Environmental News Highlights – February 1, 2023


USDOT Official Gives Cities Tips for Winning Federal Transportation Grants – Route Fifty

Proposed Update to Renewable Fuel Standard Could Benefit EV Makers – Transport Topics

EV Hype Overshadows Public Transit as a Climate Fix CityLab

State AGs Give EPA Until End of January to Respond to Year-Round E15 Petitions – Progressive Farmer

Biden-Harris Administration Finalizes Protections for Tongass National Forest – USDA (media release)

FHWA Providing $29.4 Million in ‘Quick Release’ Emergency Relief Funding to California, Four U.S. Federal Land Management Agencies for Flood Damage Repair – FHWA (Media release)


The hidden environmental costs of the transitioning to electric vehicles – NPR

How North Carolina is planning to recoup the gas tax from electric vehicles – WCNC-TV

A giant solar microgrid is coming to New York City’s JFK airport – Canary Media

Port of Long Beach doubles down on environmentalism, announces wind turbine facility – Long Beach Business Journal

Amsterdam’s Underwater Bike Garage Is Next-Level Cycling Infrastructure – CityLab


Aviation Industry in Crosshairs for Next Biofuel Push – Roll Call

Traffic pollution can impair brain function – The Hill


Can Nonprofit Electric Car-Shares Boost EV Affordability? – Governing

The Economic Impact Of EVs On Households – Not All Are Equal – CleanTechnica

Some cities turn to free public busing to counteract inequity – PBS NewsHour


With Howitzers and Helicopters, States Trigger Road-Clearing Avalanches – Stateline

Salton Sea lithium deposits could help EV transition, support economically devastated area – PBS NewsHour (video)

Environmentalist wants to see state funding used to restore water quality in Tampa Bay Area waterways – WTVT-TV

Wisconsin Governor Takes Total Control of Resources Agency – U.S. News and World Report

As Nutrient Reduction Strategy turns 10, why aren’t Iowa’s waters safer and cleaner? – Des Moines Register (Opinion)


How to build a better bike-share program – Grist

Fort Smith directors pedal forward on new plan for bicyclists, pedestrians – Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

E-bike ban on hold in Key Biscayne. Will state and county act? – Key Biscayne Independent

Explosive Growth Expected Across the Micromobility Sector – Government Technology

Houston Transit Agency Proposes Bike Share Takeover – Planetizen


FY 2023 Competitive Funding Opportunity: Low or No Emission Grant Program and the Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Competitive Program – FTA (Notice of funding opportunity)

Notice of Availability: Proposed Updates to Joint Development Circular – FTA (Notice)

Special Areas; Roadless Area Conservation; National Forest System Lands in Alaska – Forest Service (Final rule and record of decision)

Control of Air Pollution From New Motor Vehicles: Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicle Standards – EPA (Final rule)

Reconsideration of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter – EPA (Proposed rule)

Proposed Consent Decree, Clean Air Act Citizen Suit – EPA (Notice; request for public comment.)

Withdrawal of the Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Mississippi River Hatchie/Loosahatchie, MS River Mile 775–736, Tennessee and Arkansas, Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study – Army Corps of Engineers (Notice)

Public Meeting of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park; Commission Notice – National Park Service (Meeting notice)

BNSF Railway Bridge Across the Missouri River Between Bismarck and Mandan, North Dakota; Record of Decision – Coast Guard (Notice)

Renewable Energy Modernization Rule – Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (Notice of proposed rulemaking)

FTA Makes $1.7B Available for Transit Investments

The Federal Transit Administration recently issued a notice of funding opportunity for nearly $1.7 billion in discretionary grants to support state and local transit fleet modernization efforts as well as to support transit workforce development programs. Applications are due by April 13.

[Above photo via the FTA]

This funding opportunity engages two major FTA programs, the agency said. The first is its Low or No Emission (Low-No) program, which helps transit agencies buy or lease U.S.-built zero-emission and low-emission transit buses along with charging equipment and supporting facilities. The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA, enacted in November 2021, provides $5.5 billion over five years for this program, with approximately $1.22 billion will be available for grants in fiscal year 2023.

The second is the FTA’s Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities program, which supports transit agencies in buying and rehabilitating buses, vans, and related equipment as well as constructing bus facilities. The IIJA provides nearly $2 billion over five years for the program. For FY 2023, roughly $469 million in grant funds are available via this program, FTA said.

Finally, the agency noted that those grant funds will also go towards workforce training and development programs aimed at helping “upskill” transit maintenance personnel on new clean bus technologies. Consequently, five percent of each grant for zero-emission projects must be used for workforce development and training, the agency said.

“Buying new buses, including many vehicles that use new technology to fight climate change, will promote cleaner, faster, and safer rides as we move toward a better future,” said FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez in a statement. “We will be able to connect more people in their communities and improve the reliability of transit service.”

In August 2022, FTA announced the first round of selections for both its Low-No and bus facility grant programs, which the agency said should put roughly 1,800 new American-made buses on the roads, with over 1,100 of those using zero-emissions technology.

Video: AASHTO Knowledge Session Examines EVs

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recently issued a video report on an electric vehicle knowledge session held during its 2022 Annual Meeting in Orlando.

[Above image by AASHTO]

Sponsored by Jacobs and held October 22, 2022, that knowledge session featured a panel discussion among three state department of transportation executives regarding their efforts to help coordinate the construction of recharging infrastructure to help support the broader adoption and use of EVs across the United States.

