Environmental News Highlights – June 8, 2022


State DOTs Working to Expand EV Charging Network – AASHTO Journal

Biden’s environmental justice office is open. Can it get the money it needs? – Politico

FAA acting administrator calls for collaboration to advance sustainable aviation fuel commercialization – CAPA

The Supreme Court Is Pursuing a Very Dangerous Strategy for the Environment – New York Times (Opinion)


Pandemic sparked ‘aggressive’ driving culture, FMCSA official saysLand Line

US airlines, travel industry push White House to end pre-travel testing – CNN


Flood sensor project will offer city real-time data as storms intensify

Integrating Resilience into Infrastructure Decision-Making – AASHTO Journal

You Can Build It. But Will They Come? – Slate

Tesla and others lobby for federal funding of charging infrastructure for electric trucks – Electrek

New York Announces New Online Resource Center for State’s Continued Expansion of Electric Vehicle Infrastructure – New York Governor’s Office


Manufacturers sue CARB over truck emissions rule lead time – FleetOwner

FAA indicates ban coming on leaded gas for small planes – Columbia Insight

EPA Releases Annual Air Report, Highlighting Trends through 2021 – EPA (Media release)


COMTO, AASHTO and Transportation Equity with April Rai – AASHTO’s ETAP Podcast

Federal Environmental Justice Program Could Worsen Outcomes in Low-Income Neighborhoods – Planetizen

Shared Micromobility: The Future Of Equitable Transportation – CalBike (Commentary)


Bill to combat Alaska’s invasive species falls short in Legislature – Alaska Beacon

Rising water makes Lake Michigan wetlands vulnerable to invaders – Great Lakes Echo

Five years after massive manure spill, residents fighting for clean water – Wisconsin Examiner


A New Elevated Park Offers a Blueprint to Cooling Cities – Surface

Lessons From the Golden Age of the Mall Walkers – CityLab


Children who attend schools with more traffic noise show slower cognitive development – ScienceDaily

Guide To Lawrence Loop Aims To Help People With Mobility Limitations Navigate City’s Nature TrailsLawrence Times

Scooter Partnerships Take Root as Micromobility Expands – Governing

Monroe County, New York to create active transportation plan – WHEC-TV

Green Bay looks to implement bike and pedestrian plan with help from ARPA funds – WLUK-TV


Health in the Climate Emergency: A global perspective – The InterAcademy Partnership

Infrastructure Equity in Action – Regional Plan Association (Webinar and link to registration)

Electric Vehicle Outlook 2022 – BloombergNEF


Great Outdoors Month – President of the United States (Proclamation)

Request for Information (RFI) Regarding Wildfire Crisis Implementation Plan – Forest Service (Request for information)

Notice of Final Federal Agency Actions on the Interstate 81 Viaduct Project, Onondaga County, New York – FHWA (Notice of limitation on claims for judicial review of actions by FHWA and other Federal agencies.)

Approval and Promulgation of Implementation Plans; New York; Ozone and Particulate Matter Controls Strategies – EPA (Final rule)

Determination To Defer Sanctions; California; San Diego County Air Pollution Control District EPA (Interim final determination)

Air Plan Approval; California; San Diego County Air Pollution Control District – EPA (Proposed rule)

Air Plan Approval; North Dakota; Removal of Exemptions to Visible Air Emissions RestrictionsEPA (Proposed rule)

National Environmental Justice Advisory Council; Notification for a Virtual Public Meeting – EPA (Notification for a public meeting)

Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC) and Small Communities Advisory Subcommittee (SCAS) Meeting – EPA (Notification of public meeting)

Notice of Availability of the Draft Environmental Assessment and Draft General Conformity Determination for the Proposed Terminal Area Plan and Air Traffic Procedures at Chicago O’Hare International Airport – FAA (Notice)

Establishment of a New Parking Fee Area at Pearl Harbor National Memorial – National Park Service (Notice)

Call for Review Editor Nominations for the Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5) – NOAA (Request for public nominations)

Pipeline Safety: Potential for Damage to Pipeline Facilities Caused by Earth Movement and Other Geological Hazards – Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (Notice; issuance of updated advisory bulletin)

National Towing Safety Advisory Committee; June 2022 Virtual MeetingCoast Guard (Notice)

Pacific Wind Lease Sale 1 (PACW-1) for Commercial Leasing for Wind Power on the Outer Continental Shelf in California – Proposed Sale NoticeBureau of Ocean Energy Management (Notice; request for comments)

Minnesota DOT Tallies 2021 Litter Clean-Up Efforts

Thousands of Adopt-a-Highway volunteers picked up more than 29,500 bags of trash from highway ditches in 2021, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

[Above photo by the Minnesota DOT]

Across Minnesota, over 1,500 Adopt-a-Highway groups volunteered more than 70,000 hours collectively in 2021, with 830 roadway sections currently available for adoption statewide, the agency said.

“We can’t thank our Adopt-a-Highway volunteers enough for the service they provide our state and would love to have more groups on our team,” noted Ann McLellan, Minnesota DOT’s manager for its statewide “Adopt-a-Highway” efforts, in a statement. The Adopt-a-Highway program has been part of Minnesota DOT’s maintenance operations since 1990, she added.

Minnesota DOT provides safety training, trash bags, and safety vests for Adopt-a-Highway volunteers, with agency maintenance crews picking up the filled bags that volunteers leave along the side of the road.

“Volunteers not only help to keep Minnesota roadsides clean, but their work allows our crews to focus on other tasks that help keep highways safe,” McLellan said. “It is a win-win for all involved.”

