Environmental News Highlights – March 17, 2021


Transportation Getting $100B from $1.9T COVID Package – AASHTO Journal

USDA Investing $285M in Transportation, Infrastructure – AASHTO Journal

Leveraging Policy, Funding to Improve Infrastructure Resiliency – AASHTO Journal

Sen. Ed Markey Pushes Climate-Focused Transportation Bills – Transportation Topics

New Version of Ports-to-Plains Highway Bill Authored in Congress – KKAM

Biden eyes tougher approach to measuring impact of greenhouse gases – The Hill


How contactless technology is defining the customer experience post-COVID-19 – Future Travel Experience

Aviation industry urges Biden to back COVID-19 health credentials – Reuters


Texas has lessons for all of us on infrastructure resilience – The Hill

To Fight Flooding, This City Plans to Renovate – and Retreat – Bloomberg Green

Breakingviews – U.S. stimulus is map for infrastructure bonanza – Reuters

Infrastructure’s Time Has Come – Supply Chain Management Review (Opinion)

For Transportation Infrastructure, Look to Cities to Do It Right – Governing (Commentary)


Trump Change to Pollution Rules Survives New Jersey Appeal – Courthouse News Service

New York Pilots Program to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions Through Heat Pump Technology – ACHR News


In call for environmental justice, Biden’s climate agenda reaches into neighborhoods – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Albuquerque invests in electric buses, and calls for transit equity – Daily Lobo


Caltrans Specialists Scale Boulders & Cliffsides to Protect Motorist Safety – Using Courage, Know-How & Explosives! – Caltrans (Video)

Trump’s water rule now enforced nationally – National Hog Farmer

Arizona seeks to create surface water protections after Clean Water Act rollback – Arizona PBS

Park closes roads for restoration work, amphibian crossings – Pike County Courier

What Is A Wetland? – WorldAtlas

Environmental nonprofits join forces to hire ‘science geek’ to help fix the region’s water woes – News-Press

Beverly Gard: Wetlands bill needs more study before lawmakers act blindly – Indianapolis Business Journal (Opinion)


Caltrans asks for public input on areas to improve bicycling, walking – KNX

Atlanta BeltLine moves toward finding Northwest Trail route through Buckhead; transit route to follow – Reporter Newspapers

More bike lanes are coming to Reston and Herndon this year – Reston Now


TRB Webinar: Real-Time Response – A Pandemic Playbook for Public Transportation Agencies – TRB

TRB Webinar: The New Virtual Reality for Public Meetings and Social Distancing – TRB

TRB Webinar: Emerging Challenges for Congestion Pricing on Managed Lanes – TRB

TRB’s Transportation Explorers Podcast: Communicating and Using Transit to Get People to Vaccines – TRB

Airport Authority Launches Interactive Map – Charlotte County Airport Authority (Press Release)


Information Collection; National Woodland Owner Survey Forest Service (Notice; request for comment)

Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission to the Office of Management and Budget for Review and Approval; Oil Shale Management – Bureau of Land Management (Notice of information collection; request for comment)

Proposed Revisions to the National Handbook of Conservation Practices for the Natural Resources Conservation Service – Natural Resources Conservation Service (Notice of availability; request for comment)

Air Plan Approval; Ohio; Infrastructure SIP Requirements for the 2015 Ozone NAAQS – EPA (Proposed rule)

Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Southern Bighorn Solar Projects, Clark County, Nevada – Bureau of Indian Affairs (Notice of availability)

Notice of Availability of a Final Environmental Impact Statement for Vineyard Wind LLC’s Proposed Wind Energy Facility Offshore Massachusetts – Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (Notice of availability; final environmental impact statement)

Recertification of Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council – Coast Guard (Notice of recertification)

Review of Nomination for Lake Erie Quadrangle National Marine Sanctuary – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Notice)

Caltrans: Rebuilt Section of Highway 1 Could ‘Last for Centuries’

Recent hydrological studies indicate to the California Department of Transportation that it can rebuild a washed-out section of the famed Pacific Coast Highway with a massive new drainage system that would protect the roadway well past the 22nd Century.

