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.

ETAP Podcast: Caltrans’ Toks Omishakin

In this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP podcast, host Bernie Wagenblast interviews Toks Omishakin (at left in photo above), director of the California Department of Transportation or Caltrans.

Omishakin – who chairs the Council on Active Transportation for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials – is considered a national leader in policies that promote safe and equitable “active transportation opportunities,” especially biking and walking.

“When you think about transportation in this country, the one thing that has remained constant is that people walk and bike to get to a variety of places,” he explained on the podcast. “In fact, 30 percent all trips in this country are of one mile or less, with 50 percent three miles or less. So it is clear that there are many opportunities to walk and bike, but have to build the facilities and infrastructure to support those trips.”

Omishakin also pointed out that, “if I could go back in time,” he would not term biking and walking as “active transportation” but rather “transportation essentials” to reflect their modal importance.

“They are a central part of how people live and get about in their communities across the country,” Omishakin said. “Look at the areas of the country where people do not own a car. In New York City, 50 percent of residents do not own a car. In Washington D.C. the rate is 40 percent. In Philadelphia, it is 30 percent. Yet this is not all about big cities. In Akron, Ohio, 15 percent of residents do not own a car. In Mobile, Alabama, 10 percent do not own a car. In Pasadena, California, it is 12 percent.”

Director Toks Omishakin
Photo courtesy of Caltrans

That is why he believes it is critical that the “multimodal focus” of AASHTO and other transportation organizations gets incorporated into key transportation system design guides.

“I’ve been in transportation for 20 years, and whether it is a city, state, or federal transportation agency I’ve encountered, the ‘green books’ on the shelves of their engineers represent the ‘holy grail’ of their decision-making,” he explained. “That’s why the meat, if you will, of what AASHTO’s Active Transportation Council will be focused on in the months and years to come is the incorporation of active transportation within those guidance documents. This is a chance to influence transportation more than ever before. I am really excited by this opportunity.”

Click here to listen to the entire podcast.

ETAP Podcast: Hawaii DOT’s Ed Sniffen

In this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP podcast, host Bernie Wagenblast interviews Ed Sniffen (seen above), deputy director for highways at the Hawaii Department of Transportation, regarding how his agency is focused on improving infrastructure resilience.

Sniffen also serves as the chair of the Committee on Transportation System Security and Resilience for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. The mission of the TSSR committee is to coordinate national response efforts, identifies best practices, and fills research gaps to promote resilient and secure transportation systems across the country. To listen to the podcast, click here.

ETAP Podcast: Arizona DOT’s Steve Olmsted Discusses the Impact of COVID-19

One impact from COVID-19 pandemic being felt by state departments of transportation is the temporary cessation of “traditional” face-to-face public meetings to discuss upcoming transportation projects – with most of such gatherings going virtual.

In this podcast, Steve Olmsted – senior program manager at the Arizona Department of Transportation – discusses how his agency is handling the challenge of engaging the public and moving forward transportation projects during a time of social distancing.

“We call them virtual call-in public hearings,” he said on the podcast. “The meeting was presented by phone only and callers could verbally submit comments … with a court reporter transcribing the comments. The meeting was also simultaneously broadcast on free public radio stations – that is a novel thing for us and credit goes to our community relations team for that.”

To hear more about the “lessons learned” by the Arizona DOT from this process, click here.

ETAP Podcast: Minnesota DOT’s Margaret Anderson Kelliher

In this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP podcast, host Bernie Wagenblast interviews Margaret Anderson Kelliher, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, about her state’s perspectives on environmental sustainability.

Anderson Kelliher, who serves as chair of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Committee on the Environment and Sustainability, explains on the podcast that Minnesota looks for the “triple bottom line” when evaluating sustainability: how sustainability efforts affects the health of people, how it impacts the environment, and how it impacts the economy.

To listen to this podcast episode, click here.

ETAP Podcast: Interview with The Ray’s Allie Kelly

The inaugural episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast includes an interview with Allie Kelly executive director of The Ray – a corporate venture devoted to roadway technology testing. She talks about her group’s work with the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration as part of a “public-private-philanthropic partnership” or P4 charter to collaborate on ways to better use an 18-mile-long portion of Interstate 85 The Ray manages as a “living transportation laboratory.”

“The infrastructure changes we need to make for autonomous and connected vehicles is pretty clear,” she explained during the podcast. “Clear signage and lane markings are critical as are technologies for managing the data streams coming from connected vehicles in real-time to understand where dangerous crashes are located and how to better protect work zones, among other benefits.”

It’s about developing highway infrastructure that is cleaner, smarter, and more efficient, Kelly noted. “We’ve been working with the Georgia Department of Transportation for five years and the formal [P4] charter agreement we signed in 2019 is helping us develop larger projects, such as a group of solar panels on the highway right-of-way managed by Georgia Power that helps reduce expenditures on right-of-way maintenance.” To access more of Ray’s ETAP podcast commentary, click here.