State DOTs Participate in Earth Day Cleanup Efforts

Around the country, state departments of transportation conducted or participated in a variety of pollution mitigation efforts on April 22 in honor of Earth Day.

[Above photo by KTRB]

Some 30 employees with the Tennessee Department of Transportation helped clean up areas around Chickamauga Lake along the Tennessee River.

The event – sponsored by the agency’s Nobody Trashes Tennessee public education campaign and Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful (KTRB) – deployed a 26-foot workboat to clean up shorelines and coves.

“There is a strong correlation between roadside litter and water quality,” noted Denise Baker, Tennessee DOT’s transportation program supervisor, in a statement. “What starts as litter on land, can make its way into our waterways.”

The agency also promoted a number of environmental-friendly resources on its website as part of its Earth Day campaign.

The Tennessee DOT and KTRB also recently teamed up with other partners to establish a network of 17 “Seabin” automated litter and debris removal devices across the Tennessee River watershed.

In addition, in April 2021, the agency helped fund a pair of new exhibits at the Tennessee Aquarium to illustrate how micro-plastics and other roadside trash can negatively affect the health of the ocean as well as rivers, lakes, and streams.

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 focus of its current Seabin deployment project.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Department of Transportation redoubled its litter collection efforts on Earth Day.

“Our research shows that accidental littering from unsecured loads and deliberate tossing of trash from vehicles contribute equally to what ends up along highways,” explained Chris Hughes, Ohio DOT District 1 deputy director, in a statement. “It’s especially visible at entrance ramps as vehicles enter the highway,” he said.

So far this year, Ohio DOT has collected 12,035 bags of litter along highways in the northwestern part of the state alone. Statewide, the agency said it spends approximately $4 million each year picking up about 400,000 bags of trash.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) held an Earth Day event underscoring the importance of reducing carbon emissions from the transportation sector to improve air quality, improve health, and quality of life for residents.

In December 2021, Governor Ned Lamont (D) signed an executive order directing Connecticut DOT, DEEP, and all other state agencies to take meaningful actions to reduce carbon emissions. He has also proposed legislation (House Bill 5039) that seeks to adopt stronger emissions standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles, which his administration said accounts for as much as 53 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions, despite being only 6 percent of the on-road vehicle fleet. 

“We know that communities of color and other vulnerable communities have been the most impacted by harmful air pollution caused by transportation,” noted Connecticut DOT Commissioner Joseph Giulietti in a statement.

“[We are] committed to investing in sustainable solutions that protect the environment and keep communities healthy,” he added. “We are doing our part to create a cleaner, more equitable, and resilient transportation system.”

Wisconsin Study Supports Use of Liquid Brine

A new report recently released by the Traffic Operations and Safety or “TOPS” Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and funded by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation found the use of liquid brine in winter highway maintenance cleared roadways faster and at a lower cost, while providing for better vehicle traction and reducing salt buildup in local waterways.

[Above photo via the Wisconsin DOT]

“Liquid brine” is a simple mixture of salt and water used to clear winter roads and, for this study, the lab’s researchers looked at data from 143 storms occurring in 10 counties across Wisconsin. It compared brine-cleared routes to those nearby cleared with a traditional granular rock-salt method.

The data showed that brine-treated roads were:

  • Clear (bare/wet condition) more than two hours faster on average.
  • More likely to show a higher roadway friction rating.
  • More efficient with material – reducing salt use on average by 23 percent.

“The data tells a very positive story for winter highway safety in Wisconsin,” said Andrea Bill, associate director of the TOPS Lab, housed in the UW-Madison College of Engineering. “Liquid brine is an effective tool, and along with training, education and technology, our storm fighters are making effective reductions in the amount of chloride on our roads and improving the performance of winter roads.”

[The winter operations podcast put together by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Snow and Ice Pooled Fund Cooperative Program, known as “SICOP,” recently produced an episode on Wisconsin’s brine study. To listen to it, click here.]

“With salt cost continuing to rise, it is imperative we work together to optimize supplies and deliver the most safe and effective service possible for the taxpayer,” noted Wisconsin DOT Secretary Craig Thompson in a statement.

“Liquid brine is a great example of how we strive to implement sustainable and earth-friendly alternatives during winter highway maintenance,” he added. “We applaud county highway departments across the state for using liquid brine to maintain and clear Wisconsin roadways faster.”

[Editor’s note: The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is currently seeking public feedback on ways to improve its winter operations via an online survey. “Winter operations are among our core services and our team takes pride in their mission,” explained said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian in a statement. “Through this survey, the public can help us measure expectations and identify education opportunities.”]

Wisconsin counties use liquid brine in a variety of ways to help “optimize” the use of salt in fighting winter storms:

  • Wetting roads with liquid brine before storms help prevent the bond of snow and ice to a driving surface.
  • Using brine to wet granular salt as it is distributed both helps the salt stick to a roadway and activates the chemical reaction that melts snow and ice.
  • Direct Liquid Applications or DLAs spray a brine solution directly to the roadway during winter events to break the bond between snow and the pavement.

The report found that, by creating a treatment option using less salt, brine can help stretch budgets and – by reducing salt usage – prevent the “bounce off” effect that increase granular salt build up in in lakes and streams.

Alaska DOT&PF Collaborating on Low Emission Ferry Project

Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities and the Southeast Conference plan to collaborate on a low emission ferry research project.

[Above photo by the Alaska DOT&PF]

Alternative fuel powered, low emission, and electric ferries could be a game-changer for Alaska’s Marine Highway System, the agency said, as it starts replacing aging ferry vessels in upcoming years.

