Environmental News Highlights – March 24, 2021


AASHTO Provides Perspective on Return of Congressional Earmarks – AASHTO Journal

AASHTO Issues 2021 Benefits of Transportation Report – AASHTO Journal

Illinois Sen. Duckworth Unveils Sweeping Environmental Justice Legislation – St. Louis Public Radio

Farm groups ask Biden to include rural investments in infrastructure plan – Capital Press

McConnell Rules Out Backing for Tax-Funded Infrastructure – Bloomberg


Trudeau Says US-Canada Border Won’t Reopen Anytime Soon – TravelPulse

The Local Policies That Will Outlast the Pandemic – CityLab

Jersey City to expand on-demand transport after shift in commuting habits – TNW

Caltrans Considering Freeway Closures Due to PPE Litter on Highways – KNSD-TV


FAA Releases LaGuardia AirTrain Final Environmental Impact Statement – FAA (Press release)


Four State DOT Projects Named ‘Infrastructure Gamechangers’ – AASHTO Journal

Caltrans Showcases the Achievements of Landmark SB1 Legislation on Rebuilding the State’s Aging Infrastructure – Caltrans (video)

Alabama State Port Authority’s growth story transcends geographical luck – FreightWaves

Teaching the next generation of engineers how to make Puerto Rico’s infrastructure resilient – University of Rhode Island (Press release)


Senators debate what cutting carbon emissions means for transportation industry – Nexstar

Jet fuel made from food waste could slash carbon emissions – Energy Digital


Unjoyful noise: Port Authority tunnel fans disturb Dormont residents – Post-Gazette

Road Salt Is Imperiling Aquatic Ecosystems. It Doesn’t Have To. – Undark (Opinion)

Buttigieg tweet on Chinatown shines light on racism in infrastructure – KYW


New traffic lights near historic buildings stopped after preservationist objects – KTBS-TV


Bike Fort Collins Discovers Mayoral and City Council Candidates Views on Bikes and Alternative Transportation – North Forty News

Biking Was Big in Philly Even Before the Pandemic. Then the Past Year Sent it Skyrocketing – Philadelphia

Making Milwaukee’s Downtown Better For Pedestrians Will Be Top Of Mind In The New Development Plan – WUWM

Wet Weather Biking Virtual Workshop – Penn State

Steady Rise in Pedestrian Fatalities Rings Alarm Bells – Texas DOT (Press release)


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

Federal Aluminum Aquatic Life Criteria Applicable to Oregon – EPA (Final rule)

Air Plan Approval; Texas; Revisions to the Texas Diesel Emissions Reduction Incentive ProgramEPA (Proposed rule)

Public Water System Supervision Program Revisions for the Navajo Nation – EPA (Notice of tentative approval)

Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) Sustainable and Health Communities Subcommittee Meeting—March 2021 – EPA (Notice of public meeting)

Notice of Intent To Amend the California Desert Conservation Area Plan and Prepare an Associated Environmental Assessment for the Oberon Solar Project, Riverside County – Bureau of Land Management (Notice of intent)

Notice of Intent To Rule on a Land Release Request at Council Bluffs Municipal Airport (CBF), Council Bluffs, Iowa – FAA (Notice of request to release and sell airport land)

Waiver of Aeronautical Land Use Assurance: Independence Municipal Airport (IDP), Independence, KS – FAA (Notice of intent of waiver with respect to land use change from aeronautical to non-aeronautical)

Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the Parallel Thimble Shoal Tunnel Project in Virginia Beach, Virginia – National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and NOAA (Notice; issuance of Renewal incidental harassment authorization)

Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the Old Sitka Dock North Dolphins Expansion Project in Sitka, Alaska – National Marine Fisheries Service and NOAA (Notice; proposed issuance of an Incidental Harassment Authorization; request for comments)

Revolving Fund Program—Water and Environmental Provisions of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 – Rural Utilities Service (Final rule)

Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction Meeting – National Institute of Standards and Technology (Notice of open meeting)

Agency Information Collection Activities; DOI Generic Clearance for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Activities – Interior (Notice of information collection; request for comment)

Ohio DOT Asks Public to Help Solve Litter Problem

The Ohio Department of Transportation is launching a public outreach campaign to reduce litter along state roadways – emphasizing that agency crews assigned to pick up trash are being diverted from more important tasks, such as patching potholes, replacing culverts, and other work.

[Photo courtesy of the Ohio Department of Transportation.]

