Environmental News Highlights – January 25, 2023


States Losing Gas Tax Revenue with EV Adoption – U.S. News & World Report

New Federal Cash Headed to Trail Projects Nationwide – Route Fifty

Report: How state and local leaders can harness new infrastructure funding to build a stronger, more inclusive workforce – Brookings


Justice Department asks court to reverse order banning airplane mask mandate to combat COVID – Reuters


FHWA Memo Useful Discussion Tool, Expert Says – Transport Topics

Michigan transportation officials want electric vehicles to pay for roads – WJRT-TV

Wyoming Legislators Want to Ban EVs by 2035 – Autoweek

Mississippi River dredging makes supply transport possible amid ongoing drought – Fox Business

Should Cities Use Cooler Pavements? – Transfers Magazine


Faith groups, environmental justice advocates urge EPA to go further in new soot pollution rules – EarthBeat

A Roadmap for Decarbonizing California In-State Aviation Emissions – International Council on Clean Transportation

A Nudge Toward Greener Flying – Transfers Magazine


Six Environmental Justice Policy Fights to Watch in 2023 – Inside Climate News

Transit Equity Day Family Fair – Santa Cruz Patch

Where You Go When Your Car is Home – Transfers Magazine


Virginia residents reject massive solar farm plan for third time over environmental concerns – Fox News

Reimagining Colorado’s Highways – Pagosa Daily Post

Clean Water Act fights pollution – Troy (AL) Messenger

How New York City’s Trees and Shrubs Help Clear Its Air – New York Times

Safety, wildlife crossings emerge in Highway 93 study between Lolo and Florence, Montana – KPAX-TV


Pennsylvania and New Mexico universities score National Park Service grant to preserve Route 66 – The Architect’s Magazine


Salt Lake City community group demands more measures to protect pedestrians – KSL-TV

A new lane in Chicago politics? Movement for more bike infrastructure grows – Chicago Tribune

Michigan’s chief mobility officer to step down – for a year of travel – MIBiz

Maine wants to make roads safer for bikes and pedestrians – Mainebiz

Macon’s roads are becoming deadlier for pedestrians, but few hit-and-runs are solved – Georgia Public Broadcasting

What Vision Zero has done for North Dakota in 5 years – KXMA-TV

DC explores idea to photograph and fine excessively noisy vehicles – WTOP Radio


Notice of Funding Opportunity for the Rural Business Development Grant Program To Provide Technical Assistance for Rural Transportation Systems for Fiscal Year 2023 – Rural Business Cooperative Service (Notice)

Water Resources Development Act of 2022 Comment Period and Stakeholder Sessions – Army Corps of Engineers (Request for comments; announcement of stakeholder sessions)

National Wetland Plant List – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Notice)

Revised Definition of ‘‘Waters of the United States’’ – EPA (Final rule)

Finding of Failure To Submit State Implementation Plan Revisions Required Under Clean Air Act Section 185; California; Sacramento Metro Area – EPA (Final action)

Air Plan Approval; California; San Diego County Air Pollution Control DistrictEPA (Final rule)

Clean Air Act Advisory Committee: Request for Nominations – EPA (Notice)

Water Resources Policies and Authorities: Navigation Policy: Cost Apportionment of Bridge Alterations – Army Corps of Engineers (Final rule)

Notice of Meeting of the Transit Advisory Committee for Safety – FTA (Notice of public meeting)

Approval of Teterboro Airport Noise Compatibility Program – FAA (Notice)

Proposed Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary; Notice of Proposed Rulemaking – Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (Notice)

Evaluation of New York State Coastal Management Program; Notice of Public Meeting; Request for Comments – Office for Coastal Management (Notice)

WSDOT Coordinates with City to Improve Green Space

The Washington State Department of Transportation, in coordination with the city of Des Moines, will provide a “much-needed makeover” to a popular 14-acre green space along Barnes Creek – an area used by local residents for a variety of outdoor activities.

