Environmental News Highlights – February 9, 2022


Registration Open for AASHTO’s Washington BriefingAASHTO Journal

House T&I Subcommittee Holds Hearing on CAVs – AASHTO Journal

Biden, automakers face cultural divide on U.S. push for EVsAutomotive News

White House and EPA pen scathing letters to USPS over next-gen vehicle plan, including EV misinformation – Electrek

President Biden, USDOT Releases Toolkit to Help Rural Communities Build Out Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure – USDOT (Media release)


Airlines, travel groups urge White House to remove testing requirement for vaccinated travelers – The Hill

Traffic roars back: The pandemic driving lull is over, but mutated commuter habits have changed the transportation equation – Deseret News


AASHTO Comments on FEMA Floodplain Plans – AASHTO Journal

Michigan finalizing plan to build first-ever wireless charging road for electric cars – WJBK-TV

How Computer Vision Can Create Smart Transportation Systems – Forbes


Transportation overtakes energy as leading greenhouse-gas producer in North Carolina – News & Observer

Is Key California Pollution Law Working? – Governing


Transit Buses Across US Are Reserving A Front Seat In Honor Of Rosa Parks – Because of Them We Can

How Michigan agencies are addressing inequalities in infrastructure projects – WDET Radio

Austin to spend $65 million this year to reduce displacement near future transit lines – Austin Monitor

White House Council on Native American Affairs’ Engagement Session with Tribal Leaders Focuses on Infrastructure, Public Safety – Native News Online

Evaluating Transportation Equity: ITE Quickbite – Planetizen

From walking to cycling, how we get around a city is a gender equality issue – new researchThe Conversation


Nevada DOT Adds Fences to Reduce Animal Collisions – AASHTO Journal

Los Angeles Is Building a Future Where Water Won’t Run Out – Bloomberg


Preserving Post-WW2 Historical Homes – AASHTO’s ETAP Podcast

What Was Lost in Pittsburgh’s Broken Bridge – CityLab

Nevada DOT Launches Cultural Resources Latino Project and Seeks Input to Inform Future Projects – Nevada DOT (Media release)


WA lawmakers advance bill to create office to address homeless encampments near highways – Seattle Times

Batavia Launches Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Effort – Kane County Connects

Bike advocates ask for aid to finish Lincoln-to-Omaha trailAP

How to Jump-Start Cycling Infrastructure Improvements – Route Fifty

Austin Urban Trails Program to Break Ground on Violet Crown Trail North – City of Austin (Media release)


Coverage of 2022, TRB Annual Meeting: Creating Pathways to Equity – AASHTO Transportation TV News (Link to video)

Making Travel More Equitable for People with Disabilities – TRB


Transportation Research and Development Strategic Plan; Request for Information; Extension of Comment Period – USDOT (Request for Information; extension of comment period)

Operational Risk Assessments for Waterfront Facilities Handling Liquefied Natural Gas as Fuel, and Updates to Industry StandardsCoast Guard (Final rule)

Notification of Public Meeting (Local Government Advisory Committee and the Small Communities Advisory Subcommittee) – EPA (Notice)

Delegation of Authority to the State of West Virginia To Implement and Enforce Additional or Revised National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants Standards and New Source Performance Standards – EPA (Notice)

Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Advisory Panel – Forest Service (Call for nominations)

Investigation Into Conditions Created by Canadian Ballast Water Regulations in the U.S./Canada Great Lakes Trade – Federal Maritime Commission (Request for comments)

Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Ferry Berth Improvements in Tongass Narrows in Ketchikan, Alaska – NOAA (Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request for comments on proposed authorization and possible renewal)

Pipeline Safety: Pipeline Safety Enhancement Programs – Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (Notice)

Nevada DOT Launches Latino Cultural Preservation Project

The Nevada Department of Transportation and contractor Mead & Hunt are working to develop a “multiple property documentation form” or MPDF to help preserve Latino-related properties statewide, with a primary focus on the cities of Las Vegas and Reno.

[Above image via the Nevada DOT]

“This is an exciting new project that will pave the way for similar DOT projects throughout the country to preserve the rich cultural fabric of our communities across Nevada,” explained Cliff Creger, Nevada DOT’s chief of cultural resources, in a statement. “We are seeking input from the public on the important people and places to northern and southern Nevada’s Latino communities.”

He added that the resulting MPDF from that outreach seeks to reflect the way the Latino community defines the importance and use of properties. It also would cover how such properties are directly associated with Latino “themes” as well as their chronological periods in the historic contexts and/or which physical features convey distinctive design features.

The goal of the project is to build relationships within the Latino community, integrate the outreach findings and program into the MPDF, then develop a historical context for future transportation projects in Nevada.

