Environmental News Highlights – March 8, 2023

A roundup of headlines curated for state transportation environmental professionals


The Transportation Department maps out its next five years of research

– WFED Radio’s Federal Drive

U.S. feds announce new EV charging network standards

– The Buzz EV News

In Race to Build Out EV Charging Stations, Some Cities and States Have a Leg Up

– Route Fifty

America’s airports aren’t ready for climate change

– Brookings’ The Avenue (blog)

Biden Sets in Motion Gasoline Policy Shift to Boost Ethanol

– Transport Topics

USDOT Announces more than $12 Million in Funding for the U.S. Marine Highway Program

Maritime Administration (media release)

Biden-Harris Administration Announces First-Ever Awards from Program to Reconnect Communities

– USDOT (media release)


Georgia’s Transportation Investment Act Marks First Decade

– AASHTO’s ETAP Podcast

NC’s Ferry System Explores Going Electric

– PBS North Carolina

NYC’s Shadow Transit Network Seeks a Greener Future

– CityLab

Irving, Texas Turns to Tech to Place EV Charging Infrastructure

– Government Technology

USDOT Establishes Partnership with the City of Austin to Finance Mobility and Infrastructure Projects

– USDOT (media release)


E-bikes are gaining popularity in Philly’s low-income communities of color

– Philadelphia Inquirer

A major air quality bill just got revived and is passing the Utah Legislature

– Standard-Examiner


Why the White House’s environmental justice tool is still disappointing advocates

– Grist

Ship Canal Bridge encampment residents who refuse housing will be trespassed, WSDOT says


Delaware Joins Equity in Infrastructure Project

– DelDOT (media release)


Palo Alto bans e-bikes on unpaved paths in open space preserves


Are Butterflies Wildlife? Depends Where You Live.

– New York Times

The EU Is Cracking Down on Plastic. Will Others Follow?

– Bloomberg Green


Roanoke offers public transit to hiking trails. Should more parts of Virginia do the same?

– Virginia Mercury (commentary)


Dedication Ceremony Celebrates Opening of 100th Mile of San Antonio Area Trail


Piedmont Mobility Summit aims to improve accessibility to outdoor activities


Austin Vision Zero report highlights racial disparities in traffic fatalities and injuries


To promote exercise, planners must look beyond cities

– Cornell Chronicle

A Troubling Trend: Pedestrian Deaths Continue to Rise

– Route Fifty

Hawaii DOT Rolls Out Electric Bike and Electric Moped Rebate Program

– Hawaii DOT

European Transport Safety Council and UK Parliamentary Advisory Council For Transport Safety set out safety recommendations for e-scooters and their riders

– European Transport Safety Council

Are Cyclists Safe Around Self-Driving Cars?

– Bicycling (essay)


Telecommuting and Transit Ridership in a Post-Pandemic Future


TR News 341 September-October 2022: Decarbonizing Transportation


Building Socioeconomic Equity Through Transportation Research


2023 Florida Commuter Choice Certificate Program

– FDOT (link to registration)


National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Standards and Requirements

FHWA (Final rule)

National Navigation Safety Advisory Committee Meeting; March 2023 Meetings

– Coast Guard (Notice)

Port Access Route Study: Approaches to Galveston Bay and Sabine Pass, Texas and Calcasieu Pass, Louisiana

– Coast Guard (Notice of study; request for comments)

Air Plan Approval; Florida; Update to Materials Incorporated by Reference

– EPA (Final rule; notice of administrative change)

Air Plan Approval; Kentucky; Revision to Federally Enforceable District Origin Operating Permits

– EPA (Final rule)

Vermont: Final Authorization of State Hazardous Waste Management Program Revisions

– EPA (Direct final rule)

Vermont: Final Authorization of State Hazardous Waste Management Program Revisions

– EPA (Proposed rule)

Request From States for Removal of Gasoline Volatility Waiver

– EPA (Proposed rule)

White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council; Notification of Virtual Public Meeting

– EPA (Notification)

Meeting of the Regional Resource Stewardship Council

Tennessee Valley Authority (Notice)

Board on Coastal Engineering Research

– Corps of Engineers (Notice of advisory committee meeting)

Regional Meeting of the Binational Bridges and Border Crossings Group in Las Cruces, New Mexico

– State Department (Notice)

USDOT Issues $185M in ‘Reconnecting Communities’ Grants

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently awarded $185 million in grants to 45 projects through its new “Reconnecting Communities” pilot program – what the agency described as a “first-of-its-kind” initiative to reconnect communities “cut off from opportunity and burdened by past transportation infrastructure decisions.”

[Above photo by USDOT]

Established by $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA, which was enacted in November 2021, the “Reconnecting Communities” program provides technical assistance and funding for communities’ planning and construction projects that aim to connect neighborhoods back together by removing, retrofitting, or mitigating transportation barriers such as highways and railroad tracks.