State departments of transportation across the country have been ramping up litter removal efforts over the past year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced many to curtail or even suspend highway trash collection and removal efforts.

State DOTs are also deploying new equipment and policies to clean up highway litter.

For example, the Idaho Transportation Department deployed a new machine in March to pick up trash along Interstate 90 from Washington to Coeur d’Alene.

The new contraption requires two operators – one to drive the machine, which uses metal teeth to comb through the grass, and another to haul the trash away in a dump truck.

“To do [clear trash] one mile by hand takes five operators working together for eight hours,” explained Jerry Wilson, an operations engineer with the agency, in a statement. “With this machine, we can cut that down to two people working five hours and still cover the same distance.”

On the policy front, in April 2021, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development implemented a new policy for its field crews to pick up trash in the footprint where they work for the day. Called the ‘Take 10’ campaign, it commits agency work crews to take 10 minutes per day at their job sites to pick up highway litter.

“I try to never ask anyone to do anything that I’m not willing to do myself,” said Shawn Wilson, Ph. D., Louisiana DOTD’s secretary, in a statement at the time. Wilson – who also serves as the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials 2021-2022 president – noted that his “long-term vision” is to get to a point where this policy is no longer necessary and that “we’re no longer spending millions to help correct a 100 percent preventable problem.”

Meanwhile, Governor Tom Wolf (D) recently presented a group of employees from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection with Governor’s Awards for Excellence in recognition of their efforts to develop the first-ever Pennsylvania Litter Action Plan, unveiled in December 2021.

Through coordination with over 100 stakeholders, the employees from both state agencies spearheaded the development of a plan with the goal to shift the focus of Pennsylvania’s response to litter from cleanup to prevention. The plan includes resources and suggestions for the General Assembly, state agencies, local governments, and the public.

Illinois DOT Supporting Highway ROW Bird Habitat Efforts

An initiative to “Give BIRDS the ROW” in terms of creating big habitats in highway rights-of-way is expanding across Illinois – with new support from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

[Above photo by the Illinois DOT]

The program originated with the installation of birdhouses for “prothonotary warblers” along the Lost Bridge Trail near Illinois DOT’s headquarters in Springfield, IL. The program’s goal is to restore diverse bird species on rights-of-way or ROWs under the control of Illinois DOT. In its latest effort, a group of Illinois DOT employees recently helped install bluebird houses, provided by the McHenry County Audubon Society, at the Coalfield Rest Areas on I-55 near Litchfield in Montgomery County.

Posted in short-grass, open-yard habitats, these birdhouses not only provide a resting spot for bluebirds but also attract other native bird species.

“In total, four bluebird houses have been posted so far: two at the northbound Coalfield Rest Area and two at the southbound Coalfield Rest Area,” said Jarod Hitchings, who works as a photogrammetrist for the agency, in a statement. [Editor’s note: “Photogrammetry” is the use of photography in surveying and mapping to measure distances between objects.]

“The in­stallation of more houses are planned for prothonotary warblers along the Spoon River and for bluebird houses at rest areas and other appropriate short-grass, park-like habitats maintained by Illinois DOT,” he said.

Fellow Photogrammetrist Brenda Anderson joined Hitchings – who both work for the agency’s bureau of design and envi­ronment – to install those birdhouses. They received assistance from Illinois DOT District 6 Roadside Management Specialist Mike Staab and Junior Construction Inspection Technician Marcell Lare, Roadside Maintenance Manager Stephanie Dobbs, District 8 Acting Rest Area Manager Jacob Cuff, and District 5 Roadside Manager Scott Hall.

Illinois DOT Design and Environment’s Bicycle and Pedestrian/ADA Policy Engineer Steve Letsky also donated handcrafted birdhouses he built on his own for this effort.

“Operations and Design and Environ­ment have worked well together to pro­mote declining bird species,” Hitchings noted. “Partnering with the district offices, we have truly made this a statewide effort to promote a healthy environment for our feathered friends. Birds are a sentinel species and are a signal that the natural landscape is healthy for all wildlife.”

“We hope to grow this program and install a variety of houses at different locations as the habitat and range indicate,” Dobbs added. “In the future, if interesting species find homes on our right of way, we would like to do a webcam or something similar to share it with employees and the public.”

State departments of transportation across the country are involved in a number of efforts to protect and preserve bird species where possible.

For example, a mitigation program operated by the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Division of Aviation aims to reduce the risk of wildlife hazards by providing a variety of training and support options for both airports and aircraft.

“Flocks of birds taking flight, deer crossing runways, and other such hazards can cause serious damage to property and even loss of life,” noted Rajendra Kondapalli, the program’s manager, in a statement. “Our program focuses on reducing that risk and increasing safety for aircraft that fly in and out of airports across our state.”

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Transportation recently helped test ultrasonic bat “deterrence devices” at two bridges to help keep the mammals away from such structures when they undergo maintenance and/or repair activity.

The agency noted that bats like to roost in bridge expansion joints and temporarily preventing such roosting during bridge maintenance repair activity typically requires installing physical barriers that are often difficult to establish effectively, due to the design characteristics of many structures.

More importantly, the Minnesota DOT does not necessarily want to keep bats away permanently from its bridge as they provide safe roosting areas. Thus, the agency worked with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the last two years testing battery-operated ultrasonic deterrence devices that reduce bat activity at bridge sites when activated but ensure a quick return of bat roosting activity when deactivated.