Environmental News Highlights – February 3, 2021


AASHTO’s Jim Tymon on Transportation and COVID-19, Working with a New Administration, and More – ITE Talks Transportation (Podcast)

Four highway funding questions for AASHTO – Pit and Quarry

DC Circuit Strikes Down Trio of Ozone-Emission Loopholes – Courthouse News Service

Biden’s push for electric vehicles could take funding away from infrastructure projects – NBC News

Biden to place environmental justice at center of sweeping climate plan – Washington Post

What Does Polly Trottenberg’s NYC DOT Tell Us About What She’ll Do in D.C.? – Curbed


State DOT CEO Roundtable at TRB Examines Transportation Impact of COVID-19 – AASHTO Journal

Vermont AOT gets over $500K federal grant to research COVID safety for public transit – Vermont Business Magazine

COVID-19 threw a curveball at curb management. Here’s how cities adapted. – Transportation for America (Blog)


Vineyard Wind looks to regain spot in project pipeline – Herald News


Talking Michigan Transportation – What to expect in transportation from a Biden administration – Michigan DOT’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast

Searsport dredging included in Maine Dept. of Transportation’s three-year plan – Penobscot Bay Pilot

Bill would further prioritize transportation infrastructure preservation – Lens

BART, Capitol Corridor, JPA unveil plans for second Transbay Tube, transit-connected megaregion – KTVU-TV

Bills on community solar and air quality permit denials pass committees – New Mexico Political Report

Governor Cuomo Announces $200 Million in ‘Bridge NY’ Funding Available to Build Resiliency in New York Communities – New York Governor’s Office (Press release)


GM seeks to end making gas- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2035 – Detroit News

Portland mayor seeks to delay proposed carbon tax after businesses complain – The Oregonian

Pittsburgh airport to test new air quality improvement technology – The Times

Decaying Urban Gas Lines Are Fueling Global Warming – Bloomberg Green


Legal Challenges Cast Cloud Over London’s Pandemic-Era Street Changes – CityLab

Here’s how Biden’s EPA can start right now to advance environmental justice – Chicago Sun-Times (Commentary)


State fines landowners for removing shoreline vegetation – VTDigger

‘Last line of defense’: New bill would strip protections for many of Indiana’s wetlands – Indianapolis Star

Alaska environmental regulators introduce plan to monitor cruise ship pollution after Gov. Dunleavy vetoed funding for onboard observers – Anchorage Daily News

Environmental groups sue to stop alleged surface mine pollutant discharge into Kanawha River tributary – Charleston Gazette-Mail

EPA, Clark County settle on mitigation for Clean Water Act violation – Mohave Valley Daily News


Study looks at the intersection of transit and land use planning – Times Leader

St. Louisans Push For Safer Streets After Pedestrian Deaths Nearly Doubled In 2020 – St. Louis Public Radio

St. Augustine’s proposed bike share, mobility efforts move ahead amid pandemic – St. Augustine Record

Texas A&M technology being used to make Houston better for walkers, bikers – KPRC-TV


Watch Dorval R. Carter, Jr.’s, 2021 Thomas B. Deen Distinguished Lectureship on Equity in Public Transportation – TRB

New Mobility Services Combined with Transit Show Potential to Further Accessibility, Efficiency, Equity, Safety, and Sustainability – TRB

Cities as stakeholders in mobility – In Visible Capital (Podcast)

Intro Transportation Equity Webinar – University of Florida Transportation Institute T2 Center

New Report Highlights Guidance for Zero-Emission Bus Industry from National Transit Leaders – Center for Transportation and the Environment


Applying the Supreme Court’s County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund Decision in the Clean Water Act Section 402 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit Program – EPA (Notice of availability of guidance)

Framework for Automated Driving System Safety; Extension of Comment Period NHTSA (Advanced notice of proposed rulemaking; extension of comment period)

Drawbridge Operation Regulation; New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway, Atlantic City, NJ – Coast Guard, (Temporary final rule)

Senate Confirms Buttigieg as USDOT Secretary

The Senate confirmed Peter Buttigieg as the 19th secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation on February 2 by a vote of 86 to 13. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the nomination of the former 2020 Democrat presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend, IN, to be USDOT secretary on January 27 by a vote of 21 to 3.

[Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.]

