Environmental News Highlights – April 28, 2021


Republicans Reveal Five-Year $568B Infrastructure Proposal – AASHTO Journal

Factbox: Republicans vs. Biden: What’s in their infrastructure plans? – Reuters

Senators Offer Legislation to Help States Rebuild Infrastructure Following Extreme Weather – Southeast AgNet Radio Network

How an infrastructure bill can help rural communities in the West – Deseret News


MDHHS launches pilot Travel Points Testing at Michigan Welcome Centers and airports – Michigan Department of Health and Human and MDOT (Press release)


Strict rules key to sustainable transportation, climate policy expert – FreightWaves

Q&A: Transportation secretary talks infrastructure, local projects – Eastern New Mexico News

Gov. Edwards, LA DOTD announces new infrastructure projects for the state – KARD-TV

Infrastructure bills advance in the Montana Senate – Independent Record

City begins pilot program to charge vehicles with solar power – City News Service


United Airlines plans to use jet fuel made from trash – World Economic Forum

LIRR to test battery-operated trains to travel on diesel branches – WABC-TV

Cherokee Nation unveils first electric buses – Siloam Springs Herald-Leader

FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Advances Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure – White House (Press release)

Amtrak Adds Carbon Emission Savings Information on All Northeast Corridor Tickets – Amtrak (Press release)


10 Questions With The Father Of Environmental Justice – Science Friday

Earth Day: a time for environmental justice – Post Independent (Opinion)

Trucking’s relationship with environmental justice – FleetOwner (Commentary)


Forest growth can be stunted by noise pollution, study shows – The Weather Network

Tennessee Aquarium, TDOT’s Nobody Trashes Tennessee launch exhibits highlighting impact of road litter, microplastics on waterways – Tennessee Aquarium/TDOT (Press Release)


Staff Seeks Input From Historic Preservation Commission on Colorado Street Bridge Suicide Barriers – Pasadena Now

Sacramento to transform historic train station into people-first mobility hub – SmartCitiesDive

Art in L.A.’s Union Station has been hidden for decades. Now it prepares for an Oscar debut – Los Angeles Times

The Delaware Bayshore Byway National Scenic Byway Designation Sign Unveiling – DelDOT (Press release)


Bikes are back for Birmingham – AL.com

80% of fatal e-scooter crashes involve cars – new study reveals where and why most collisions occur – The Conversation

Legislation to protect bicyclists passes in Oklahoma Senate – KFOR-TV

Quizzes help motorists, bicyclists learn how to share the road – Daily Herald

Bike shortage keeps Alaskan cyclists from hitting the road – Alaska Public Media


TRB Webinar – How Ridehailing Companies Affect Airport Revenues and Operations – TRB (Webinar)

TRB Webinar: Increasing Return on Investment through Geotechnology – TRB

TRB Webinar: Senior Leadership’s Role in Embedding Transportation Resilience – TRB

Funding Transportation Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic – TRB

Every Day is Earth Day at MnDOT – MnDot (Video)


Comprehensive Plan and Special Regulations With Respect to High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing; Rules of Practice and Procedure Regarding Project Review Classifications and Fees – Delaware River Basin Commission (Final rule)

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

Air Plan Approval; Nebraska; Revisions to Title 129 of the Nebraska Administrative Code; Chapter 39 Visible Emissions From Diesel-Powered Motor Vehicles – EPA (Proposed rule)

Notice of Intent To Rule on Request for Change in Land Use From Aeronautical to Non Aeronautical for 16.2 Acres of Land at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, Pittsfield, MA – FAA (Request for public comments)

Rescinding a Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Long Island Rail- Truck Intermodal Facility – FHWA (Notice to rescind a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement)

Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program; California High- Speed Rail Authority Audit Report – FRA (Notice; request for comment)

Twelve Governors Urge Biden Administration to Impose ZEV Mandate

The governors of 12 states – California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington – recently signed a joint letter urging the Biden Administration to establish national zero emission vehicle standards. They also urged the administration to leverage the proposed $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan to provide more fiscal support for ZEV infrastructure construction.

[Above photo via the Massachusetts Governor’s Office.]

The April 21 letter calls on the administration to require all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks sold to be zero-emission by 2035, with all new medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles sold to be zero-emission by 2045.

“By establishing a clear regulatory path to ensuring that all vehicles sold in the United States are zero-emission, we can finally clear the air and create high-road jobs,” the governors said in the letter.

“Moving quickly towards a zero-emission transportation future will protect the health of all communities,” they added. “With bold federal leadership, American workers will lead the way in designing, building and driving clean and affordable vehicles.”

The governors highlighted how investments proposed within the administration’s American Jobs Plan investments could support the “scaling up” of ZEV charging and refueling infrastructure – enhancing the investments already made by states.

For example, the California Department of Transportation in February installed 22 new “fast-charging” stations for electric vehicles or EVs at nine locations along the state’s highway network.

Six energy utility companies announced in March that they are joining forces to build a seamless network of EV charging stations connecting major highway systems from the Atlantic Coast, through the Midwest and South, and into the Gulf and Central Plains regions.

Meanwhile, the governors also requested in their letter an expansion of tax credits to support the manufacturing of zero-emissions trucks, buses, and charging stations and funding to promote equitable access to ZEVs and transportation electrification at the local level.

One example of that is the deployment by the Cherokee Nation of two electric transit buses to transport employees and tribal citizens to work and tribal health centers, along with an electric school bus.

The tribe said it used a $1.5 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant awarded in 2018 to help pay for those buses as well as construction of the recharging station.

