Environmental News Highlights – August 3, 2022


Reconciliation Bill Includes Climate, Transportation Funds – AASHTO Journal

USDOT Outlines Infrastructure Funding Availability – Transport Topics

Transit groups bemoan Dems’ car-centric climate deal – Politico

EV tax credits are back – and bigger – in new Senate climate bill – The Verge

Experts to Congress: Restore EPA Enforcement Staffing and Funding for Environmental Justice – Government Executive

Biden Administration Announces Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funding to Make Public Transportation Rail Stations Accessible for All – FTA (Media release)


Mandatory masks are back on BART, in fourth policy change since April – Mercury News


NREL Plans to Study Airport Electrification for FAA – AASHTO Journal

CT Transit pulls entire electric bus fleet – WTNH-TV

TxDOT proposes to raise portions of I-10 prone to flooding – KPRC-TV

Bridge designed to avoid flooded road opens on NC coast – WSOC-TV

New York moving ahead with ‘congestion pricing’ toll plan – AP

MetroLink flooding damage estimated at $18 million or more – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Is This the Future of Urban Resilience? – CityLab

Long Island Rail Road ends development of battery-electric equipment – Trains


N.J. will chip in up to $4K to help you buy an electric vehicle, Murphy says – NJ.com

Tailpipe Dreams? Big Cities Plot the Death of Car Reliance – Government Technology

Air quality can be better for active commuters than drivers, research shows – University of Leicester

Uber expanding electric car service – The Hill


Chicago made its Southeast Side a polluter’s haven, violating civil rights – Grist

Could the US highways that split communities on racial lines finally fall? – The Guardian

National Highways: Analysis of Available Data Could Better Ensure Equitable Pavement Condition – GAO (Media release)


Ohio DOT Launches New Litter Control Program – AASHTO Journal

Nevada DOT-Led Study Offers Wildlife Crossing Insights – AASHTO Journal

DeWine announces plans for new wetland projects in 22 Ohio counties – WKEF-TV

A federal funding program has helped clean up the Great Lakes. Could it work for the Mississippi River? – Wisconsin Public Radio

Meet the Canine Officers Guarding American Agriculture – New York Times

Biden-Harris Administration Announces $132 Million for EPA’s National Estuary Program from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – EPA (Media release)


How SoCal’s Automobile Club Paved the Way For Road Development in the Name of Historic Preservation – KCET Radio

How Gilded Age Bicyclists Paved the Way for the Modern Highway System – Governing

As e-bike use grows, Pennsylvania looks to accommodate riders in state parks, forests – Pocono Record (Commentary)


How One Suburban New Jersey Town Is Addressing Pedestrian And Bicycle Safety – Cranford Radio (Podcast)

Bolt Mobility has vanished, leaving e-bikes, unanswered calls behind in several US cities – Tech Crunch

As Riders Return to the Streets, Cities Turn to Scooters – Government Technology

These brilliant maps helps you see – and hear – noise pollution in your city – Fast Company


Research for Equitable Infrastructure Investments – National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.


FY 2022 Competitive Funding Opportunity: All Stations Accessibility Program – FTA (Notice)

Clean Air Act Grant; Ventura County Air Pollution Control District; Opportunity for Public Hearing – EPA (Notice)

Clean Air Act Grant; Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District; Opportunity for Public HearingEPA (Notice)

Air Plan Approval; Arizona, California, Nevada; Emissions Statements Requirements – EPA (Final rule)

Proposed Consent Decree, Clean Air Act Citizen Suit – EPA (Notice; request for public comment)

Community Wildfire Defense Grant Program – Forest Service (Notice)

National Boating Safety Advisory Committee; August 2022 Virtual Meeting – Coast Guard (Notice)

Notice of Segregation of Public Land for the Esmeralda Solar Projects, Esmeralda County, Nevada – Bureau of Land Management (Notice)

FHWA Issues PROTECT Formula Program Guidance

The Federal Highway Administration issued guidance on July 29 for a new $7.3 billion in formula funding created by the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA enacted in November 2021 to help states and local communities better prepare for and respond to extreme weather events such as wildfires and flooding.

