Gary Kassof, bridge program manager for the First Coast Guard District, said the agency stands by its assessment and is taking resident concerns into account before deciding if the document will be finalized or if more study is needed.
‘‘We haven’t made any decisions,’’ Kassof said. ‘‘We are here to listen and gather information over the next couple of months, and that’s what we'll be doing.’’
The report says truck traffic will increase one to two trucks an hour by 2035, a change that will have a ‘‘negligible effect on air quality.’’ It also says the bigger, newer ships are more fuel efficient and produce fewer emissions than smaller, older ones.
The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a federal lawsuit last year on behalf of environmental organizations over plans to deepen the shipping channel to the nation’s fourth-busiest container port in Savannah, Ga. Dredging the Savannah River, which runs between Georgia and South Carolina, would result in toxic cadmium being deposited on South Carolina shores and threaten wildlife.
‘‘The Bayonne Bridge is the flip side of the Savannah deepening,’’ with one in the air and the other underwater, said Blan Holman, a managing attorney in the center’s Charleston, S.C., office.
The National Center for Healthy Housing is studying the effects of truck traffic and an intermodal rail facility from the Port of Baltimore, which plans to greatly increase commerce once the canal is widened.
‘‘The main thing in terms of health that we’re focusing on is looking at the impacts of truck traffic on local roads,’’ said Ruth Lindberg, a program manager at the center.
In Miami, the Tropical Audubon Society last year settled a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers that claimed dredging the port would significantly damage Biscayne Bay and harm wildlife.
Residents and environmental groups in Charleston, S.C., aren’t as worried about cargo vessels as cruise ships. They’re currently battling over the environmental and aesthetic impact of increased cruise ship traffic and worry a wider canal could bring even larger ships.
Some on the West Coast, whose ports handle most U.S. imports from Asia, are concerned their ports will hemorrhage cargo and jobs because of the expanded canal. A ‘‘Beat the Canal’’ campaign in California is trying to push projects that would ‘‘enhance the competitiveness of our green ports and corridors,’’ according to its website.
Back in New York, Thurman and others said they want the Coast Guard to fully assess the impact to the communities surrounding the bridge and ports.
‘‘I don’t understand what they’re thinking,’’ Thurman said, ‘‘except that they don’t live here and if something goes horribly wrong, they’re not going to be scrambling to get the hell out of the way.’’