“The Cherokee Nation has always been a leader in environmental conservation and forward-thinking efforts that will reduce harmful activities impacting our natural resources,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. in a statement. “As we work to reduce our carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2027, we are investing in sustainable projects that will have many long-term benefits,” he added. “Our responsibility as stewards of the land, air, and water will always be one of our most significant values, and introducing these eco-friendly transit vehicles into our fleet is an example of how we can make a great difference in our environment.”

Proposed Bill Seeks to Help States Build More Resilient Infrastructure

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., and Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., introduced the “Rebuilding Stronger Infrastructure Act” on April 20 to ensure that resilience improvements are eligible for federal funding, while requiring the Federal Highway Administration to provide states with the guidance and tools needed to rebuild infrastructure with more resiliency.

[Above photo by the Wisconsin DOT]

“Too often, highway infrastructure is rebuilt to pre-disaster specifications, leaving roads and bridges vulnerable to another disaster and costly damage repairs,” noted Sen. Baldwin in a statement.

“As extreme weather becomes more and more frequent, we need to empower states and local communities to build stronger and more resilient roads and bridges that can withstand the next storm or natural disaster,” she said. “This reform will not only ensure we are better protecting our infrastructure, but it will also save taxpayer dollars by making sure we are building it back better.”

“The Rebuilding Stronger Infrastructure Act ensures that we are investing in making our roads and bridges resilient to severe weather events and natural disasters while saving taxpayer dollars,” added Sen. Braun – covering the cost of damage from extreme weather and natural disasters such as severe storms, floods, or hurricanes.

The proposed legislation would:

  • Require the FHWA to update its Emergency Relief Manual to include the definition of resilience and identify procedures state departments of transportation may use to incorporate resilience into emergency relief projects. The manual would also encourage the use of Complete Streets design principals and consideration of access for moderate and low income families impacted by a declared disaster;
  • Require the FHWA to develop best practices for improving resilience of projects funded by the Emergency Relief program. Best practices will be shared with division offices of the Federal Highway Administration and state departments of transportation;
  • Require the FHWA to develop and implement a process to track consideration of resilience projects as part of the Emergency Relief Program and the cost of Emergency Relief projects; and 
  • Clarifies that cost-justified resilience improvements are eligible for Emergency Relief funding.

Both the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and Wisconsin Department of Transportation are supporting this bill.

“Sen. Baldwin’s Rebuilding Stronger Infrastructure Act is common-sense legislation that will save taxpayers’ dollars and prevent unnecessary disruptions to our transportation system,” noted Craig Thompson, secretary-designee for the Wisconsin DOT.  “When we identify roads and bridges that are prone to be damaged by natural disasters like flooding, it just makes sense to improve them to avoid that damage, rather than risk the disruption and expense of repairing them after they’ve been washed out,” he explained. “Sen. Baldwin’s bill will help states like Wisconsin keep our roads and bridges in good condition.”

Video: Every Day is Earth Day for State DOTs

Founded 51 years ago, Earth Day is now a global celebration that is raising public awareness and support for the protection of the environment. One of the objectives of this annual worldwide campaign is to get everyone to play a role – no matter what they do or where they live and work.

A recent video produced by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials highlights the many ways that the Minnesota Department of Transportation and other state DOTs are leading in the areas of sustainability and environmental stewardship.

The video – entitled “Every Day is Earth Day at Minnesota DOT” – features an interview with the agency’s commissioner, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who details the Minnesota DOT’s successful efforts to shrink its carbon footprint, advance renewable energy consumption, plus safeguard and beautify the environment around the construction sites managed by the agency.

Tennessee DOT Helps Fund Two Trash Exhibits at Aquarium

A pair of new exhibits at the Tennessee Aquarium funded by the grants from the Tennessee Department of Transportation illustrate how microplastics and other roadside trash can negatively affect the health of the ocean as well as rivers, lakes, and streams.

[Above photo by the Tennessee Aquarium]

The new exhibits – housed in the Aquarium’s “River Journey” and supporting the Tennessee DOT’s “Nobody Trashes Tennessee” litter reduction campaign – includes actual debris taken from the banks of the Tennessee River

The exhibits demonstrate the connection between land-based pollution and aquatic ecosystems through “touchless” interactive elements, informative videos, and an exhibition of invasive aquatic wildlife such as a Northern Snakehead and Grass Carp. Those non-native fish are housed in one of the exhibits, swimming alongside examples — some of them 3D-printed — of common roadside debris such as tires and car batteries, which can wreak havoc on aquatic systems.

“The connections between roadside litter, water quality and aquatic systems cannot be understated,” said Shawn Bible, Tennessee DOT’s beautification office manager, in a statement.

“The ‘Nobody Trashes Tennessee’ campaign aims to educate citizens on the impact of what may be perceived as a minor issue for the state,” Bible added. “In reality, the state spends more than $19 million each year to clean up the more than 100 million pieces of litter on our roadways. We are pleased to partner with the Tennessee Aquarium on these interactive exhibits.”

The exhibits help visitors visualize how trash can imperil aquatic ecosystems and impact waterways that millions rely on for recreation and drinking water, while also demonstrating how changes in behavior on land can benefit the health of nearby waterways, explained Dr. Anna George, the Aquarium’s vice president of conservation science and education.

“Anything that is on land moves into our waterways,” Dr. George said. “If a piece of litter is thrown onto a street, wind might carry it to a stream or river. It might get washed or blown into storm drains and deposited in the nearest body of water. It is a safe assumption that any debris on land has a good chance of winding up in our water.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 80 percent of garbage found in the ocean comes from inland sources, such as leaked automotive fluids and littering. “So even though the [Tennessee] Department of Transportation might seem like an odd partner for an aquarium, there’s a fundamental connection between activity on land and the health of waterways,” Dr. George noted.