Utah DOT Issues $95M to Begin Building Utah Trail Network

The Utah Department of Transportation recently issued nearly $95 million to support 19 trail projects – including the construction of new paved trails as well as funding for planning efforts to fill in existing trail gaps – as part of creating a regional “Utah Trail Network” across the state. 

[Above photo by Utah DOT]

That agency said that it collaborated with communities statewide regarding the allocation of that funding – approved by the Utah Transportation Commission – to select the key projects for this statewide trail network. 

Of the projects selected for this inaugural round of funding, 13 are considered construction ready and could get underway as soon as 2025, the agency said – depending on contractor schedules, supply availability and other factors like weather.

“Generations from now people will look back at this moment and realize how pivotal the Utah Trail Network was in changing the way we travel,” noted Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah DOT, in a statement. “These projects will connect communities in ways that provide transportation choices for everyone to commute, recreate, and enjoy.”

Braceras noted that, in 2022, Governor Spencer Cox (R) supported the vision for a statewide trail network that would connect state residents of all ages and abilities to their destinations and communities throughout the state. Then, in 2023, the state legislature created the Active Transportation Investment Fund to help support Utah’s trail-building endeavor.

“We have heard the public asking for more trails and are inspired by the trail planning and development efforts across the state,” Braceras said. “These efforts are bringing people together, and we want to do our part by connecting communities through a state funded program that will build trails as part of the state’s transportation system.”

Other state departments of transportation are engaged in similar efforts.

For example, Governor Ned Lamont (D) and the Connecticut Department of Transportation recently hosted a grand opening event for the Putnam Bridge Trail Connection, which provides non-motorized access across the Connecticut River by linking the shared-use path on the Putnam Bridge to Great Meadow Road in Wethersfield and Naubuc Avenue in Glastonbury.

Built by the agency and funded by the state, the expanded trail connection provides a safe, convenient, and functional active transportation option for the traveling public, the governor noted in a statement.

“The Putnam Bridge Trail Connection gives bicyclists and pedestrians a new option of crossing the Connecticut River without needing a motor vehicle, linking the active communities of Wethersfield and Glastonbury,” Gov. Lamont pointed out.

“We anticipate that people will find this trail to be a convenient way of getting to work, exploring local shops and restaurants, or just enjoying a scenic recreational opportunity – all while being able to leave the car at home,” he said.

“This collaborative effort demonstrates the need to build alternative routes for all road users to decrease injuries and fatalities on our roadways,” added Garrett Eucalitto, commissioner of the Connecticut DOT.

There are significant economic benefits to making such trail investments as well.

According to a recent episode of the “Talking Michigan Transportation” podcast – produced by the Michigan Department of Transportation –Julie Clark, chief executive officer for the Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation or TART Trails advocacy group, discussed how trail networks can enhance quality of life for residents while also providing an economic boost.

The economic value of trail networks comes from the key role they play in outdoor recreation, Clark said. For example, in 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released statistics estimating that outdoor recreation accounted for $862 billion in economic output or consumer spending), 1.9 percent or $454 billion of gross domestic product, and supported 4.5 million jobs. 

Environmental News Highlights – May 22, 2024

FEDERAL ACTION

Here come Biden’s environment rules. Now courts will have their say. -E&E News

Federal Investigations Into Baltimore Bridge Collapse Consider Wider Threats to Infrastructure -Engineering News-Record

Biden-Harris Administration Selects 99 Communities for Grants Aimed at Making Local Roads Safer; Invites Applications for Future Rounds of Funding -USDOT (media release)

 

INFRASTRUCTURE RESILIENCE AND SUSTAINABILITY

New York City Nabs Stretch of Brooklyn Coastline to Redevelop –CityLab

Oakland, California becomes first district nationwide with 100% electric school buses -KRON-TV

NREL’s Open-Source Vehicle and Mobility Tools Offer Routes to Reduce Transportation Energy Use, Emissions -National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Opposition grows to speedy electric truck transition –FreightWaves

Cleveland port’s ‘electrification hub’ expected to anchor progress toward net-zero emissions -Energy News Network

 

AIR QUALITY

Coal dust concerns mount after Baltimore bridge collapse –Politico



New technology captures harmful ship emissions at the Port of Oakland -KPIX-TV


Pittsburgh Regional Transit aims to reduce emissions in first-ever climate plan -Allegheny Front

