FDOT to take lead on EV infrastructure planning

The Florida Department of Transportation is about to be one of the biggest electric vehicle (EV) market cheerleaders in the country.

The Essential State Infrastructure law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis (R) on June 9 gives Florida DOT the central role in developing a “master plan” to encourage EV usage and to develop strategies to build more charging stations throughout the sunshine state. The law, which goes into effect on July 1, also calls on the agency to plan, design and build staging areas for public emergency provisions along the Florida Turnpike system.

The EV portion of the law mandates Florida DOT to collaborate with public and private stakeholders, come up with legislative recommendations, plus write and delivery its “master plan” to the governor and legislature by July 1, 2021.

Photos courtesy Florida DOT

The agency will also work closely with several state agencies – including the Public Service Commission, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as well as power companies and other stakeholders – to establish that EV infrastructure, noted Beth Frady, Florida DOT’s communications director.

The impetus behind the bipartisan legislation is the impact of fossil fuel emissions on Florida’s air quality. According to the new law, “a significant portion of the carbon dioxide emissions in this state are produced by the transportation sector. Electric vehicles can help reduce these emissions, thereby helping to reduce the impact of climate change on this state.”

Susan Glickman, Florida director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, applauded the new law, calling it part of “the evolution in transportation, as it’s been recognized that fossil fuels drive emissions.”

She added that “this is a big step forward in putting in place the kind of charging infrastructure that will give people confidence that buying an EV is doable.”

Florida DOT statistics show there are approximately 60,000 all-electric battery electric vehicles, or BEVs, and another 60,000 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) registered in Florida. Even though that makes Florida one of the top five states in the number of EVs registered, EVs still comprise less than 1 percent of all vehicles registered in the state.

Although EV sales are increasing nationally as consumers look for cleaner transportation, a dearth of public charging stations has been a stumbling block for manufacturers to reach beyond drivers who rarely venture far from their home-based chargers. The expense and relative low retune on investment of the charging stations have driven some states to cobble together coalitions of utility companies, non-profit groups, government agencies, manufacturers and consumers to recommend rebate programs, cost-sharing partnerships and grant programs for infrastructure development.

Florida DOT’s Frady said the agency already had been “studying and analyzing” EV infrastructure issues before Gov. DeSantis signed the Essential State Infrastructure law – working on a plan to add new units to existing charging stations and to add new stations at service plazas along the Florida Turnpike toll road system. The new law, however, will now expand EV infrastructure planning to the non-tolled portions of the state highway system.

One main component of the Essential State Infrastructure law directs FDOT to develop staging areas along the Florida Turnpike system for “staging supplies for prompt provision of assistance to the public in a declared state of emergency.” The law says the staging areas will be used for storing emergency supplies, such as water, fuel, generators, vehicles and equipment to aid in evacuations, emergency response and restoration of services. Those “staging areas” could also could be used during nonemergency times for commercial motor vehicle parking or other uses.

In choosing them, though, the new law said Florida DOT must give “priority consideration” to rural counties in the Multiuse Corridor of Regional Economic Significance program, a state effort to stimulate the economies of counties of less than 200,000 population.

Changing Protective Rules for Migratory Birds During Transportation Construction: Part 2

State departments of transportation may soon be forced to adapt to changing rules surrounding the protection of migratory birds within transportation construction projects.

As noted in part one of this story, a notice of proposed rulemaking originally issued January 30 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – with a comment period set to end on July 20 – would change key aspects of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 or MBTA in terms of how state DOTs manage migratory bird populations during transportation construction activities and would prevent them from being fined for accidentally killing birds such as geese, herons, ducks, and other migratory species.

Under the proposed rule change, many requirements would be considered voluntary and could result in many protective undertakings to be abandoned. 

Photos courtesy Virginia DOT

One example centers on the Virginia Department of Transportation Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel expansion project. An estimated 25,000 seabirds recently lost their nesting site of 40 years when the entire South Island of the Bridge-Tunnel project was paved over during the tunnel expansion project. In early 2020. state DOT officials began work with researchers and federal agencies to establish alternative nesting areas, but those efforts were abandoned when the proposed rule loosened repercussions for bird deaths during construction and when federal money to protect or relocate the habitats elsewhere was eliminated.