[Photo courtesy of the California Department of Transportation.]

Three days of heavy rains spawned a river of mud, boulders, and fire debris on January 28 that overwhelmed a 150-foot section of the iconic Highway 1, sending it into the ocean. A five-mile section of the roadway remains closed at Rat Creek on Monterey County’s Big Sur Coast while contractors work toward an early summer re-opening.

“We’re returning the road to how it was before, but with modern engineering,” said Caltrans Public Information Officer Kevin Drabinski.

The washout left a V-shaped cavity where the old fill had cradled a 66-inch culvert for Rat Creek. Contractors will re-fill, compact the material, and bore the fill to accommodate a 10.5-foot culvert before rebuilding the roadway atop the fill.

Drabinski said the new drainage system would also feature a secondary culvert and some smaller culverts closer to highway grade, providing redundancy should another major incident occur.

Photo courtesy of the California DOT

“Our hydrological studies looked at models of another large fire followed by intensive rain,” he noted. “We’re confident this new design will stand for centuries to come.”

Drabinski added that the old culvert was installed decades ago and simply couldn’t handle the swollen creek that carried boulders, fire debris, mud, and a lot of water, all fueled by 17 inches of rain in three days. A massive tree trunk jammed the culvert, turning the creek into a lake and the highway into a dam. Eventually, the water and debris overtopped and washed out the road.

Contractors are hauling away tens of thousands of cubic yards of fill material while also properly disposing of the debris left behind by the landslide, Drabinski pointed out.

“There are designated sites for the debris haul,” he said. “We have very specific rules about how we dispose of that. You can’t just haul it away. You can’t throw a mudball into the Pacific Ocean.”

Caltrans believes it can finish the work by early summer, depending on rain. Crews are working every day, “and we’re making hay while the sun shines for now,” Drabinski emphasized.

Minnesota DOT Adopting Broad Array of Sustainability Initiatives

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is adopting a slate of recommendations proposed by the Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council or STAC in order to create “measurable strategies” to help the state transition to a low-carbon transportation system.

[Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Department of transportation.]

Those recommendations include:

  • Developing a clean fuels policy.
  • Supporting electric vehicle rebates.
  • Increasing investment in charging infrastructure.
  • Setting a preliminary 20 percent goal of reducing vehicle miles traveled or VMT statewide by 2050.
  • Prioritizing transit and high-occupancy vehicles on agency-owned right of way.
  • Continuing to prioritize other solutions before considering highway expansion

“We are deeply grateful to the members of the STAC for their thorough recommendations as we work collaboratively to reduce carbon pollution from the transportation sector,” noted Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Minnesota DOT’s commissioner, in a statement.

Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota DOT.

“Our climate is changing, and we all share in the responsibility of working harder to achieve Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act emission reduction goals. The recommendations of the STAC will be critical to our success,” she added.

The Minnesota DOT created STAC following its 2019 report Pathways to Decarbonizing Transportation, which identified several actions, recommendations, and opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from surface transportation.

“The MnDOT is leading with action by convening and listening to a diverse group of community leaders on the STAC,” noted Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy and STAC’s co-chair.

“But make no mistake, the MnDOT can’t do this work alone,” he explained, “Decreasing greenhouse gas emissions will require significant public-private and interagency partnerships as well as coordination with municipal and county agencies. Our STAC recommendations are one important step, and we appreciate that the MnDOT is moving forward with many of them.”

Concurrently, the Accessibility Observatory at the University of Minnesota is moving into the second phase of a multi-year national pooled-fund study to measure access to destinations, such as jobs, education, and health care as a way to guide transportation investments and land-use planning.

“Measuring access to destinations gives us the clearest possible view of how well our transportation systems connect travelers with important destinations,” explained Andrew Owen, the Observatory’s director, in a statement.

“It can also reveal how transportation and land use planning work together to set the stage for future growth and sustainability,” he added. “Comprehensive accessibility metrics can help planners make wise, cost-effective transportation system investments that will best serve public needs as they evolve through an increasingly uncertain future.”