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE/EQUITY

Federal Railroad Administration initiates civil rights probe in Amtrak’s Baltimore tunnel project -Baltimore Sun

Philadelphia Parking Authority begins issuing tickets, fines amid crackdown on ADA mobility violations in city -WPVI-TV

Another successful launch of MDOT’s diversity recruitment program -Talking Michigan Transportation podcast

Interagency Equity Advisory Committee Helps All California Communities Benefit from Transportation Projects -California DOT (media release)

 

NATURAL RESOURCES

Invasive seaweed causing Port of San Diego emergency -KGTV-TV

California’s water tunnel to cost $20 billion, state officials say the benefits are worth it –AP

EPA Announces Final Rule to Improve Public Awareness of Drinking Water Quality -EPA (media release)

CULTURAL RESOURCES

Pete Buttigieg says federal dollars should help mend Philadelphia’s Chinatown -NBC News



MnDOT, Grand Portage Band Partnership Bringing Ojibwe-English Road Signs To Highway 61 –Tbnewswatch

FDOT nixes Pride, Juneteenth bridge displays -Axios Florida

 

HEALTH AND HUMAN ENVIRONMENT/ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION

Texas Department of Transportation Rolls Out Statewide Active Transportation Plan for Safer, Connected Travel –Hoodline

UDOT to build 60 miles of paved trails as part of Utah Trail Network -KSL-TV

With pedestrian deaths at a 30-year high, study examines engineering solutions -University of Minnesota’s Catalyst

Bicycling in Chicago doubled in 5 years, but cyclists still worry about safety -Chicago Sun-Times

Online tool supports local public agencies in addressing pedestrian and cyclist safety -Kansas DOT (press release)

 

TRB RESOURCES/RESEARCH/ANNOUNCEMENTS

Enhancing the Airport Experience with Wayfinding -ACRP (webinar)

Improving Airport Operations and Sustainability via Landside Vehicles -ACRP (webinar)

State DOT Product Evaluation Processes –NCHRP

Community-Driven Relocation: Recommendations for the U.S. Gulf Coast Region and Beyond -National Academies

Incorporating Climate Change and Climate Policy into Macroeconomic Modeling -National Academies (workshop proceedings)

A Primer on Low-Carbon Liquid Fuels and Biobased Products for Transit ApplicationsAssociation for Commuter Transportation (webinar)

Utah DOT Kicks off New Volunteer Litter Removal Program

The Utah Department of Transportation recently launched a new volunteer litter removal program called “Keeping Utah Beautiful” – a program designed to make it easy for members of the public to go online and sign up for a one-time cleanup of state roads.

[Above photo by the Utah DOT]

The agency said these volunteer cleanups will supplement the work of Utah DOT crews who regularly pick up litter statewide. To ensure volunteer safety, “Keeping Utah Beautiful” participants will not clean interstates or some state routes, the Utah DOT stressed – and requires that program volunteers be a minimum of age 14.

The “Keeping Utah Beautiful” program replaces the agency’s Adopt-a-Highway program, though Utah businesses can continue to support the “Sponsor a Highway” program, which hires a professional litter cleaning company to perform pickup along Utah’s interstates.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox (R) helped launch the new litter removal program by cleaning up a stretch of SR-201 near Mountain View Corridor.

“Serving others and giving back is the hallmark of who we are,” the governor said in a statement. “Utah leads the nation each year in volunteerism, and I know many Utahns, including myself, will take advantage of this new opportunity to help maintain the beauty of our state.”

Utah DOT Deputy Director Lisa Wilson added that her agency’s maintenance workers will continue cleaning up litter from interstates and major state roads alongside volunteer groups; an ongoing effort that costs the department an average of $2.3 million per year.

“Keeping litter off our roads not only keeps Utah beautiful, but it keeps Utah safe,” Utah DOT Deputy Director Lisa Wilson said. “This new program will make it easier than ever for Utahns to lend a hand and clean up our roads.”

State departments of transportation across the country are involved in a wide variety of litter removal efforts, as well as public awareness campaigns that seek to eliminate roadway littering – in no small part due to the growing cost of roadside cleanup efforts.

The Ohio Department of Transportation, for example, note that it is now spending $10 million annually to collect trash along state and U.S. routes outside municipalities and all interstates except the Ohio Turnpike.