[Above photo by the KYTC]

The Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation or “PROTECT” program provides funding over five years to help states focus on resilience planning, making resilience improvements to existing transportation assets and evacuation routes, and addressing at-risk highway infrastructure. 

In general, eligible projects include highway and transit projects, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and port facilities including those that help improve evacuations or disaster relief. States are encouraged to work with regional and local partner organizations to prioritize transportation and emergency response improvements, as well as address vulnerabilities, noted Stephanie Pollack, deputy administrator for the Federal Highway Administration.

“We see the effects of climate change and extreme weather play out across the country every week, with extreme temperatures and rainfall and resulting flooding and wildfires that damage and in some cases destroy roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure,” she said in a statement. “The PROTECT Formula Program will help make transportation infrastructure more resilient to current and future weather events and at the same time make communities safer during these events.”

FHWA said eligible resilience improvements could involve adapting existing transportation infrastructure or new construction to keep communities safe by bolstering infrastructure’s ability to withstand extreme weather events and other physical hazards that are becoming more common and intense. Eligible project choices may include the use of natural or green infrastructure that acts as a “buffer” against future storm surges and provide flood protection, as well as aquatic ecosystem restoration.

PROTECT projects can also help improve the resilience of transportation networks that serve traditionally underserved and underrepresented communities, particularly during natural disasters and evacuations, the agency noted.
FHWA added that its new guidance applies to the PROTECT formula program only, with the agency planning to release a notice of funding opportunity for the program’s discretionary grant initiative later this year.

State departments of transportation consider formula funding to be a critical aspect of national efforts to improve infrastructure resiliency.

Edwin Sniffen, deputy director of highways for the Hawaii Department of Transportation, highlighted that viewpoint in a Senate Committee on Appropriations hearing in May 2021.

Sniffen – who also serves as chair of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Committee on Transportation System Security and Resilience – said that traditional formula funding processes play a key role in helping states implement resiliency plans.

“When considering funding for resilience, the current core formula program eligibility could be expanded to consider resilience improvements,” he said. “Or formula funding could be set aside to focus on resilience-related planning, coordination, and evacuation; or, a discretionary grant program for adaptation strategies could be established.”

Sniffen added that additional funding and an expedited project delivery process would “greatly aid” getting more resilience initiatives out of the theoretical stages and into practice on the nation’s streets, bridges, runways, and harbors.

“The Hawaii DOT is currently approaching building resilience into our systems using a variety of approaches, including pursuing green infrastructure such as carbon mineralized concrete and adding recycled plastics to asphalt mixes,” he noted. “Investing in resilient infrastructure on a federal level will enable us and other transportation agencies to implement better and greener infrastructure.”

State DOTs Give an Assist to the Birds

Across the country, state departments of transportation provide support to a wide variety of efforts aimed at supporting numerous bird species and their habitats.

[Above photo by the NCDOT]

For example, in July and August every year, the North Carolina Department of Transportation temporarily lower speed limits from 55 mph to 20 mph on the William B. Umstead Bridge – locally known as the old Manns Harbor Bridge – at dusk and dawn during the roosting period of purple martin bird flocks.

NCDOT noted in a statement that it has collaborated with the Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society since 2007 to educate the public about the purple martin flocks, to protect both the birds and motorists. From late July through August, the west end of the bridge becomes home to as many as 100,000 purple martins as they prepare for their annual migration to Brazil. The birds roost under the bridge at night, departing at dawn to feed and returning at sunset. The flock is so large during its peak that it is visible on radar.

To protect those birds, NCDOT activates flashing lights and lowers the speed limit on the bridge at sunrise and sunset. Law enforcement monitors speed limits on the bridge to allow motorists and birds safe passage across the sound. Since NCDOT installed those lights and lowered speed limits, the Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society has seen a dramatic decline in bird deaths around the bridge.

On a broader basis, NCDOT initiated a mitigation program in April operated by its Division of Aviation to reduce the risk of wildlife hazards by providing a variety of training and support options for both airports and aircraft.