The Ohio DOT said its crews collect more than 400,000 bags of other people’s trash from along state roadsides each year – and effort costing roughly $4 million annually. 

“Sadly, that time and money goes to address an issue that’s 100 percent preventable,” the agency said in a statement

“The same men and women who pick up trash along our roadways also perform other vital work like plowing snow, patching potholes, repairing guardrail, mowing grass, and replacing culverts,” the agency emphasized. “Picking up other people’s trash takes them away from those important jobs.” 

Other state departments of transportation are engaging in similar outreach efforts to reduce roadway litter. 

The Missouri Department of Transportation launches its annual highway litter cleanup effort – dubbed the ‘No MOre Trash! Bash’ – on April 1. The agency added in a statement that it spent $6.4 million to remove litter from more than 385,000 acres of roadsides along 34,000 state highway miles in 2020. The Missouri DOT also noted its annual volunteer efforts to pick up litter along state highways – including the Adopt-A-Highway program – are valued at more than $1 million. 

Photo by MoDOT

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is gearing up for its annual Spring Litter Sweep​ to remove trash from along the state’s roadways, which will run from April 10-24 this year. 

To date, the agency said its crews, contractors, and volunteers have already collected some 1.8 million pounds of litter from roadsides statewide since January 1. 

“We are only just beginning this year’s efforts to clean up and prevent litter on our roadsides,” noted Eric Boyette, NCDOT’s secretary, in a statement. “But we need everyone’s help. We all are responsible for keeping North Carolina clean and beautiful.” 

The South Carolina Department of Transportation noted that 1,700 of its employees picked up 13,130 bags of roadside trash weighing 209,725 pounds on November 17, 2020, in support of Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette’s “Grab A Bag SC 2020” statewide cleanup program. 

In October 2020, the Georgia Department of Transportation launched a new anti-litter campaign – called “Keep It Clean Georgia” – focused on preventing and eliminating litter along 50,000 miles of interstates and statewide routes. 

The Virginia Department of Transportation launched a public outreach campaign entitled Virginia is for Lovers, Not Litter in September 2020; noting that it spends nearly $3.5 million annually to remove litter from Virginia’s roadways, with more than half of that litter coming from motorists with another 25 percent from pedestrians. 

The cost of litter removal from state roadways does not come cheap. In February 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation released the results of a Pennsylvania Litter Research Study that indicated trash cleanup efforts removed more than 502 million pieces of litter from Pennsylvania’s roads.  

That study found that the most common trash collected by roadside cleanup efforts are cigarette butts (37 percent) and plastics (30 percent), while plastic film and beverage containers are the most prevalent items – with an estimated 29.3 million beverage containers alone littering the state’s roadways. 

Pennsylvania’s cities collectively spend more than $68 million annually on cleanup, education, enforcement, and prevention efforts related to litter and illegal dumping, the study found, with PennDOT spending upwards of $13 million per year on staff and resources to pick up litter along state-owned roadways.

Arizona DOT Works to Protect Plant Species in Highway Construction Zone

As an 11-mile reconstruction project along Interstate 10 between Interstate 17 and the Loop 202 gets ready to start, biologists with the Arizona Department of Transportation are preparing to relocate native plants out of the way.

[Photo courtesy of the Arizona Department of Transportation.]

The agency said its crews are identifying state-protected plants in the planned construction zone – such as ocotillo and saguaro and barrel cactus – and studying roughly 2,500 trees to identify native species, including palo verde, mesquite and ironwood.  

The Arizona DOT plans to relocate most of them into temporary nurseries during construction, transplanting them back to their roadside habitats when construction work is complete. 

“Protecting the natural Arizona environment is an important part of our work,” said Robert Samour, senior deputy state engineer and leader of Arizona DOT’s major projects group, in a statement.

Photo courtesy of the Arizona DOT

“There were more than 1,000 plants along the South Mountain Freeway that we maintained for more than three years and replanted after construction to preserve the plants and the beautiful landscape,” he said. 

[The Arizona DOT conducted a similar relocation effort in 2018 for native cactus plants located near a bridge replacement project on U.S. 60 where that highway crosses Pinto Creek six miles from the town of Miami, which is a little more than 81 miles due west of Phoenix.] 

The Arizona DOT anticipates starting the I-10 reconstruction project this summer, relocating native plants and utility lines. The agency anticipates construction will be complete by late 2024, with the project ultimately improving travel time and safety, as well as easing access to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and supporting local, regional, and state economic growth.