Environmental News Highlights – March 23, 2022


AASHTO Names PennDOT’s Gramian as CES Chair – AASHTO Journal

FTA Awards $409M in Transit Bus Grants – AASHTO Journal

House Lawmakers Pitch Water Infrastructure Projects – Transport Topics

SEC plans to force public companies to disclose greenhouse gas emissions – Washington Post

FHWA Announces First Availability of National Scenic Byways Program Funding Since 2012 – FHWA (Media release)


Portland Transportation Leaders Move to Make COVID-Era Street Seating Permanent – Portland Mercury

How did COVID-19 impact mass, micro-transit options? – KXAN-TV

CDC lowers COVID-19 warning on cruise ships from ‘high’ to ‘moderate’ – The Hill


Utah Lake Restoration Project must complete Environmental Impact Statement – Daily Herald


Colorado is about to rapidly expand its transmission network. Should it double as a bike highway system? – Colorado Public Radio

Pittsburgh City Council proposal would turn to nonprofits for infrastructure funding – Tribune-Review

It’s Time to Treat E-Bikes Like Vehicles – CityLab

Major New Roads In England May Have Funding Pulled If They Increase Carbon Emissions Or Don’t Boost Active Travel – Forbes


AVTA now operates North America’s first fully zero-emissions fleet – Mass Transit

EPA plan would limit downwind pollution from power plants – Los Angeles Times

The promises – and limits – of electric vehicles – WDET Radio


Pennsylvania is revising its environmental justice policy. Here’s what’s changing – Allegheny Front

Even many decades later, redlined areas see higher levels of air pollution – WBEZ Radio

Clean water is key to conservation equity – The Hill (Opinion)

Biden’s push for an infrastructure presidency risks sacrificing Black communities – Washington Post (Commentary)


Claim your roadkill with 511 app – GCN

No Kidding: Goats as Vegetation Management in Bedford? – Katonah Lewisboro Times

Climate-driven water woes spark Colorado rush to conserve ‘liquid gold’ – Reuters

Report: Clean Water Act Falls Short – Progressive Farmer

Corps releases West Shore Lake Pontchartrain environmental documents for review – Army Corps of Engineers (Media release)


Manhattan’s Chinese Street Signs Are Disappearing – New York Times


State of Michigan Announces Grants for Electrified Mobility Projects – Autobody News

Brightline launches bike-share program, ‘BrightBike,’ to encourage more eco-friendly transportation – WPBF-TV

Gov. Justice approves pedestrian improvements in Morgantown – WBOY-TV

Chicago Facing Class Action Suit Over Lack Of Accessible Signals For Blind PedestriansWTTW-TV

New York City DOT To Install 500 Accessible Pedestrian Signals At Intersections Next Year – Gothamist


Clearing the Skies with Research on Electric Vehicles – TRB

TRB Webinar: Creating Inclusive Mobility – TRB


Notice of Availability of Initial Guidance Proposals for the Capital Investment Grants Program – FTA (Notice)

Air Travel by Persons Who Use Wheelchairs; Notice of Public MeetingUSDOT, Office of the Secretary (Notice)

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

Notice of Rail Energy Transportation Advisory Committee Meeting – Surface Transportation Board (Notice of meeting)

National Priorities List – EPA (Proposed rule; withdrawal of proposed rule)

Approval of Arizona Air Plan Revisions, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and Maricopa County Air Quality Department – EPA (Final rule)

Proposed Settlement Agreement, Clean Air Act Citizen Suit – EPA (Notice; request for public comment)

Proposed Settlement Agreement, Clean Water Act – EPA (Notice of proposed settlement agreement; request for public comment)

Notification of a Public Meeting of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) Lead Review Panel – EPA (Notice)

National and Governmental Advisory Committees to the U.S. Representative to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) – EPA (Notice of meeting)

Inland Waterways Users Board Meeting Notice – Army Corps of Engineers (Notice)

Notice of Availability of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group Draft Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment #8: Wetlands, Coastal, and Nearshore Habitats – National Marine Fisheries Service (Notice of availability; request for comments)

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sanctuary System Business Advisory Council: Public Meeting – NOAA (Notice)

Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement Waterways Commerce Cutter Acquisition ProgramCoast Guard (Notice of availability; request for comments)

Reconciliation of Derogatory Geographic Names Tribal Consultation; Correction – U.S. Geological Survey (Notice; correction)

‘Canopy Clearing’ Helping Improve Roadway Safety

Since November, maintenance crews with the West Virginia Division of Highways – part of the West Virginia Department of Transportation – have cleared more than 170 acres of trees and branches overhanging more than 500 miles of state roadways: enough trees and branches to fill up about 170 football fields.