In addition to Ohio DOT workers and Adopt-A-Highway groups, litter collection in Ohio is also performed along state highways by the following:

  • Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections – Ohio DOT works with 11 institutions on litter pickup along state highways. Since January, their crews collected over 24,000 bags of trash.
  • Interstate Business Solutions – Ohio DOT contracts with them to clean up litter in the state’s metropolitan areas (Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron, Canton, and Youngstown). Since January, the IBS team has collected over 31,343 bags of trash.
  • Center for Employment Opportunities – Ohio DOT contracts with CEO to pick up along roadsides, and to clean encampment areas of unhoused individuals. Since January, the CEO team has collected nearly 25,000 bags of trash.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Missouri Department of Transportation recently wrapped up yearly contests that seek to highlight the issue of roadside littering among elementary through high school aged students.

Oklahoma DOT said the 14 student winners of its 2024 Trash Poster Contest – drawn from a pool of 4,615 entries –receive a monetary award, T-shirt, certificate of recognition, a poster board and a laminated copy of their poster. Additionally, they are awarded sponsor promotional items and a state legislative citation of congratulations.

Concurrently, the Missouri Department of Transportation selected winners of the 2024 “Yes You CAN Make Missouri Litter Free” trash-can-decorating contest.

MoDOT said that it sponsors this contest as part of Missouri’s “No MOre Trash!” campaign to raise awareness about and discourage littering. The competition encourages students from kindergarten through 12th grade to join the fight against litter by decorating and displaying a large trash can with the “No MOre Trash!” logo and a litter-prevention message using a variety of creative art mediums.

New Mexico DOT Launches New DBE Support Program

On May 14, the New Mexico Department of Transportation launched its inaugural Small Business Training and Resources or “STAR” program; a 14-week course designed to provide support and resources for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises or DBEs and other small businesses seeking to work with NMDOT.

[Above image by NMDOT]

The STAR program will guide participants through corrections and improvements to any financial, managerial, technical, or labor conditions which could potentially prevent them from receiving project contracts. The agency added that the program’s “carefully crafted curriculum” is designed to ensure that participants receive a comprehensive learning experience tailored to their unique business needs.

NMDOT noted that its new STAR program is free for all participants and offers a “powerful blend” of expert-led workshops, practical tools, and personalized coaching tailored to propel DBEs and small businesses forward in the government contracting sector.

“Having a program that offers support and essential training to DBEs helps grow our local economy and business community. NMDOT wants small businesses to have more opportunities to partner with NMDOT and in turn, bolster the local business economy,” noted Ricky Serna, NMDOT secretary, in a statement.

The agency said the STAR program includes weekly online sessions, networking opportunities, a supportive environment, personalized coaching, and a professionally filmed and edited marketing video that will help advertise each business to its fullest potential. 

NMDOT pointed out that all small businesses looking to do business with the agency are eligible for this program; with first preference given to New Mexico-certified DBEs certified in the core construction and design category within the North American Industry Classification System.

Environmental News Highlights – May 15, 2024

FEDERAL ACTION

The National Zero-Emission Freight Corridor Strategy and Plans to Decarbonize Transportation in the US -Logistics Viewpoints

White House uses Infrastructure Week to tout progress on thousands of projects -The Hill

FHWA chief praises Port of Savannah projects to reduce truck pollution -Savannah Morning News

US Republican attorneys general sue to stop EPA’s carbon rule –Reuters

Bike Brands Start To Adopt C-V2X To Warn Cyclists About Cars -Ars Technica

Executive Director of Joint Office of Energy and Transportation Looks for Ideas to Expand E-Mobility -National League of Cities (commentary)

INFRASTRUCTURE RESILIENCE AND SUSTAINABILITY

Caltrans Launches Digital Map Highlighting More than 300 Clean California Projects -California DOT

Kansas City wants big federal money for sustainability projects, but it faces tough competition -KCUR Radio

Ohio seeks $189 million in EPA funds to electrify state fleets, retrofit public buildings -Ohio Capital Journal

Even Stock Exhausts Aren’t Safe from NYC Noise Camera Tickets -Road and Track

How Green Transit Technologies Can Shape The Future Of Public Transportation –Forbes

 

AIR QUALITY

Residents Across Five States Monitor Local Air Quality -The Appalachian Voice

EPA reminds New Englanders to use free air quality monitoring tools this summer -EPA (media release)