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials congratulated Buttigieg upon his confirmation by the Senate as USDOT secretary and looks forward to working with him on a number of critical transportation issues.  

“The nation faces a number of tremendous challenges and we know transportation will play a key role in building America back,” noted Jim Tymon, AASHTO executive director, in a statement.

“AASHTO believes the work being done in transportation should endeavor to improve quality of life for all Americans,” he added. “State DOTs look forward to working with Secretary Buttigieg to make that happen by improving safety; building a more resilient transportation system; and, supporting modally diverse options for people and their communities.”  

Safety and infrastructure investment – along with ways to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund – were key points Buttigieg emphasized during his confirmation hearing before the Senate commerce committee on January 21.

“Safety is the foundation of the department [of transportation’s] mission, and it takes on new meaning amid this [COVID-19] pandemic,” Buttigieg said in his written testimony. “We must ensure all of our transportation systems – from aviation to public transit, to our railways, roads, ports, waterways, and pipelines – are managed safely during this critical period, as we work to defeat the virus.”

“We need to build our economy back, better than ever, and the Department of Transportation can play a central role in this by … creating millions of good-paying jobs, revitalizing communities that have been left behind, enabling American small businesses, workers, families, and farmers to compete and win in the global economy, and tackling the climate crisis,” he added.

“Infrastructure can be the cornerstone to all of this, and you have my commitment that I will work closely with you to deliver the innovation and growth that America needs in this area,” Buttigieg emphasized.

AASHTO also pointed to a recently released list of  2021 policy priorities that will guide the organization’s efforts in support of transportation infrastructure strategies and investments.

Top AASHTO priorities include passage of an infrastructure investment package to help spur the nation’s economic recovery while supporting “timely reauthorization” of a long-term surface transportation funding bill to prevent unnecessary program disruptions and delays in safety and mobility benefits to states and communities.

“As the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, state DOTs will serve as a resource for Secretary Buttigieg and the U.S. Department of Transportation to help address the nation’s transportation challenges,” explained AASHTO’s Tymon. “Like Secretary Buttigieg, state DOTs support equity in transportation investments and decision-making. And, they share a desire to address our nation’s climate crisis and make transportation systems more resilient.”

ETAP Podcast: DDOT’s Bennett Discusses Black History Month

Jeffrey Bennett, who leads the transit delivery division for the Office of Project Delivery within the District of Columbia Department of Transportation, discusses the role transportation plays in Black History Month as part of this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast.

[Photo courtesy of the District of Columbia Department of Transportation.]

“The railroads were the first mechanism for national transportation in the United States, but at the time they were built, African Americans were still slaves – moved on them as property,” explained Bennett, who also serves as the president of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials or COMTO.

“As time went along and Black Americans gained freedom, the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine came into being – forcing them to ride in different sections of trains and buses,” he explained on the podcast. “African Americans challenged that doctrine – most famously by Rosa Parks and the Freedom Riders – and eventually they could sit where they wanted. But by then we were moving to an automotive-based system – and the highways built to carry those cars in many cases split white and black communities; another layer for keeping them separate.”

Today, Bennett said the focus on the transportation community is to bring more equity to the nation’s mobility networks.

“For example, 20 percent of Black households do not have access to a car, while 24 percent of public transit users are Black Americans,” he pointed out. “That shows that transit is key for folks getting to where they need to go.” Bennett also discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the nation’s transportation system as well as how the pandemic is influencing transportation equity discussions on the podcast. Access the ETAP podcast by clicking here.

Maryland Approves Effort to Turn Port Dredging Material into Concrete Barriers

Governor Larry Hogan (R) and the Maryland Board of Public Works recently approved contracts with two Maryland companies to make bricks, pavers, concrete highway barriers, and shoreline supports – among other structures – from the dredged material cleared from one of the Port of Baltimore’s shipping channels.

[Photo courtesy of the Port of Baltimore.]

“We’ve used this sediment for years to rebuild islands, create wildlife habitats and reinforce shorelines,” explained Greg Slater, secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, in a statement. “These new proposals could lead to new and innovative reuse of dredged materials to benefit the community and the environment.”

The Maryland Port Administration – a division of the Maryland DOT – explained that dredge sediment is regularly cleared from shipping channels to provide easier ship navigation. In the past, the dredge sediment byproduct helped restore Hart-Miller Island in Baltimore County and Poplar Island in Talbot County, with the Barren and James islands in Dorchester County currently slated for reconstruction over the next several years using dredged sediment.

