Environmental News Highlights – July 27, 2022


Republican Energy Roundtable Elicits State DOT Insights – AASHTO Journal

On climate, Democrats and Republicans don’t inhabit the same reality – Ars Technica

Are Wetlands the Next Target on the Supreme Court’s Radar? – Bloomberg Law

The U.S. plan to avoid extreme climate change is running out of time – Washington Post (Commentary)

President Biden’s Executive Actions on Climate to Address Extreme Heat and Boost Offshore Wind – White House (Fact sheet)


Gov. Hochul extends New York’s COVID state of emergency, discusses back-to-school plans – CBS New York

US sees decline in post-pandemic plastic recycling volumes – Circular


Weather Responsive Management Strategies – FHWA Center for Accelerating Innovation

Designing longer-lasting, sustainable roadways for New Jersey – Rowan University

Support Slips for Phase Out of Gas-Powered Cars and Trucks – Route Fifty

UDOT moves million-pound bridge in Cedar City with dish soap and a bit of elbow grease – St. George News

City of Philadelphia Partners with EVgo to Support Electrification of Municipal Fleet – City of Philadelphia (Media release)


Connecticut governor announces new climate bill with plans to create zero-emission school buses – WTIC-TV

U.S. Drivers Have Lost $8 Billion to Red Lights – Can AI Traffic Signals Save Us? – LX


For State Transportation Agencies, a Long Road To Increase Diversity – Route Fifty


Michigan taps funding sources to support water infrastructure – MI Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

Funding is on the way for drought resilience and aging water infrastructure throughout Colorado – KRDO-TV

Saving the monarchs: Pollinators dictate state’s mowing approach – Hearst Midwest

Stop Ruining Starry Nights – New York Times


Improving the mechanics, restoring the 1870s feel to the Monongahela Incline – Pittsburgh Post-Gazett


T-Mobile T IoT To Support Bicycle/Motorist Safety – Telecompetitor

Cyclists Plead for Bike Lanes as Part of Waiānuenue Avenue Project – Big Island News

Rail Trail: Abandoned 1800s railroad could become linear park, trail through Durham – WRAL-TV


Renewing U.S. Infrastructure for Resilience and Equity – National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Complete the Puzzles in Planning and Environmental Linkages Practice – TRB (Webinar)


Notice To Establish the Transforming Transportation Advisory Committee (TTAC)Office of the Secretary, USDOT (Notice)

Notice To Solicit Members for the Transforming Transportation Advisory Committee (TTAC) – Office of the Secretary, USDOT (Notice)

Air Plan and Operating Permit Program Approval; TN; Electronic Notice (e-Notice) Provisions – EPA (Proposed rule)

National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants; Delegation of Authority to Washington – EPA (Proposed rule)

Air Approval Plans; Louisiana; Repeal of Excess Emissions Related Provisions – EPA (Proposed rule)

Notice To Postpone Public Hearing and Extend Public Comment Period for Supplement to the Next Generation Delivery Vehicles Acquisitions Final Environmental Impact Statement – Postal Service (Notice)

Reflectorization of Rail Freight Rolling Stock; Codifying Existing Waivers – FRA (Notice of proposed rulemaking)

Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program; California High-Speed Rail Authority Audit Report – FRA (Notice; request for comment)

Termination of the Preparation of an Air Tour Management Plan at Everglades National Park, Florida – FAA (Notice)

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Regulations for Designating Critical Habitat – Fish and Wildlife Service (Final rule)

United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board: Request for Applications for Membership – International Trade Administration (Notice)

Pipeline Safety: Meeting of the Liquid Pipeline Advisory CommitteePipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (Notice)

Rail Tie Wind Project Record of DecisionWestern Area Power Administration (Notice)

Inland Waterways Users Board Meeting NoticeArmy Corps of Engineers (Notice)

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment, Florida Trustee Implementation Group: Final Phase V.4 Florida Coastal Access Project: Restoration Plan and Supplemental Environmental Assessment; and Finding of No Significant Impact – Department of the Interior (Notice of availability)

Louisiana DOTD Initiates Tree Replacement Program

What does a transportation chief do when a group of self-described tree-huggers publicly expresses unhappiness that your highway project will wipe out a grove of oak trees the group planted decades ago?

