PennDOT to Help Test Invasive Species Management Program

The Pennsylvania Invasive Species Council or ISC is preparing to pilot test an invasive species management program this summer – and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is one of several state agencies on tap to play a key role in that pilot test.

[Above image by PennDOT]

The program is built around findings from the first statewide survey of impacts from invasive plants, insects, pathogens, and animals, ISC conducted in late 2022 – the Pennsylvania Invasive Species Impacts Survey.

“A biodiverse native ecosystem provides the natural resources that are essential to our lives, from agricultural food production to outdoor recreation and fishery, timber, and other industries,” explained Rich Negrin, acting secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, in a statement.

He added that the ISC believes a statewide program is necessary to respond to growing number of invasive species in Pennsylvania – including the spotted lanternfly, mile-a-minute vine, Japanese stiltgrass, barberry shrub, zebra mussels, and many others.

The pilot will bring together expertise from local and state government, industry, community, and academic organizations to create a Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management or “PRISM” program.

The Council and the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts or PACD will partner to pilot-test a small-scale version of a PRISM program in 13 northwest counties in July.

Using $210,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, PACD plans to conduct on-the-ground projects to remove invasive species and conduct educational outreach to help prevent the introduction of invasive species. In addition, PACD will develop a strategic plan identifying priorities and committed partners for the region – including PennDOT.

“PennDOT has worked with federal, state, and local partners to encourage native plant growth and target invasive species in our right of way,” noted Mike Carroll, acting PennDOT secretary. “We look forward to continued partnership through this council to address this statewide challenge.”

Other state departments of transportation are also engaged in efforts to eradicate a variety of invasive species in their regions to improve protections for native plant and animal life, as well as encourage pollination efforts.

For example, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet recently began cranking up its annual weed control program to keep a dozen unwanted and noxious weeds from encroaching on the bluegrass state’s transportation infrastructure.

Meanwhile, in November 2022, the Illinois Department of Transportation recounted in a blog post how it changed its mowing practices over the years to better protect roadside landscapes that are vital to pollinators and native planet life.

The agency has adopted mowing policies to protect the habitat and migratory patterns of the monarch butterfly and other pollinators that use it as a food source. That policy allows for mowing of the state’s roads in a four-year rotation during the summer.

Finally, in October 2022, ecologists at Idaho State University began working with the Idaho Transportation Department to turn state roadsides into veritable “Swiss army knives” of vegetation so they are both more fire-resistant and more welcoming to pollinating insects. They are working with three different types of ecosystems, figuring out how to make the land more hospitable to native plants and less so for invasive weeds.

USDOT Initiates Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Prevention Project

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently began what it calls a “first-of-its-kind” pilot program to prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve habitat connectivity.

[Above photo by the Colorado DOT]

Created and funded by the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA enacted in November 2021, that pilot program – dubbed the “Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program” and managed by the Federal Highway Administration – will make grant funding available to states and communities to construct wildlife crossings over or below busy roads, add warning signs for drivers, acquire mapping and tracking tools, and more.

FHWA is making a total of $350 million available over five years, including more than $111 million in grants through its first round of funding in 2023. The agency also noted that roughly 200 people are killed – and many more are injured – annually in the United States in more than one million collisions involving wildlife and vehicles.

“There are proven practices to prevent crashes between vehicles and wildlife, and with this investment, we’re going to take commonsense steps to reduce collisions and make roads safer for rural and urban communities alike,”FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt said in a statement.

“Communities that may not previously have had access to funding for these critical projects can finally make roads safer while protecting wildlife and their movement corridors,” he added.

FHWA noted that grants are available for all wildlife-vehicle collision prevention activities, including but not limited to research, planning, design, and construction.

The agency added that it seeks to award funds for both non-construction and construction projects via the new program, including research on safety innovations, mapping and tracking tools, and the design and construction of overpasses and underpasses.

A recent blog post by the Pew Trusts highlights how the growing success of wildlife crossings – bridges, underpasses, and culverts designed to help animals avoid vehicle traffic – across the U.S. is drawing a surge of interest from policymakers seeking to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and protect animals.

Meanwhile, state departments of transportation have already been working on a variety of wildlife-vehicle collision prevention initiatives over the last several years.

For example, to date, Colorado DOT said it has built more than 60 wildlife mitigation structures crossing above or under highways throughout the state. Additionally, it has installed 400 miles of high big game fencing along state and U.S. highways or next to the interstates.

In August 2022, the agency completed a wildlife overpass and underpass on U.S. Highway 160 in the southwestern part of the state; a stretch of road where more than 60 percent of all crashes are due to wildlife-vehicle collisions.

In April 2022, the Oregon Department of Transportation received a special one-time allocation of $7 million in general funds from the Oregon legislature to invest in wildlife corridor projects statewide.

