Environmental News Highlights – April 15, 2020


AASHTO Asks Congress for $50 Billion in COVID-19 Relief Aid for State DOTsAASHTO News

Coronavirus: Flagler County officials worried about $6 million dune restoration funding The News-Journal

Amid coronavirus restrictions on Dunes recreation, air quality managers monitoring changes to air qualityKSBY

Does air pollution increase risk from COVID-19? Here’s what we know – ABC News

Chicago Not Reaping As Much Air-Quality Improvement Amid Shutdown – WBBM

Air pollution down 38% in Indianapolis as Hoosiers stay home to stop spread of coronavirusIndianapolis Star

ODOT Watching for Infrastructure Spending in Next Federal Coronavirus Response Bill KWGS Radio

The Potential Role of Infrastructure In The Coronavirus Pandemic – Spectrum News

What the coronavirus pandemic means for Atlanta transportation infrastructure projects Curbed Atlanta

New Research Links Air Pollution to Higher Coronavirus Death Rates The New York Times

74 miles of Oakland streets will close to cars to give pedestrians, bicyclists exercise room during coronavirus stay-home order – San Francisco Chronicle

OU amid coronavirus: Student sustainability efforts on pause; quarantine shows positive impact to air, water quality – OU Daily

At the Curb: Coronavirus’s Impact on Trash and Recycling in Northeast Ohio – WKSU

Mass Quarantine From COVID-19 Mutes Urban Noise, but Earth Roars On Interesting Engineering

Planning and development during COVID-19 – States respond with emergency planning legislation and changes to planning controls – Lexology (Australia)

COVID-19 Reveals How Micromobility Can Build Resilient Cities – Next City

Transportation and Climate Initiative moves ahead amid pandemic uncertainty Energy New Network


Middle Grand River Water Trail Development Plan Receives Environmental Stewardship Award – WSYM

Permit Extension Bill Up for Vote in Both Houses – NJ Insider

Bay Area sea-level report explores cost of inaction – Marin Independent Journal


Resilient, Resourceful, Focused, Strong – Railway Age

Trump Touts Infrastructure Plan as Congress Eyes Expanded Aid Transport Topics

Elaine Chao Emphasizes Need for Infrastructure, Safety Funds for Rural Areas Transport Topics

What A Hotter And Drier World Means for Shared Firefighting Bloomberg Green

A Resilient Pack: 2 Stories of Ingenuity and Compassion – NC State University News


Public comment extended on Lake Erie water quality plan – The Crescent-News

Dubuque seals state’s first pact to partner with farmers on water-quality goalsDes Moines Register

Ohio EPA certifies water quality for new GM plantThe Vindicator

UNH research leads to new drinking water standard in Granite State – Fosters.com

How SNWA safely protects the Valley’s drinking water – Las Vegas Sun (Advertorial)

Mississippi Levee Board Takes Strong Stand In Favor Of Backwater Pumps – Vicksburg Post


Tax credits available to repair historic buildings damaged in Utah earthquake – The Salt Lake Tribune

Rising Seas Threaten Historic HousesArchitectural Record

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking comments on draft plans for managing the historic Huron Island Light Station on Huron National Wildlife Refuge – The Daily Mining Gazette


Agreement Reached to Aid Monarch Butterfly Conservation – AASHTO Journal

$24 million awarded to four local coastal restoration projects – WALA

California State Water Board approves key permits for KRRC dam removal – Herald and News

Forestry Department Seeks Public Feedback on 2021 Projects – The Corvallis Advocate

Indigenous celebrate victory against Dakota Access Pipeline, but remain wary of Judge Boasberg – Peoples World


Alleged Industry Back Channel Blasted by Environmental Groups – Bloomberg Law

TVA Seeks Public Input On Proposed Expansion Of Mining In Illinois – The Chattanoogan


Environmental Justice Immersion brings revelations from UP’s backyard The Beacon

SEParating from Tradition: Justice Department Prohibits Use of Supplemental Environmental Projects to Resolve Civil Enforcement Actions and Eyes Additional Policy Change – JD Supra


