Environmental News Highlights – June 23, 2021


Senate Committee Leaves AV Bill out of Transportation Package – AASHTO Journal

AASHTO Co-Signs Letter Urging Action on Surface Reauthorization – AASHTO Journal

Schumer vows to only pass infrastructure package that is ‘a strong, bold climate bill’ – The Hill

11 GOP senators back bipartisan infrastructure plan, boosting its chances of moving forward – CNBC

GOP, Democrats trade places on drivers paying for infrastructure – Bloomberg

What Over 400 Local Leaders Want to See in an Infrastructure Deal – Route Fifty


COVID-19: TSA Could Better Monitor Its Efforts to Reduce Infectious Disease Spread at Checkpoints – GAO

Research finds links between air quality and COVID vulnerability: UCLA – KTTV-TV

Alcohol-involved Utah traffic deaths doubled during pandemic – AP

Innovating airports for post pandemic resilience – Aerospace Manufacturing


Analysis: Biden may hinder oil and gas drilling even after court loss – Reuters


A Little More Remote Work Could Change Rush Hour a Lot – New York Times

Louisiana steers federal money to infrastructure upgrades – AP

House passes bills to expedite airport upgrades, improve notams – AOPA

Reframing strategic, managed retreat for transformative climate adaptation – Science Magazine


Vermont is in wait and see mode on the Transportation and Climate Initiative. Will it join in full? – Bennington Banner

Committee Moves Transportation Emissions, School Recycling and Environmental Justice Bills to Full Senate – ecoRI News

OCTA takes another step toward transitioning to zero-emission buses – Orange County Transportation Authority (Press release)


Milwaukee Aims to Fight Disparities, Reduce Emissions With All-Electric Bus Line – Up North News

Bulldozed and bisected: Highway construction built a legacy of inequality – NBC News

Introducing the Transit Equity Dashboard – TransitCenter


Las Vegas pushes land swap to balance growth, conservation – AP

More than noise: Cicadas cause car trouble, AAA warns – WHBQ-TV

North Carolina set to exceed a record amount of roadside litter collection, NCDOT says – WXII-TV


Improv theater training is helping a once-hidebound transit agency learn to work smarter. It’s a trend that’s catching on. – Philadelphia Inquirer


Grand Rapids grows micromobility pilot with more e-scooters, bikes – Grand Rapids Business Journal

Burlington airport exhibit takes aim at stigma of mental illness – WVNY-TV

Former West Virginia railroad designated as national trail – AP

NY running campaign to promote pedestrian safety – WTEN-TV

City Seeks Input on Downtown “People Powered” Transportation – Fullerton Observer

Less driving = better lives – Commonwealth (Op-ed)


TRB Annual Meeting Will Be an In-person Event in 2022 – TRB

TRB Webinar: Addressing Justice in Transportation – TRB

Building Socioeconomic Equity Through Transportation Research – TRB (Blog)


National Hazardous Materials Route Registry – Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (Notice; revisions to the listing of designated and restricted routes for hazardous materials)

Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the Relocation of the Port of Alaska’s South Floating Dock, Anchorage, Alaska – NOAA (Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request for comments on proposed authorization and possible Renewal)

State DOTs Bracing for Highly Active Hurricane Season

As forecasters predict a particularly active hurricane season for 2021, state departments of transportation from Texas to New Jersey are preparing for worst-case scenarios to help citizens get out of town if a big storm ends up heading their way.

[Above photo by the Louisiana DOTD]

The Atlantic hurricane season began on June 1 and lasts through November 30. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center predicts a “likely range” of six to 10 hurricanes with winds of at least 74 miles-per-hour to form this year, with three to five major hurricanes with wind speeds of at least 111 mph developing as well.

Even relatively “minor” hurricanes can cause significant damage, especially to transportation systems, as the impact of Hurricane Sally – which struck the Alabama and Florida border in September 2020 – demonstrates.

Five hurricanes made landfall in Louisiana in 2020, prompting evacuations ahead of the storms and road closures in their aftermaths. To ensure quick evacuation of citizens from low-lying, flood-prone areas ahead of such storms, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has a longstanding partnership with the Mississippi Department of Transportation to activate contraflow operations for removing people from New Orleans and coastal areas rapidly.

