Environmental News Highlights – March 10, 2021


ASCE Report: U.S. Transportation Infrastructure Needs Investment – AASHTO Journal

House T&I Plans to Add Earmarks to Surface Reauthorization Legislation – AASHTO Journal

Where Does Surface Transportation Funding Stand? – Asphalt Contractor

Oregon’s Rep. Peter DeFazio eyes national infrastructure bill, looks to use earmarks – The Banks Post

How a federal Climate Planning Unit can manage built environment risks and costs – Brookings Institution


COVID-19 Data Dashboard – C2SMART Consortium


Biden Administration Revives Consideration of Climate Change Impacts in NEPA Reviews – JD Supra

Biden Should Keep Trump’s Reforms to the National Environmental Policy Act – Earth Institute Columbia University (Opinion)


Pete Buttigieg Stresses a ‘Fix It First’ Infrastructure Policy – CityLab

Utah Legislature’s Latest Inland Port Bill Creates ‘Bank’ To Fund Infrastructure Projects – KUER

Container CEOs jointly attack US ports for having insufficient infrastructure – ShippingWatch


The Biden Administration Increases the Social Cost of Carbon – Route Fifty

Study Finds Wildfire Smoke More Harmful To Humans Than Pollution From Cars – NPR

Cities across Virginia seek cleaner transportation to minimize air pollution – The Breeze


Metro Transit’s big plans for faster bus routes offer a chance to improve both air quality and racial equity – Sahan Journal

Equity is driving force behind Philly’s new transit plan – Philadelphia Inquirer (Editorial)


EPA Drops Trump-Era Challenge Of Redwood City Salt Ponds Protection – KPIX-TV

The Boise River: nature, development, and water quality shape its future – BoiseDev

11 Facts About Salt Marshes and Why We Need to Protect Them – Pew

California’s Pacific Coast Highway is falling into the ocean. Is this the end of the road for one of America’s most scenic drives? – USA Today

The ‘LitterCam’ that’s watching you – BBC


Lime says it will spend $50 million on a huge e-bike expansion – The Verge

Fractured: Distrustful of frackers, abandoned by regulators – Environmental Health News


Equity and the Black Experience Webinar – TRB

TRB Webinar: The Ubiquitous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – UAVs for Infrastructure Monitoring – TRB


Ambient Air Monitoring Reference and Equivalent Methods; Designation of One New Reference Method and One New Equivalent Method – EPA (Notice)

Clean Air Act Advisory Committee (CAAAC): Request for Nominations – EPA (Notice)

Local Government Advisory Committee and Small Communities Advisory Subcommittee: Request for Nominations – EPA (Notice)

Air Plan Approval; GA: Non- Interference Demonstration and Maintenance Plan Revision for the Removal of Transportation Control Measures in the Atlanta Area – EPA (Final rule)

Texas: Final Authorization of State Hazardous Waste Management Program Revision – EPA (Final Rule)

Notice of Request To Release Property at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Charlotte, NC – FAA (Notice)

Public Notice for Waiver of Aeronautical Land Use Assurance; Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport, Medford, Oregon – FAA (Notice)

Federal Transit Administration Limitation on Claims Against Proposed Public Transportation Projects – FTA (Notice)

Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Ferry Berth Improvements in Tongass Narrows, AlaskaNational Marine Fisheries Service (Notice; request for comments on proposed Renewal incidental harassment authorization)

Pipeline Safety: Gas Pipeline Regulatory Reform – Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (Final rule; withdrawal of enforcement discretion; delay of effective date)

Pipeline Safety: Gas Pipeline Regulatory Reform; Correction – Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (Final rule; correction)

Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission to the Office of Management and Budget for Review and Approval; Did You Feel It? Earthquake Questionnaire – U.S. Geological Survey (Notice of Information Collection; request for comment)

Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for Purchase of Next Generation Delivery Vehicles – U.S. Postal Service (Notice)

USDOT, Transport Canada Craft Plan to Battle Climate Change

The U.S. Department of Transportation and Transport Canada issued a joint statement on February 25 committing both agencies to “reinvigorate our bilateral cooperation” to fight climate change and limit the environmental impacts from their respective national transportation networks on land, air, and sea.