Fuel-efficient ferries could increase the range and capacity of the fleet, potentially increasing service to communities and reducing AMHS operating costs, noted Alaska DOT&PF Commissioner Ryan Anderson, in a statement.

“Revitalizing the Alaska Marine Highway System is so important to us,” he said. “Pushing forward to see if alternative fuels, low emissions, or electric ferries, could make our vessels more efficient, could potentially allow us to add service to our coastal communities.”

AMHS operates over more marine miles than any other ferry system in the United States, serving 35 communities with 10 ferries spread out over 3,500 marine miles.

The Southeast Conference will support this research project, which will include a detailed examination of the costs, benefits, and overall technical and financial feasibility of low-emission ferry operations within the AMHS service area.

Funding for the research comes from the new $500 million Electric/Low-Emission Ferry pilot program – established by the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, enacted in November 2021 – that seeks to spur the transition of ferry propulsion systems to low- or zero-emission technologies.

“Southeast Conference was formed in 1958 to work with the State of Alaska toward the formation of the Alaska Marine Highway System,” noted Robert Venables, the group’s executive director.

“The success of AMHS is still our passion and priority, and we are excited to continue our partnership with the State to pursue implementation of both the Reshaping Committee recommendations and the opportunities that have emerged in the new federal funding programs,” he added. “This pilot program is well-timed given Alaska’s need to plan for new vessels to replace the Alaska Marine Highway’s aging fleet.”

ETAP Podcast: Equity in Electric Vehicle Charging

In this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast, Leslie Aguayo and Jeff Allen discuss the need for ensuring “equitable access” to a national electric vehicle EV charging network – especially for those without access to regular charging at home, people who live in apartments, and rideshare drivers who will need to charge each day.

[Above photo by the Maine DOT]

Aguayo serves as climate equity program manager for the Greenlining Institute: An organization founded in 1993 that seeks to build a “just economy” that is “inclusive, cooperative, sustainable, participatory, fair, and healthy.”

Meanwhile, Jeff Allen is the executive director of Forth – a firm that works in partnership with state and local governments, among others, to build “lasting program and policy models” to expand equitable access to electric transportation in the U.S. and elsewhere.

In this ETAP podcast episode, Aguayo and Allen discuss the potential roles state departments of transportation and their environmental practitioners potentially play in the movement to increase equity in EV charging. They also talk about how the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs ACT or IIJA – enacted in November 2021 – can help further equitable EV charging access goals.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

Environmental News Highlights- May 4th, 2022

A roundup of headlines curated for state transportation environmental professionals

State DOTs Participate in Earth Day Cleanup Efforts – AASHTO Journal

2022 Environmental Excellence Awards – EPA

US Senate Transportation Leader Touts Biden Emissions Program – Transport Topics|

Will the $6 billion pledge to make transportation more sustainable be enough? Experts weigh in. – ABC News

A top energy regulator is in turmoil over climate rules – Washington Post

GSA outlines vision for sustainable federal building portfolio – Federal News Network
Why Public Transit’s Pandemic Recovery Is ComplicatedNew York Times

D.C. region’s disability community pushes to keep masks aboard transit – Washington Post
In fight against Biden’s conservation plan, opponents bet on NEPA – E&E News
Report Offers Location Planning for EV Chargers – AASHTO Journal

Environmentalists, 16 states sue USPS over delivery-vehicle plans – Reuters

Experts discuss possible environmental challenges, concerns with tunnels planned for Central Texas – KVUE-TV

Sea Change hydrogen ferry to launch in San Francisco Bay next month – Hydrogen Fuel News

North Dakota utilizes UAS network to assist storm recovery efforts with drones – North Dakota Governor’s Office (Media release)
FAA, FRA Launch “Net-Zero Emission” Efforts – AASHTO Journal

Preventing pollution or creating more greenhouse gases? Missouri debates ‘advanced recycling’ – Missouri Independent

Nearly 9 Million More Americans Impacted by Deadly Particle Pollution – American Lung Association (Media release)
Understanding The Link Between Racial Justice And The Fight Against Climate Change – NPR
New Jersey could be opening new front in war for clean water – Grist

How Cities Became Accidental Wildlife Havens – Bloomberg

Floating Wetlands Show Possibility of Inner Harbor Restoration – Baltimore Magazine

Port of Seattle and Seattle Aquarium Collaborate to Restore Kelp Forests in Elliott Bay – Port of Seattle
The ridiculously simple way to make streets safer for pedestrians – Fast Company
Forest Service takes the lead in e-bike access – E&E News

Scientists sound alarm bells on noise pollution – Deutsche Welle

Lilly Endowment awards $25M for pedestrian, bicycle trails in Indiana – WISH-TV

New Sedona Shuttle service sees thousands of riders after just 2 weeks – KNAU Radio

City of San Diego apologizes to Rancho Penasquitos residents over controversial bike lanes – KFMB-TV

New I-74 bridge bike/pedestrian path now open KWQC-TV

Active Transportation Summit panel ponders ways to make micromobility more accessible – Bike Portland
TRB Webinar: Collaborating to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions – TRB

Frameworks for Protecting Workers and the Public from Inhalation Hazards – National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Beyond Skin Deep: The humble roadway is about more than asphalt and concrete. – Thinking Transportation (Podcast)
Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards for Model Years 2024–2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks – NHTSA (Final rule)

Notice of Funding Opportunity for America’s Marine Highway Projects Maritime Administration (Notice)

Draft General Conformity Determination for the California High-Speed Rail System San Francisco to San Jose – FRA (Notice; request for comment)