Environmental News Highlights – June 9, 2021


House T&I Committee Unveils $547B Surface Transportation Bill – AASHTO Journal

Proposed House Surface Transportation Bill Provides Step Toward Reauthorization – AASHTO

USDOT Seeks Transportation Equity Assessment Input – AASHTO Journal

How both Democrats and Republicans alike traded away their principles for bipartisanship in the Senate’s transportation proposal – Transportation for America (Blog)


KYTC Focused on Infrastructure Work as Pandemic Recedes – AASHTO Journal

Buttigieg defends mask mandates on public transportation as a matter of ‘safety’ and ‘respect’ – Business Insider


Death by a thousand cuts”: How Congress continues to whittle away at a critical environmental policy – Grist


Wyoming’s infrastructure wishlist – WyoFile

Can Removing Highways Fix America’s Cities? – New York Times

Utah’s ‘road usage charge’ gives a road map for future tax on green drivers – Deseret News

State looks to build on Kern’s success employing homeless people in highway cleanup work – Bakersfield American

As storms become more frequent and volatile, some ports plan for the risk – but most do not – Supply Chain Dive

How Boeing and Alaska Airlines are Tackling Sustainability in Aviation – Environment + Energy Leader


U.S. cities hire specialists to counter climate change as impacts worsen – Reuters

Democrats Punt on Carbon Caps as Republicans Claim Victory on Taxes – Connecticut Examiner

Wildfires Are Getting Worse, So Why Is the U.S. Still Building Homes With Wood? – Time

Google Street View data pinpoints Copenhagen’s traffic pollution hotspots – Cities Today

As electric vehicle sales surge, discussions are now turning to noise and safety – CNBC


End Of The Road? A highway expansion project in Houston is the site of a battle over environmental justice – The Architect’s Newspaper


Biden administration suspends oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – Anchorage Daily News

Why we should look to nature for climate crisis solutions – Canada’s National Observer

Transportation crews to set Asian giant hornet traps – AP

Old farmland evolves into wetlands forest project near Frankford – Coastal Point


Fort Worth bike rentals are booming, and electric ebikes are providing the jolt Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Hartford’s LINK Scooters top over 17,000 rides within first month since its introduction to the capital cityHartford Courant

Amazon’s Cost Saving Routing Algorithm Makes Drivers Walk Into TrafficVice

New trail segment will complete 5-mile pedestrian and bicycle loop in south FayettevilleFayetteville Flyer

E-Scooter Proposal Raises Liability Concerns in Iowa CityGovernment Technology

“Bicycles are making our cities better, but what about our suburbs?”Dezeen (Commentary)


TRB Webinar: Deploying Connected and Automated Infrastructure – TRB

Multiple Modes of Transportation, Shared Rides Are the Future of Mobility – Northwestern University (Video)


Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, Port Authority Bus Terminal Replacement Project, City of New York, New York County, New York – FTA (Notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement)

Notice of Intention To Reconsider and Revise the Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Rule – EPA (Notice of intent)

Proposed Consent Decree, Clean Air Act Citizen Suit – EPA (Notice of proposed consent decree; request for public comment)

Delegation of Authority to the Commonwealth of Virginia To Implement and Enforce Additional or Revised National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants and New Source Performance Standards – EPA (Notice of delegation of authority)

Nevada DOT Offering “Water-Smart” Advice to State Residents

The Environmental Division of the Nevada Department of Transportation is offering state residents landscaping advice on pesticide and herbicide use as well as “water-smart practices” when conducting residential landscaping activities.

[Above photo by the Southern Nevada Water Authority]

“Most people are surprised to learn that homes can be a source of pollution,” explained James Murphy, the Environmental Division’s program manager within Nevada DOT, in a statement – noting that his division oversees disciplines such as stormwater, air quality, noise, wildlife biology, environmental engineering, and cultural resources.

“We encourage Nevada residents to take steps to avoid polluting our waterways, such as avoiding overwatering and applying pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers sparingly, with caution, and per product labeling,” he said.

Murphy explained that, in Nevada, sewer systems and stormwater drains are separate systems. Water that goes down the drain inside a home via toilet or sink goes to a wastewater treatment plant where it is treated and filtered. Conversely, water that flows down driveways and streets into gutters goes directly into a storm drain that flows untreated into lakes, rivers and streams.

Thus runoff from landscaped areas may contain fertilizers, pesticides or other materials that are harmful to lakes and streams, stressed Charles Schembre, an environmental scientist with the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.

He explained that the most important thing residents could do to prevent stormwater contamination from landscaping activities is to avoid watering the sidewalk. Installing a buffer between the lawn and sidewalk – such as rocks, woody mulch or plants – will prevent runoff onto the sidewalk. This is a critical component in reducing runoff of pollutants into storm drains, he said.

Other tips include:

  • Use “healthy soil” practices and use organic fertilizers and pesticides sparingly; make sure to follow product label instructions.
  • Consider planting trees, seeds and plants that are native to Nevada, which require less water.
  • Use “selective” herbicide applications to target just weeds and avoid affecting desirable plant species. Avoid spraying during conditions where herbicides may drift to non-target plant species – specifically when wind speeds are greater than 15 mph.
  • Use organic mulch or other pest control methods whenever possible.
  • Install a buffer between the lawn and sidewalk to prevent irrigation runoff onto the sidewalk.
  • Pick up pet waste and dispose of it properly.
  • Use a commercial car wash or wash your car on the grass so the water infiltrates into the ground instead of spilling into storm drains.

