Colorado Moving Forward with Clean Truck Strategy

The administration of Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) recently finalized its Clean Truck Strategy – initially unveiled in March – after what the governor described as “extensive public input.”

[Above photo by the Colorado DOT]

Developed by the Colorado Energy Office, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, the 27-page Clean Truck Strategy seeks to encourage the adoption of zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty trucks statewide, potentially reducing greenhouse gas or GHG emissions from those vehicles by at least 45 percent in Colorado by 2050.

Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles covered by Colorado’s Clean Truck Strategy include tractor-trailers, school buses, snowplows, delivery vans, large pick-up trucks, and many different vehicle types in between.

A separate 147-page study compiled by the Colorado Energy Office found that medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are the second-largest source of GHG emissions in the transportation sector, producing 22 percent of on-road GHG emissions despite making up less than 10 percent of the total Colorado vehicle population.

That study found if Colorado pursues an “accelerated transition” to zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicle models, it could cut GHG emissions by 45 percent to 59 percent, reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 54 percent to 93 percent, and reduce particulate matter emissions by 53 percent to 68 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.

Those three state agencies said they would continue collaborating with stakeholders and initiating implementation on “near-term” actions over the next few months, including:

Those agencies also expect to update the Clean Truck Strategy every two years to respond to “evolving market and lessons” learned from implementing the plan’s near-term requirements. “Colorado has enormous opportunities to reduce pollution and improve quality of life by transitioning from diesel to zero-emission trucks and buses,” explained Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office, in a statement. “This strategic plan creates a framework for achieving big things through investment, collaboration, and regulation.”

Workshop: Grid Integration of EV Charging Infrastructure

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently released its National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula program guidance, which tasks states to develop plans for electric charging infrastructure deployment along major highway corridors.

[Above photo by the Ohio DOT]

To help states develop such plans, the GridWise Alliance, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the National Association of State Energy Officials, and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners are hosting a workshop to explore electric grid considerations related to EV infrastructure investment under NEVI.

Held March 14 from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm eastern, the workshop will feature:

  • Highlights from the GridWise Alliance paper ‘Near-Term Grid Investments for Integrating Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure.’
  • Industry insights on innovative technology solutions.  
  • Utility perspectives on EV charging infrastructure deployment.
  • State perspectives on grid-EV challenges.
  • A group discussion period regarding which utility and technology firms provide the best support to states as they develop EV charging network investment plans.

To register for this workshop, click here.

Michigan DOT Using Carbon Fiber in Bridge Construction

To reduce the cost of corrosion and long-term maintenance expenses, the Michigan Department of Transportation is broadening its use of carbon fiber structural material on bridges statewide.

[Above photo by the Michigan DOT]

“Rusting of steel elements is the leading cause of deterioration in our bridges. Since carbon fiber is non-corrosive, we are eliminating that potential for damage,” explained Matt Chynoweth, Michigan DOT’s chief bridge engineer, in a statement. “Using a material that will not corrode is a real game-changer.”

Paul Ajegba, Michigan DOT’s director, added that one of the ultimate goals in expanding the use of carbon fiber is to build bridges that last a century with minimal maintenance.

He noted that Michigan DOT has been collaborating with Lawrence Technological University or LTU in Southfield, MI, on the use of carbon fiber reinforced polymer materials in concrete bridge beams since 2001 – research now moving from the lab into the field. For example, Michigan DOT is currently building two bridges with carbon fiber reinforced beams as part of its massive I-94 modernization project in Detroit.

[Editor’s note: The Federal Highway Administration launched a new $27 billion Bridge Formula Program on January 14 – a program funded by the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law in November 2021. FHWA projects this new national program will repair approximately 15,000 highway bridges. In addition to providing funds to states to replace, rehabilitate, preserve, protect, and construct highway bridges, the Bridge Formula Program also offers funding for “off-system” bridges as well – generally referring to locally-owned bridges not located on the federal highway system.]

Michigan DOT’s joint research with LTU included subjecting carbon fiber reinforced beams to 300 freeze-thaw cycles, combined fire/loading events, severe weather, and other trials. Now, that joint research team believes they have the information and specifications they need to predict how carbon fiber reinforced beams will perform under a variety of real-world conditions, as well as design tools for future bridge projects.

The agency also noted that the Research Advisory Committee of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials named its joint carbon fiber work with LTU as one of the top 16 research projects of 2020 – work that also led to the development of new MDOT and AASHTO design specifications.

The agency said steel is prone to corrosion and deterioration under assault from extreme temperatures, water, and deicing chemicals – conditions all too common in Michigan. Thus, preventing corrosion and repairing damaged areas requires time and money and can limit the lifespan of bridges, Michigan DOT said.  By contrast, carbon fiber strands have a tensile strength comparable to steel yet resist corrosion and require less maintenance over time.

However, a factor limiting the deployment of carbon fiber bridge beams is price, as carbon fiber elements can cost as much as three to four times more than comparable steel elements. However, based on Michigan DOT and LTU’s joint research, as carbon fiber reinforced beams should last much longer than steel, they may prove to be cheaper over the long run.