[Above photo by the West Virginia DOT]

Called “canopy clearing,” that process is critical to improving roadway safety. According to the “Vegetation Control for Safety” manual published by the Federal Highway Safety Administration, trees growing close to a roadway can present a “fixed object hazard” to travelers, including motorists, bicyclists, and others. Grass, weeds, brush, and tree limbs can also obscure or limit views of traffic control devices –such as signs or stoplights –as well as approaching vehicles, wildlife and livestock, pedestrians, and bicycles. Thus, controlling vegetation helps reduce crashes and injuries, FHWA noted.

“Canopy clearing” adds another element for improving roadway safety, the agency noted. When trees and shrubs – particularly evergreens – in the right-of-way cast shadows on the pavement, freeze-thaw cycles may create isolated ice patches on the pavement – easily causing loss-of-control crashes. Thus “canopy clearing” or “daylighting” by cutting taller vegetation lets the sun help with thawing and ice control, while also generally helping preserve pavements by preventing the buildup of moisture on roadways during warmer months.

In the past, the West Virginia Division of Highways noted in a statement it could only remove 140 acres of the canopy a year, or 14 acres for each of the state’s 10 highway districts. However, the state lifted that restriction in 2022, allowing districts to cut more trees in between winter snows.

The agency added that, by law, its crews can only clear canopy between November 15 and March 31; a restriction designed to protect endangered bat populations, which do not typically use trees during that time span.

State departments of transportation are also working to expand their knowledge base regarding the impact of trees and shrubbery on roadway safety and pavement longevity.

For example, a 95-page research paper compiled for the Ohio Department of Transportation five years ago by Ohio University suggested designs for a “decision-making tool or process” to assist the agency with tree canopy maintenance practices, assessing the impact of trees and tree species on pavement degradation, road condition, and road safety in climatic conditions typical of Ohio.

PennDOT Gears up for Spring Litter Removal Effort

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Protection are joining forces to encourage local businesses and residents to support the state’s spring “Pick Up Pennsylvania” campaign, focused on removing litter from state roadways, waterways, and “green spaces” such as state parks.

[Above photo by PennDOT]

That collaborative effort between the two agencies is a key part of Pennsylvania’s first ever “Litter Action Plan,” unveiled by Governor Tom Wolf (D) in November 2021.

“[We are] responsible for maintaining 40,000 miles of roadway, roads that wind through some of the most beautiful, scenic landscapes in the country,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian in a statement, noting that PennDOT spends roughly $14 million annually on litter removal efforts along state roadways.

 “Our Adopt-a-Highway Volunteers are very important to this effort, but as litter mounts, our multi-million-dollar cleanup efforts must continue – again taking our valuable resources away from highway maintenance operations,” she pointed out.

[Editor’s note: The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recently appointed Gramian to a two-year term as chair of its Committee on Environment and Sustainability or CES.]

 “Clean green spaces and waterways factor into our physical and mental health and enable the function of the ecosystem we depend on,” added DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell, pointing out that – so far – there are 290 spring “Pick Up Pennsylvania” cleanup events scheduled, with 21,000 volunteers slated to participate in those trash removal efforts.

PennDOT added that its Adopt-A-Highway program now includes over 4,250 participating groups and more than 103,300 registered volunteers covering nearly 8,800 miles of adopted state-maintained roadways.  

“We see the great impact that volunteers have in reducing the litter polluting our roads, neighborhoods, and parks,” said DEP’s McDonnell. “It’s unimaginable where we’d be without the help of these best of Pennsylvanians. However, cleanup is a very costly approach to the litter problem in the long term. We must move out of reactive mode and be more proactive to prevent littering.”

Meanwhile, the Arizona Department of Transportation noted that its crews removed 800 tons of litter and trash from just along Maricopa County freeways in 2021 – a 47 percent increase compared to the litter picked up in 2017.

Each week, the agency said its maintenance crews are able to clean about 250 miles along the freeway system, thanks to funding from the Maricopa Association of Governments. Nevertheless, the amount of litter and trash increases along Valley freeways year after year.

The agency noted in a blog post that trash build-up also clogs drainage systems, leading to water pooling on roadways, while large debris that falls onto roadways can be hazardous as drivers swerve to avoid the items.