Environmental News Highlights – July 7, 2021


House Passes ‘INVEST in America’ Reauthorization Bill – AASHTO Journal

U.S. Department of Transportation Announces $905.25 Million in Proposed Awards for the FY 2021 Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) Grant Program – USDOT


Secretary Buttigieg Speaks at NYC Penn Station on Infrastructure, Hudson Tunnels – USDOT

Maryland Awards Climate Resilience Grants to Seven Communities – Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Massachusetts Senate passes $300 million transportation infrastructure bill – Boston Herald

Will Miami’s Growth Be Cut Short by Sea-Level Rise? – CityLab

Infrastructure deal offers far-reaching ag benefits – Agri-Pulse

Infrastructure spending has always involved social engineering – The Conversation (Commentary)


Nine State DOTs Win ‘Low-No’ Emission Grants from FTA – AASHTO Journal

As car-centric Cape Cod tries to cut emissions, transportation is a challenge – Energy News Network

Tennessee Valley Authority Considers Replacing Coal With Gas – AP


Flood relocation programs more disruptive to those who don’t live in white or affluent neighborhoods – Rice University

The U.S. Transportation Department’s Quest to Become a Driver of Justice – CityLab

Can public-private collaboration boost transport equity? – Cities Today


A watershed moment: How Boston’s Charles River went from polluted to pristine – Grist

L.A. Is Now a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Here’s Why It’s a Big Deal – Los Angeles Magazine

A wake-up call for water resilience in the West – The Hill (Opinion)


National Parks Could Receive Billions For Repairs From Transportation Bill – National Parks Traveler


Making the Route 1 Corridor More Walkable and Safer for Pedestrians, Bicyclists – Hyattsville Wire

GO Transit increases walking and cycling access to GO Stations – Metrolinx

Capital Bikeshare gears up for expansion as commuters resume pre-pandemic routines Washington Post

Paddle Safe Twin Ports: A data-based website keeping Lake Superior paddlers safe – KBJR-TV

Q&A: North Park’s bikeway project should be complete this month. How will it impact the community? – San Diego Union-Tribune


How We Move Matters: Exploring the Connections between New Transportation and Mobility Options and Environmental Health–A Workshop – TRB

TRB Webinar: Are We All in the Same Boat? Involving Communities in Coastal Resilience – TRB

TRB Webinar: Public Transit as a Climate Solution – TRB

Deploying Transportation Resilience Practices in State DOTs – NCHRP

TTI Publishes 2021 Urban Mobility Report – Texas A&M Transportation Institute


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

Approval of Air Quality Implementation Plans; New York; Infrastructure Requirements for the 2015 Ozone, National Air Quality – EPA (Proposed rule)

Approval of Air Quality Implementation Plans; New York; 2011 Periodic Emission Inventory SIP for the Ozone Nonattainment Areas – EPA (Proposed rule)

Air Plan Approval; Michigan; Partial Approval and Partial Disapproval for Infrastructure SIP Requirements for the 2015 Ozone NAAQS – EPA (Proposed rule)

Clean Air Act Advisory Committee (CAAAC): Notice of Meeting – EPA (Notice)

Notice of Availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Blue Valley Land Exchange, Grand and Summit Counties, CO – Bureau of Land Management (Notice)

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for Proposed Wind Energy Facility Offshore VirginiaBureau of Ocean Energy Management (Notice; request for comments)

Minnesota DOT Discusses Transportation Impact of Climate Change at Hearing

Climate change is causing “real, costly impacts” to the nation’s transportation infrastructure, according to Margaret Anderson Kelliher (seen above), commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

[Above image via Select Committee on Climate Crisis broadcast]

Anderson Kelliher – who also serves as chair of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Committee on the Environment and Sustainability – made her comments June 30 in testimony before the House of Representatives Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

“According to the Minnesota State Climatology Office, average temperatures have increased by nearly three degrees Fahrenheit statewide, with our winter temperatures are warming even faster, resulting in fewer nights of extreme cold,” she explained. “Extreme heat events are also a major safety problem – during the recent extreme heat just a few weeks ago, we saw at least 43 incidents of pavements buckling or exploding.”

