Environmental News Highlights – November 17, 2021

FEDERAL ACTION

With President Biden’s Signature, State DOTs Ready to Implement Infrastructure Bill – AASHTO

Biden chooses Mitch Landrieu to coordinate infrastructure plan implementation – NBC News

The High Stakes of Infrastructure – The New Yorker

How Biden’s infrastructure win falls short in one big area – Politico (Commentary)

Fact Sheet: What the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Will Mean for American Mobility – USDOT (Media release)

USDOT Announces Key Priorities, Funding for Public Transportation Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal – FTA (Media release)

COVID-19

Government Groups Voice Support COVID-19 Funding Flexibility – AASHTO Journal

Executive Q&A: Biggest Lesson Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic – Metro Magazine

NY, NJ, Conn. agree on dividing up federal transit aid – AP

On the Horizon: Planning for Post-Pandemic Travel – APTA (Media release)

INFRASTRUCTURE RESILIENCE AND SUSTAINABILITY

Amtrak chief outlines expansion plans with infrastructure spending – The Hill

Biden rolls out multibillion-dollar plan to upgrade aging U.S. ports after passage of infrastructure bill – CNBC

The Detroit Smart Parking Lab: Mobility Meets Infrastructure – Detroitisit

Homeowners on Hook for Repairs After San Diego Airport ‘Free’ Soundproofing – KNSD-TV

AIR QUALITY

U.S. unveils roadmap for net-zero aviation emissions by 2050 – Axios

America Isn’t Ready for the Electric-Vehicle Revolution – New York Times (Editorial)

Hawaii Administrative Rules Changed To Allow Electric Vehicles To Use HOV Lanes – Hawaii DOT (Media release)

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

Ohio DOT Project Helping Revitalize Cleveland Neighborhood – AASHTO Journal

A state pollution trading program aims to improve air quality, but critics worry about environmental justice – Delaware Public Media

Despite calls to improve, air travel is still a nightmare for many with disabilitiesNPR’s Morning Edition

Like Basic Income, But for Transportation – CityLab

Officials target undoing racial divides created by Florida highways, interstates – WTVT-TV

How we reported the story on highway displacements – Los Angeles Times

NATURAL RESOURCES

Montana Department of Transportation tests a new way to decrease wildlife collisions – NBC Montana

LA Metro Installs Early-Warning Earthquake Alerts – Next City

Think green – clean your vehicle at a car wash – LI Herald (Editorial)

HEALTH AND HUMAN ENVIRONMENT/ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION

Commuting on a bike – Washington State DOT

Wyoming Pathways Seeks Project Ideas That Need Federal Funds – Big Horn Radio Network

Vehicle noise radar may be coming to Philadelphia – Axios

There’s a New 750-Mile Bicycle Route in New York. Take a Look. – New York Times

Localities Pose Stricter Rules on E-Scooter Use, But Challenges Remain – Route Fifty

U of Minnesota study shows how small changes can make big improvements to pedestrian safety – KMSP-TV

Officials across Central Florida push for pedestrian safety – WKMG-TV

Lane County sets ambitious goals of safety, reliability with proposed Bicycle Master Plan – Register-Guard

TRB RESOURCES/ANNOUNCEMENTS

Research Can Help Micromobility Have a Supersized Effect on Future Transportation – TRB

TRB Webinar: Paving the Way Toward Carbon-Neutral Concrete – TRB

FEDERAL REGISTER NOTICES

Approval and Promulgation of State Plans for Designated Facilities and Pollutants; Colorado; Control of Emissions From Existing Municipal Solid Waste LandfillsEPA (Final rule)

FY 2021 Competitive Funding Opportunity: Enhancing Mobility Innovation – FTA (Notice)

Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Over People; Technical AmendmentsFAA (Technical amendments)

Notice of Intent To Conduct Scoping and To Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary – NOAA (Notice)

Pipeline Safety: Safety of Gas Gathering Pipelines: Extension of Reporting Requirements, Regulation of Large, High-Pressure Lines, and Other Related AmendmentsPipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (Final rule)

PennDOT Turning Plastic Waste into Roadway Surface Material

For several weeks now, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has been dumping plastic waste onto the roadway near a state park – and that is actually a good thing.

