Environmental News Highlights – May 13, 2020

A roundup of headlines curated for state transportation environmental professionals

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Senate Committee Approves Water Infrastructure Measures – Transport Topics

Chairs DeFazio, Napolitano Introduce Legislation to Block Implementation of Trump’s Dirty Water Rule – House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (Press release)

The Trump administration is planning to protect fewer waterways. New Jersey is suing to stop that.– NJ.com

National Transportation Groups Call on Congress to Fast-Track Investments in Transit and Active TransportationBicycle Retailer and Industry News

Agency leans on 1870s ‘housekeeping’ law to block science – E&E News

Lawmakers Still Eyeing Highway Bill Despite Coronavirus Relief Efforts – Transport Topics

The Trump Administration Is Reversing Nearly 100 Environmental Rules. Here’s the Full List. – New York Times (subscription required)


Transportation Fallout from COVID-19 Pandemic Continues – AASHTO Journal

Coronavirus cuts transportation funding, puts major road and bridge projects on hold – USA Today

Apple, Google ban use of location tracking in contact tracing apps – Reuters

Mobility Trends in New York City During COVID-19 Pandemic: Analyses of transportation modes throughout March 2020 – University Transportation Research Center (Report)

Coronavirus: Environmental Savior or Devastator? – Fordham Observer

IPATH Recorded Webinar: Transport Impacts And Innovations: COVID-19 – IPATH

A Pandemic That Cleared Skies and Halted Cities Isn’t Slowing Global Warming – Bloomberg (subscription required)


Public Strongly Opposes CEQ’s National Environmental Policy Act Proposal – EHS Daily Advisor


Multiple flooding sources threaten Honolulu’s infrastructure – University of Hawai’i

Fortress Charleston: Will Walling Off the City Hold Back the Waters? – Yale Environment360


NOAA Researchers: Air Quality In Colorado Improving, Some Other States Not So Much – KCNC

New data shows how much cleaner Utah’s air is during the pandemic. Will it drive future decisions? Salt Lake Tribune


EPA’s Clean Water Act rollbacks must be stopped – Orlando Sentinel (Commentary)

Louisiana DOTD Launches Highway Cleanup Effort – AASHTO Journal


National Trust urges Congress to support historic preservation efforts during coronavirus crisis – The Architect’s Newspaper

Historic downtown San Jose building could pose issues for Jay Paul’s proposed mega campus -Mercury News (subscription required)


Bike detection sensors installed at busy Saanich intersection – Victoria (B.C.) News

Safe Transportation For Every PedestrianFHWA’s EDC News

Seattle to permanently close 20 miles of streets to traffic so residents can exercise and bike on them – CNN

What do ATA’s peer organizations across the country think of open streets? – Streetsblog Chicago

The Pandemic Will Mean Big, Lasting Changes for Urban Mobility – Government Technology


TRB Webinar: Enhancing Monarch Butterfly Habitats Along Roadway Corridors – TRB

TRB Webinar: Evolution of Project Delivery Information Systems – TRB

TRB Straight to Recording for All: Landscape Design Practices for Roadside Water Management – TRB

Telework transportation research in light of the COVID-19 pandemic – TRB

Agencies Capture Value From Transportation ImprovementsInnovator (FHWA)

Webinar: Impact Of Covid-19 On Mobility And New York’s Response – Intelligent Transportation Society of New York (link to registration)

Environmental Impact Statements; Availability, etc.: Southern Bighorn Solar Project on the Moapa River Indian Reservation, Clark County, NV – Bureau of Indian Affairs (Notice of Intent)

Draft Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment for Fisheries Research Conducted and Funded by the Southwest Fisheries Science CenterNOAA (Notice)

Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, Lake County, OR; Notice of Intent To Prepare a Bighorn Sheep Management Plan and Environmental Impact StatementFish and Wildlife Service (Notice)

Dos Osos Reservoir Replacement Project, Contra Costa County, California; Draft Categorical Exclusion and Draft Habitat Conservation Plan – Fish and Wildlife Service (Notice)

West Virginia Regulatory Program – Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (Final Rule)

Notice of Lodging of Proposed Consent Decree Under the Clean Air Act – Justice Department (Notice)

Colorado DOT taking a lead role in state’s EV plans

Colorado is embarking on an ambitious program to have 940,000 electric vehicles (EVs) registered by 2030, and the Colorado Department of Transportation is tasked with helping to lead the charge within the department and throughout the state.