The Oregon DOT said it has had “great success” with wildlife undercrossing structures in recent years, with five crossings built to date in the state, all on U.S. 97, leading to an 86 percent reduction in wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Concurrently, a research document released in July 2022 by an international pool funded study led by the Nevada Department of Transportation provides an “authoritative review” of the most effective measures to reduce animal-vehicle collisions, improve motorist safety, and build safer wildlife crossings.

Environmental News Highlights – April 12, 2023


AASHTO Offers Comments on Two Proposed Regulations -AASHTO Journal

Vetoed but not forgotten: What’s next for WOTUS? -E&E News

Calculating the Fastest Road to an Electric Car Future -New York Times

USDOT rolls out funding for wildlife crossings along busy roads -AP

EPA to propose new vehicle pollution cuts, sees big EV jump -Reuters

PHMSA Announces Historic Funding for 37 Projects to Improve Safety, Fix Old, Leaky Gas Pipes and Create Jobs -PHMSA (media release)


Bringing Young Professionals into Transportation -AASHTO’s ETAP Podcast

Louisville Installing Flood Warning Systems In Underpasses Prone To Flooding -WDRB-TV

Innovation and partnerships celebrated at reopening of Eufaula Dam Spillway Bridge -Defense Visual Information Distribution Service

KDOT Announces Call for Projects for EV infrastructure -Kansas DOT (link to PDF)

Port Authority Announces Partnership With NASA To Explore Next Generation Of Flight In Urban Environments -Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (media release)


Dust Storms Contribute to Higher Traffic Fatalities -AASHTO Journal

Georgia lawmakers overhaul EV charging -WABE Radio

EPA OKs California Rules Phasing Out New Diesel Trucks -Transport Topics

How Arizona leaders balance environmental sustainability and economic growth -AZ Big Media

New York City DOT will test local delivery hubs to cut down on emissionsWCBS-TV


Linking and TSMO Transportation Equity Fact Sheet –FHWA

Federal judge finds City of Chicago liable, violated Americans with Disabilities Act -WGN-TV

Free CT Buses Are A Step Toward Transit EquityConnecticut Mirror (commentary) 


MoDOT, Downtown Kansas City Districts partnering on highway cleanup -KMBC-TV


Explore Transportation History With WisDOT’s New Online Highway Map Archive -Wisconsin DOT (media release)

Students shine during WVDOT Bridge Design and Build Contest -WVDOT (media release)


Oregon DOT Updates Statewide Curb Ramp Upgrade Effort -AASHTO Journal

New Massachusetts law protecting bicyclists, pedestrians takes effect – WFXT-TV

Micro-transit system continues to gain traction in Twin Falls, Idaho – KMVT-TV

Cities Ride the E-Bike Wave as Policymakers Consider Support -Government Technology 


Review of the Draft Fifth National Climate AssessmentNational Academies

Planning and Assessing Ferry System Capacity -TRB (webinar)

Inclusive Public Participation in Transit Decision-Making –TCRP

State Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan Progress Report -Caltrans (link to pdf)


Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program -FHWA and FTA (Notice)

Limitation on Claims Against Proposed Public Transportation Projects – Inglewood Transit Connector Project, and METRORapid Inner Katy Bus Rapid Transit Project -FTA (Notice)

Approval of Noise Compatibility Program Update, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), Fort Lauderdale, Florida -FAA (Notice)

Review of Quiet Zone in Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Oakland Park, Wilton Manors, Dania Beach, Hollywood, and Hallandale Beach, Florida -FRA (Notice of quiet zone review)

California State Motor Vehicle and Engine Pollution Control Standards; Heavy-Duty Vehicle and Engine Emission Warranty and Maintenance Provisions; Advanced Clean Trucks; Zero Emission Airport Shuttle; Zero- Emission Power Train Certification; Waiver of … -EPA (Notice of decision)

Determination To Defer Sanctions; California; Mojave Desert Air Quality Management DistrictEPA (Interim final determination)

Proposed Consent Decree, Clean Air Act Citizen Suit -EPA (Notice of proposed consent decree; request for public comment)

Proposed Consent Decree, Clean Air Act Citizen Suit -EPA (Notice of proposed consent decree; request for public comment)

Consolidation of Redundant Coast Guard Boat Stations -Coast Guard (Request for comments)

Port Access Route Study: Approaches to Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts -Coast Guard (Notice of availability; final report)

Port Access Route Study: Approaches to the Ports of Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands -Coast Guard (Notice of study; request for comments)

National Boating Safety Advisory Committee; May 2023 Meetings -Coast Guard (Notice)

Notice of Temporary Restrictions on Motorized Vehicle Use for Specified Routes on Public Lands in Grand County, Utah -Bureau of Land Management (Notice of temporary restrictions)

Notice of Public Meeting of Scientific Earthquake Studies Advisory CommitteeGeological Survey (Notice of teleconference meeting)

Notice of Intent To Conduct Scoping in Preparation of the National Coral Reef Resilience Strategy for the Coral Reef Conservation Program – NOAA (Notice; request for written comments)