[Above photo by WSDOT]

The agency described this particular green space in a blog post as a “well-loved unofficial neighborhood trail” where people are often seen walking their dogs, running, or enjoying nature with their families. This natural corridor includes a series of wetlands along Barnes Creek that have been degraded over time by invasive plants. To better protect native plant species and wildlife in the area, invasive species will be removed and wetlands will be enhanced, the agency said.

This project also supports the city’s future plans for trail improvements through this corridor and should also help reduce impacts on wetlands and vegetated areas surrounding streams from the New Expressway Project. That endeavor represents Stage 2 of the State Route 509 Completion Project – an effort to connect State Route 509 where it currently ends at the southwest corner of Sea-Tac Airport to I-5.

WSDOT noted an updated plan for this green space focuses on wetland preservation and enhancement, with the goal to protect what native plants and soil are already there, planting new native plants, and preventing disturbance of the wetland.

Wetland preservation and enhancement at Barnes Creek will revitalize the wetland habitat for wildlife and native plants like Oregon Ash trees and slough sedge plants. To preserve the wetland area, the Barnes Creek natural corridor includes four types of restoration ranging from simple invasive species removal to habitat enhancement and planting new native species.

The stage of the SR 509 Completion Project which includes the Barnes Creek restoration work is scheduled to be awarded to a contractor in 2024. At that point, the contractor will develop a detailed timeline for construction, and – once construction is done – the agency will turn the revitalized green space over to the city.

State departments of transportation across the country are involved in similar efforts to enhance green space for a variety of communities – efforts that include everything from beautification projects to litter removal.

For example, in February 2022, the California Department of Transportation recently awarded $312 million for 126 beautification projects along the state’s highway system – part of the landmark $1.1 billion Clean California initiative.

Developed in close collaboration with tribal and local governments, non-profits, and businesses, those 126 beautification projects include art installations, green space (such as parks or community gardens) and proposals that “improve safety and promote community connections.”

Designed to foster cultural connections and civic pride, Caltrans noted that those projects should generate 3,600 jobs as part of the governor’s multi-year cleanup initiative to remove trash and beautify community gateways and public areas along highways, streets, and roads. The agency added that roughly 98 percent of those beautification projects would benefit historically underserved or excluded communities.

Meanwhile, in August 2022, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recently joined several fellow state agencies to help launch a new anti-litter campaign entitled “PA Fights Dirty: Every Litter Bit Matters.”

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 Award for Excellence in May.

Concurrently, in July 2022, Ohio launched a new litter control program launched, one administered by the Ohio Department of Transportation, that seeks to broaden engagement by the business community in its trash removal efforts.

That new Ohio program allows businesses and groups to fund litter removal services along one-mile, one-direction segments of state highways. In exchange for their sponsorship, Ohio DOT displays the name of the business or group on a sign within their sponsored segment.

DriveOhio Putting Automated Vehicles on Rural Roads

Automated vehicles are slated to begin operating on rural roadways in central and southeast Ohio as part of the Rural Automated Driving Systems or RADS project spearheaded by DriveOhio, a division of the Ohio Department of Transportation.

[Above photo by DriveOhio]

Funded in part by a $7.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, this project aims to demonstrate how connected and automated semi-trucks and passenger vehicles could improve safety for drivers, passengers, and other travelers in rural settings. The project, which focuses on 32 counties in Ohio’s rural Appalachian region, is the most comprehensive testing effort yet to be conducted on rural roads in the United States.

It is focused on gathering data on how automated vehicles operate in rural areas when navigating around curves, over hills, and in and out of shaded areas, according to DriveOhio Executive Director Preeti Choudhary.

“Automated driving systems are expected to transform roadway safety in the future, and the data collected with this project will be used to refine the technology to maximize its potential,” she explained in a statement. “This critical work will provide valuable information to help advance the safe integration of automated vehicle technologies in Ohio and across the nation.”