The Colorado Electric Vehicle Plan 2020 also looks beyond 2030, setting a “long-term goal of 100 percent of light-duty vehicles being electric and 100% of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles being zero emission.” The plan taps Colorado DOT as one of the main players to develop the state’s strategy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by replacing internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles with EVs.

According to Sophie Shulman, the agency’s chief of innovative mobility, the Colorado DOT’s role in the state’s EV plan is two-fold. First, it must begin replacing its current fleet of ICE vehicles to zero emission vehicles (ZEV) whenever practical. The second – and bigger – task for the department is to work on several fronts to increase ZEV use among private, commercial, and transit entities and to support further growth of the state’s EV charging infrastructure.

The plan’s goals “complement and build upon our existing work in the field of vehicle electrification, such as our management of transit electrification grants, our planning coordination through the public-private Freight Advisory Council and our support of charging infrastructure and vehicle grant programs,” Shulman said.

While Colorado’s 28,722 EVs on the road represent a 25 percent increase from August 2019, the state will have to consistently post a 40 percent annual increase to hit the 940,000 EV mark by 2030. In addition, the Colorado DOT and other agencies have until 2021 to “establish timelines, identify strategies and dedicate sufficient resources” to convert the entire state transit fleet to an all-ZEV fleet by 2050, with at least 1,000 ZEV transit vehicles on the road by 2030.

An added challenge is that the electrification of medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles, which make up the vast majority of transit vehicles, has lagged behind the development of passenger EVs for a host of reasons, including battery issues, range problems and cost barriers.

However, a recent report from Atlas Public Policy determined that purchasing such EV vehicles can be cost-effective if low-cost charging and vehicle incentives remain in play.

Developing strategies and plans for EV infrastructure and purchasing incentives also are on Colorado DOT’s to-do list as well, noted Shulman. She explained that the agency has “a long history” of supporting EV incentive programs and charging projects, including the agency’s work on REV West, a multi-state effort to build an EV charging network through the Intermountain West states. The EV plans are “ambitious and will push us further than ever before,” Shulman added. “We are excited by this challenge and eager to partner with industry, state, and local agencies and Coloradans to make the plan’s vision a reality.”

New NCHRP Report Evaluates Roadway Corridors for Use by Monarch Butterflies

The charismatic and familiar Monarch Butterfly serves as a “flagship species” for pollinator conservation – and a new report from the Transportation Research Board examines how transportation industry stakeholders can evaluate whether certain roadway corridors provide suitable habitats to aid in their preservation.

That report – NCHRP Research Report 942 Pre-Pub: Evaluating the Suitability of Roadway Corridors for Use by Monarch Butterflies – examines the potential for roadway corridors to provide habitat for monarch butterflies and provides tools for roadside managers to optimize potential habitat for monarch butterflies in their road rights-of-way.

This NCHRP report follows on the heels of a “historic agreement” finalized between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the University of Illinois-Chicago on April 8 that encourages transportation and energy firms to voluntarily participate in Monarch Butterfly conservation by providing and maintaining habitat on potentially millions of acres of rights-of-way corridors on both public and private lands.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials supported this effort in a two-page letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior on March 12; seeking “expedited approval” of voluntary national CCAAs to further encourage the creation of pollinator habitats in highway rights-of-way – especially the Monarch Butterfly.

“This decision gives state DOTs the ability to meet their highest priority to provide safe roads for the traveling public while simultaneously safeguarding the health of habitat for essential pollinators like the Monarch Butterfly,” noted Jim Tymon, AASHTO’s executive director.