 [Above photo by the Louisiana DOTD]

If you are Dr. Shawn Wilson, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, you recognize the conflict – and the potential public relations disaster – as an opportunity to enhance your department’s environmental capabilities. In other words, you hug the tree huggers.

“They weren’t happy about having to remove their trees,” Wilson said of Baton Rouge Green, a non-profit organization that manages and maintains more than 4,200 trees along 23 highways in the city. “But we knew it was important to get allies in this effort, and it was an opportunity for us to partner better.”

Wilson – who also serves as the 2021-2022 president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials – said this specific design-build project seeks to realign the merger of interstates 10 and 12 in Baton Rouge. That merge point is the busiest transportation spot in the city, handling 178,000 vehicles a day.

The highway project requires the removal of 256 trees that Baton Rouge Green planted in 2000.

However, instead of simply noting Baton Rouge Green’s opposition to the tree removals during the environmental phase, Wilson invited its executive director – Sage Roberts Foley – to the table. They discussed the design and construction needs of the project, alongside the environmental and financial value of the trees. During the partnering session, each group came to understand the other’s point of view.

“It’s an interesting dynamic,” Roberts Foley explained. “We’re all coming from a technical perspective. We all realize we’re coming from our own area of knowledge, but everybody respects everybody.”

Wilson said the partnership also has reinforced his belief that natural elements – plants, wildlife, and water – must be a bigger part of infrastructure projects.

“Our knowledge base has to go beyond mowing contracts. Imagine if we approached our projects from a climate perspective,” he said. “Why wouldn’t we plant trees? Why wouldn’t we teach our project managers how to prune crepe myrtles?”

Trees not only beautify an area, but they are also workhorses in the battle against carbon dioxide, absorbing about 48 pounds of carbon dioxide or CO2 per year. As the average passenger car emits more than 10,000 pounds of CO2 a year, it takes more than 200 mature trees to eliminate the CO2 emissions of one passenger vehicle.

While trees do not solve the climate change problem, they may be the most popular answer. A May 2022 Pew Research poll found that 90 percent of Americans favor a World Economic Forum movement to plant one trillion trees by 2030.

“We enjoy this quality of life because we have trees to support us,” Roberts Foley said. “They’re doing all this work – trapping carbons, lowering temperatures.”

Eventually, Louisiana DOTD and Baton Rouge Green arrived at an acceptable solution for both groups. The department plans to pay for two trees to be purchased, planted, and maintained in exchange for every tree lost to the Baton Rogue highway project. Roberts Foley said her group will invest in live oak, cypress, and magnolia trees, all of which are native species.

Roberts Foley credited Wilson for reaching out to her group and creating the partnership in the first place.

“There’s no law or rule that says we have to work together on this,” she said. “He’s stepping out into a space that no one said he has to, and he’s allowed us to have access to his leadership to change a few paradigms instead of just starting over every 20 years.”

Wilson called the partnership “a win, win, win…because we are increasing our capacity with a safer, more attractive, and climate-sensitive infrastructure.” However, he also signaled that this is not a one-off concession but the beginning of a new way of doing business.

“We have to make this part of our own process,” he said. “I told my team, ‘This isn’t the last time we’re going to plant trees.’”

Nevada DOT-Led Study Offers Wildlife Crossing Insights

A research document just released by an international pool-funded study led by the Nevada Department of Transportation provides an “authoritative review” of the most effective measures to reduce animal-vehicle collisions, improve motorist safety, and build safer wildlife crossings.  

[Above image by the Nevada DOT]
With as many as two million collisions with large mammals in the United States leading to approximately 200 human deaths every year, the review compiled, evaluated, and synthesized studies, scientific reports, journal articles, technical papers, and other publications from within the United States and beyond to determine the effectiveness of 30 different mitigation measures.