As a result, Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries submitted a request to the Army Corps of Engineers to use dredged material to build a new bird island to mitigate the situation and Governor Ralph Northam (D) acted in February to make sure this mitigation effort would occur. The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries plans to create a new habitat for the birds by preparing the artificial island adjacent to the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and will also seek authorization to put barges in place to provide additional nesting habitat in advance of the upcoming nesting season.

Furthermore, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has started developing a state regulation dealing with the “incidental take” of migratory birds; a step only California has emulated to date.

That illustrates the decisions state governments and state DOTs alike across the country may face in terms of protecting migratory birds during construction and inspection activities under the new FWS regulatory initiative.

Environmental News Highlights – July 1, 2020

A roundup of headlines curated for state transportation environmental professionals


House Wraps Surface Transportation Bill into Infrastructure Package – AASHTO Journal

Judge: EPA Has No Duty to Periodically Review Industrial Pollution Risks – Courthouse News Service

Legislation introduced to improve sustainability measures at U.S. ports – WorkBoat

Who’s suing over Trump’s WOTUS rule? – E&E News

Navajo Nation Sues EPA Over Clean Water Act – KNAU


COVID-19 transportation website is available from TRB and the National Academies – TRB

How the Coronavirus Recovery Is Changing Cities – Bloomberg CityLab

As commuters weigh options, Lyft adds transit directions for Philly users – Philadelphia Inquirer

Air Travel and Communicable Diseases: Status of Research Efforts and Action Still Needed to Develop Federal Preparedness Plan – GAO

Why Covid-19 Stimulus Needs To Account For Future Infrastructure Risks – World Economic Forum

New Report from American Society of Civil Engineers Shows Dire Impacts of COVID-19 on Nation’s Infrastructure Sectors – ASCE (Press release)


Dual Disaster Handbook Offers Practical Guidance Amidst Chaos – AASHTO Journal

Minnesota Department of Transportation’s online meetings about construction draw surprising number of viewers
– Star Tribune

Oregon Department of Transportation to Convert 8,000 Street Lights to LEDs – Environment + Energy Leader

West Coast Utilities Offer Plan for Charging Stations Along Interstate 5 – Transport Topics

Federally Funded Research to Study, Improve Houston Wastewater System’s ResilienceBlack & Veatch (Press release)

Governors eye expanding public-private partnerships for infrastructure financing – Transportation Today

Mayors, policy leaders release playbook for infrastructure – Transportation Today


John J. Mooney, an Inventor of the Catalytic Converter, Dies at 90 – New York Times

California takes bold step to reduce truck pollution – California Air Resources Board (Press release)

Nevada to adopt California’s stricter car pollution standards, rejecting Trump rollback – Los Angeles Times


How can transportation planners better serve Black and brown people? – Seattle Times


Regulatory Rollbacks: Loss of federal water protections impacts Great Lakes region – Great Lakes Now (Commentary)


There’s more to geography than just 50 states and their capitals – Education Dive


KDOT calls for Transportation Alternatives Program project concepts – Kansas DOT (Press release)

Google Maps may offer routes connecting bikes and cars to public transit – Engadget

Columbus Has One Year to Make Its Transportation ‘Smart’ – Governing

Segway To End The Production Of Its Iconic Personal Transportation – NPR’s All Things Considered

The Impact Of Innovation On MaaS/MOD With FTA’s Vincent ValdesITE Talks Transportation Podcast

Moovit and Tranzito to bring transit information to the curb – Mass Transit


2020 Competition: Successful Communication During Disruptive, Crisis Situations – TRB (Call for entries)

TRB Webinar: Transportation Asset Management in a COVID-19 World – TRB

“Tell Us ‘Our’ Story” by Susan Shaheen – TRB

Completing the 2020 U.S. Census is key for local transportation improvements – TRB

Advancing Mode Options in Managed Lane Projects – National Operations Center of Excellence (Webinar)

Nominations Sought – New Voice In Transportation Award – Center For Urban Transportation Research


Notice of Availability of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska Integrated Activity Plan Final Environmental Impact StatementBureau of Land Management