Environmental News Highlights – June 17, 2020

A roundup of headlines curated for state transportation environmental professionals


As EPA Steps Back, States Face Wave Of Requests For Environmental Leniency – NPR

With transportation’s future unclear, some question spending – Roll Call

Transportation Funding Bill Part of Congress’ Summer Agenda – Transport Topics

Federal Transit Administration Announces $22.97 Million to Improve Transit Access in Selected Communities Around the Country – Federal Transit Administration (Press release)

Wyoming jumps aboard for Trump water rule – Laramie Boomerang

Outside/In: How Massachusetts v. EPA Forced the U.S. Government to Take On Climate Change – New Hampshire Public Radio

Trump Team Weighs $1 Trillion for Infrastructure to Spur EconomyBloomberg Tax


Transportation Industry Asks President to Support State DOT COVID-19 Relief – AASHTO Journal

COVID-19: President Trump’s Invocation of Emergency Authority to Streamline Environmental Review for Infrastructure Projects – National Law Review (Analysis)

Google Maps adding pandemic-critical information for commuters – Mass Transit

New poll shows Michigan voters rank fixing roads and infrastructure as top priority after COVID-19 economic recovery – Arab American News

Explore U.S. Mobility during the COVID-19 PandemicUS Bureau of Transportation Statistics

A Playbook for Transit Recovery from D.C. – City Lab

CDOT creates fund to help cities extend restaurants onto streets – BizWest


Energy and Transportation Each Have a Powerful ‘Sustainable Story’ – Bloomberg (Interview)

Florida’s Flooded Future: ‘Retreat While There’s Still Time’ – The Nation

North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience PlanNCDOT

Resilience Is Good Public Policy – US Chamber of Commerce (Commentary)

Board of Trustees commits to accelerating transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, reports major reduction in fossil fuel investments – Stanford University

California Regulators Approve Changes to Support Microgrids as State Braces for Wildfire Season – Microgrid Knowledge

New Florida Law To Bring More Electric Charging Stations To State HighwaysWUFT Radio’s Fresh Take Florida


First-of-its-kind dust detection and warning system set for monsoon – Arizona DOT

AECOM, AT&T, Toyota, and More Partner on Dallas’ First Climate Action Plan – Dallas Innovates

New Documentary Celebrates Clean Air Act, Highlights Communities Still Waiting for Clean Air – American University

Salt Lake City, Provo closer to reaching Clean Air Act compliance for first time in decade – KSL


Study examines environmental justice impact of Senate Bill 181 in Colorado – University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Why ‘I can’t breathe’ is resonating with environmental justice activists – NBC News

Where can I learn more about environmental racism? – National Catholic Reporter

“Two different realities”: Why America needs environmental justice – CBS News


Will Trump’s EPA rule backfire on ‘energy dominance’? – E&E News

A Canal That Opened the Montana Prairie May Soon Dry Up – New York Times

Officials want Amtrak to preserve river access – Hudson Valley 360


2020 City Ratings: Top 5 U.S. Cities for Bikes – People for Bikes

‘Corona Cycleways’ Become the New Post-Confinement Commute – New York Times (subscription)

The Definitive Rules of the Road for Urban Cyclists – CityLab


Understanding Wildlife Behavioral Responses to Traffic Noise and Light to Improve Mitigation PlanningUC Davis National Center for Sustainable Transportation


RFP: The Provision of Alternative Services by Transit Agencies: The Intersection of Regulation and Program – TCRP (RFP announcement)

TRB Webinar: COVID-19 Impacts on Managed Lanes – TRB

TRB Webinar: Forecasting Zero Emission Vehicles Fleet Scenarios and Emissions Implications – TRB

TRB Webinar: Human Trafficking and Mobility of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women – TRB

Agent-based Simulation Model and Deep Learning Techniques to Evaluate and Predict Transportation Trends around COVID-19 – C2SMART Center (White paper)

MOD Webinar #6: Mobility Marketplace: Integration, Integration, IntegrationUSDOT


Increasing Consistency and Transparency in Considering Benefits and Costs in the Clean Air Act Rulemaking Process – EPA (Notice of proposed rulemaking)

Environmental Impact Statement for the Western Rail Yard Infrastructure Project in New York County, New York – Federal Railroad Administration (Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement)

Dual Disaster Handbook Offers Practical Guidance Amidst Chaos

Effectively managing a state transportation department is hard enough. Leading a state DOT through a crisis is tougher. But what about when two disasters hit simultaneously?

Dr. Shawn Wilson, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, actually had four simultaneous disasters on his plate on Friday, June 5. In addition to transportation issues related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Wilson found himself deeply engaged in a special session of the state legislature looking at serious budget cuts that could affect transportation projects. Meanwhile, civil rights protestors in the wake of the George Floyd killing had already shut down major roadways for three straight evenings in New Orleans while a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico aimed itself straight for the vulnerable Louisiana coast.

Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson with his staff. Photos courtesy Louisiana DOTD

“It’s really a juggling act and you’re juggling some very fragile crystal balls,” Wilson said.

The Louisiana DOTD’s situation is not unique, which is why the American Public Health Association and the American Flood Coalition created the “Dual Disaster Handbook” – a 25-page guide to help public officials plan “a proactive response as communities face multiple threats,” according to an APHA statement.

The handbook is a “practical publication” predicated on the assumption that spring and summer flooding will occur across the country as states are still grappling with COVID-19 related issues. However, the recommendations and checklists are relevant for any crisis management situation, APHA said.

Included in the handbook are several real-world situations that arise during a disaster, such as: the top five procurement mistakes that may lead to an audit; examples of how some agencies properly prepared for and executed plans through a disaster; and checklists of recommended actions for agency leaders who are facing simultaneous disasters.

For example, Louisiana DOTD’s Wilson said that enacting emergency storm operations and evacuation plans became “twice as complicated” because of the ongoing COVID-19 precautions.

“We’re planning for evacuation buses and mobilizing our people, but from a pandemic perspective, we’re also having to take into account screening people and providing PPE,” he explained. “Someone may not want to get on the bus because of COVID-19 and we have to prepare and train our employees to deal with that kind of situation.”

Wilson added that he welcomes the publication of the Dual Disaster Handbook and plans to distribute copies of it to his fellow committee members on the Transportation Research Board’s Committee on Transportation Resilience Metrics.

“When we’re organizing an evacuation, we usually can put at least 46 people on a bus,” he noted. “But during this pandemic, we can only have about 13 people on a bus. When you factor in families and pets, it gets complicated. Sometimes you’re looking at what is the best of the bad choices you have. Dual disasters can be messy work.”

AASHTO Hosting Environmental Justice Virtual Peer Exchange

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials is holding an Environmental Justice Virtual Peer Exchange on July 10. 

Hosted by the Center for Environmental Excellence at AASHTO, the two-hour virtual peer exchange will be broken up into two panel discussions – one focused on the connection between health and transportation and the other on Planning and Environment Linkages or PEL. The topics for the event were selected based on a recent survey of the AASHTO Environmental Justice Community of Practice.

The goal of this virtual peer exchange – which is being conducted in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration and the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations – is to provide an opportunity for transportation practitioners to learn about environmental justice, PEL, and health in transportation resources.

FHWA, state departments of transportation, and MPOs will share best practices and lessons learned related to projects and programs associated with health and transportation and PEL protocols.

The register for this exchange, click here.