“The Maryland Port Administration is known for its innovative use of dredged material to restore land and create environmental assets,” noted Governor Hogan in a separate statement. “Dredging is necessary for the Port of Baltimore to accommodate the huge ships that deliver cargo and grow our economy.

Photo courtesy of the Port of Baltimore

Pending permits, restoration at Barren Island could begin in 2022, with the James Island following in 2024. The Maryland DOT said those projects – conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – would deposit an estimated 90 million to 95 million cubic yards of dredged sediment at James Island, providing at least 30 years of capacity. Meanwhile, Barren Island would accept sediment from nearby shallow-draft channels.

“Our experience working with the Army Corps of Engineers at Poplar Island gives us great optimism for what we can accomplish together at Mid-Chesapeake Bay,” Maryland DOT Secretary Slater said. “This restoration will rebuild two vanishing islands and help protect Maryland’s critical shorelines. It also demonstrates, yet again, how dredged material can be a valuable resource to support the [Chesapeake] Bay environment and the men and women working at [Baltimore’s] port.”

William Doyle, director of the Maryland Port Administration, added that the new contracts seeking to turn dredged material into other structural products would help further its sediment-recycling efforts. “We’re excited to partner with these companies to test the ability to reuse sediment for productive purposes,” he explained. “This allows us to continue removing dredged sediment from our channels to maintain the 50-foot depth needed to accommodate the supersized vessels that bring cargo and jobs to the Port of Baltimore while recycling that sediment to use again in other ways – a real win-win.”

Caltrans Deploys Fast-Charging Stations for EVs

The California Department of Transportation recently finished the installation of 22 new “fast-charging” stations for electric vehicles or EVs at nine locations along the state’s highway network.

[Photo courtesy of the California Department of Transportation.]

“Fast chargers are essential to continue growing EV adoption in California and meeting our state’s goals for combating climate change,” explained Toks Omishakin, Caltrans director, in a statement. “Expanding the availability of convenient fast-charging stations along state highways is significant for the future of California transportation.”

The agency said the 22 Level 3 DC fast chargers deployed as part of this $4.5 million project provide an approximate 80 percent charge in 30 minutes to EVs with fast-charging capability. The units also feature “universal connectors” so they can re-charge all EVs on the market, including Teslas, with an adapter. Charging is free with no time limit, Caltrans added.

“With four new EV fast chargers at the Tejon Pass Rest Area on Interstate 5 and 18 others staggered approximately 40 miles apart, Caltrans has reduced recharging concerns for plug-in EV drivers on long-distance trips through the Central Valley,” added Tony Tavares, director of Caltrans District 7.

According to the California Air Resources Board, 70 percent of statewide transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions come from light-duty vehicles, including passenger cars, Sport Utility Vehicles, and light-duty trucks.

“This project is a tremendous example of how public agencies can collaborate with the private sector to fill gaps in the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) market,” said Tyson Eckerle, deputy director of ZEV market development for the Office of Business and Economic Development within the administration of Governor Gavin Newsom (D). “More chargers throughout the state will help to incentivize the purchase of EVs, getting us closer to Governor Newsom’s goal of 100 percent ZEV sales by 2035.”

Meanwhile, the Caltrans fast-charger deployment effort comes on the heels of a Biden-Harris administration executive order mandating that the federal government buy ZEVs for its fleet.

“We’re talking about national security and America leading the world in a clean energy future,” President Biden noted in remarks made before signing that executive order.

“The federal government owns and maintains an enormous fleet of vehicles, as you all know,” he said. “With today’s executive order, combined with the Buy American executive order, we’re going to harness the purchasing power of the federal government to buy clean, zero-emission vehicles that are made and sourced by union workers right here in America.”

The Biden-Harris executive order also coincides with a 63-page report recently released by the Center for Transportation and the Environment to provide suggestions for expanding the adoption of zero-emission buses in the U.S. transit industry.

That report – entitled Transit Vehicle Innovation Deployment Centers/TVIDC Advisory Panel Overview and Conclusions and published by the Federal Transit Administration – is the culmination of discussions held by the CTE-led advisory panel between the zero-emission industry and transit agency leaders and advocacy groups.