Minnesota Study Examines Post-Project ‘Revegetation’ Efforts

A team of University of Minnesota researchers recently wrapped up a study that examined the effectiveness of “revegetation” efforts following the conclusion of infrastructure projects statewide. That study also compiled “best practice” recommendations to transportation departments and roadside management organizations regarding post-project efforts to create pollinator-friendly habitats.

[Above photo by the Minnesota DOT]

The study – sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board – examined how transportation agencies “revegetate” roadsides after construction projects to provide road stability, storm water filtration, and visual appeal. Revegetation is also a good opportunity to create pollinator-friendly habitat. However, planting and maintaining ditches can be expensive, funds for such projects are usually limited, and there isn’t much data on which methods actually work, the researchers found.

“This project will help agencies across the state refine the seed mixes they use with substantial benefits to pollinator habitat,” noted Dan MacSwain, natural resource coordinator for Washington County Public Works and the technical liaison for this project, in a blog post. “It will also produce cost savings.”   

A key part of the study measured the presence of bumblebees and flowers in roadside ditches and generally found a positive link between the two – suggesting that greater flower diversity promotes stronger pollinator populations. That portion of the study also found that bumblebees are more prolific in roadside ditches where the surrounding landscape is also pollinator-friendly; suggesting that ditches alone cannot fully meet the habitat needs of insects, Snell-Rood emphasized, meaning roadside restoration efforts can generally perform better if they’re located near already-established pollinator habitat.

The insects that the survey studied – bumblebees and butterflies – showed a ready willingness to use non-native flowers for food. However, the study also points out that these insect groups are “generalists” and this amenable to feeding on a wide variety of flowering plants. That means revegetating ditches with non-native plants will not support more specialized pollinators – ones that need specific, native flowers to survive, the researchers found.

“Our results suggest that roadsides could be managed with a ‘more flowers everywhere’ strategy without raising costs,” added Emilie Snell-Rood, associate professor with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior and the principal investigator for the project. “[However] the ‘set it and forget it’ approach to native roadside revegetation efforts is insufficient if long-term establishment of native plants is the goal.”

For generalized, pollinator-friendly revegetation practices, the researchers recommended using an inexpensive, non-native seed mix – such as alfalfa, red clover, or white clover – mixed in with a handful of native species proven to be good at establishing themselves, such as wild bergamot, field thistle, goldenrod, and common milkweed. However, if the goal is to conserve a particular species, the roadside will need to be tailored to that species’ plant food needs.

“Our results overall suggest roadside management for natives and pollinators requires some discussions within agencies and management organizations about primary goals,” Snell-Rood said.

State departments of transportation across the country have been heavily involved in a wide array of pollinator specie preservation and growth efforts over the years.

For example, in 2021, the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Georgia Association of Conservation Districts installed 15 pollinator habitat sites in designated locations as part of a joint effort to educate state residents about the important role “pollinators” such as bees, butterflies, and other insects play in Georgia’s agricultural sector.

Out west, the Texas Department of Transportation has been working for several years to make the state’s bridges and related infrastructure more hospital to bats, especially as the nocturnal flying rodents help to naturally suppress the insect population without the use of pesticides while acting as pollinators to assist in flowering plant reproduction.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Department of Transportation, along with the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation and Tennessee Department of Agriculture, formed a partnership in 2019 to support 64 acres of “pollinator meadows” at eight state parks. Each blooming meadow contains a mix of nectar-bearing plants and milkweed, which sustain pollinators such as bees, moths, butterflies, birds, and small mammals such as bats.

And in in March 2020, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials sent a two-page letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior supporting “expedited approval” of the voluntary national Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances or CCAA to further encourage the creation of pollinator habitats in highway rights-of-way.

The CCAA – eventually finalized in April 2020 – provides a “huge boost” for the conservation of Monarch butterflies and other pollinators on a landscape scale, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service noted at the time.

Utah Transportation Electrification Committee Holds First Meeting

The Utah Electrification of Transportation Infrastructure Steering Committee recently met for the first time; a group created by the state legislature to help guide Utah’s installation of infrastructure that is both sustainable and economical to spur the state’s transition to electric transport.

[Above photo by the Utah DOT]

“We’re at a tipping point for electrification of transportation,” explained Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation and the committee’s chairman. “Our mission here is to help Utah residents live healthier lives by improving air quality while strengthening the economy.”

The state legislature’s bill that created the steering committee also provided $2.1 million to Utah State University’s Center for Advancing Sustainability through Powered Infrastructure for Roadway Electrification or “ASPIRE” to “lead the charge” in developing a community, state, and industry transportation action plan to improve air quality while enhancing the economy.

The Utah DOT noted in a statement that the ASPIRE Engineering Research Center – created in 2020 through a $25 million National Science Foundation grant, which is renewable to $50 million over 10 years – is forming an industry advisory board with representation across the industries, communities, and stakeholders affected by the shift to an electrified transportation system.

“We need tomorrow’s technologies to do this thing right,” said Dr. Regan Zane, director of ASPIRE, who also serves on the steering committee. “Now is the time to inject innovation into developing the future vision of our communities and transportation systems. This will inform critical decisions today on infrastructure investments to accelerate our path to clean air and a reduced cost to move people and goods.”

“The question we face now is how we transition to that electrified future,” added Utah DOT’s Braceras. “It’s a complicated process that requires careful planning and a coordinated approach across agencies, industries and communities to build a sustainable solution.”

State departments of transportation across the country are involved in a number of different efforts to help spur transportation system electrification.

For example, the Maryland Department of Transportation recently rolled out a new tool to help local governments and agencies dip into $2.5 billion in federal grants to build an electric vehicle or EV charging network.