The agency said North Carolina airports average at least one bird or other wildlife strikes upon aircraft per day, which can cause significant damage. For example, in 2018, an aircraft landing at a general aviation airport sustained more than $800,000 in damage when it struck two of six white-tailed deer crossing the runway.

“Flocks of birds taking flight, deer crossing runways, and other such hazards can cause serious damage to property and even loss of life,” noted Rajendra Kondapalli, the program’s manager, in a statement. “Our program focuses on reducing that risk and increasing safety for aircraft that fly in and out of airports across our state.”

Meanwhile, the Idaho Transportation Department helped Girl Scout Troop 1806 and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) install homemade birdhouses near the US-95 McArthur Lake project south of Naples.

Photo from ITD

ITD Project Manager Carrie Ann Hewitt has consulted IDFG biologists through the design of the project, which includes realigning one mile of the highway near the lake to make the existing curves safer for drivers and to elevate the highway where it dips down to the water. Elevating US-95 will also allow wildlife to pass underneath to access the IDFG McArthur Lake Wildlife Management Area, ITD noted in a statement.

The agency expects to start construction on this roadway project in 2023 and 2024, with tree thinning starting in 2022 to prepare for the road’s realignment.

Hewitt – a co-leader for the Girl Scout troop – has been researching the habitat needs of the mountain bluebird, flocks of which reside near the project, and reached out to IDFG to see about improving its habitat.

“Mountain bluebird populations are struggling,” Hewitt noted. “The girls found that cowbirds actually swap out eggs with the bluebirds, and the bluebirds unknowingly hatch the wrong offspring.”

The troop built 18 birdhouses with entrances too small for the cowbirds to prevent that from happening, with IDFG suggesting that they install them near McArthur Lake due to the recent thinning, along with another site near Boundary Creek.

Maine DOT Issues Infrastructure Protection Grants

The Maine Department of Transportation recently awarded $20 million in grants to 13 local infrastructure projects to improve local resilience against climate effects such as flooding, rising sea levels, and extreme storms.

[Above photo by the Maine DOT]

That funding comes from a Maine Infrastructure Adaptation Fund established by Governor Janet Mills (D) in December 2021 to help municipalities protect vital infrastructure from the effects of climate change.

“Climate change is impacting nearly every facet of our lives, and Maine communities are on the front lines,” explained Gov. Mills in a statement.

“These investments will help municipalities across the state strengthen their infrastructure to better deal with the impacts of climate change, improving the safety of their towns and the Maine people who call them home,” she said.

“The effects of climate change present significant challenges for our vulnerable infrastructure,” added Bruce Van Note, commissioner of the Maine DOT.

“Our team, led by Chief Engineer Joyce Taylor, has been working with other agencies and municipalities to help find ways to mitigate these impacts,” he said. “The resources provided by the Maine Infrastructure Adaptation Fund will help make real differences in these communities.”

That fund is part of the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan approved by the state legislature that is investing nearly $1 billion issued to Maine from the American Rescue Plan – enacted in March 2021 – to “improve the lives of Maine people and families, help businesses, create good-paying jobs, and build an economy poised for future prosperity.”

It draws heavily on recommendations from the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee and the State’s 10-Year Economic Development Strategy, the agency said, “transforming them into real action to improve the lives of Maine people and strengthen the economy.”

ETAP Podcast: Electric Vehicles and State DOTs

This episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast talks with Dr. Shihab Kuran (seen above) about the key role state departments of transportation play in helping establish a national electric vehicle or EV charging network.

Kuran is the co-founder and CEO of Power Edison as well as co-founder and executive chairman of its sister company EV Edison – companies offering innovative renewable energy, EV charging, and mobile energy storage solutions for the grid.

Kuran explains a “vision” for a peaceful world with universal access to clean and sustainable sources of energy, food, and water drives his efforts in the EV sector. In this ETAP podcast episode, Kuran discusses a variety of approaches and solutions for meeting the electric grid demand generated by EV charging – how state DOTs can support those efforts.

To listen to this podcast episode, click here.