This project also aims to “understand, explore, and propose criteria” to improve the “evaluation eligibility” of historical properties based on the Latino community’s unique past, standards, and values, the agency added. 

“We understand that the architectural history representation of the Latino culture is unique to its own past and can be understood from its own standards and values,” Creger noted.

This particular cultural outreach project undertaken by Nevada DOT is reflective of similar efforts by state departments of transportation nationwide.

For example, the Colorado Department of Transportation debuted a documentary called “Durango 550 – Path of the Ancestral Puebloans” in January to show how the agency worked with archaeologists and regional Native American tribes to document, study, and ultimately share the discoveries unearthed near Durango in southwest Colorado.

That particular archaeological excavation took place in 2018 and 2019 ahead of construction on the US 550-US 160 Connection South project in 2020.

“This documentary shows the unique collaboration of all entities involved, laying the groundwork for a new approach to archaeology, blending western science with traditional cultural beliefs,” explained Greg Wolff, a Colorado DOT archaeologist, in a statement.

In July 2021, the Ohio Department of Transportation helped open the new 54-mile-long Quaker Heritage Scenic Byway that seeks to foster a “new awareness” of cultural and historical diversity in rural southwest Ohio with stops along the way telling the story of Quakers who migrated to the region from the late 18th to the late 20th centuries.

That project helped reveal numerous layers of local history such as Quaker interactions with Native American communities, agriculture and land use, abolitionism, and religious practices – all identified through historical research, digital mapping, and told through “interactive” narratives.

Finally, the latest episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast discussed ways state DOT cultural resources programs are exploring to identify and preserve homes built in the 30 years following World War II that may have potential historical significance.

AASHTO Comments on Latest Proposed WOTUS Revisions

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials submitted a seven-page letter on February 2 to the Department of the U.S. Army and the Office of Water Oceans, Wetlands, and Communities Division within the Environmental Protection Agency to comment on the latest proposed revisions to Waters of the United States or WOTUS regulations.

[Above photo by the Ohio DOT]

The foremost concern expressed by AASHTO in its letter focused on the “need to clarify the standards used for determining the jurisdictional status of roadside ditches” so that the latest proposed WOTUS rule changes “clearly exclude” the overwhelming majority of roadside ditches.

“Unlike previous iterations of regulations defining WOTUS for which the agencies extended the public comment period, this proposed rule makes numerous changes to the pre-2015 definition of WOTUS, and relies on supporting documents including a 250-page Technical Support Document and 177-page Economic Analysis,” AASHTO emphasized. “But [it] does not give the public sufficient time to fully digest and understand the agencies’ proposal and submit comments.”

The debate over changes to WOTUS regulations spans several years. In September 2019, EPA and the Department of the Army – representing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – repealed and ended what they described as a “regulatory patchwork” that required implementing two competing sets of Clean Water Act rules, which created a regulatory burden across the United States, especially for transportation projects.

The EPA and Department of the Army published a proposed rule in February 2019 as part of the second step in this process – developing a new WOTUS definition that would “clearly define” where federal jurisdiction begins and ends in accordance with the Clean Water Act and Supreme Court precedent.

In that proposal, the agencies said at the time they would provide a “clear definition” of the difference between federally regulated waterways and those waters that rightfully remain solely under state authority.

EPA and the Department of the Army then published a final rule in April 2020 defining the scope of waters federally regulated under the Clean Water Act, while adhering to Congress’ policy directive to preserve states’ primary authority over land and water resources.

When that new final rule went into effect, it replaced the rule published in 2019 that formally repealed a regulatory effort initiated in 2015 to expand the WOTUS definition under the Clean Water Act.

However, the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – via a broad environmental directive issued by President Biden in January 2021 – began an entirely new WOTUS revision process in November 2021, first to repeal the 2020-era rule and then to design a brand new WOTUS regulatory framework.

The constant back-and-forth changes to WOTUS regulations are the main concern of AASHTO and state DOTs, as it impedes the ability to effectively plan transportation projects. 

“We caution that any final rule should truly be final, to the extent possible,” AASHTO said in its February 2 letter. “Frequent rule changes – especially of the magnitude characterizing the WOTUS definition – can be damaging to our members, because uncertainty has a substantial impact on transportation projects that often have a long lead time.”

AASHTO also expressed “concern” with the suggestion by the EPA and Department of the Army that an “anticipated second rule” would seek to “further refine” the test for WOTUS and “build upon the regulatory foundation” of the initial rule now being proposed.

“A second rule that does not focus solely on clearly defining WOTUS but instead introduces new concepts, standards, or requirements that go beyond the case law will increase the probability of confusion, additional lawsuits, and the need for additional changes in the future, further harming our members’ ability to plan for projects,” the organization said.