[Above photo: Transport Canada’s Omar Alghabra at left, USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg at right.]

The announcement supports the recent Roadmap for a Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership cemented by President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and reinforces the bilateral Memorandum of Cooperation on “Transport Matters of Mutual Interest” signed in 2016.

“We will work together to accelerate policy actions that help our transport sectors grapple effectively with the climate challenge,” USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Omar Alghabra, Canada’s minister of transportation, in their joint statement.

“A healthy environment and economy support the goals of both countries to ‘build back better’ from the COVID-19 pandemic, and leverage actions at the state, provincial, territorial and local levels,” they said.

The broad based agreement covers a variety of modes and transportation activities:

  • On roads, the agreement commits both agencies to work toward a zero-emission vehicle future through “ambitious” vehicle standards to improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gases or GHGs from light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles. That includes efforts to help accelerate the achievement of 100 percent zero-emission vehicle sales for light-duty vehicles and increase the supply of and demand for zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. 
  • Exploration of “best practices” on how to help incentivize the installation of electric charging stations, and refueling stations for clean fuels, including through the ongoing coordination of electric and alternative fuel corridors and the alignment of technical codes, standards, and regulations, to enable the seamless transportation of people and goods. This includes collaboration on new “innovative solutions” to decrease emissions and advance the use of cleaner fuels in rail transportation.
  • On aviation, the agencies plan to work towards reducing the sector’s emissions in a manner consistent with the goal of net-zero emissions for both the U.S. and Canadian economies by 2050. That includes advancing the development and deployment of high integrity sustainable aviation fuels and other clean technologies that meet rigorous international standards.  
  • Both agencies plan to forge new partnerships with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to reduce GHG emissions. With ICAO, they plan to advance a new “long-term aspirational goal” for decarbonizing the aviation sector and continue participating in the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation or CORSIA. With the IMO, the plan is to cut emissions from ships in half by 2050 compared to 2008 levels. That includes spurring the use of cleaner, sustainable, and renewable fuels in ocean shipping and banning the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil  as fuel in the Arctic
  • Supporting further development of “green transport infrastructure” along the U.S.-Canadian border, including management of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway for maritime navigation needs.
  • Exploring how both nations can address and support the transportation infrastructure needs of Arctic and Northern communities, such as safety, climate change, and fostering socio-economic opportunities.

“This new focus on climate will reinforce our already vast cooperation portfolio across all modes of transportation to ensure safe, secure, and efficient transportation networks of today while preparing for the innovations of tomorrow, and recovering our economies in a way that promotes employment, sustainability, and equity,” Buttigieg and Alghabra said.

Energy Utility Coalition Plans to Build EV Recharging Network

Six energy utility companies are joining forces to build a seamless network of electric vehicle or EV charging stations connecting major highway systems from the Atlantic Coast, through the Midwest and South, and into the Gulf and Central Plains regions.

[Above photo of EV recharging station by Walmart.]

The Electric Highway Coalition – made up of American Electric Power or AEP, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Entergy Corporation, Southern Co., and the Tennessee Valley Authority – plans to establish a network of direct current or DC “fast chargers” within their service territories that can repower a typical EV in 20 to 30 minutes.

Nicholas Akins, AEP’s chairman, president, and CEO said in a statement that this effort will provide drivers with “effective, efficient, and convenient charging options” that enable long-distance EV travel, with the coalition also considering recharging sites along major highway routes with easy highway access and amenities for travelers.

“Throughout the ages, travelers have had to figure out how to get from point A to B. From feeding and watering horses to filling gas tanks, and now recharging batteries, ensuring that there are convenient places to accomplish these tasks is critical,” he said. “With this effort, we are working to help drivers see that EVs fit their lifestyle and their travel plans, wherever the road might take them.”