“We’ve calculated the ‘break-even point’ to be about 22 years based on life cycle maintenance,” explained Michigan DOT’s Chynoweth. “But since the data points only go back about 20 years, this is a theoretical estimate.”

AASHTO Highlights Key Challenges of EV Charger Plan

While the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials supports President Biden’s “ambitious goal” of building a new national network of 500,000 electric vehicle or EV chargers by 2030, the organization cautions that “many challenges must be overcome, both technical and logistical, in order to make this goal a reality.”

[Above photo by the Colorado DOT]

The establishment of such a network is a key part of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA signed into law in November 2021, which sets aside $5 billion in formula funding specifically to support EV charging infrastructure projects.

In a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation on January 7, AASHTO said some of the major challenges facing this administration’s EV charging push is overall national electrical grid capacity as well as the grid’s proximity to potential charging stations, especially in rural and underserved areas.

Industrial capacity to meet the sudden increase in demand for EV supply equipment, along with the need to coordinate – on a “huge scale” – with business models and supply chain of “non-traditional” transportation sector stakeholders, are also big concerns, AASHTO said. 

Yet one of the biggest short-term challenges facing Biden’s EV effort – with the “greatest potential” to affect the initial deployment of chargers around the country – is the “reasonable and appropriate” application of Buy America requirements to the EV infrastructure industry, the organization emphasized.

AASHTO strongly recommended in its letter a “staged” or incremental approach to the application of Buy America requirements as they relate to EV supply equipment during the initial implementation period of the IIJA in order to facilitate efficient and effective deployment in the first few years.

“A reasonable, practical, step-wise approach will ensure progress in deploying EV infrastructure while coaxing the industry along to full compliance within a defined period of time,” the organization said. “State DOTs are concerned that the approach taken to Buy America has the potential to upset implementation and increase market volatility.”

In addition, EV infrastructure providers need “widespread education” on federal transportation regulations in general, in addition to the Buy America requirements with which they must now comply. “Many of the subcontractors receiving funds for EV infrastructure will be nontraditional, non-transportation-related private-sector entities that are not familiar with and, in many cases, unable to accommodate the myriad federal-aid requirements attached to the IIJA funding,” AASHTO warned.

The organization pointed out that eliminating the interpretation of Buy America at the state DOT/Federal Highway Administration Division Office level by making compliance determinations at the national level and disseminating this information to the states would be the “preferred solution” to this issue.

“The development by USDOT of a national, pre-approved list of EV equipment vendors that are certified Buy America would ensure that the same review and certification processes do not need to be replicated in each individual state, and would also ensure consistent implementation across the country,” AASHTO added.

The Ray Signs Charters to Pilot ‘Green’ Initiatives in Central Texas

The Ray – a Georgia-based transportation innovation non-profit – recently signed separate charters with the Texas Department of Transportation Austin District, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, and the City of Austin to pilot new technologies and “green energy solutions” for the Central Texas region. 

[Above photo via The Ray.] 

“Central Texas is a dynamic growing community with a tech-based economy and a highly educated workforce,” explained Tucker Ferguson, district engineer for TxDOT’s Austin District, in a statement.  

“The community expects government entities like TxDOT, the City of Austin, and the Mobility Authority to use new technology and innovative strategies to enhance mobility, protect the environment, improve quality of life and increase economic opportunity,” he added. “The partnership with The Ray is a great opportunity to bring additional expertise and experience to our work.” 

In Georgia, The Ray has partnered with state and industry leaders to create the world’s first sustainable highway living laboratory, and we are excited to bring our experience in transportation innovation to Central Texas,” noted Laura Rogers, director of strategic partnerships at The Ray.  

[Editor’s note: The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Center for Environmental Excellence recently interviewed Allie Kelly, executive director of The Ray, as part of its Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast series. Click here to listen to that interview.] 

“Focusing on infrastructure that supports future-forward transportation technology through regional collaboration allows for a seamless transition of service across jurisdictions and provides a model to scale similar initiatives across the state and nation,” she said. 

Rogers noted this new Central Texas region collaboration is focusing on “facilitating, executing, promoting and building” projects that prioritize road safety, improve infrastructure resiliency, plus protect and restore the environment.  

Those projects include but are not limited to connected autonomous vehicle infrastructure, solar-powered photovoltaic electric-vehicle or EV charging stations, and in-road dynamic wireless EV charging, she said. 

The Ray’s 501c3 nonprofit status will open additional opportunities to collaborate between the public and private sectors by acting as a bridge to accelerate project delivery while leveraging “innovative funding mechanisms,” explained Harriet Langford, president and founder of The Ray.  

By working with the various tech companies moving to Austin and those that already call Austin home, this new collaboration will bring industries together to create better results that directly benefit the citizens of Texas through job creation, resilient roads, and cleaner air, she said. 