Anderson Kelliher added that Minnesota is also experiencing more damaging rains due to climate change, including a 65 percent increase in the number of three-inch rain events and the frequency of “mega rain” events: widespread rains over six inches that she said “are now four times more frequent than” compared to the previous 30 years.

“Heavy precipitation directly causes flooding that closes and damages roads and bridges; disrupts travel and commerce; creates slope and embankments failures from saturated soils, and can lead to debris flows that block or damage culverts and bridges,” she said – literally in some cases “washing away” roads and bridges.

To counteract those issues, Anderson Kelliher said the Minnesota DOT is working to make the state’s transportation system more resilient.

In particular, the agency is developing a Statewide Extreme Flood Vulnerability Analysis tool to improve processes for evaluating future flood risks to bridges, large culverts, and pipes. That helps the Minnesota DOT make “better data-informed decisions” about roadway projects based on the likelihood and magnitude of climate risks, she said – managing factors such as evacuation routes, access to medical services, freight needs, and detour length.

To reduce the impact of vehicle emissions on the environment, Anderson Kelliher said her agency launched a project in 2019 called “Pathways to Decarbonizing Transportation” to engage citizens and businesses in a variety of carbon reduction efforts.

“That resulted in the state pursuing low- and zero-emissions vehicle standards, creating incentives for electric vehicles [EVs], including climate change in the environmental review process, and supported development of low carbon biofuels,” she said.

The Minnesota DOT followed that up in 2020 with the creation of the Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council – a group of public, private, nonprofit, and citizen leaders as well as elected officials to advise the agency on strategies to reduce carbon pollution, promote economic development, and support equity.

“We believe that this type of ongoing partnership between the public and private sector can be a model to help avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change,” she said. “This council is helping on several initiatives, including setting a goal to reduce vehicle miles traveled, promoting electric vehicles and EV charging, re-evaluating our approaches to congestion, and de-prioritizing adding lane capacity, which can not only induce demand but also adds new costs to our woefully-underfunded system.”

Anderson Kelliher added that similar efforts at the federal level could help reduce climate change risks on a broader basis. To that end, she recommended the following during her testimony:

  • Modernizing federal climate risk standards and tools, including updates to the 100-year federal flood risk standard
  • Encouraging the construction of more EV recharging, transit, and pedestrian/bicycling infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions nationwide
  • Encouraging more federal investment in improving the accuracy of travel demand modeling to ensure more accurate travel forecasts and better understanding of investment impacts.

“Those tools will help projects achieve performance targets and make cost-effective, sustainable decisions in place of general-purpose lane expansion,” she said.

ETAP Podcast: Revisiting Roadside Vegetation Management

In this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast, Matthew Quirey (seen above) – a  landscape design and research fellow with The Ray – explains how roadside landscapes, more often termed the “right-of-way,” are now being viewed as “habitat assets” instead of maintenance burdens among state departments of transportation.

[Above photo via The Ray]

“In general, we are thinking more about how right-of-ways are being redesigned to bring habitats back together – to serve not just as transportation corridors but ecosystem corridors as well,” he explained on the podcast.

In his work for The Ray – a public-private venture devoted to roadway technology testing along Interstate 85 in West Georgia – Quirey is studying how state DOTs are viewing roadside landscapes with a “stronger interest” toward ecological impacts, creation of wildlife habitat, and increased human well-being.

That includes how right-of-ways can serve as habitats for pollinators, contribute to better stormwater management in order to lessen pollution risks for nearby streams and rivers – incorporating sustainability and resiliency factors within more “environmentally sensitive” planning and design processes. To listen to this podcast, click here.