[Above photo by PennDOT]

PennDOT is wrapping up a pilot project that uses pellets (seen in above photo) made from grocery bags, milk jugs, and other recyclable plastics in an asphalt reconstruction project. The pellets are being added to the asphalt in two quarter-mile test sections of the project at the entrance to Ridley Creek State Park, about 15 miles west of Philadelphia.

The expected benefits from this project – due to wrap up by the end of November – include diverting waste plastics from landfills, helping to establish a market for recycled plastics, and extending the useful life of asphalt pavements.

“We are very pleased when we can pursue innovations bringing benefits to the public, our transportation assets, and our environment,” Mike Keiser, PennDOT’s acting deputy secretary for highway administration, explained in a recent news release.

Mike Keiser, PennDOT

The pellets are comprised of high-density and low-density polyethylene – known colloquially as Number 2 and 4 plastics, respectively – plus an additive. Common Number 2 plastic products include milk jugs, shampoo bottles, and some plastic toys. Number 4 plastics, by contrast, are lighter and best known for making grocery bags, shrink-wrap, and bread bags to package.

[Click here to learn more about how to recycle different types of plastic.]

First, those pellets are mixed together with recycled asphalt pavement or RAP, which is then heated and applied to the road surface. The entire process is “relatively consistent with conventional pavement preparation processes,” noted PennDOT Press Secretary Alexis Campbell.

The amount of pellet material can vary from job to job, usually comprising two to four percent of the asphalt binder, Campbell said. If a project uses the maximum amount of pellet material in an application, that can translate to up to three million plastic grocery bags per mile paved.

As PennDOT evaluates the project for performance and environmental properties, it is also looking for other suitable roadway locations for testing “plastic asphalt,” Campbell said.

The agency added that this pilot project is coordinated through PennDOT’s Strategic Recycling Program, funded through the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Report Urges More Funding for Colorado DOT Wildlife Protection Projects

A state government report is calling for increased funding for transportation projects that protect big game habitats and corridors and prevent thousands of vehicle-wildlife crashes each year on Colorado’s roads.

[Above photo by the Colorado DOT]

The Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources authored the Big Game Policy Report, subsequently released by Governor Jared Polis (D) on September 29.

A statement from the governor’s office said the report seeks to “prioritize state policy, coordination and investment to support our wildlife and ecosystems.”

The report notes that the effects of climate change, increased industrial, residential construction, plus ongoing infrastructure development increase the number of situations putting wildlife in conflict with people. The most glaring examples of such conflicts are the estimated 4,000 vehicle crashes with wildlife that cost an estimated $80 million each year in Colorado.

The Big Game Policy Report served as a follow-up to an executive order Gov. Polis issued in 2019 directing Colorado DOT to incorporate wildlife protection measures into “all levels of its planning process, to the greatest extent possible.”

The Colorado DOT already planned to make road improvements to U.S. 160 between Pagosa Springs and Durango when it decided to incorporate wildlife protection elements. The busy stretch of highway has been the scene of more than 350 big game-vehicle collisions in the last 10 years as drivers make their way to the Chimney Rock National Monuments.

The project, expected to wrap up this winter, now includes a wildlife overpass and underpass, high-deer fencing, and “jump out” ramps within the two-mile project area. The fencing helps “funnel” the moving herds toward the overpass or underpass, where they can safely cross the busy highway. The earthen ramps are inside the fencing and allow the animals to safely escape traffic.

By including wildlife elements into planned projects, “it gives us a bigger bang for our buck,” said Lisa Ann Schwantes, a Colorado DOT regional communications manager.

“We look at the projects already identified that need to be done, and we overlap them with wildlife projects and marry them together,” she said.

Though incorporating wildlife protection elements into existing planned projects can be cost-effective, the costs still add up. The U.S. 160 project has a total price tag of $12 million, $5.4 million of which include just the construction costs for the wildlife protection features.