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE/EQUITY

New York City Ordered to Fix Broken Pledge to Make Half of Taxis Wheelchair-Accessible -The City

CULTURAL RESOURCES

The Father of the 15-Minute City Doubles Down on His Vision –CityLab

VDOT’s living shorelines project at this Boy Scout camp is a conservation success story -Scouting Magazine

You Might Need Your Teen To Translate These Hawaii DOT Highway Signs. (And That’s The Point) -KHNL/KGMB-TV

Sustainability in action at Laurelwood Park -Sound Transit (media release)

HEALTH AND HUMAN ENVIRONMENT/ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION

City of Belfast, Maine DOT partner to enhance Active Transportation infrastructure -Penobscot Bay Pilot

Chautauqua County, NY to hold Active Transportation Week –Observer

Cyclist safety enhancements coming to Miami-Dade’s most dangerous roadways -WTVJ-TV

Iowa closes “resounding gaps” in state law on crosswalks -Bleeding Heartland

New York City DOT Announces Plan for Secure Bike Parking Network -BoroPark24

Laredo, TX discusses bicycle safety and active transportation -Laredo Morning Times


2025 Transportation Alternatives (TA) Program Funding Available through SDDOT -South Dakota Department of Transportation (media release)

TRB RESOURCES/RESEARCH/ANNOUNCEMENTS

Elevating Community Voices and Environmental Justice in the Transition to Net Zero -National Academies

Addressing Climate Resilience and Greenhouse Gases in the Transportation Planning Process –NCHRP

FEDERAL REGISTER NOTICES

Call for Nominations for the Scientific Earthquake Studies Advisory Committee -U.S. Geological Survey (Call for nominations)

Ensuring Safe Accommodations for Air Travelers With Disabilities Using Wheelchairs -Office of the Secretary of Transportation (Proposed rule; extension of comment period)

Comment Period, Notice of Public Meeting, and Request for Comment on the Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment for Drone Package Delivery in North Carolina -FAA (Notice of availability; notice of public meeting; request for comments)

Good Neighbor Environmental Board -EPA (Notice of meeting)

Council on Environmental Quality Finalizes NEPA Reforms

The White House Council on Environmental Quality or CEQ recently finalized reforms to the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA that implement permitting efficiencies laid out in the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, including setting clear deadlines for agencies to complete environmental reviews, requiring a lead agency and setting specific expectations for lead and cooperating agencies, and creating a unified and coordinated federal review process.

[Above photo by the White House]

The CEQ said the rule provides agencies with other new and faster tools to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of environmental reviews. For example, it creates new ways for federal agencies to establish categorical exclusions – the fastest form of environmental review.

The agency noted the new NEPA reforms will apply to projects beginning environmental reviews on or after July 1 this year, but will not disrupt ongoing environmental review processes.

The new NEPA reforms are intended to help accelerate reviews for projects that agencies can evaluate on a broad, programmatic scale, or that incorporate measures to mitigate adverse effects – helping the transportation industry and other sectors speed up environmental reviews and providing more certainty when they are designing projects.

Finally, the CEQ says the new rule promotes early public engagement in environmental review processes to help reduce conflict, accelerate project reviews, improve project design and outcomes, and increase legal durability, noted Brenda Mallory, CEQ’s chair, in a statement – helping accelerate permitting for everything from wildfire management and electric vehicle charging infrastructure to high-speed internet and semiconductor manufacturing.

“These reforms will deliver smarter decisions, quicker permitting, and projects that are built better and faster,” she noted. “As we accelerate our clean energy future, we are also protecting communities from pollution and environmental harms that can result from poor planning and decision making while making sure we build projects in the right places.”

The CEQ said it conducted a “robust review” of more than 148,000 public comments on the proposed rule, of which approximately 920 were unique comments.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials provided detailed feedback on CEQ’s then-proposed NEPA revisions in September 2023, noting in its comment letter that it “shares CEQ’s goals” of providing for efficient and effective environmental reviews, ensuring full and fair public involvement, providing regulatory certainty, promoting better decision-making grounded in science, and protecting the environment.

Key comments from AASHTO included that there should be no “one-size-fits-all” way to comply with NEPA. “Each transportation project is unique,” the group pointed out in its letter. “Flexibility [is needed] to tailor the NEPA process based on a particular project’s circumstances [so] agencies should be able to meet NEPA’s requirements in a way that minimizes the financial and administrative burdens, informs public decisions, protects the environment, and avoids unintended consequences such as public or agency uncertainty and increased litigation risk.”

