ETAP Podcast: The Ray Eyes Future Roadway Developments

This episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast interviews Laura Rogers (seen above), deputy director of The Ray, to examine the future of roadways in America.

Founded in 2014, The Ray is a Georgia-based corporate venture devoted to roadway technology testing and collaborates with a number of state departments of transportation across the country. For example, in 2019, it formed a public-private-philanthropic partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation to create and install a digital testing environment focused on critical interstate use cases, such as crash and weather warnings, for stakeholder engagement and education.

The first phase of work focused on an 18-mile corridor of rural interstate, known as The Ray Highway, and established as a connected vehicle ecosystem with six dual-mode and dual-active roadside radios, a number of cellular V2X or C-V2X equipped vehicles owned by the Georgia DOT connected to Panasonic’s CIRRUS cloud-based data management platform.

Laura Rogers, via The Ray

Additionally, in April, The Ray and consulting firm NGI recently released the NextGen Highways Feasibility Study for the Minnesota Department of Transportation that examined strategies for “co-locating” electric and communications infrastructure in highway right-of-ways or ROWs.

That study focused on the potential deployment of buried, high-voltage/direct current or HVDC transmission lines within Minnesota interstate and highway ROWs – an effort that offers broader implications for highway ROW strategies in other states.

In this episode of the ETAP podcast, Rogers discussed the “safety, condition, and sustainability” concerns surrounding America’s road networks, which she stressed are “vital” to the nationwide movement of goods and people.

Prior to joining The Ray, Rogers served as the sustainability and energy program manager at the Maryland Department of Transportation for six years as part of a long career in the federal and private sectors working on environmental management and sustainability issues.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

ETAP Podcast: Pennsylvania’s New Statewide Anti-Litter Program

This episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast interviews Yassmin Gramian and Natasha Fackler, secretary and infrastructure implementation coordinator for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, respectively, about the state’s new anti-littering program.

[Above photo by PennDOT]

PennDOT helped launch the new program – formally entitled “PA Fights Dirty: Every Litter Bit Matters” – in August along with several other state agencies.

The creation of this campaign is one of the many recommendations made by Pennsylvania’s first-ever Litter Action Plan, released in December 2021. That plan also won a Pennsylvania Governor’s Awards for Excellence in May.

“Every Litter Bit Matters” seeks to get state residents to ensure that every piece of their trash, regardless of size, is disposed of properly as research shows only 3 percent of Pennsylvanians approve of littering, yet 40 to 50 percent of them admit to littering roadways and other public areas.

“Every Litter Bit Matters” also seeks to educate state residents about “situational littering,” such as leaving trash on the ground next to a full can or in a stadium, as well as reminding them that litter of all sizes stacks up and creates problems, Gramian and Fackler explained.

PennDOT noted that a 2019 Litter Research Study found that Pennsylvania has more than 500 million pieces of litter on its roadways, with more than 85 percent of those pieces measuring less than four inches in size. That study also found that litter-related cleanup costs currently total around $350 million each year.

To listen to the full podcast, click here.

ETAP Podcast: Next Generation Highways

In this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast, Jessica Oh – strategic partnerships director in the sustainability and public health office within the Minnesota Department of Transportation – discusses the “next generation highway” her agency is studying.

[Above photo by Minnesota DOT]

The Ray and consulting firm NGI released the NextGen Highways Feasibility Study for the Minnesota DOT in April; a study that examined strategies for “co-locating” electric and communications infrastructure in highway right-of-ways or ROWs.

The study focused on the potential deployment of buried, high-voltage/direct current or HVDC transmission lines within Minnesota interstate and highway ROWs – an effort that offers broader implications for highway ROW strategies in other states.

In April 2021, the Federal Highway Administration released guidance clarifying the highway ROW “can be leveraged by state DOTs for pressing public needs relating to climate change, equitable communications access, and energy reliability.”

Projects listed include renewable energy generation, electrical transmission and distribution projects, broadband projects, vegetation management, inductive charging in travel lanes, and alternative fueling facilities, among others.

