either side of the centerline of the Capital Beltway. Minority populations (persons classified as non-white) made up 56.5 percent (98,408 persons) of the study area population in 2000. African-Americans were the largest minority group comprising over 78 percent of the minority population. Hispanic or Latino persons comprise seven percent of the study area population.
The median household income among residents of the study area as a whole in 2000 was $64,534; this was higher than the median household income for the State or for Prince George's County, and lower than the median for Montgomery County. The median household income for the Montgomery County portion of the study area in 2000 was $76,534; this was almost $5,000 higher than the median for Montgomery County as a whole.
In 2000, approximately 10,900 persons, or 6.3 percent of the study area population, were low-income. Low-income persons are defined as persons living in households whose annual income was equal to or less than the poverty threshold determined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Potential impacts on minority and low-income populations will be assessed during later stages of the project. The public involvement efforts will be tailored to the diverse populations that reside in the study area.
Initial investigations have been completed which identified, evaluated, and documented historic resources within an area identified as the 'Area of Potential Effect'. There is the potential for numerous historic resources to be present in the study area. An assessment of archaeological potential has determined that a Phase I archaeological investigation would be necessary for the project area contingent on potential areas of ground disturbance.
The Capital Beltway is adjacent to or crosses several 100-year floodplains, such as the Potomac River, Booze Creek, Rock Creek, Northwest Branch, Paint Branch, and Little Paint Branch. In addition, 12 major stream crossings have been identified within the study area including Cabin John Creek, Thomas Branch, Indian Creek, and Henson Creek, as well as several smaller tributaries. The proposed alternates may affect floodplains and wetlands associated with these crossings. Wetlands and their associated vegetation and wildlife habitats have been identified and surveyed in the study area.
The Potomac River in Montgomery County is a state-designated Scenic River under the Maryland Wild and Scenic Rivers Program. This designation requires that the qualities of the river are protected and enhanced. The Potomac River, at both crossing locations (American Legion Bridge and Woodrow Wilson Bridge), supports a large variety of resident game fish and non-game fish species.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has identified approximately 44 state-listed rare, threatened, and endangered plant or animal species existing in the vicinity of the Capital Beltway corridor. Coordinated efforts between State and Federal agencies will continue to assist in avoiding impacts to these species.
Detailed air quality and noise analyses are underway for the study area.