E-Bike Rule Proposed for National Parks AASHTO Journal

Program Matches Bicycles To Essential Workers Who Need Them In New York – NPR’s All Things Considered

Active Trans discusses why it’s not pushing to reopen the Lakefront Trail during pandemic – Streetsblog Chicago

Pedestrian crossings automated to reduce touch points in downtown Chattanooga – WRCB

Preventing Civilization’s Collapse With On-Demand Transit Service For Key Workers During Pandemic – Forbes

Reduced Traffic, Pollution Has Cycling Advocates Taking Notice

Reduced Traffic, Pollution Has Cycling Advocates Taking Notice

Reduced Traffic, Pollution Has Cycling Advocates Taking Notice

Reduced Traffic, Pollution Has Cycling Advocates Taking NoticeSpectrum News 1


Methane Emissions Hit a New Record and Scientists Can’t Say Why – Bloomberg Green

Airport expansion not expected to fix pollution, noise – The Aspen Times

Social cost of carbon could further sway Virginia from fossil fuel power plants – Energy News Network


Great Lakes Get Extra Funds For Cleanups, Invasive Species – CBS2 Chicago

Could climate change shift the conversation on this invasive species? – WHYY

DEC, Agriculture & Markets announce seventh annual Invasive Species Awareness Week, June 7-13Niagara Frontier Publications

Hennepin County awards thousands in aquatic invasive species prevention grants to local organizations – Southwest News Media

Win a prize with Michigan invasive species bingo: How to play Detroit Free Press

Invasive yellow weeds take over parts of Phoenix area azfamily.com


U.S. Slashes Carbon Emissions Forecast as People Stay Home Bloomberg Green

Governor Northam signs Virginia Clean Economy Act WWBT

How Burning Wood, Once a Viable Power Source, Fell Out of Favor in the U.S. – Yahoo Finance

The Solar Industry Was Poised for a Strong Year, But Now Demand is Plummeting Bloomberg Green

Oil Companies Are Collapsing, but Wind and Solar Energy Keep Growing Industry – The New York Times

Low-income California communities enact plan to fight disproportionate air pollution – NBC News


Redefining Noise in the Context of Hearing Health – The Hearing Journal

Residents, experts reflect on changes in noise during pandemic Cape Cod Times


TRB Webinar: Designing landscapes to enhance roadside water management – Transportation Research Board


4 Technologies Gives New Life to Archaeology – EET India

Mapzen Project Adopted by Urban Computing Foundation – Government Technology


Urban Land Institute Earns 2020 ENERGY STAR® Award for Excellence – PR Newswire (Press release)


State recommends delaying food scraps ban, changes to recycling rules – VTDigger

Reduce, reuse, recycle – Union Bulletin

Hearing Out the [Entire] Community to do it Justice

Imagine a massive highway project in a highly populated area that calls for the removal of several clusters of homes. Or the closing of a community gathering spot or other popular open space.

Such happenstances often require the overview and input of a state’s environmental justice program. They set policy and require that the road’s builders convene with the community to learn more about the impact that not only the finished project, but its construction, will have on the daily lives of local residents.

“In these cases, you have to initially look at what the state department of transportation is trying to achieve,” explained Rashaud Joseph, civil rights office director for the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities. “Where environmental justice programs come into play are with projects that have to do with the holding of public outreach meetings.”

The key in these circumstances is gaining input from the voices of in community, particularly from those who may seem less involved.

Courtesy Alaska DOT&PF

“I try to get across to [the road’s builders] that Alaska DOT&PF has to hold extensive public outreach, so it’s important to let people know where meetings are held and at what time,” he pointed out. “If you’re in a low-income area and have kids to take care of, the DOT in whichever state can’t have the meetings at 10 a.m. and at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday ― in other words, when everyone is at work. That shuts people out.”

Another part of an environmental justice analysis concerns what perhaps unforeseen impact a project has on the community.

“While construction of walkways is required by law, one part of that construction might cut off bus access on a given road that, in turn, requires riders to walk to another stop that’s harder to reach for low-income citizens or those with disabilities,” Joseph said.

