Environmental News Highlights – February 8, 2023


EPA proposal would change soot pollution standards for first time in 10 years: What we know USA Today

Republicans erase ‘environmental justice’ from documents – E&E News

Interview with Pete Buttigieg on Spending $800 Million to Eliminate Traffic Deaths – Fast Company

The EV transition isn’t just about cars – the broader goal should be access to clean mobility for everyone – The Conversation (commentary)

President Biden Announces First of its Kind Infrastructure Investment for Nine Nationally Significant Mega Projects – USDOT (media release)


Bent, but Not Broken: How global supply chains demonstrate post-pandemic resilience. – Thinking Transportation (podcast)


New York State’s Resilient Transportation System – AASHTO’s ETAP Podcast

Denver Bets on Rental Cars to Boost EV Adoption – CityLab

New York City will require Uber and Lyft to go 100 percent electric by 2030 – The Verge

Caltrans seeks rural, tribal volunteers for ‘road charge’ pilot – The Union

Virginia Port Authority’s Inland Port Switches to 100% Green Power – Maritime Executive


Pathways to net-zero emissions from aviation – Nature Sustainability

Court upholds Minnesota ‘Clean Car Rule’ tied to California – AP


Mobility Justice in Rural California: Examining Transportation Barriers and Adaptations in Carless Households – University of California, Davis

E-Bikes Raise New Debates Around Infrastructure and Equity – Government Technology

CT lawmakers and advocates seek stronger statewide environmental justice law – WSHU Radio


We need native seeds in order to respond to climate change, but there aren’t enough – NPR

How Las Vegas declared war on thirsty grass and set an example for the desert Southwest – Los Angeles Times

GPS tracking, simulations show optimal locations to help desert bighorn sheep cross freeways – Oregon State University

EPA outlines path for cleanup at UP’s former wood-tie treatment site in Texas – Progressive Railroading

Study finds small isolated wetlands are pollution-catching powerhouses – University of Waterloo


City of Kansas City, Missouri DOT launch effort to stop downtown graffiti – KMBC-TV

MD tourism leaders seek to link Chesapeake Bay destinations with passenger ferry – WMDT-TV


Paying More to Drive Less – Slate

Proposed SC-to-NC rail trail moving ahead, though some residents push back – Post and Courier

New autonomous car company Cruise adapts to bicycle riders, Austin policy – Daily Texan

Chicago’s Plan To Make Crosswalks Accessible For Blind Pedestrians Moving At A Crawl – WTTW-TV


An Assessment of Native Seed Needs and the Capacity for Their Supply: Final Report – National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Long-Term Vegetation Management Strategies for Roadsides and Roadside Appurtenances – National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Transport Agency Functional Resilience – Preparing for Severe Disruptions – TRB (Webinar)

Career Series #2 – Sustainable Mobility: New and Expanding Opportunities – TRB (Webinar)


Renewal Package From the State of Alaska to the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program and Proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Assigning Environmental Responsibilities to the State FHWA (Notice; request for comments)

Improving Road Safety for All Users on Federal-Aid Projects – FHWA (Notice; request for information)

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

Noise Compatibility Program for San Diego International Airport, San Diego County, California – FAA (Notice of approval of noise compatibility program)

Comprehensive River Management Plan (CRMP) for Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Wild and Scenic Rivers on Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest – Forest Service (Notice of availability)

Notice of Availability of the Record of Decision and Approved Resource Management Plan for the San Juan Islands National Monument, Washington – Bureau of Land Management (Notice)

Reorganization of Title 30—Renewable Energy and Alternate Uses of Existing Facilities on the Outer Continental Shelf – Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (Final rule)

Renewable Energy Modernization Rule – Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (Correction)

Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Advisory Committee Meeting – Natural Resources
Conservation Service (Notice of public and virtual meeting)

National Offshore Safety Advisory Committee; March 2023 Meeting – Coast Guard (Notice)

Port Access Route Study: Approaches to Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts – Coast Guard (Correction)

Air Plan Actions; Nevada; Clark County – Department of Environment and Sustainability; Stationary Source Permits – EPA (Proposed rule)

Proposed Consent Decree, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Citizen Suit – EPA (Notice; request for public comment)

Clean Air Act Operating Permit Program; California; San Diego County Air Pollution Control District; Correction – EPA (Direct final rule; correction)

NCDOT ‘Bump-Outs’ Help Prevent Street Flooding

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is managing an innovative drainage project that captures storm-water runoff while addressing chronic flooding in a historic, coastal neighborhood.