The EV Charger Siting Tool is a map-based website that helps the user select those communities and charging sites in Maryland that have the best chance of securing grants under Federal Highway Administration’s Charging and Fueling Infrastructure or CFI discretionary grant program, funded by the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA enacted in November 2021.

From a broader perspective, the North Carolina Department of Transportation recently released the finalized version of its North Carolina Clean Transportation Plan, outlining a roadmap to continue growing the state’s clean energy economy while reducing greenhouse gas or GHG emissions and investing in cleaner and more accessible transportation options for state residents.

The NCDOT said it worked with more than 220 stakeholders for more than a year to develop this draft plan – mandated by Governor Roy Cooper (D) via Executive Order 246 issued January 2022 – which explores strategies to advance clean transportation investments and workforce development statewide.

In a more targeted fashion, the Oregon Department of Transportation recently introduced a rebate plan for state residents living in multifamily homes as well as motorists near public parking areas to spur access to EV charging stations.

The Oregon DOT said the rebate offered by its new Community Charging Rebates Program will range from $4,250 to $5,500 per charging port or up to 75 percent of eligible project costs, whichever is less, to help lower the cost of buying, installing, and maintaining Level 2 and Level 1 EV charging stations.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials held a knowledge session at its 2022 Annual Meeting that featured panelists from the Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida DOTs discussing their respective plans for National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure or NEVI program funds – one part of their concerted efforts to help support transport electrification.

In September 2022, the Federal Highway Administration issued final approvals for the EV infrastructure deployment plans submitted by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

Those plan approvals allow all of those 52 transportation departments to unlock more than $900 million in fiscal year 2022 and 2023 NEVI funding.

Environmental News Highlights – June 7, 2023


AASHTO Provides Environmental Review Insights to FHWA

– AASHTO Journal

House Science Committee seeks info on federal research of hazmat-by-rail safety

Progressive Railroading

DOE Launches New Energy Earthshot to Decarbonize Transportation and Industrial Sectors

– DOE (media release)


The Point of NEPA

– Roads & Bridges (editorial/commentary)

NEPA and the Debt Deal

– Legal Planet (opinion)


New Jersey authorities practice hurricane response, urge residents to prepare


Wyoming Lawmakers Want To Tax Electric Vehicle Drivers To Make Up For Lost Fuel Revenue

– Cowboy State Daily

State legislatures adapt to electric vehicles

– The Center Square

Charging Ahead: How the Electrified Mobility Collaborative envisions a radical shift.

– Thinking Transportation (podcast)

Amtrak is the climate-friendly option – if extreme weather doesn’t disrupt your trip.

– Grist

LA freeway lights darkened by vandalism make for dangerous driving



How we can make EVs even better for the planet

– Sustainability Times


Pittsburgh-area utilities and transit agencies are launching hydrogen pilots, anticipating wider use in the future

– Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

How green mobility can help world to achieve zero emission goals

– Urban Transport News

Curbside recycling turns out to be a surprisingly good climate investment

– Anthropocene

With $9B in Transportation Funding, Minnesota Looks to Meet Climate Goals

– Route Fifty


How AI can advance, harm transportation equity

– Smart Cities Dive

The US can’t achieve environmental justice through one-size-fits-all climate policy

– Brookings

Study Quantifies Disparity Among Marginalized Communities Exposed to Traffic-Related Air Pollution

– UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health


Wyoming DOT Seeing Results from Wildlife Crossings

– AASHTO Journal

Trash Bins At Wyoming I-80 Rest Stops Lead To More Littering, Not Less, WYDOT Director Says

– Cowboy State Daily


WVDOT Finishes Carrollton Covered Bridge Rebuild Project

– AASHTO Journal

Wisconsin DOT Unveils More Dual-Language Highway Signs

– AASHTO Journal

City of Temple, Texas plans to transform historic railroad into hike and bike trail


Universities aren’t doing enough for climate. Here’s what a real sustainability plan would look like

– Salon (commentary)


Virginia warns of rise in crashes involving bicycles

– WTTG-TV (video)

Presley’s Place At Pittsburgh’s Airport Is A Model To Be Copied

– Forbes

Clark County, OH group seeks to make area more pedestrian-friendly

– Springfield News-Sun

Officials vow ValleyBike program will return as partner company faces bankruptcy

– MassLive


Protecting Wildlife Habitat is a Robust Slice of Transportation Planning


Pollinator Habitat Conservation Along Roadways, Volume 1: Alaska


Pollinator Habitat Conservation Along Roadways, Volume 2: California


Pollinator Habitat Conservation Along Roadways, Volume 3: Florida


Pollinator Habitat Conservation Along Roadways, Volume 4: Great Basin


Practices for Adding Bicycle and Pedestrian Access on Existing Vehicle Bridges



National Travel and Tourism Infrastructure Strategic Plan; Request for Comment

Office of the Secretary, USDOT (Notice)

Department of Transportation Equity Action Plan Update

– Office of the Secretary, USDOT (RFI)

National Public Transportation Safety Plan

– FTA (Notice of availability; request for comments)

Designation of Transportation Management Areas

– FHWA and FTA (Notice)

Uniform Procedures for State Highway Safety Grant Programs

– NHTSA and FHWA (Final rule)

Expansion and Extension of the Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program

– United States Patent and Trademark Office (Notice)

Safety Zone; Hurricanes, Tropical Storms and Other Disasters in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana

– Coast Guard (Notice of proposed rulemaking)

Port Access Route Study: The Pacific Coast From Washington to California

– Coast Guard (Notice of availability of study)

Notice of Intent To Prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Matagorda Ship Channel Improvement Project, Calhoun and Matagorda Counties, TX

– Corps of Engineers (Notice)

Clean Air Act Operating Permit Program; Petition To Object to the Title V Permit for Cove Point LNG Terminal; Maryland

EPA (Notice of final action)