Illinois DOT Mowing Program also Protects Pollinator Habitat

The Illinois Department of Transportation recently resumed statewide roadside mowing operations, now scheduled to help maintain and grow pollinator habitat.

[Above photo by the Illinois DOT]

“We are committed to protecting the environment in the work we do every day,” noted Omer Osman, Illinois DOT’s recently confirmed secretary, in a statement.

“By combining well-defined vegetation management with mowing cycles that preserve sightlines and maximize safety, we can make a positive impact today and for future generations, [as] pollinators play a key role in the state’s ecosystem by aiding in reproduction of flowers, fruits and vegetables,” he said.

Throughout the summer, the agency noted that it conducts two primary types of mowing: Safety mowing, which occurs directly adjacent to the road as needed, and maintenance mowing, which includes areas next to culverts, ditches, traffic control devices and other structures.

The Illinois DOT noted that in recent years it revised its mowing practices to help create and maintain habitat for pollinators – including the endangered rusty patched bumblebee and the monarch butterfly – cataloged in its Illinois Monarch Project Mowing Guidelines for Pollinators.

By mowing at select times and reducing the amount of land mowed, IDOT encourages the growth of plant species such as milkweed, the only food source for monarch caterpillars.

In 2020, the Illinois DOT said it joined in the launch of the Illinois Monarch Action Plan as part of the Illinois Monarch Project, a collaborative effort to help ensure the survival and successful migration of monarchs by increasing and protecting habitat.

Alongside that effort, 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 on March 12 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 regulatory protections provided by this CCAA allow transportation agencies to continue vegetation management practices with less concern that these actions will lead to an increase in the costs of regulatory compliance if the monarch is listed under the Endangered Species Act,” the organization said in its letter. “We see the CCAA as advancing … guidance developed by the Federal Highway Administration on practices to support pollinator habitat.”

Pew Trust: How Flooding Impacts Maryland’s Transportation System

A recent study indicates that major flooding occurring outside designated flood zones is significantly affecting Maryland’s highways, bridges, tunnels, and other roadways. As a result, such flooding “interrupts daily life; delaying or blocking passage of emergency response vehicles and people trying to get to work or school.”

[Above photo by Jay Bock, Flickr.]

The study – entitled “Flooding Impacts on Maryland’s Transportation System and Users” by strategic consulting firm ICF with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts — examines how flooding affects nearly 15,000 lane miles of state-maintained roadways or roughly about 20 percent of Maryland’s overall lane mileage. The findings draw from data collected between 2006 and 2020 by the Maryland Department of Transportation.

The report’s researchers reviewed 2,771 flood-related incidents for which geospatial data was available and found that 78 percent occurred outside the 100- or 500-year flood zones mapped by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Those incidents took place, on average, only about 0.3 miles from the mapped flood areas, but even so, the findings underscore that flooding is not limited to mapped zones.

The report also identified locations along state highways that are especially flood-prone, making them prime targets for infrastructure resilience or relocation investment. Data from the past 15 years shows clusters of flood incidents on state highways, including more than 100 locations with at least five flood events within about 1,000 feet of one another. Seven locations appear to be especially at risk, with at least 30 such incidents among them, the study found.

The report also shows how flooding disrupts travel, causes safety risks, and generates economic productivity losses, among other adverse consequences. Flooding of state-maintained roadways in Maryland accounts for weeks of traffic disruptions annually, averaging 1,582 hours or 66 days per a year. Although most flood-caused lane closures lasted less than four hours, 16 percent of all disruptions lasted longer than 12 hours.

The study found that those incidents affected, on average, more than 480,000 people annually. On top of that, economic impact of lost work time and delayed deliveries cost about $15 million per year in Maryland and totaled more than $230 million during the study period.

Each flood incident resulted in an average of about $80,000 in user delay costs, Pew’s researchers noted – considered “just a fraction” of the fiscal impact because it does not factor in other expenses, such as emergency response and infrastructure repairs.

ETAP Podcast: State Agency Partnerships and Transportation Climate Initiatives

This episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast explores how state agency partnerships are helping Connecticut achieve climate goals while also implementing the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program or TCI-P.

TCI-P is a multi-state effort to cap and reduce greenhouse gas or GHG emissions from the transportation sector while at the same time generating revenues from carbon taxes to reinvest in cleaner transportation infrastructure.

In Connecticut, for example, TCI-P should generate roughly $1 billion in revenues from carbon taxes over the next decade, much of which will go towards supporting transportation systems.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont (D) added in a December 2020 statement that the TCI-P should reduce transportation-related GHGs in his state by at least 26 percent from 2022 to 2032. Meanwhile, he plans to re-invest revenues generated through TCI-P carbon taxes in “equitable and cleaner transportation options,” creating an employment program across transit, construction, and green energy – efforts that should serve as a “catalyst” for infrastructure development through the next decade and beyond.

State departments of transportation will play a critical role in deciding how to re-invest revenue-generated caps on emissions, according to Connecticut agencies involved with implementing TCI-P protocols.

Katie Dykes, Connecticut’s commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection or DEEP and Garrett Eucalitto, the deputy commissioner for the Connecticut Department of Transportation, explain during this episode of the ETAP podcast how their ongoing collaboration will help implement the TCI-P agreement and how it will affect the state’s transportation sector and, ultimately, benefit the public.

Click here to listen to this podcast.