“At the heart of this study is the need to examine the energy transmission infrastructure we will need in order to electrify our transportation network; part of a broader effort to decarbonize the U.S. economy,” Oh explained during the podcast.

“The concept we’re evaluating looked specifically at burying [electric power] transmission lines in the highway ROW,” she noted. “Only three states allow for that now. Yet the use of existing distributed ROW could contain the visual impact of expanding our electric grid while lessening the need to acquire more land to support more transmission.”

Building transmission capacity in existing highway ROW could also reduce project-siting timelines by seven to 10 years, Oh added, while reducing the need to work with hundreds of landowners on a project down to dealing with a single state department of transportation.

“There is a great benefit for communities if they allow transmission capacity to be built in the highway ROW,” she emphasized.

To listen to the full podcast, click here.

ETAP Podcast: Electric Vehicles and State DOTs

This episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast talks with Dr. Shihab Kuran (seen above) about the key role state departments of transportation play in helping establish a national electric vehicle or EV charging network.

Kuran is the co-founder and CEO of Power Edison as well as co-founder and executive chairman of its sister company EV Edison – companies offering innovative renewable energy, EV charging, and mobile energy storage solutions for the grid.

Kuran explains a “vision” for a peaceful world with universal access to clean and sustainable sources of energy, food, and water drives his efforts in the EV sector. In this ETAP podcast episode, Kuran discusses a variety of approaches and solutions for meeting the electric grid demand generated by EV charging – how state DOTs can support those efforts.

To listen to this podcast episode, click here.

ETAP Podcast: Native Language Road Signs

This episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast touches on the topic of creating more road signs featuring more of the indigenous languages spoken in the United States with representatives of the Iowa Department of Transportation and Minnesota Department of Transportation.

[Above photo by Jimmy Emerson]

The United States is a country with over 150 indigenous languages still spoken today within its borders. With 5.2 million Indigenous people residing in the country today, speaking those 150-plus languages, why aren’t more of our road signs printed in these native languages? That is what teams from Iowa DOT and Minnesota DOT – along with a variety of indigenous partners – set out to change.

This ETAP podcast discussion involves Brennan Dolan, cultural resources team lead and tribal liaison for the Iowa DOT; Ed Fairbanks, retired tribal liaison for the Minnesota DOT; and Mary Otto, tribal state relations training manager with the Minnesota DOT.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

ETAP Podcast: COMTO and Equity in Transportation

In this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast, April Rai (seen above) – president and CEO of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) – provides an overview of efforts to promote equity in the transportation sector.

[Above photo by COMTO]

Though equity in transportation has become a major topic of interest in the past few years, it is not a new issue.

For example, COMTO – founded in 1961 – has sought to ensure opportunities and maximum participation in the transportation industry for minority individuals, veterans, people with disabilities, as well as minority, women, and disadvantaged business enterprises over the last 50-plus years.

In this podcast episode, Rai talks about how equity in transportation is becoming a “mainstream concern” and how COMTO seeks to show how equity heavily intersects with other key topics such as environmental justice, workforce diversity, public involvement, and more.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

ETAP Podcast: Joint Office of Energy and Transportation

In this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast, Rachael Nealer (seen above) – deputy director for the newly formed Joint Office of Energy and Transportation – discusses the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula program (NEVI) created by the $1.2 trillion infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA, enacted in November 2021.

[Above photo via John Hopkins University]

The Joint Office of Energy and Transportation – created by the IIJA – aims to “facilitate collaboration” between the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Transportation; aligning resources and expertise across the two departments to help build a national network of electric vehicle chargers, zero-emission fueling infrastructure, and the deployment of zero-emission transit and school buses.

Nealer holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Carnegie Mellon University, respectively, along with a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from Carnegie Mellon.

In addition to stints with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, Nealer worked as an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University. For the last year, Nealer served as deputy director for transportation technology and policy at Council on Environmental Quality. To listen to this podcast, click here.