[Above photo by NCDOT]

Cedar Street in Beaufort, NC, carries two lanes of traffic and off-street parking through a mix of residential and small businesses in this 310-year-old town. Because Beaufort is on the coast, untreated stormwater runoff easily flows into the estuary as the town’s current drainage system can’t hold up to flooding from hurricanes, tropical storms, or even heavy rain.

There isn’t enough room for a larger drainage system, so NCDOT turned to what are called “bio-retention cells” – concrete borders or “bump-outs” along the street that will filter stormwater before it enters the estuary. Those “bump-outs” funnel water to 14 collection areas that resemble planter boxes, where the water will be filtered before it enters a newly rebuilt storm-water main along Cedar Street.

To facilitate drainage, the town of Beaufort will use permeable pavement to rebuild the parking lanes on the street. The pavement should reduce runoff and filter pollutants from getting into the estuary.

NCDOT has used bump-outs before, but not in an urban setting, noted Andrew Barksdale, an agency spokesman. Because of the compact development along the street, the bump-outs seemed like a good application.

Photo courtesy of NCDOT

“The existing infrastructure and development along this road presented a challenge with building a traditional drainage system,” NCDOT engineer Jeff Cabaniss said in a statement. “This alternative system will be better for the environment and also contribute to the beautification of this historic town and improve its water quality.”

Cedar Street was a major thoroughfare before a high-rise bridge just north of the small town claimed the U.S. 70 designation and most of the traffic, but Beaufort still attracts tourists. Locals are proud of the area’s colonial history and are especially happy that ownership of Cedar Street will pass to the town when the project is completed.

“This project is a more economically friendly approach, which helps the town because we have been trying to clean up the estuary,” said Rachel Johnson, a public information officer for Beaufort. “When it’s done, this will be a town-owned project.”

Construction of the bio-retention cells is estimated at $925,000, with the resurfacing about $400,000, NCDOT’s Barksdale noted. The town of Beaufort is using state grant money to rebuild the parking lanes and expects to complete construction on this project by summer.

This is but one of several NCDOT flood-control initiatives occurring statewide.

For example, in May 2022, NCDOT activated a new flood-warning system that relies on a network of 400 river and stream gauges to help analyze, map, and communicate in real-time any flood risks to roads, bridges, and culverts.

That critical information goes to NCDOT maintenance staff responding to flooded roads and washed-out culverts yet also benefits local emergency management officials and the public accessing the department’s DriveNC.gov website for timely weather-related closures. “This state-of-the-art warning system our department has created will help us be better prepared for the next major storm,” explained Eric Boyette, NCDOT secretary, in a statement at the time. “Even though we’ve had some quiet hurricane seasons recently, we cannot let our guard down.”

ETAP Podcast: NYSDOT Details Transportation Resilience Efforts

Marie Therese Dominguez (above), commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation, recently joined the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast to discuss how her agency is working to build a more resilient transportation system.

[Above photo by the New York Governor’s Office]

Dominguez talked about how her agency tries to strengthen her state’s transportation system to better withstand severe weather events such floods, droughts, hurricanes, and in New York State’s case, winter storms.

Recently, the U.S. experienced a wave of winter storms that struck many regions of the country extremely hard – including upstate New York in and around the city of Buffalo. Dominguez shared with the ETAP Podcast how NYSDOT worked to help the region respond and recover from that storm, as well as the takeaways from the experience so the agency can apply what it has learned from its storm response to make the transportation network more resilient in the future.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

State DOTs Receive FTA Grant Funding for Ferry Service

Several state departments of transportation received grant awards from the Federal Transit Administration as part of $384.4 million in funds issued via the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA, enacted November 2021, for expanding and improving the nation’s ferry service nationwide as well as accelerate the transition to zero-emission propulsion systems.

[Above photo via the FTA]

In total, FTA awarded 23 grants across 11 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands to fund a wide variety of projects, including the replacement of old vessels, fleet expansions, and the construction of new terminals and docks.

Nearly $100 million of the national grants will go toward low- and no-emission ferries, helping decrease greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, it said.

The agency is making all of that funding available through three FTA competitive grant programs:

  • FTA’s Ferry Service for Rural Communities Program provides competitive funding to states for ferry service in rural areas. FTA is awarding $252.4 million to eight projects in four states via this program.
  • FTA’s Electric or Low-Emitting Ferry Pilot Program provides competitive funding for electric or low-emitting ferries and charging equipment that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using alternative fuels or on-board energy storage systems. FTA is awarding $97.6 million to seven projects in seven states via this program.
  • FTA’s Passenger Ferry Grant Program supports capital projects to establish new ferry service, and repair and modernize ferry vessels, terminals, and facilities and equipment in urbanized areas. FTA is awarding $34.4 million to eight projects in six states and the U.S. Virgin Islands via this program.