“The pinnacle of our cooperative efforts come out during an emergency evacuation,” Louisiana DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson explained. “This region has a very cooperative history. We were in Beaumont (Texas) last year after one of the hurricanes, and we brought in personnel from the Tennessee DOT to help us. We all help each other as the circumstances warrant.”

Photo by Louisiana DOTD

When activated, the Southeast Louisiana Evacuation Plan calls for the Louisiana DOTD and Louisiana State Police to reverse traffic on the southbound lanes on Interstates 55 and 59. Once traffic reaches the Mississippi state line, the Mississippi DOT takes over traffic control and guides the combined eight lanes of traffic well into the heart of Mississippi.

The Mississippi DOT held a contraflow drill on June 3 to practice moving equipment into place and communicating with each other along the 86 combined miles of “contraflowed” interstate lanes.

“We go through all the motions except actually closing the exits on the interstates,” said Jas Smith, Mississippi DOT’s communications director. “The intention is to quickly evacuate the New Orleans and coastal residents. We want to get them out as quickly as possible.”

The Alabama Department of Transportation also has an interstate contraflow plan ready to go during daylight hours, according to Tony Harris, the agency’s media and community relations bureau chief.

“We only contraflow Interstate 65, north of Mobile, to Montgomery,” Harris explained. “We have a deployment rehearsal where we do everything but stop traffic. It’s like a military operation with about 120 defined steps and procedures.”

The South Carolina Department of Transportation recently released an animated video that explains how its intrastate contraflow works on Interstate 26 from Charleston to Columbia.

Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Transportation recently added several new features to its 511 site along with a new mobile application to assist motorists during hurricane evacuations.

States even as far north as New Jersey are holding evacuation drills “to practice and refine response activities in the event of a major hurricane,” according to a news release from the New Jersey Department of Transportation. “This annual drill is to practice a worst-case scenario in which New Jersey shore communities would need to be evacuated in a short period of time due to a hurricane or other natural disaster,” noted Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, the New Jersey DOT’s commissioner. “This gives crews from the New Jersey DOT, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, and the South Jersey Transit Authority, along with the State Police, an opportunity to test our plans and make sure our emergency personnel are able to quickly and efficiently get people out of harm’s way.”

Minnesota DOT to Add Two ‘Living’ Snow Fences to U.S. 12

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is in the process of installing “living snow fences” near two bridges on U.S. Highway 12 in partnership with the Kandiyohi Soil and Water Conservation District.

[Above photo by the Minnesota DOT]

Made up of trees, shrubs, native grasses and/or wildflowers to trap snow before it reaches a bridge or roadway, “living snow fences” provide an array of benefits over time compared to fences made from wood, steel, and other inert materials. Though they require two to three years of growth to become effective Minnesota DOT noted on its description page that living snow fences help control soil erosion, reduce spring flooding resulting from snow melt, and serve as grassland nesting birds and pollinator habitats. They also reduce the need for road salt deployment and plow truck operation – reducing winter operation expenses – while helping increase crop yields by 10 percent or more.

“A living snow fence is more than landscaping and highway beautification, it serves a purpose,” explained Dan Gullickson, Minnesota DOT’s blowing snow control shared services program supervisor, in a statement. “We engineer blowing snow control using nature; we use plants to mitigate the wind.”

Photo by Minnesota DOT

He noted that this particular living snow fence installation project aims to counter the winter road hazard of blowing ice, which forms on roadways and bridge decks when snow blows onto the surface then melts and refreezes, creating icy patches.

The project calls for planting 1,644 shrubs – black chokeberry, amur maple, golden current, arrowwood, gray dogwood, common lilac, and red osier dogwood – over 7,089 linear feet within the agency’s existing right of way along U.S. 12. Those shrubs should attain sufficient height within two to three years of platting to start offering protection against blowing snow. Steve Dols – Minnesota DOT’s West Central Region blowing snow control shared services designer – developed the design for the two living snow fences along U.S. 12. The agency added that Dols is currently working on 12 additional snow fence projects across west-central and southwest Minnesota; efforts support by highway safety funds.