Environmental News Highlights – February 23, 2022


State, Local Officials Play Vital Role in Infrastructure – Transport Topics

Bipartisan bill would enable states’ ability to clean abandoned mine discharge – Missoula Current

New headlight technology that improves safety, cuts down glare OK’d by NHTSA: How it works – Detroit Free Press

Fact Sheet: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Advances Cleaner Industrial Sector to Reduce Emissions and Reinvigorate American Manufacturing – The White House (Media release)


Texas sues Biden administration over transportation mask mandate – The Hill


NEPA reviews moving faster under Biden – E&E News


Utah lawmakers want electric vehicle drivers to pay their fair share – KSTU-TV

Permanent exemption for environmental review sought for California transit projects – SFBay.ca

Alabama officials to feds: Amtrak restoration along Gulf Coast will harm Port of Mobile – AL.com

Elon Musk’s Boring Company Plots Texas Tunnels – Businessweek


Fighting pollution at the Port of San Diego – KPBS Radio (Link to broadcast)

Massachusetts bond bill will target transportation emissions – State House News Service

Climate activists question whether RI highway projects fit emission reduction targets – Providence Journal

Atlanta Airport Tackles Emissions by Increasing Energy Efficiency in Buildings, Operations – Environment+Energy Leader


Taking Aim at Environmental Racism, Without Mentioning Race – New York Times

How Montgomery County, Maryland can increase equitable access to transit by improving walkability – Brookings (Blog)


Our roads are killing wildlife. The new infrastructure law aims to help – NPR

From dirty diapers to fake money, Nevada DOT’s road crews have seen it all – Reno Gazette Journal

Ridgefield hires attorneys to represent town in environmental lawsuit filed by Save the Sound – News-Times

The Futility of Picking Up the Trash – CityLab


Arkansas governor to create mobility council focused on future transit – Axios NW Arkansas

Nashville Metro Parks recommends another study amid concerns over eBikes and greenway infrastructure – WZTV-TV

Oregon DOT’s Urban Mobility Strategy navigates tough roads – KOIN-TV

City of Memphis working to make streets safer for pedestrians – WHBQ-TV

King County repeals mandatory bicycle helmet law – Seattle Times


TRB Webinar: Mobility and Transit Keys to Successful Collaboration – TRB

Multi-stage Planning for Electrifying Transit Bus Systems with Multi-format Charging Facilities – TRB

Traffic Signal Control Strategies for Pedestrians and Bicyclists – NCHRP

Assessing Equity and Identifying Impacts Associated with Bus Network Redesigns – TCRP

Recent Decline in Public Transportation Ridership: Analysis, Causes, and Responses – TCRP

Recent Decline in Public Transportation Ridership: Hypotheses, Methodologies, and Detailed City-by-City Results – TCRP

Upsides and Downsides: Transportation and public health share a complicated union. – Thinking Transportation Podcast


Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration GuidanceCouncil on Environmental Quality (Notice of availability; request for comments)

White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council; Notification of Virtual Public Meeting – EPA (Notice)

Control of Air Pollution From Aircraft Engines: Emission Standards and Test Procedures – EPA (Proposed rule)

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment, Adaptive Driving Beam Headlamps – NHTSA (Final rule)

FY 2022 Competitive Funding Opportunity: Public Transportation on Indian Reservations Program; Tribal Transit Program – FTA (Notice)

Comprehensive River Management Plan for Nine Wild and Scenic Rivers on Mt. Hood National Forest, Forest Service, and Northwest Oregon District, Bureau of Land Management, Clackamas, Multnomah, Wasco and Hood River Counties, OregonForest Service and Bureau of Land Management (Notice of availability)

St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, Bicycling – National Park Service (Final rule)

Hazardous Materials: Request for Comments on Issues Concerning International Atomic Energy Agency Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Materials – Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (Notice)

Public Meeting Notice of Scientific Earthquake Studies Advisory Committee – U.S. Geological Survey (Notice)

Caltrans Awards $312M for Beautification Projects

As part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s landmark $1.1 billion Clean California initiative, the California Department of Transportation recently awarded $312 million for 126 beautification projects along the state’s highway system.

[Above photo by Caltrans]

Developed in close collaboration with tribal and local governments, non-profits, and businesses, those 126 beautification projects – due to begin in April – 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 in a statement 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.

“With Clean California projects transforming more and more sites across the state, we’re taking the next step to create enriching public spaces that serve the needs of our diverse communities and that all of us can take pride in – starting in the neighborhoods that need it most,” said Governor Gavin Newsom (D) in a separate statement. “Working together, the state and local governments are advancing unique beautification projects that will make a positive impact for years to come.”

In addition to these awards for Clean California projects along the state right-of-way, the governor announced in December 2021 the availability of almost $300 million in grants to cities and counties for local projects that “clean and beautify” neighborhood streets, parks, and transit centers throughout California.

Caltrans will review the project proposals from cities, counties, transit agencies, tribal governments, and other governmental entities, then announce grant recipients on March 1.