AASHTO also said CEQ’s NEPA regulations should provide clear direction to agencies, project sponsors and applicants, and the public. “To improve agency and public understanding of the regulatory framework, CEQ should be clear about which aspects of the regulations are statutorily required,” the group emphasized.

“AASHTO is concerned that CEQ’s proposed regulations introduce new undefined terms and create new vague requirements, which will lead to delays in project delivery and increase litigation risk for projects,” the group said. “For example, in various areas throughout the regulations, CEQ proposes to replace the term ‘significant’ with the ambiguous and undefined terms ‘important’ or ‘substantial.’”

Active Mobility Key Part of Utah DOT Construction Plan

The Utah Department of Transportation unveiled its 2024 construction plan, which encompasses 209 projects with a total value of $2.74 billion. Many of those projects include critical active transportation components, the agency said.

[Above photo by Utah DOT]

Lisa Wilson, Utah DOT deputy director of engineering and operations, noted in a statement that planned improvements incorporated within the agency’s 2024 construction plan range from repaving rural highways, building freeway-style interchanges, replacing aging bridges, improving pedestrian access, and building new trails.

“These projects are part of our commitment to helping people get where they want, in the way they want, safely and efficiently,” Wilson said. “This includes building new projects to help meet growth demands, maintaining our aging roads and bridges, and building out our transportation network to accommodate drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Just some of the major projects Utah DOT plans to start work on this year that incorporate active transportation elements include:

  • The Mountain View Corridor: This $466 million project will connect the Mountain View Corridor from Porter Rockwell Blvd with 2100 North in Lehi, providing another much-needed transportation option for northwest Utah County and southwest Salt Lake County drivers. It will be the first section of Mountain View Corridor constructed as a freeway with no stoplights. Additional work includes upgrading the intersection at 2100 North to an interchange, updating wildlife fencing, and creating a multi-use trail. The Mountain View Corridor will eventually be a 35-mile freeway from I-80 in Salt Lake County to SR-73 in Utah County. Construction is expected to last through early 2026.
  • 5600 South: This $361 million project incorporates building a new I-15 interchange at 5600 South in Roy that will make it easier to get to and from Hill Air Force Base. The project is also widening 5600 South from three to five lanes from I-15 to 3500 West. Utah DOT will also add new sidewalks, pedestrian ramps, and a new trail system for pedestrians and bicyclists as well. These improvements will help area residents get around more easily, whether they are walking, biking or driving. Construction started in 2023 and is expected to continue through 2026. 
  • I-15 Shepard Lane interchange: This $147.5 million project will build a new interchange on I-15 at Shepard Lane in Farmington to reduce congestion and improve safety in this area. Not only will it cross over Union Pacific Railroad and Utah Transit Authority tracks to create another connection to local roads, this project will also improve pedestrian and bike connectivity along Park Lane, along with improvements to ramps associated with I-15, US-89, and Legacy Parkway (SR-67). Construction is expected to wrap up in 2026.

Other state departments of transportation have also formally launched their 2024 construction efforts.

The Ohio Department of Transportation plans to invest $2.8 billion into 950 road and bridge improvement projects across the state during its 2024 construction season – with 39 of them classified as “major projects” with a value above $10 million.

Environmental News Highlights – May 8, 2024

FEDERAL ACTION

AASHTO President Craig Thompson: ‘Togetherness’ Key to Success -AASHTO Journal



FHWA Issues $148M in Grants to Reduce Port Air Pollution -AASHTO Journal



USDOT Seeks AI Solutions For Transit Infrastructure -Nextgov/FCW



Hearing: A Review of Fleet Electrification Efforts -House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure



Biden administration details how producers of sustainable aviation fuel will get tax credits –AP

 

INFRASTRUCTURE RESILIENCE AND SUSTAINABILITY

MoDOT ending Adopt-A-Highway program, citing costs, safety concerns -Spectrum News



MoDOT leader calls for changes from trash haulers after seeing debris spill onto highways -KMBC-TV



Navajo government asks Biden to stop uranium transport across the Navajo Nation –Fronteras



Groundbreaking on Electric Charge Highway -WLFI-TV (link to video)

 