“The rural Appalachian area surrounding Ohio University would greatly benefit from using autonomous vehicles to deliver goods and transport people, but the road conditions are very different than urban and suburban regions,” said Jay Wilhelm, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the school, which is assisting with the rural road tests.

 “This project gives us an incredible opportunity to test automated vehicles in rural areas and gather data to demonstrate the unique challenges and work towards solutions,” he said. “Our goal is to bridge the technology gap in rural Appalachian communities so automated vehicles can improve quality of life throughout the region.”

[Editor’s note: In October 2021, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials published a policy paper outlining the 10 key policy principles needed for connected and automated vehicles or CAVs – a paper intended to be a “living document,” reviewed and updated every year to reflect changes in technology and policy. To access that paper, click here.]

DriveOhio noted that the vehicles being used in its rural roadway project have already undergone testing at the 4,500-acre proving grounds operated by the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio –providing closed roadway testing over a full range of navigational situations that are encountered in everyday driving before the driving automation system equipped vehicles are taken onto public roadways and highways. 

In addition to rigorous testing at the TRC, the deployment relies on high-definition mapping of specific routes that is then verified by professional drivers before engaging the automated technology. These maps provide the advanced driving system precise information about the surrounding environment including explicit roadway characteristics such as lane widths and the location of signals, crosswalks, and nearby buildings.

The first part of this rural road test involves three passenger vehicles equipped with AutomouStuff technology traveling on divided highways and rural two-lane roads in Athens and Vinton counties. They will be tested in different operational and environmental conditions, including in periods of limited visibility and in work zones. When the automated driving system is engaged, the technology will control steering, acceleration, and braking. Throughout the year-long deployment, a professional driver will always be in the driver’s seat with their hands on the wheel, ready to take over if needed.

“Many vehicles on the road today already have some degree of automated driving system technologies like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, or emergency braking,” DriveOhio’s Choudhary noted. “Those systems are meant to enhance safety, but they certainly don’t replace the human driver.”

The second part of the test features a pair of 53-foot platoon-equipped tractor-trailers connected by technology that enables them to travel closely together at highway speeds. When the trucks are connected, the lead vehicle controls the speed, and the following vehicle will precisely match braking and acceleration to respond to the lead vehicle’s movement.

The trucks used in this project are equipped with radar to detect other vehicles. This technology allows the trucks to monitor and react to the environment around them in certain ways, such as following the lead vehicle and responding to slower-moving traffic; however, human engagement in the driving task is critical. Like the first deployment, a professional driver will always be in the driver’s seat with their hands on the wheel, DriveOhio said. 

The trucks will first be deployed on the 35-mile U.S. 33 Smart Mobility Corridor, specifically designed for testing smart and connected vehicles. Later in 2023, a private fleet will begin using the trucks in their day-to-day business operations.

In addition to benefits like increased efficiency and reduced fuel consumption for fleets, the development of this technology ultimately aims to reduce human error, making Ohio’s roads safer, Choudhary stressed.

Other state departments of transportation are engaged in similar automated vehicle testing.

For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is participating in autonomous transit vehicle testing in Philadelphia, along with researchers from Drexel University and consulting firm AECOM. The testing involves a mid-size electric autonomous shuttle bus shuttling passengers from the Philadelphia Navy Yard to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s NRG Station through the spring of 2023.

Meanwhile, in August 2022, the Minnesota Department of Transportation helped launch a free, low-speed, driverless, all-electric, multi-passenger shuttle service called “Bear Tracks” for the city of White Bear Lake.

In March 2022, the North Dakota Department of Transportation issued funds to support a range of autonomous systems research aimed at helping the agency develop and maintain the state’s transportation system.

Additionally, the Virginia Department of Transportation helped vehicle maker Audi of America test a cellular vehicle-to-everything or C-V2X system over a two-year period that incorporated autonomous operations as well as other safety innovations.