That’s part of the reason these programs are tied-in nationally with most environmental departments. “We cross-reference their information,” he added.

Oklahoma is notable for its demographic of Native American citizens. To recognize this diversity, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation implemented procedures throughout the planning, design, and National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA process to ensure “that social impacts to communities and people are recognized early and continually throughout the transportation decision-making process,” said Leslie Novotny, the agency’s environmental project supervisor.

That process at the Oklahoma DOT, she added, includes early identification of minority and low-income populations during reconnaissance studies.

“Projects that affect the community more socially, economically and environmentally, such as a new alignment, will be accessed accordingly; and a plan of action best suited to serve the affected community will be created early on in the planning and design process,” noted Novotny.

That can include mail-out questionnaires, pop-up public involvement booths, and one-on-one meetings with community leaders.

She stressed that projects that may have a lesser impact on the community, such as a road or bridge closure, still require public outreach to ensure the Oklahoma DOT is not adversely affecting vulnerable populations.

The time of year of the projects can even come into play. “These situations are interesting since we only have winter and summer,” Alaska DOT&PF’s Joseph said. “We only have about five months to get our construction projects done, so we always have to see if we have any outlaying issues to examine.” “[The Anchorage] metro area isn’t so big that we have such pronounced issues. We have room out here, so generally, our citizens aren’t opposed to any transportation improvements,” he pointed out.

COVID-19 Spurring more Active Transportation Interest

As the novel coronavirus shuts down most personal interactions across the country, state departments of transportation are witnessing a transportation shift – rush hour is gone, passenger vehicles are gathering dust, and people are walking and biking.

States from Colorado and Indiana to Maine are reporting highway traffic decreases of 40 percent to 50 percent. Walking and biking increases are harder to quantify, but the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy reported that active transportation trail usage was up nearly 200 percent for the week ending March 22 compared to the same time period in 2019.

Even after life gets back to “normal” and highway traffic resumes, active transportation likely will play a larger part in many state DOTs.

“It may inspire us all to think outside the box about transportation policy, planning and investments,” noted Matt Bruning, press secretary for the Ohio Department of Transportation.

It didn’t take a global pandemic for officials in Ohio to recognize that walking and biking aren’t just recreational activities. An Ohio DOT survey released in January showed 78 percent of respondents are interested in or already use a bike to commute or to run errands, while 79 percent said they are interested in or already are walking to school, work and other destinations.

The survey is part of Walk.Bike.Ohio; an in-progress plan to develop statewide active transportation policies. The plan, scheduled to be completed by year’s end, “will drive our priorities, our decisions and our investments,” Bruning said.

While Ohio is now building a walking and biking policy framework, the California Department of Transportation’s Active Transportation Program or ATP has been in place since 2013. Since then, Caltrans has funded more than 800 urban and rural biking and walking projects. In fact, in the upcoming biennial budget cycle, about $440 million has been allocated to the ATP.

While not all state DOTs have California’s fiscal muscle, starting an active transportation program isn’t necessarily about the money, according to Laura Crawford, who coordinates biking projects for DOTs at the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA).

“The big barriers we see to states’ developing a program are usually the political climate and staff resources,” Crawford said. “If this is something a DOT is interested in doing, but they don’t have the staff resources, ACA can fill that role by managing volunteers.”

Crawford’s focus is on the U.S. Bicycle Route System, a series of national corridors for bicycles. She works with AASHTO’s Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering, which provides consistency in route numbering similar to the interstate system. So far, more than 14,000 miles of routes have been established and signed in 27 states and Washington, D.C. The system’s growth is driven by state DOTs, each of which uses its own criteria to designate safe bicycle routes, Crawford said.

Kevin Mills, Rails-to-Trails’ vice president of policy, noted that the old attitudes of, “Well, we’ll build something for [active transportation] when we’ve got time to do it,” have changed.

“Really, that transformation is already underway and we’re seeing more state DOTs elevating active transportation as a real option,” Mills said. “When you think of the classic objectives DOTs have to meet the mobility needs of its citizens, this is a real bargain.”