The report points out that, while Colorado DOT continues to look for ways to protect big game and drivers from each other, the agency has no dedicated funding source for such wildlife projects – one reason why the new report calls on the state legislature to find new money to support such projects.

“While progress has been made, the General Assembly should prioritize new funding for transportation projects identified by CPW (Colorado Parks and Wildlife) and Colorado DOT that provide a clear benefit to wildlife populations and human health,” the report states.

Environmental News Highlights – November 10, 2021

FEDERAL ACTION

AASHTO Praises Passage of Historic Transportation Bill AASHTO

Fact Sheet: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal – The White House

EPA tells court it will reconsider air quality standards for ozone – Reuters

FHWA 2022 ENVIRONMENTAL EXCELLENCE AWARDS – FHWA (Request for Nominations)

COVID-19

Pandemic milestone: U.S. ends international travel ban, opening the door to vaccinated tourists – CNBC

INFRASTRUCTURE RESILIENCE AND SUSTAINABILITY

AASHTO’s Tymon Talks Infrastructure on C-Span – AASHTO Journal

Public transportation can save the world – if we let it – The Verge

The battle over a vast New York park: is this climate resilience or capitalism? – The Guardian

Kansas City hopes its vision for airport solar will be ready for takeoff soon – Energy News Network

Industry still behind in race for enough truck parking spaces – FleetOwner

AIR QUALITY

Pennsylvania Governor Awards $9.5 Million to Reduce Pollutants and Increase Clean Transportation – Pennsylvania Governor’s Office

Port of Seattle Sets 2040 Net Zero Emissions Target – Ship & Bunker

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

AASHTO President: Embrace the “New Normal” of Equity – AASHTO Journal

Biden wants to ‘reconnect communities’ cut off by interstates – this infamous Baltimore highway shows what’s at stake – MarketWatch

PA Governor Wolf Establishes PA Office of Environmental Justice – WKOK Radio

The event that changed the environmental justice movement forever – Grist

Delays frustrate White House environmental justice advisers – E&E News

NATURAL RESOURCES

California desert high-speed rail line could block sheep, mountain lions. Democrats want more crossings. – Merced Sun-Star

How Minneapolis’ simple change to newly constructed boulevards will improve water quality – MinnPost

Hundreds of SCDOT employees participating in “Grab a Bag SC” litter pickup Tuesday – WOLO-TV

NCDOT Wildflower Program among the most recognized in the country – WGHP-TV

ARDOT Rolls Out Anti-Litter Campaign With Keep It Clean, Arkansas Video – Arkansas DOT (Media release)

CULTURAL RESOURCES

Wisconsin DOT Unveils Dual Language Signs – WJFW-TV

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is setting new standards for public art – The Points Guy

HEALTH AND HUMAN ENVIRONMENT/ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION

New and expanded trail system in north Shelby County, Alabama – Bham Now

Online Survey To Gather Comments on Hawaii Bikeway Needs – Hawaii DOT (Media release)

TRB RESOURCES/ANNOUNCEMENTS

COP26 Presents Historic Opportunity for a More Sustainable Future, Say Presidents of U.S. National Academies – National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Transit and Micromobility – TRB

TRB Webinar: Creature Comforts – Designing Terminal Restrooms and Ancillary Spaces – TRB

FEDERAL REGISTER NOTICES

Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program; Arizona Department of Transportation Final FHWA Audit Report – FHWA (Notice)

Notice of Intent To Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Last Chance Grade Permanent Restoration Project on Interstate 101, in Del Norte County, California – FHWA (Notice)

National Wetland Plant ListArmy Corps of Engineers (Notice)

Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) Safe and Sustainable Water Resources Subcommittee Meeting – December 2021 – EPA (Notice of public meeting)

Announcement of the Board of Directors for the National Environmental Education Foundation – EPA (Notice of appointment and re-appointment; correction)

Deadline Extension for Regional Roundtable Discussions Regarding ‘‘Waters of the United States’’ – Corps of Engineers and EPA (Notice of events; extension of deadline request for nominations)

Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program: Proposal To Find That Ohio Has Satisfied Conditions on Earlier ApprovalNOAA and EPA (Notice of proposed finding; request for comments)

Hazardous Materials: Suspension of HMR Amendments Authorizing Transportation of Liquefied Natural Gas by Rail – Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (Notice of proposed rulemaking)

Notice of Competitive Offer for Solar Energy Development on Public Lands in the State of Arizona – Bureau of Land Management (Notice)

Amended Order Implementing Presidential Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID–19 Pandemic – CDC (Notice)

Requirement for Negative Pre- Departure COVID–19 Test Result or Documentation of Recovery From COVID–19 for All Airline or Other Aircraft Passengers Arriving Into the United States From Any Foreign Country – CDC (Notice of agency amended order)

Requirement for Airlines and Operators To Collect and Transmit Designated Information for Passengers and Crew Arriving Into the United States; Requirement for Passengers To Provide Designated Information – CDC (Notice of agency order)

ETAP Podcast: Reducing Negative Impacts of Traffic Noise

In this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast, Noel Alcala – noise and air quality coordinator at the Ohio Department of Transportation – discusses the negative impacts that traffic noise has on humans and the cost-effective solutions designed to mitigate it.

[Above photo of highway sound barrier construction by the Ohio DOT]

From loss of sleep to loss of hearing, excessive noise can pose a real threat– with recent reports identifying a possible link between noise exposure and dementia.

Traffic noise is a major contributor to such “noise pollution” that can contribute to negative health outcomes. However, better highway designs and sound barriers can mitigate the negative impact of traffic noise– and state departments of transportation are working on such solutions for those living near high-level traffic noise areas.

According to the noise barrier inventory maintained by the Federal Highway Administration, more than 3,000 linear miles of noise wall barriers have been built since the 1970s across the United States.

Such sound barriers remain an essential part of highway design and construction as the World Health Organization determined that prolonged exposure to high levels of noise “interferes with people’s daily activities … disturbs sleep, causes cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects, reduces performance and provokes annoyance responses and changes in social behavior.”

Yet the cost of meeting those regulations and protecting the public against a vehicle’s roar— the predominant sound for cars is that of tire-pavement; for trucks, engine, and stack sounds – takes considerable funding.

For example, between 2014 and 2016, FHWA found that total construction costs for noise barriers topped $671 million in just a three-year period – an average of $2 million per mile of noise wall.

That’s why many state DOTs are trying to find ways to reduce the cost of noise abatement efforts, noted Alcala – who also leads the Noise Working Group with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Committee on Environment and Sustainability.

“The main goal of more accurate noise abatement modeling can result in cost reduction,” he explained. “Modeling noise levels more accurately can likely reduce costs noise wall in construction.”

To listen to the full podcast, click here.

State DOTs Step Up Roadway Litter Removal Efforts

The Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Arkansas Department of Transportation, and the Arizona Department of Transportation are the latest agencies to beef up anti-litter activities across their respective states.

[Above photo by the Arkansas DOT]

“As we approach the holidays and increased travel, we want to ensure our roadways are safe from the harmful effects of litter,” explained Clay Bright, the former commissioner of the Tennessee DOT, in a statement.

“Whether intentional or unintentional, litter on our roads impacts safety, the environment, and the economy, while also detracting from the state’s natural beauty,” he added. “We are grateful for our many partners across the state coming together to help prevent and reduce litter.”

[Editor’s note: Governor Bill Lee (R) recently named Bright to serve as the CEO of the Megasite Authority of West Tennessee, with Joe Galbato – the current chief of the bureau of administration for the Tennessee DOT – stepping in to serve as interim commissioner.]

The Tennessee DOT and Nobody Trashes Tennessee recently launched “No Trash November,” a month-long statewide initiative encouraging state residents to participate in cleanup events in their communities, in partnership with Keep Tennessee Beautiful and Adopt-A-Highway groups.

