Environmental News Highlights – July 15, 2020

A roundup of headlines curated for state transportation environmental professionals


Wicker, Bennet Introduce American Infrastructure Bonds Act – Y’all Politics

EPA wants to help cities keep their transit systems clean – WFED Radio’s Federal Drive


AASHTO Council Meeting Highlights COVID-19 Impact on Transportation – AASHTO Journal

Millions of Americans Have Moved Due to Coronavirus – CItyLab

Understanding Resilience: The Impact of COVID-19 – Lehigh University

Mayor Durkan Announces Six-Year Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposal to Aid in Equitable COVID-19 Recovery – Seattle DOT

‘Time Is Always Money’: Pandemic Lockdowns Hasten Infrastructure Work – New York Times

Bikeshare Ridership Down 44% During COVID-19 – USDOT, Bureau of Transportation Statistics (Press release)

MTA and Transit Innovation Partnership Launch COVID-19 Response Challenge to Strengthen Public Transit – Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Press release)

How Urban Transport is Changing in the Age of COVID-19 – Earth Institute/Columbia University


Make America Build Again: Reform NEPA Now – Forbes (Commentary)

President Trump, Secretary Chao to announce major policy change in AtlantaWAGA-TV


EPA battles Rover Pipeline in Ohio Supreme Court – Columbus Dispatch

Have a brilliant idea? Our research section wants to hear about it. – Iowa DOT

Meet Trevor Pawl, Michigan’s chief mobility officer Talking Michigan Transportation (Podcast)

Paving a stable pathway to future-proof transport systems – GreenBiz

It’s Time to Try Congestion Pricing in L.A. – CityLab (Opinion)

Stop Falling For The Congestion Con – Honolulu Civil Beat (Opinion)

Draft EIS unveiled for Port of Long Beach on-dock rail facility – Progressive Railroading


SoCal Experienced Worst Air Quality In A Decade Over July 4th WeekendCBSN Los Angeles

Carbon emissions in electricity fell in 2019, even as economy grew – Washington Examiner


Meet the Nuns Who Created Their Own Climate Solutions Fund – Mother Jones

Roundtable: The Urgency of Delivering Environmental Justice – and Clean Energy – in New Jersey – NJ Spotlight

Why the Larger Climate Movement Is Finally Embracing the Fight Against Environmental Racism – Time


Noise is air pollution – The Daily Item (Opinion)

Feds scrap plans to reintroduce grizzlies to North Cascades – Associated Press

Handheld platform technology uses single sample to deliver fast, easy results on water quality – Northwestern University

What’s the water quality in Alaska harbors like without cruise ship traffic? State scientists will find out this summer. – KHNS


Nashville’s Downtown Tests the City-Within-a-City Concept – CityLab


Fort Worth Bike Share hacked, users’ credit card info and names possibly compromised – Star-Telegram

New initiative opens some low-speed state roadways to healthy uses – Washington State DOT (Press release)

Caltrans Adopts Action Plan to Increase Walking, Bicycling Statewide – Caltrans (Press release)

New York as a Biking City? It Could Happen. And It Should. – New York Times (Commentary)


RFP: Measuring the Effectiveness of Public Involvement at Five State Departments of Transportation: Implementation of the NCHRP Research Report 905 Toolkit – TRB (RFP announcement)

TRB Committee on Environmental Analysis and Ecology Virtual Seminar – TRB

Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox Demonstration: Fair Value Commuting, Final Report – FTA

FHWA HEP research quarterly newsletter: Spring 2020 – FHWA

U.S. Department of Transportation Launches Summit on Pedestrian Safety – Virtual Series – FHWA

EDC News: Reduce Costs and Expedite Project Delivery with Project Bundling – FHWA


Forest Service Handbook: Operation and Maintenance of Developed Recreation Sites – US Forest Service (Notice of availability for public comment)

Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification RuleEPA (Final rule)

State DOT Support for Pollinators Becoming Year-Round Effort

The key role birds, bees, and insects play in agricultural propagation is typically celebrated once a year during events such as Pollinator Week. But for many state departments of transportation, support for such “pollinators” is becoming a year-round endeavor.