AIR QUALITY

Colorado governor, Democrats reach long-term air quality and transit deal with oil and gas industry, environmentalists -Colorado Sun



Port of Oakland opens world’s 1st commercial, zero emission truck stop -KTVU-TV (video)



The 15 cities in the US with the worst air quality, ranked -Business Insider

 

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE/EQUITY

In New Orleans’ bike culture, Black cyclists find ‘therapy,’ community –NOLA

 

NATURAL RESOURCES

Florida asks feds to let more than 1,000 permits slide after judge rules process illegal -News-Press



Preparation And Communication Are Critical Ahead Of Violent Weather -Commercial Carrier Journal



As the climate changes, cities scramble to find trees that will survive –Grist

 

CULTURAL RESOURCES

Graffiti-battling drones take flight in WSDOT highway cleanup program -KOMO-TV



World Cup, Olympics, Climate Change Drive California Infrastructure Efforts -ENR California



San Clemente Surfers Fight $100 Million Railroad Renovation Project –Surfer



USDOT’s Build American Bureau approves first TOD TIFIA loan for Mt. Vernon Library Commons Project -Mass Transit

 

HEALTH AND HUMAN ENVIRONMENT/ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION

Michigan DOT Podcast Touches on Benefits of Trails -AASHTO Journal



Washington bike safety program goes statewide -Seattle Times



E-bikes are a ‘game changer’ for bike shares -Route Fifty



Historic Cedar Hill Bridge reopens for pedestrians -Tri-City Record



Pedestrian, Cyclist Trail To Connect Chickamauga And The National Military Park in Tennessee -The Pulse



Almost a decade in the making, new bicycle hub aims to close Utah transportation gaps –KSL.com

 

TRB RESOURCES/RESEARCH/ANNOUNCEMENTS

Practices for Statewide and MPO Coordination – NCHRP



On-Demand Aviation Services for Mobility, Logistics, Emergency Response, and Humanitarian Use Cases -ACRP (event summary)



The Future of Ferry Electrification in Rural Areas -TRB (webinar)

 

FEDERAL REGISTER NOTICES

Opportunities and Challenges of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Transportation; Request for InformationUSDOT (Notice)



National Environmental Policy Act Implementing Regulations Revisions Phase 2 -Council on Environmental Quality (Final rule)



Clean Energy for New Federal Buildings and Major Renovations of Federal Buildings -Federal Energy Management Program, DOE (Final rule)



Coordination of Federal Authorizations for Electric Transmission Facilities -Grid Deployment Office, DOE (Final rule)



Proposals by Non-Federal Interests for Inclusion in the Annual Report to Congress on Future Water Resources Development -U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Notice)



Water Quality Standards Regulatory Revisions To Protect Tribal Reserved Rights -EPA (Final rule)



Great Redwood Trail Agency – Adverse Abandonment – Mendocino Railway in Mendocino County, Cal. -Surface Transportation Board (Notice of application)

 

FHWA Issues $148M to Reduce Port Air Pollution

The Federal Highway Administration recently issued $148 million in grants to 16 port projects in 11 states and Puerto Rico via the first round of a new $400 million program aimed at improving air quality and reducing pollution in port communities.

[Above photo by Maryland Ports Administration]

The FHWA said its new Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities grant program – created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – provides funding for port electrification and efficiency improvements as part of a broader effort to reduce pollution from idling commercial trucks at port facilities.

“The projects funded under this program will improve the quality of life for workers and families impacted by pollution from idling trucks while building a clean-energy economy that combats climate change and makes our communities more resilient,” noted Shailen Bhatt, FHWA administrator, in a statement. “[This funding] will make a real difference for people who live and work near ports.”

[Editor’s note: In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made $3 billion in grants available through its new Clean Ports Program – established by the Inflation Reduction Act enacted in July 2022 – to help fund the acquisition of zero-emission equipment, build infrastructure, and improve air quality at U.S. ports.]

The agency noted that specific truck emission reductions planned for implementation with this funding include replacing diesel-powered trucks serving ports with zero or low emissions electric or alternative fuel-powered trucks; constructing electric vehicle charging infrastructure; employing port roadway access improvements; and studying technology enhancements to reduce truck emissions.