“We are rallying our local Keep America Beautiful affiliates to participate in the first-ever No Trash November campaign to help reach the goal to remove 20,000 pounds of litter from our roads,” said Missy Marshall, executive director of Keep Tennessee Beautiful.

Meanwhile, the Arkansas Department of Transportation is beefing up its “Keep It Clean, Arkansas” anti-litter campaign with the addition of a new educational video.

ARDOT launched its refreshed campaign in October at the Arkansas State Fair, providing information to those interested in taking a proactive approach to litter and wanting to get involved with the Adopt-a-Highway program, which sponsors more than 900 volunteer cleanup groups statewide. 

“People may not realize it, but long-term damage occurs when litter hits the highway,” explained Holly Butler, executive assistant for the agency’s public information office, in a statement. “Trash doesn’t just stay on the side of the road. It also gets washed into nearby rivers, lakes and streams, and pollutes waterways and aquatic habitats.” 

[Editor’s note: In April, the Tennessee Aquarium opened a pair of new exhibits funded by the grants from the Tennessee DOT to illustrate how microplastics and other roadside trash can negatively affect the health of the ocean as well as rivers, lakes, and streams.]

Arkansas has the 12th largest highway system in the nation with more than 16,000 miles of roadway to maintain and keep litter-free. However, for every one mile of road, Arkansas averages 2,000 pieces of trash – adding up to almost 32 million pieces of litter each year and costing the agency $5 million annually to remove it.

Finally, the Arizona Department of Transportation provided an update on the roadway debris-removal prowess of its Incident Response Unit or IRU, which started up two years ago with sponsorship by State Farm.

The IRU patrols freeways to provide vital services including removing litter and debris blocking roadways, including commercial load spills, ladders, couches, even air conditioning units. In addition to litter removal, the IRU provides traffic control at crash scenes and aids stranded motorists.

“Litter is an ugly problem anywhere and objects in the roadway can cause serious and even fatal incidents,” said David Blue, Arizona DOT’s IRU manager, in a statement. “Our job is to respond as rapidly as possible to get the driving surface clear and make sure conditions are safe for everyone.”

Environmental News Highlights – November 3, 2021

FEDERAL ACTION

AASHTO Disappointed with Yet another Transportation Bill Extension – AASHTO News

Here’s what’s in the bipartisan infrastructure bill – CNN

Buttigieg defends bipartisan infrastructure bill, ‘optimistic’ it will pass – ABC News

U.S. Supreme Court to hear bid to curb federal power to limit carbon emissions – Reuters

COVID-19

Alaska Railroad rescinds employee vaccine mandate just days after announcing policy – Anchorage Daily News

FTA Recognizes Outstanding Rural Transit Agencies That Have Gone Above and Beyond for Their Communities Amid the Pandemic – FTA (Media Release)

Fact Sheet: Biden Administration Releases Additional Detail for Implementing a Safer, More Stringent International Air Travel System – White House (Media release)

NEPA

Proposed Legislative and Executive Branch Changes to NEPA Process – JDSupra

INFRASTRUCTURE RESILIENCE AND SUSTAINABILITY

Reconstruction of an urban highway in NC named nation’s top transportation project – Charlotte Observer

MoDOT project intends to help flood-prone stretch of Highway 67 rise above traffic woes – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

NJ TRANSIT Continues Resiliency Upgrades In Hoboken – NJ Transit (Media release)

AIR QUALITY

EPA Chief Michael Regan Touts Collaborative Approach of SmartWay Program – Transport Topics

FAA Administrator: Freedom to fly brings environmental responsibility – Runway Girl Network

More Urban Chargers Will Prompt EV Adoption, Experts Say – Government Technology

London expands vehicle levy to improve air quality – Reuters

Connecticut drivers have paid hundreds of millions in clean air and emissions fees. Where did they go? – Yankee Institute

States With Highest Portion Of Their CO2 Emissions Coming From Transportation: California, Washington, & Hawaii – US Department of Energy