Over the next three years, Caltrans estimates that the “Clean California” program will remove an additional 1.2 million cubic yards, or 21,000 tons, of trash from the state highway system alone. The initiative has already resulted in 6,300 tons of litter being removed from the State Highway System and, to date, Caltrans has hired 528 new team members, including 428 maintenance workers who collect litter and perform maintenance duties like graffiti removal.

NCDOT Providing Material for Artificial Reefs

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is providing more than 1,000 tons of damaged concrete pipe to help the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries shore up two artificial reefs.

[Above photo by NCDOT]

NCDOT sent those discarded culverts – which accumulated over the past several years as the result of an aggressive pipe replacement program in part due to damage caused by recent hurricanes – to the Port of Wilmington for eventual deployment off of the Brunswick County coast.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries – part of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality – maintains several artificial reefs that create habitat for fish and ideal fishing sites.

It said artificial reefs create habitat for fish by creating three-dimensional structures that replicate the ecological functions of food and refuge fish and other marine life need to survive and create “crucial” spawning and foraging habitat for many commercially and recreationally important fish species.   

The fisheries division has been working with NCDOT to find “new and cost-effective uses” for scrapped concrete pipe. Using that piping to build artificial reefs for marine life along the state’s coastline in a money saver, the agency noted – eliminating $65,000 in tipping fees to dispose of it in a construction and demolition landfill.

Ken Clark, an NCDOT district engineer, said the idea for donating the pipe arose during a conference for coastal resiliency. That is when he discovered the state’s marine fisheries division could repurpose his stockpile of precast concrete, barreled-shaped pipe to augment existing artificial reefs. 

“We had considered many options on how to properly dispose of this unusable material when we formed this unique collaboration with the Division of Marine Fisheries last year,” he explained in a statement. “This program mutually benefits both state agencies.”

Other state departments of transportation are involved in similar artificial reef construction projects.

For example, in 2020, the New York State Department of Transportation began helping expand a series of artificial reefs off the shores of Long Island as part of a three-year-long multiagency effort – dumping a retired tugboat, 16 rail cars, and a streel turbine on Hempstead Reef.

“[We are] proud to work with our sister agencies on this important program, repurposing transportation materials to expand artificial reefs and support biodiversity, fishing, and tourism,” explained Marie Therese Dominguez, NYSDOT’s commissioner, in a statement at the time.

“It is another example of how [our state] is taking bold steps to protect our ecosystems and foster sustainable economic growth that will benefit current and future generations of New Yorkers,” she said.

Colorado DOT Issues Transportation Demand Grants

The Colorado Department of Transportation recently awarded $492,000 in grants to communities and organizations statewide in support of “transportation demand management” strategies that help relieve traffic congestion and lower greenhouse gas or GHG emissions.

[Above photo by the Colorado DOT]

“We’ve known for a long time that we can’t simply build our way out of congestion, and we’re proud to help these pioneering communities and organizations give people more options for traveling,” explained Shoshana Lew, Colorado DOT’s executive director, in a statement.

“Transportation demand management strategies can help manage congestion, restore air quality and reduce emissions,” she said. “They can also make communities more thriving and sustainable.”

Colorado DOT explained that transportation demand management seeks to provide travelers with more travel choices instead of relying on single-vehicle occupancy vehicles. Such choices can include mode, route, time of travel, and work location, the agency added.

Common transportation demand management strategies focus on transit, “micro-mobility” such as bikes and scooters, improvements to pedestrian infrastructure, smart growth policies, intelligent transportation systems, managed lanes, and the encouragement of “e-work” or remote work options. While such approaches are more common in large urban areas, Colorado DOT said many smaller communities could benefit from them as well – with its grant program designed to help them do so.

“There are organizations in the metro area that have been doing great work on these strategies for many years,” noted Kay Kelly, chief of innovative mobility for Colorado DOT. “We’re excited to see these grants help existing groups scale up successful projects and to be encouraging innovation and expansion of transportation demand management efforts to new audiences statewide.”

Other state departments of transportation are engaged in similar efforts.

For example, the Vermont Agency of Transportation awarded roughly $500,000 in grants via the Mobility and Transportation Innovation or MTI program in December 2021 to support “innovative strategies” that improve both mobility and access for transit-dependent Vermonters, reduce the use of single-occupancy vehicles for work trips, and reduce GHGs.

The agency noted that Vermont’s legislature specifically created that program with the passage of the state’s 2020 Transportation Bill in June 2020.

AASHTO’s CEE Hosting Virtual Peer Exchange

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Center for Environmental Excellence will host a virtual peer exchange discussing alternative project delivery and the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA process on March 8 from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm eastern.

That exchange will feature representatives from Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Utah sharing their experiences using alternative project delivery methods, such as public-private partnerships or P3s and design-build contracts.

The discussion will highlight best practices when using alternative delivery methods as well as discuss the experiences of those states navigating the NEPA process when using an alternative delivery method.

The exchange also includes a question and answer session once the state presentations conclude.

To register for this virtual peer exchange, click here.