Two projects overseen by state departments of transportation received grants during this round of FHWA port facilities funding. They are:

  • The Hawaii Department of Transportation will receive $5.2 million to modernize port gates and automate improvements at the Sand Island Terminal in Honolulu Harbor. The improvements seek to reduce truck processing times, queueing delays, cut port-related emissions from idling trucks, and make port operations more efficient.
  • The Maryland Port Administration – a division of the Maryland Department of Transportation – will receive $642,000 to replace one diesel-powered street sweeper with one zero-emission unit to be used at the Port of Baltimore for moving cars and light trucks. Funding also will be used to research and develop the adoption of electric Power Take Off (ePTO) devices on trucks that average two hours of engine idling per trip while loading or unloading. Wider adoption of ePTOs could significantly reduce truck idling and emissions at ports, the agency noted in its grant request.

Meanwhile, as part of a broader information gathering effort regarding U.S. ports, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration – known as MARAD – and the American Association of Port Authorities are currently conducting a survey of port authorities and marine terminal operators across the country that aims to identify the nation’s port cargo handling needs over the next five to 10 years.

Led by AAPA through a cooperative agreement with MARAD, the “Building American Production Capacity for Electric Port Equipment and Other Port Infrastructure Items” information collection effort is scheduled to be completed this spring – with a final report issued in summer of 2024.

Michigan DOT Podcast Talks Benefits of Trails

The latest “Talking Michigan Transportation” podcast – produced by the Michigan Department of Transportation – interviewed Julie Clark, chief executive officer for the Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation or TART Trails advocacy group to discuss how trail networks can enhance quality of life for residents while also providing an economic boost.

[Above image via Michigan DOT]
The economic value of trail networks comes from the key role they play in outdoor recreation, Clark said. For example, in 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released statistics estimating that outdoor recreation accounted for $862 billion in economic output or consumer spending), 1.9 percent or $454 billion of gross domestic product, and supported 4.5 million jobs. 

In Michigan, outdoor recreation in 2021 contributed $10.8 billion to the state economy, according to that agency’s numbers, as well as support for 109,000 jobs and $5 billion in wages.

“Our vision is ‘every house a trailhead,’ meaning we want people to be able to leave their home and access a trail,” Clark noted. “Getting out on the trails doesn’t mean there’s a trail up to your door, but the facilities – whether you’re rural or in a town – should be nearby and you should feel very comfortable and safe using them. That is where we come in, working with [local] road commissions and state DOTs.”

She also emphasized that trails help increase property values and help reinvigorate neighborhoods –key economic development benefits for communities.

“They also provide, as COVID [the COVID-19 pandemic] pointed out, some really important opportunities for physical and mental health, and that I think has become so important to folks all around our region and, I think, around the state,” Clark noted.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

There has been an ongoing push over the last several years to increase trail networks across the country.

For example, in January 2023, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy or RTC recently launched a national effort aimed at creating a “new community” where public leaders, advocates, and transportation professionals can come together to advance the development of trails and other active-transportation networks across the country.

Dubbed the TrailNation Collaborative, this new “community effort” seeks to fill what RTC describes as an “unmet need” for peer learning and collective action in order to leverage funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA to create a connected systems of trails, sidewalks, and protected bike lanes in every community in America.

State departments of transportation around the country are also spearheading their own trail expansion efforts.

For example, the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s Lamoille Valley Rail Trail project – the winner of the 2023 America’s Transportations Awards People’s Choice Award – is a 93-mile multi-modal recreational path in northern Vermont, connecting 18 town centers and linking to other trails in Vermont and Canada.

This project is open year-round for various activities, including walking, biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing, preserving Vermont’s natural landscape.

In November 2023, the Texas Transportation Commission approved over $345 million for new sidewalks, bikeways, and other types of active transportation infrastructure projects statewide.

The funding will go towards 83 projects designed to improve bicycle and pedestrian access while providing safety enhancements and mobility options to schools, jobs, public transit systems, and local destinations, the commission said.

The Texas Department of Transportation noted that some the projects approved by the commission include sidewalks connecting to schools and transit options, shared-use paths benefiting both pedestrians and cyclists, new pedestrian bridges, and 15 planning studies.

In July 2022, a team of Utah State University researchers recently explored how to use the state’s network of historic canal trails as an active transportation solution. That study is poised to help the Utah Department of Transportation and community leaders make decisions about building canal paths and trails.

The Utah DOT funded the university’s research project – entitled “Active Transportation Facilities in Canal Corridors” – that the American Society of Civil Engineers subsequently published in June 2022.