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

This Squad of Researchers Is a Real-Life Justice League – Boston University

NATURAL RESOURCES

Arizona DOT Tests New ‘Watch for Animals’ Placards – AASHTO Journal

Keep it Clean, Arkansas campaign launched by ARDOT – Arkansas DOT

GDOT’s Wildflower Program provides pop of color along state highways – WMAZ-TV (Video)

Environmentalists and Chicago Rockford airport officials beg to differ over the Bell Bowl Prairie – WREX-TV

Wetlands are a nature-based solution to climate change – Vermont Business Magazine (Opinion)

CULTURAL RESOURCES

Loss of Fire Lookouts Spurs Questions About Historic Preservation – Columbia University

Can a Map Rekindle London’s Love of Walking? – CityLab

HEALTH AND HUMAN ENVIRONMENT/ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION

Massachusetts Considers Letting Electric Bikes in Bike Lanes – AP

DC makes roadway changes as part of fall safety campaign to protect pedestrians, bicyclists – WTOP Radio

Burlington airport monitoring sound levels following jet-noise complaints – VTDigger

Gov. Kathy Hochul Signs Legislation Cracking Down On Noise Pollution – WCBS-TV

A controversial connection? Thomasville Road multi-use trail in Tallahassee draws fire as planners gather input – Tallahassee Democrat

San Luis Obispo installs new pedestrian-bicycle bridge as part of Railroad Safety Trail project – The Tribune

Orlando Crosswalk Uses Infrared Heat Technology To Detect Pedestrians – WRBW-TV

TRB RESOURCES/ANNOUNCEMENTS

Clearing the Skies with Research on Electric Vehicles – TRB

TRB Webinar: Building Information Modeling for Infrastructure – TRB

Equity in University Research Centers Workshop – C2SMART Center (Link to registration)

FEDERAL REGISTER NOTICES

Port Access Route Study: Alaskan Arctic Coast; Reopening of Comment PeriodCoast Guard (Notice)

Proposed Consent Decree, Safe Drinking Water Act ClaimsEPA (Notice of proposed consent
decree; request for public comment)

Air Plan Approval; NC; Removal of Transportation Facilities Rules for Mecklenburg County – EPA (Proposed rule)

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Mayflower Wind Project on the Northeast Atlantic Outer Continental ShelfBureau of Ocean Energy Management (Notice; request for comments)

Request for Information on NOAA Actions To Advance the Goals and Recommendations in the Report on Conserving and Restoring America The Beautiful, Including Conserving At Least 30 Percent of U.S. Lands and Waters By 2030 – NOAA (Notice)

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Regulations for Designating Critical HabitatU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – (Proposed rule)

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Regulations for Listing Endangered and Threatened Species and Designating Critical HabitatU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries (Proposed rule)

Session Examines State DOT Efforts to Advance Equity

Several state department of transportation executives recently shared insights into how their agencies are advancing equity through infrastructure projects during a knowledge session at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials annual meeting in San Diego.

[Above photo left to right: Diana Mendes, HNTB; Shoshana Lew, Colorado DOT; Paul Ajegba, Michigan DOT; Bill Panos, North Dakota DOT; and Marie Therese Dominguez, New York State DOT.]

“I think we as leaders have to strive for a diverse workforce and get diverse opinions. When we have true representation in the room, we have true inclusive decision-making,” explained Paul Ajegba, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation. “In the past with our transportation projects, we would make decisions and then come back and say ‘was that the right decision?’ We had those questions because did not have the right representation at the beginning.”

Bill Panos, director of the North Dakota Department of Transportation, emphasized that “advancing equity” is not just an urban-focused philosophy. It also applies to transportation work in rural communities as well.

“In rural states, you can drive for four hours and not see another human being,” he said. “Rural states like mine have small populations and large landmasses, which makes for isolated communities. A major snowstorm might lock those communities down for up to a week: you cannot get a car or truck out; you cannot get food or fuel in. That happens to many of them two or three times per year.”

Panos stressed that in primarily rural and small states, a strong federal formula program is the key to sustaining equity. “For rural states like mine, we don’t have a lot of transportation funding options; we don’t have a large population or businesses to tax. That’s why for us 50 percent or more of our transportation dollars come from the federal government. That’s why formula funding is so important – it sustains us and helps maintain the national supply chains that run through our state.”