ETAP Podcast: School Bus Electrification

In this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast, Sue Gander (seen above)  – director of the electric school bus initiative for the World Resources Institute – talks about how funds from the $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA signed into law in November 2021 can help expand school bus electrification initiatives.

The ETAP podcast – a technical service program for state departments of transportation provided by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials – explores a wide array of environmental topics that affect transportation and infrastructure programs.

WRI’s Gander explains in this episode of the ETAP podcast that 20 million children, or about half of all American public school students, ride on a school bus every day. Children from coast to coast board one of the country’s nearly 500,000 school buses each morning and ride to class while those vehicles consume diesel, gasoline, natural gas, or propane at an average rate of seven miles to the gallon.

She notes on the podcast that electrification presents a major opportunity to reduce if not eliminate such fuel consumption by school buses – and the $5 billion contained within the IIJA offers an opportunity to state departments of transportation and other state agencies to replace existing buses with electric models and build EV recharging infrastructure to support their operation.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

ETAP Podcast: Preserving Post-WW2 Historical Homes

This episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast discusses ways state DOT cultural resources programs within state departments of transportation are exploring to identify and preserve homes built in the 30 years following World War II that may have potential historical significance.

[Above photo of Levittown, NY, circa 1948]

At the end of World War II, a huge demand for housing ensued. With the help of the G.I. Bill and Federal Housing Administration loans, many returning soldiers were in the market for a new home. The construction boom contributed to what is now termed “post-war” architecture.

However, as those homes – built in the late 1940s through the 1970s – begin to age into potential historical significance, cultural resource practitioners have their work cut out for them.

Scott Williams, cultural resources program manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation, explains how his and other similar groups at state DOTs across the country are trying to post-war home historical preservation demands.

On the podcast, Williams explains how the cultural resources subcommittee within the AASHTO Committee on Environment and Sustainability is conducting a nationwide survey of state DOT post-war practices and protocols when it comes to housing preservation.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

ETAP Podcast: A Look Ahead to TRB’s Annual Meeting

This episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast focuses on the upcoming Transportation Research Board’s 2022 Annual Meeting, held in Washington D.C. January 9-13, along with a preview for the TRB Sustainability and Emerging Transportation Technology Conference taking place March 15-18 in Irvine, CA.

For this podcast, Tim Sexton (seen above) – chief sustainability officer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Chair of TRB’s Transportation and Sustainability Committee – will provide an overview of both sessions. To listen to this podcast, click here.

[Above image via the Minnesota DOT]

The 101st annual TRB meeting also features U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg as the keynote speaker for the plenary session. He will give opening remarks and then participate in a “fireside chat” on stage with the chair and vice-chair of TRB’s Executive Committee.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials along with several state departments of transportation will also be headlining several key sessions at TRB’s annual meeting as well.

Dr. Shawn Wilson – secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development – will lead a state DOT chief executive roundtable entitled “State DOTs: Creating Pathways to Equity.” Wilson has made equity one of his key emphasis areas during his yearlong tenure as AASHTO’s 2021-2022 president.

Roger Millar, secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation, will lead a panel entitled “State DOTs Partnering to Deliver Public Benefits of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.” Millar – who serves as AASHTO’s 2021-2022 vice president – will delve into the disbursement specifics of the funding from the $1.2 trillion surface transportation law, passed in November 2021.

AASHTO’s Caroline Kieltyka will lead a session on “Supply Chain Disruptions: Public Agency Perspectives,” focusing on freight and maritime issues.

Additionally, AASHTO’s Matthew Hardy will lead a session entitled “Embracing the Triple Bottom Line: Incorporating Social Equity and Environmental Sustainability into Your Asset Management Program,” with a particular focus on infrastructure-related concerns.

TRB also plans to host a special session honoring the legacy of Francis B. Francois, who served as AASHTO’s executive director from 1980 to 1999. Francois passed away in February 2021 in Chicago at the age of 87.