Several state departments of transportation are also engaged in similar build-out efforts to establish networks of EV rechargers along major highways.

For example, the California Department of Transportation – known as Caltrans – recently finished installing 22 new “fast-charging” EVs stations at nine locations along the state’s highway network.

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.

In September 2020, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation began providing free access to EV recharging stations situated at two of its park and ride commuter lots as part of a pilot program to encourage and support the broader use of EVs across the state. And in July 2020, DriveOhio – a division of the Ohio Department of Transportation – outlined a new statewide strategy to help expand statewide EV use in an Electric Vehicle Charging Study, which recommended building EV charging stations at least every 50 miles at specific locations along interstate, state, and U.S. route corridors.

Lime Planning $50M E-Bike Investment, Network Expansion

International bicycle sharing service Lime Bike is planning to invest $50 million in new electric-powered bicycles or “e-bikes” as well as an expansion of its network in the United States to 25 additional cities in 2021.

[Above photo by Lime Bike.]

“As we build out the Lime platform to serve any trip under five miles, e-bikes are a key piece of the puzzle, providing a perfect option for medium-length trips,” explained Wayne Ting, CEO of Lime, in a company blog post.

“That’s why we’re making substantial investments to upgrade our world-class e-bike and bring it to more cities across the globe, giving riders a new and exciting way to leave the car behind,” he said. “Shared micro-mobility is playing an essential role in getting cities moving again safely so we see this as a critical moment to double down on e-bikes as an open-air, socially distanced transportation option.”

Lime noted that this investment comes after it achieved its first full quarter of profitability in 2020 and as e-bike use “surges around the world.” The firm said people took more than three million rides on Lime e-bikes in 2021 and it expects that number “to grow significantly in 2021 as people are vaccinated and return to work, school, social activities and more.”

Lime added that a survey conducted in June 2020 found that many city residents are “changing their transportation preferences due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many more likely to use micro-mobility options as a result of the viral outbreak. 

Lime’s investment coincides with efforts on the part of state departments of transportation across America to improve bicycle infrastructure as part of “active transportation” strategies.

For example, on February 23, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and Adventure Cycling signed a memorandum of understanding or MOU to formalize a 16-year partnership that seeks to establish more than 50,000 miles of bike routes across the country. Currently, signage for nearly 15,000 miles of bicycle routes in 31 states and the District of Columbia is established.

“This MOU highlights AASHTO’s long-standing commitment to advancing a multimodal vision for America,” noted Jim Tymon, AASHTO’s executive director, in a statement. “Each new bike route gives people more travel options to connect with neighboring communities, recreational facilities, and tourism.” Scott Pankratz, Adventure Cycling’s executive director, added that signing this MOU comes at a time when “it is more important than ever since we’ve seen a surge in bicycle sales and cycling due to the [COVID-19] pandemic. It is exciting to see the momentum building to build bicycle corridors connecting both rural and urban America as this [national bicycle route] network prepares to tip over the 15,000-mile mark.”

Arizona DOT Installing New LED Highway Lights to Save Energy, Money

The Arizona Department of Transportation recently started upgrading the lighting system inside the Interstate 10 Deck Park Tunnel north of downtown Phoenix – a project that should save both energy and money.

[Photo courtesy of the Arizona Department of Transportation.]

The Deck Park Tunnel – which originally opened in August 1990 – currently uses an “old style” high-pressure sodium lighting system. The Arizona DOT is now replacing that old lighting system with 3,200 new light-emitting diode or LED fixtures; a $1.4 million project that should take several months to complete. The agency said in a statement that the new LED fixtures – expected to last well over twice as long as their sodium predecessors – should result in energy savings worth more than $175,000 per year; savings that, over time, will help pay for the cost of installing the new LED system.