“Much like my father Ray C. Anderson shared his model for circular business with companies around the world, The Ray is ready to scale our record of transportation innovation with states across the country,” Langford noted. “Georgia and Texas are both states with an independent streak, and together with all three agencies, The Ray will expand on our projects to create smarter and safer transportation infrastructure for Texans.”

VTrans Awards Mobility and Transportation Innovation Grants

The Vermont Agency of Transportation recently awarded $500,000 in grants via the Mobility and Transportation Innovation or MTI program, which seeks to support “innovative strategies” that improve both mobility and access for transit-dependent Vermonters, reduce the use of single-occupancy vehicles for work trips, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions of GHGs.

[Photo courtesy of the Vermont Agency of Transportation.]

“Innovation like this is essential to meeting the transportation needs of Vermont’s rural population and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” explained Russ MacDonald, public transit manager for VTrans, in a statement. “This is another exciting step forward for the diversification of our state’s transportation system.”

Created by Vermont’s legislature with the passage of the state’s 2020 Transportation Bill in June, VTrans said it awarded 13 grants via its MTU program to fund a variety of projects, including:

  • Extension of existing transportation demand management or TDM programs, such as bike share, and purchase of electric bicycles
  • Creation of new TDM programs such as micro-transit services and car sharing
  • Creation of TDM materials and outreach efforts to promote alternative and efficient commuting options and tools, including teleworking resources such as a telework program guide, telework program planning baseline assessment, and telework best practices resources.

In a related effort, VTrans issued a grant solicitation for new infrastructure projects to improve statewide access and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians in July.

The agency noted that in 2019, it awarded a total of $3.6 million for construction and planning projects throughout Vermont via its Bicycle and Pedestrian grant program.

ETAP Podcast: Georgia DOT’s Innovative PEL Study

In this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast, Jannine Miller and Charles Robinson from the Georgia Department of Transportation discuss the agency’s I-85 Corridor Study and how the department is using a new tool as part of that work: Planning and Environmental Linkages or PELs.

Miller and Robinson explain that PELs represents a collaborative and integrated approach to transportation decision-making that considers environmental, community, and economic goals early in the transportation planning process, while using the information, analysis, and products developed during planning to inform the environmental review process required for transportation projects.

The benefits of PRLs, they emphasize, are improved relationships with stakeholders, improved project delivery timelines, and better transportation programs and projects. To listen to this ETAP Podcast, click here.

Coalitions Help States Tackle EV Infrastructure Barriers

As transportation-fueled greenhouse gas emission concerns rise across the country, wholesale deployment of electric vehicles (EVs) still faces roadblocks as advocates try to develop an expensive infrastructure to support EVs that most people won’t buy.

Only one-third of U.S. adults said they would buy or lease an all-electric car, with the majority citing the scarcity of public charging stations and the EV’s high purchase price, according to a report from Morning Consult. EV purchases are rising, but they comprise only 2 percent of all light-duty vehicles.

“The barriers to buying EVs and building out EV infrastructure are closely connected,” said Tim Sexton, assistant commissioner, and chief sustainability officer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Most EV owners charge at home or at work, which makes it “difficult for private charging companies to be profitable until the EV market share grows,” he added.

Photo courtesy Oregon DOT

According to the U.S Department of Energy (DOE), the country currently has nearly 25,000 public charging stations. DOE’s interactive map tool shows where the stations are, what kind of station (Level 1, Level 2, or DC Fast Charging) is at each location, and can plot an optimal EV route for nearby charging stations. The center also keeps track of how many charging stations are in each state.

However, consumer “range anxiety,” a lack of public awareness of EV purchasing and ownership benefits, plus a complex labyrinth of infrastructure financing have prompted some states to seek a regional approach to electrifying the highways.

To address those issues, three coalitions of states – one on each coast and one in the west – are developing model EV policies, creating consumer awareness campaigns, and building partnerships with businesses, utilities, local governments and public interest groups. It is slow going, but they are starting to show some results.

The Transportation and Climate Initiative is one coalition that includes transportation, environmental and energy officials from states in the Northeastern Association of State Transportation Officials, plus Virginia. One of the group’s goals is to enable drivers “to drive their plug-in cars and trucks from northern New England to D.C. and anywhere in between.” TCI aims to finalize a new multi-state memorandum of understanding in the coming months.

Washington, Oregon, and California are installing hundreds of new EV charging stations in part due to their membership in the West Coast Electric Highway initiative. Those three states are now home to more than 8,800 charging stations – more than a third of all such EV stations in the entire country.

Finally, there is the Regional Electric Vehicle or REV West coalition of eight states – Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming – which aims to enable anyone to “seamlessly drive an electric vehicle across the Signatory States’ major transportation corridors.”

Even small progress on building out an EV infrastructure will encourage people to switch to electric vehicles, Minnesota DOT’s Sexton said. “Public EV chargers are critical for long-distance travel, and it helps normalize EVs,” he explained. “The more chargers people see, the more ‘normal’ the idea of driving an EV becomes.”