Take Idaho, for one. Idaho has more than 11.8 million acres in agricultural production and many of the state’s leading crops rely on insect pollination. For that reason, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is actively engaged in supporting ants, butterflies, beetles, and other wildlife responsible for helping pollinate flowering plants. 

For starters, the ITD follows the Idaho Pollinator Protection Plan – recently published by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture – and partners with both it and the Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife to put that plan into action. 

One example of the ITD’s use of the plan’s guidelines can be found at the Interstate 84 Westbound Bliss Rest Area. A partnership between ITD, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Native Roots LLC resulted in the creation of a new “pollinator garden” located on the grounds of that rest area grounds. 

Cathy Ford, ITD’s roadside vegetation coordinator and program manager, explained that native flowering plants – such as the cordroot beardtongue and the firecracker penstemon – were added to the garden along with native plants to fit the arid environment and provide pollinator habitat. “We hope to do another one on the eastbound side in the future,” she noted.

[Editor’s note: ITD is also a part of the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances or CCAA for the Monarch Butterfly – a national agreement established in April and supported by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials that encourages transportation and energy firms to voluntarily participate in Monarch Butterfly conservation.]

In addition to the Bliss Rest Area, ITD has several other ongoing projects to promote pollination wellness. ITD’s District 5 is working to install pollinator plantings around its office in Pocatello, which will include small-stature flowering shrubs and perennial flowers as well as some milkweed plants – the only food source for Monarch caterpillars – salvaged in April from a state irrigation ditch construction project. The focus at the District Office is to provide blooming plants from early spring through fall to best support pollinators, Ford noted. 

Pollination “wellness” efforts also impact state DOT duties such as roadside and right-of-way moving practices. The Illinois Department of Transportation for one now uses “revised” mowing practices aimed at creating and maintaining habitat for pollinators, including the monarch butterfly. Last year, the Illinois DOT began following the Illinois Monarch Project Mowing Guidelines for Pollinators, establishing July 1 to August 15 as its “most extensive” roadside and highway right-of-way mowing period.

The agency said in a statement that by timing when mowing takes place and reducing the amount of land being mowed, the Illinois DOT is encouraging the growth of critical plant species, such as milkweed.

Back in Idaho, the ITD is also involved in the Operation Wildflower Program, where districts distribute native wildflowers to volunteer groups to seed in selected areas. Partnerships between ITD and Idaho Fish and Game led to the formation of “pollinator waystations,” created by seeding roadsides with native flowers and grasses. These efforts not only support more pollinators but also beautify Idaho’s roadways and reduce maintenance costs, Ford said.

“ITD uses a variety of native seed and pollinator plant species for re-vegetation activities on construction and maintenance projects around the state,” she added.

Photo credit: Idaho Transportation Department

Florida Taps VW Settlement Funds to Expand EV Infrastructure

Florida plans to invest $8.6 million to strengthen its electric vehicle or EV infrastructure – part of $166 million worth of funds coming to the state from the Volkswagen (VW) Mitigation Trust Fund established in 2017 established between VW and the U.S. government to resolve claims that the automaker violated the Clean Air Act by knowingly selling diesel-powered vehicles that did not meet Environmental Protection Agency mobile source emission standards.

“This long-term investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure is a win for our state on multiple levels,”noted Governor Ron DeSantis (R) in a statement. “Not only will these charging stations promote reduced emissions and better air quality, they will also improve mobility and safety for the ever-increasing number of Floridians that drive electric cars.”

“The addition of these electric vehicle charging stations will not only keep pace with the dramatic increase in the use of these vehicles, but also help to reduce emissions and improve mobility across Florida’s transportation system,” added Kevin Thibault, secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation.

That $8.6 million will go towards installing 74 additional direct current or DC “fast chargers” statewide. Combined with the chargers Florida DOT is currently installing along the Florida Turnpike, a total of 104 DC fast chargers will be installed along over 1,200 miles of highway, covering the most traveled corridors in the state – an approximately 50 percent statewide increase in publicly available DC charging stations.

The governor’s office added that a total of $25 million from Florida’s VW settlement funds has been set aside specifically to install EV charging stations and that approximately $16.4 million dollar remains to install more charging stations throughout the state.

Photo credit: Florida Department of Management Services