The panel featured executives from the Michigan Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and Florida Department of Transportation discussing their specific state EV plans in conjunction with the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure or NEVI formula program.

In September 2022, the Federal Highway Administration issued final approvals for the EV infrastructure deployment plans submitted by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

Those plan approvals allow all of those 52 transportation departments to unlock more than $900 million in fiscal year 2022 and 2023 NEVI funding.

FHWA noted that the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA, enacted in November 2021, provides $5 billion in funds for the NEVI program over the next five years to help build EV chargers covering approximately 75,000 miles of highway across the country.

National Collaborative Effort Launched for Trail Development

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy or RTC recently launched a new 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.

[Above photo by RTC]

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 $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA, enacted in November 2021, to create a connected system of trails, sidewalks, and protected bike lanes in every community in America.

“This momentum is a result of decades of advocacy, the determination of the trail-building community, and the ingenuity it takes to envision a future where trail networks are embraced as fundamental to the quality of the places where we live, work, and play,” said Liz Thorstensen, RTC’s vice president of trail development and primary developer of the TrailNation program, in a statement.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity moment for trail networks,” pointed out Ryan Chao, president of RTC. “Together, the TrailNation Collaborative and its hundreds of change agents will lead a paradigm shift to incorporate trail networks as equitable and essential infrastructure in America.”

The group also noted that national trail use increased 9.5 percent nationwide in 2022, nearly on par with 2020 levels, which was the most significant year for trail use on record, according to its most recent analysis.

Concurrently, the IIJA more than doubles funding for trails – emphasizing the important role trails play in encouraging more walking and biking as climate and equity tools.

Additionally, RTC said the IIJA established a new program that provides dedicated funding for the planning and construction of safe and connected trail and active-transportation networks, and long-distance spine trails, the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program or ATIIP.

Since then, according to RTC, trail, and active transportation networks have proven competitive in the majority of federal transportation programs for which they’re eligible – including in the multimodal RAISE program, where the majority of projects have accounted for the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians, and most recently, the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, included project earmarks for trails, walking and biking in 29 states.

Concurrently, state departments of transportation across the country are working to incorporate trails into current and future infrastructure projects under their purview.

For example, in September 2022, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet began construction on the first phase of a $4.1 million Dawkins Line Rail Trail project in Eastern Kentucky.

Meanwhile, in July 2022, the Connecticut Department of Transportation began work on the Putnam Bridge Trail Connections which, when completed in the fall of 2023, will provide non-motorized access across the Connecticut River by linking the shared used path on the Putnam Bridge to Great Meadow Road in Wethersfield and Naubuc Avenue in Glastonbury.

Out west, a team of Utah State University researchers issued a report in July 2022 detailing 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.

Additionally, in September 2022, the Tennessee State Parks received the Project Excellence Award from the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals for its “Tires to Trails” conducted in collaboration with the Tennessee Department of Transportation; a project that uses recycled tires in the construction of recreation paths.

New Emphasis Areas Added to Minnesota DOT Planning

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is placing new emphasis on climate change, equity, and health as part of the five-year update to its 2022-2041 Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan or SMTP.

[Above photo by the Minnesota DOT]

The agency said the five-year update to its long-range SMTP outlines objectives, performance measures, strategies, and actions to help advance its vision of a multimodal transportation system that maximizes the health of people, the environment, and Minnesota’s economy. “Everyone deserves transportation options that work for them and their needs,” said Minnesota DOT Commissioner Nancy Daubenberger in a statement

“The SMTP is a cornerstone to the important work that we and our transportation partners need to do in the near- and long-term to ensure our investments continue to deliver on our commitments to safety, economic vitality, and livability,” she added. “We look forward to working with partners statewide to implement the goals laid out in this updated plan.”

The SMTP evaluates the state’s entire transportation system, considers trends affecting transportation, and provides direction for the next 20 years. The updated 2022-2041 plan focuses on six objectives: transportation safety, system stewardship, climate action, critical connections, healthy equitable communities, and open decision-making.

In addition to the agency’s commitment to preserving the existing system, the SMTP also includes three new key emphasis areas:

  • Climate: Shifting to a climate-friendly transportation system requires that the transportation system look, feel, operate, and be maintained differently in the coming decades. That includes decreasing annual greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector by 80 percent by 2040; ensuring that all new light-duty vehicles registered in Minnesota are zero-emission vehicles by 2035; reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled across Minnesota per capita by 14 percent by 2040; and integrating vulnerability identification and resilience into its planning and programming efforts.
  • Equity: The plan includes several activities that embed transportation equity into the planning approach, including an equity review applied to all the draft strategies and solutions. That effort incorporates building internal capacity to advance transportation equity; enhancing analysis and evaluation for transportation equity in project selection and project development; collaborating with partners to evaluate and address equity impacts of transportation fees, fines, and fares; developing a measure of how much household income is spent on transportation; using a newly developed transportation equity statement of commitment to inform ongoing work.
  • Health: Using transportation to improve health outcomes and reduce disparities by adopting the “Safe System” approach to transportation safety; increasing the percentage of state residents who walk or bicycle at least weekly to 60 percent by 2040; developing resources to mitigate urban heat islands; and developing measures for walking, bicycling and taking transit at a project- and program-level.