“Today’s announcement represents a record amount of support for transit ferries in our country,” said FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez in a statement. “For the first time ever, we are able to provide competitive grant funds for passenger ferry service in rural areas and help ferry operators reduce their climate impact.”

Seven state DOTs are receiving FTA funds for a variety of ferry projects:  

  • The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, which is receiving six grants for nearly $286 million, will build passenger ferries to replace or modernize older vessels and make critical dock upgrades in several communities. The grants will improve the condition and quality of the Alaska Marine Highway System, which runs 3,500 miles and serves 35 communities, particularly for people in remote locations with high transportation costs.
  • The Georgia Department of Transportation will receive $4 million on behalf of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to buy a new electric ferry to replace an older vessel for the continuation of daily transit services in McIntosh County. The DNR operates passenger ferry service between Meridian, and Sapelo Island, ensuring residents have access to medical, education, shopping needs and other mainland points of interest.
  • The Maine Department of Transportation will receive $28 million through the Electric or Low-Emitting Ferry Pilot Program to build a hybrid-electric vessel to replace a 35-year-old ferry. The new hybrid-electric vessel will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote environmental sustainability for the roughly 600 residents of the island of Islesboro, a rural community in upper Penobscot Bay that relies on passenger ferry service.
  • The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will receive $6.6 million through the Passenger Ferry Grant Program to modernize the Hingham Ferry dock to improve safety and accessibility and ensure it stays in a state of good repair. MBTA will stabilize the ferry dock, reconstruct walkways, upgrading lighting, safety and security systems and facilitating back-up power, allowing for an increase in ferry capacity, operational flexibility, and resiliency.
  • The Michigan Department of Transportation will receive $6.6 million to renovate docks and build a new ferry for the Charlevoix to Beaver Island route. Beaver Island is the largest island in Lake Michigan and the most remote inhabited island in the Great Lakes.
  • The North Carolina Department of Transportation Ferry Division will receive $1.34 million to modernize the NCDOT Manns Harbor Shipyard paint facility, increasing safety and bringing it up to a state of good repair. Modernization work at the shipyard, built in the 1960s, will include replacing interior lighting with LED, installing explosion-proof lighting and using fire-retardant paint to increase efficiency and provide a safe working environment.

The Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division will receive $11.6 million for three projects: building a new Southworth Ferry Terminal; construction of an electric charging facility at the Clinton Ferry Terminal; and upgrades for its electronic payment system for passenger fares.

FHWA Issues Tribal Grants, Seeks Program Input

The Federal Highway Administration recently issued millions in tribal roadway safety grants while also launching two new efforts to help states, cities, and local governments improve road safety as well. 

[Above image by the FHWA

First, FHWA issued 70 tribes some $21 million to support 93 projects that improve road safety on tribal lands. That funding comes from the agency’s Tribal Transportation Program Safety Fund and the list of grant recipients in this round of grants includes 16 tribes that have not previously participated in the program. 

FHWA noted in a statement that this tribal grant funding supports a range of roadway projects, including the development of safety plans, data analysis activities, pedestrian infrastructure improvements, roadway departure countermeasures, intersection safety, visibility, and “traffic calming” efforts. 

To broaden its roadway safety support efforts, FHWA posted a new Request for Information or RFI to gather feedback from states, cities, and local governments on ways to improve upon “Complete Streets” programs, while also issuing a new waiver ensuring that financial barriers do not prevent states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations or MPOs from engaging in “Complete Streets” efforts. 

FHWA’s RFI – called the “Improving Road Safety for All Users on Federal-Aid Projects” – seeks public comments from state, regional, and local agencies on changes to design standards or other regulations to help develop more “Complete Streets” and “Complete Networks” across the country. Comments are due by March 20. 

FHWA noted that a “Complete Street” is a roadway planned and designed to consider the safe, convenient access and mobility of roadway users of all ages and abilities. This includes pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation riders, and motorists; it includes children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities, the agency said. 

Meanwhile, FHWA’s “Complete Streets” funding waiver will allow states and MPOs to use federal funding for 100 percent of the expenses associated with certain planning and research activities. 

“Safety is foundational to our work and these efforts are two more critical tools to improve safety for all road users,” said FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt in a statement.  

“These resources recognize that safety is a shared responsibility and require input and action from our stakeholders and state partners as we collectively work to build a safe transportation system for everyone,” he explained. “We need multiple layers of protection in place to prevent roadway crashes and minimize the harm caused when they occur.”