Shoshana Lew, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, explained that forging closer connections to the communities impacted by transportation projects is another key to advancing equity.

“One of the areas we’ve particularly focused on is the project planning process,” she said. “Not only do we make ourselves more approachable and accessible, but we also use bilingual translators to better connect with the communities impacted by our projects. That helps us generate very real and meaningful dialog.”

Colorado DOT is also trying to “integrate” infrastructure projects better within the communities those structures serve. For example, for the recently completed I-70 highway project in Denver, the agency refurbished homes located near the road to mitigate noise and air pollution. Colorado DOT also helped redesign an elementary school located near the roadway, built parks for the children of families living near the highway, and regularly conducted job fairs during construction to provide employment opportunities to the residents of the communities near the roadway.

“That’s connecting them to economic benefits and long-term employment,” Lew noted. “We have taken this experience [with the I-70 project] – a hard one with ups and downs – and are using it to help us promote equity with other projects.”

Marie Therese Dominguez, the commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation, said making sure everyone in the community benefits from a transportation project also means working more closely with other state and local agencies.

It means working with housing authorities so they can reconfigure post-project space for homes, along with education departments to determine how long-term construction could affect schools.

“It’s about bringing all the state and local agencies together to form a long-term plan – to factor in environmental, housing, and workforce impacts so we get a much more regional and comprehensive look at how a transportation project affects the communities it touches,” she said. “It is all about lifting everyone up because transportation really expands opportunity for communities of kinds.”

Active Transportation Council Building “Research Roadmap”

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Council on Active Transportation is planning to implement a “research roadmap” finalized in July to “prioritize and categorize” state DOT pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure investments in the near future.

[Council Chair Toks Omishakin, director of the California Department of Transportation, is second from left in the above photo with Vice-Chair Melissa Batula, deputy secretary for highway administration for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, at far left.]

That roadmap – developed via the National Cooperative Highway Research Program or NCHRP – seeks to focus on six specific areas:

  • Applying and integrating active transportation data into planning and operations
  • Using minimum accommodations versus alternative approaches to increase active transportation
  • Determining context-driven optimal spacing between marked crosswalks
  • Addressing barriers to integrating active transportation throughout planning and engineering practice
  • Racial and economic disparities in pedestrian and bicyclist safety
  • Speed management solutions and strategies to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety on arterial roadways

“As you know, the Active Transportation Council was created as part of the AASHTO restructuring a few years ago, born from the institutional desire to make active transportation more prominent within the association,” explained Omishakin during a panel discussion during AASHTO’s annual meeting in San Diego.

“The Active Transportation Council has also successfully collaborated with various AASHTO committees in 2021,” he added. “For example, earlier this year, we worked with the Committee on Safety to hold a peer exchange on active transportation safety, with the discussion including data collection, asset management, plus project planning and delivery.”

Omishakin emphasized that, in terms of active transportation external engagement, AASHTO entered into a memorandum of understanding or MOU in February with the Adventure Cycling Association in terms of expanding their joint efforts to expand the U.S. Bicycle Route System or USBRS. That helped spur the designation of 18 new bicycle routes in five states in August, adding 2,903 miles to the USBRS – representing the largest addition to the USBRS to date in terms of both the number of designations and their total mileage.

“We have identified a lot of ways to help one another and work together,” Omishakin stressed during the council’s session at the AASHTO annual meeting. “We will keep both the internal and external conversations and coordination going.”

FHWA Now Accepting Nominations for 2022 Environmental Excellence Awards

The Environmental Excellence Awards (EEAs) recognize outstanding transportation projects, processes, and organizations that incorporate environmental stewardship into the planning and project development processes using Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funding sources.

Any organization, agency, group, or individual in the public, private, or non-profit sectors may submit a nomination. Entries are due by December 15, 2021. Please visit the EEA Applications Website to learn more about the EEA process and to submit an application.