Ultimately, the report provides best management practices to reduce animal-vehicle collisions, increase habitat connectivity, and implement cost-effective solutions. Key findings include:

  • The most proven effective measures to reduce animal-vehicle collisions by over 85 percent while providing habitat connectivity remain wildlife fences in combination with wildlife overpasses and/or underpasses. Researchers now know that these measures must cover at least several miles to reduce collisions significantly with large mammal species.
  • Traditional warning signs, educational campaigns, reducing posted nighttime speed limits, and other measures are in general less than 50 percent effective. Some mitigation measures are at least 50 percent or greater effective in reducing animal-vehicle collisions, including roadside animal detection systems, nighttime lighting, and reducing the size of the population of wildlife species involved. However, none of those reduces a road’s “barrier effect” for wildlife; some even increase the barrier effect.  
  • No detailed study examines the ability to reduce animal-vehicle collisions with vehicle-based detection technology in highway situations – especially where connected and autonomous vehicles or CAVs are concerned. While there are likely benefits of this technology for reducing collisions with large mammal species, the sensors typically do not detect smaller species. Furthermore, this technology does not reduce the barrier effect of the road and traffic for wildlife.

Nova Simpson, a biological supervisor and large mammal mitigation specialist with Nevada DOT, helped manage the study.  Simpson believes it will help state and federal transportation, land management, and wildlife agencies optimize efforts to reduce animal-vehicle collisions. 

“This pooled fund study provides a very unique opportunity to synthesize current knowledge from the U.S., Canada, and internationally,” noted Simpson in a statement. “It will improve the cost-benefit analyses of mitigation measures, field test improved designs and technologies; and coordinate and provide outreach to transportation, land management, and wildlife agencies and their stakeholders. Ultimately, these efforts will help in the reduction of wildlife-vehicle collisions across the United States.”
Nevada DOT has already installed many roadway improvements to reduce potentially dangerous animal-vehicle collisions statewide. For example, in February, the agency installed four-foot high livestock fencing along stretches of U.S. 50 between State Route 341 and Chaves Road in Dayton, NV, to reduce horse-vehicle collisions.

Nevada DOT also worked with the Nevada Department of Wildlife to install nine safety crossings on Interstate 80 between Wendover and Wells and U.S. 93 north of Wells in the northeastern portion of the state four years ago.

That project – which garnered a 2019 Environmental Excellence Award from the Federal Highway Administration – covered wildlife overpasses with native soil and vegetation to replicate the natural environment, with roughly 60 miles of eight-foot-high fencing installed along both sections of the roadways redirecting and encouraging deer, mules, and other animals to use the crossing points.

The agency added that it has also installed 400 miles of tortoise fencing and 19 tortoise underpass/culvert crossings on the U.S. 95 and U.S. 93 in southern Nevada to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and tortoise road mortality.

Landscaping Key Part of RIDOT Airport Connector Project

A $12.9 million Airport Connector resurfacing project in Warwick, RI, is going to include a “massive” landscaping effort that will provide more than 400 plants and trees in both the median and the shoulder of the new roadway.

[Above photo by RIDOT]

Governor Dan McKee (D) and Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti, Jr., hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the new project for a variety of federal, state, and local officials on July 18.

The governor noted in a statement that RIDOT is blending the Airport Connector’s landscaping “seamlessly” with similar plantings around Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport to create a more “visually appealing” gateway for the state.

“For thousands of visitors to Rhode Island, the Airport Connector is Rhode Island’s welcome mat,” Governor McKee said. “These improvements will make vital safety improvements while providing a great first impression of our great state.”

The new road surface will give the 20,000 vehicles a safer riding surface when traveling the one-mile Airport Connector and three miles of Route 1 and Route 1A (known as the “Post Road”) from Coronado Road to Warwick Avenue.

In addition to new pavement, the project design eliminates hazardous drop-offs and includes new high-visibility pavement markers while improving pedestrian access conditions along Post Road with new sidewalks and pedestrian ramps.

On the I-95 southbound ramp, the project – scheduled for completion in June 2023 – will replace the median guardrail and install a grass swale, RIDOT said.