USDOT noted that this first round of grants – comprised of 39 planning grants and six capital construction grants – will fund construction and planning for transformative community-led solutions, including capping interstates with parks, filling in sunken highways to reclaim the land for housing, creating tree-lined “Complete Streets,” and creating new crossings through public transportation, bridges, tunnels and trails.

“Transportation should connect, not divide, people and communities,” noted Pete Buttigieg, USDOT secretary, in a statement. “We are proud to announce the first grantees of our Reconnecting Communities program, which will unite neighborhoods, ensure the future is better than the past, and provide Americans with better access to jobs, health care, groceries and other essentials.”   

For example, the California Department of Transportation and the City of Oakland received one of those grants – worth $680,000 – to explore ways to reconnect communities divided by transportation infrastructure along I-980; one of five California projects receiving “Reconnecting Communities” program grants.

The I-980 corridor, completed in 1985, ended up dividing communities in West Oakland from downtown Oakland and today acts as a barrier to travel and economic opportunities between these communities. The new grant allows Caltrans and the City of Oakland to study alternatives for reconnecting communities along the corridor with an expanded focus on community integration and environmental justice. 

“Transportation should always improve access to opportunity and be a uniter not a divider,” said Toks Omishakin, secretary of the California State Transportation Agency, in a statement. “These awards, coupled with the forthcoming $150 million state investment for a parallel ‘Highways to Boulevards pilot program,’ will allow California neighborhoods divided by transportation infrastructure – particularly historically disadvantaged communities – to take steps to remove literal barriers to opportunity and begin making up for past harms.”

Maryland DOT Begins Statewide Litter, Mowing Effort

The Maryland Department of Transportation recently launched “Operation Clean Sweep Maryland,” a new initiative that will nearly double the frequency of litter pickup and mowing efforts along state roads.

[Above photo by Maryland DOT]

This new effort – which launched in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., regions – is under the purview of the Maryland State Highway Administration, one of Maryland DOT’s modal divisions.

The agency said it increased its annual maintenance budget more than 30 percent compared to 2022 to nearly $30 million to accommodate additional litter removal and mowing efforts as part of Operation Clean Sweep Maryland.

The agency added that it spent approximately $39 million over the last five years collecting and disposing more than 26,000 truckloads of litter along state roads. Annually, MDOT SHA collects approximately 5,300 truckloads of trash at a cost of more than $7 million.

“Operation Clean Sweep Maryland” also includes funding to hire additional state employees to increase litter pickup frequency as well as to purchase additional mowing equipment and develop contract resources to maintain both the increased mowing and litter removal cycles.

“Maryland’s highways connect us to friends, family, schools, jobs and recreation, and serve as the welcome mat for visitors to our state,” explained Paul J. Wiedefeld, secretary for the Maryland DOT, in a statement.

“We can’t allow litter to destroy the beauty of our communities and threaten our safety and the environment,” he added. “We need the help of everyone to tackle this problem, and our state highway crews are prepared to lead the way.”

In addition to hindering mowing and landscape efforts, as well as creating negative environmental impacts, roadway trash severely impacts drainage infrastructure, Maryland DOT said. Backed up drains cause rain and snow melt to “pond” on the roads, creating a major safety hazard for motorists, the agency said. 

Concurrently, due to a mild winter, MDOT SHA said it anticipates roadside mowing will be required earlier than usual, thus necessitating earlier and more frequent seasonal trash removal efforts.

State departments of transportation across the country are involved in a wide range of anti-littering efforts.

For example, the Tennessee Department of Transportation sponsors an annual litter prevention campaign – called “Nobody Trashes Tennessee” – with Keep Tennessee Beautiful affiliates and Adopt-A-Highway groups.

In November 2022, more than 1,300 volunteers statewide removed more than 48,000 pounds of litter in their communities as part of its month-long “No Trash November” roadway cleanup effort.

Meanwhile, in August 2022, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation joined several fellow state agencies to help launch a new anti-litter campaign entitled “PA Fights Dirty: Every Litter Bit Matters.”

The creation of this campaign is one of the many recommendations made by Pennsylvania’s first-ever Litter Action Plan, released in December 2021. That plan also won a Pennsylvania Governor’s Awards for Excellence in May 2022.

Concurrently, in July 2022, Ohio launched a new litter control program – one administered by the Ohio Department of Transportation – that seeks to broaden engagement by the business community in its trash removal efforts.

That Ohio program allows businesses and groups to fund litter removal services along one-mile, one-direction segments of state highways. In exchange for their sponsorship, Ohio DOT displays the name of the business or group on a sign within their sponsored segment.