“Rhode Islanders have seen the transformation in our roads and bridges, and thanks to the new [$1.2 trillion] Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act, we will be kicking our paving program into high gear and providing the type of safe, smooth roadways Rhode Islanders and all visitors to Rhode Island expect and deserve,” noted RIDOT Director Alviti.

He added that this project is part of the $92 million RIDOT plans to spend on paving projects in 2022 as well as part of the $492 million slated for statewide paving work over the next five years.

The incorporation of landscaping efforts as part of this RIDOT roadway project is something other state departments of transportation are mimicking in other parts of the country.

For example, in November 2021, the Ohio Department of Transportation made final changes to its Opportunity Corridor Boulevard Project in Cleveland; an undertaking specifically designed to revitalize the neighborhood between I-490 and University Circle once known as the “Forgotten Triangle” due to the lack of economic activity.

The new 35-mph boulevard-type road includes a median, traffic signals, new pedestrian and bicycle paths, tree lawns, and landscaping. It also includes a collection of vehicular, pedestrian, and railroad bridges.

“Transportation is about connecting people. This isn’t just an investment in asphalt, concrete, and steel, this is an investment in people, business, and opportunity,” said Governor Mike DeWine (R) at the time.

Connecticut DOT Breaks Ground on Active Transportation Trail

The Connecticut Department of Transportation, along with other state and local officials, recently hosted a groundbreaking ceremony (seen above) for the Putnam Bridge Trail Connections between Wethersfield and Glastonbury across the Connecticut River. 

[Above photo by the Connecticut DOT]

When completed in the fall of 2023, the Putnam Bridge Trail Connections project will provide non-motorized access across the Connecticut River by linking the shared used path on the Putnam Bridge to Great Meadow Road in Wethersfield and Naubuc Avenue in Glastonbury.

The project will also install sidewalks will also be installed on both sides of Naubuc Avenue, with additional connections planned for the Goodwin College trails in East Hartford.  

“Finishing the current gaps to the bridge allows the public to choose an active mode of transportation and safely cross the river. When completed, residents and visitors can enjoy the businesses and recreational activities on both sides of the river,” said Connecticut DOT Commissioner Joe Giulietti in a statement.

“The Putnam Bridge brings vehicles over the Connecticut River between Wethersfield and Glastonbury, and by the end of next year, it will also be accessible to pedestrians and cyclists,” he added. “This is a great project that connects communities and helps keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe.”

[Editor’s note: Connecticut DOT’s Giulietti recently received the Distinguished Service Award from the American Public Transportation Association for his 50-plus years of service in the transportation industry. He is one of nine APTA award recipients in 2022 across various categories.]

The agency noted that construction costs for the Putnam Bridge Trail Connections project are approximately $8.2 million and are 100 percent state funded.

State departments of transportation across the country are involved in similar active transportation trail projects.

For example, the Nevada Department of Transportation recently hosted an opening ceremony for a new multi-use trail at Kershaw-Ryan State Park in Caliente, NV.

That $1.36 million project along SR-317 – which took under four months to complete – received funds from the city of Caliente with matching federal dollars from the Transportation Alternatives Fund administered by the Nevada DOT, which also designed the trail project. Work included a chip seal, restripe, and new signage on Clover St. from SR-317 to Depot Ave. 

“Nevada DOT really went the extra mile, both literally and figuratively,” said Jeff Fontaine, executive director of the Lincoln County Regional Development Authority, said in a statement. “They worked really hard to make sure that this project was something the community of Lincoln County and the city could afford. They capped the cost of the project for the county and the city.”

Meanwhile, a team of Utah State University researchers recently explored how to use the state’s network of historic canal trails as an active transportation solution. That study is poised to help the Utah Department of Transportation and community leaders make decisions about building canal paths and trails.

The Utah DOT funded the university’s research project – entitled “Active Transportation Facilities in Canal Corridors” – that the American Society of Civil Engineers subsequently published in June.

By reviewing case studies of existing canal trails – such as the Murdock Canal Trail in Utah County and the Highline Trail in Cache County – and interviewing stakeholders like canal operators and local planners, the USU team found there are many potential benefits for communities who want to build canal paths and trails.