Environmental News Highlights – August 11, 2021


AASHTO Lauds Passage of Bipartisan Infrastructure BillAASHTO News Release

Fuel Efficiency, Electric Vehicle Mandates on the Horizon – AASHTO Journal

Booker Reintroduces Sweeping Environmental Justice Bill – Senator Cory Booker (Media release)


More workers are returning to the office. The pandemic-era commute might be changed forever. – Washington Post

Governor mandates vaccinations for transit workers as New York’s Covid cases surge – CNBC


Revived Trump reforms in infrastructure bill could be freight-project windfall – American Shipper


Pete Buttigieg And Michael Regan On What The Infrastructure Deal Does For The Climate – NPR’s All Things Considered

Climate in the infrastructure bill: A substantial investment in resilience. – New York Times


New Mexico to impose new rules on vehicle emissions, aims to curb greenhouse gas – Carlsbad Current-Argus

Chicago Bus Shelters Monitor Air Quality – ITS International

Old and new solutions pave way to net-zero emissions farming, studies show – Mongabay


Governors aim to reduce racial disparities in traffic enforcement, safety – WTOP Radio

Cut in infrastructure money for communities hurt by highways disappoints advocates – NBC News


AASHTO Suggests Changes to Section 401 of Clean Water Act – AASHTO Journal

19 AGs to EPA: Roll back Trump’s clean-water rule ASAP – Reuters

The Darker Side of Tree-Planting Pledges – CityLab

Governor DeWine Announces $5 Million in H2Ohio Grants for Ohio River Basin Wetland Projects – Office of the Governor, State of Ohio (Media release)


How Cleveland’s ‘Guardians of Traffic’ Made the Big Leagues – CityLab


Moving Caltrans Into The Future Of Active Transportation – ITE Talks Transportation (Podcast)

Drivers must now move over when passing people walking and on bikes – NJ.com

After voted ‘Most Dangerous City for Driving,’ Dallas embraces Vision Zero goal to eliminate fatal crashes – Spectrum News 1

Here’s how e-scooter unicorn Bird plans to use geofencing tech to protect pedestrians – Silicon Canals

Transit Leaders Praise Innovative On-Demand Programs – Government Technology

Agency of Transportation Awards $3.3 Million in Bicycle and Pedestrian Grants – Vermont Agency of Transportation (Media release)

Hawaii DOT & Partners Launch 12th Annual Statewide Pedestrian Safety Month – Hawaii DOT (Media Release)


Racial Equity Addendum to Critical Issues in Transportation – TRB

TRB Webinar: LED Roadway Lighting’s Effect on Driver Sleep Health and Alertness – TRB

Environmental Resilience of Transportation Infrastructure Should Be Assessed for All Federally Funded Projects, Says New Report – National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (Media release)


Notice of Public Meetings Regarding ‘‘Waters of the United States’’; Establishment of a Public Docket; Request for Recommendations – Corps of Engineers and EPA (Notice; announcement of public meeting dates and solicitation of pre-proposal feedback)

Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category. – EPA (Notice of rulemaking initiative)

Public Hearing for Revised 2023 and Later Model Year Light-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards – EPA (Notification of public hearing)

FY 2021 Competitive Funding Opportunity: Passenger Ferry Grant ProgramFTA (Notice of funding opportunity)

Notice of Intent To Prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program, Alaska – Bureau of Land Management (Notice of intent)

Marine Mammals; Incidental Take During Specified Activities; North Slope, Alaska – Fish and Wildlife Service (Final rule)

Alaska Region Supplement to Forest Service Manual 2720: Special Uses; Outfitting and Guiding Permit for Strictly Point-To-Point Commercial Transportation To, From, and Within the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center Subunit of the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area – Forest Service (Extension of comment period)

Notice of Availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary; Announcement of Public Meetings – NOAA (Notice of virtual public meetings; correction)

Wyoming Regulatory Program – Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (Proposed rule; opening of public comment period and opportunity for public hearing on proposed amendment)

TRB Report: Include Resilience in Project Benefit-Cost Analysis

A new report issued by the Transportation Research Board calls on the U.S. Department of Transportation to include resilience factors within the benefit-cost analysis or BCA for infrastructure project justifications.

[Above photo by the Ohio DOT]

TRB’s report – entitled Investing in Transportation Resilience: A Framework for Informed Choices –  also recommends that resilience be measured and assessed using an “analytic framework” that incorporates detailed inventories of existing and planned assets, such as roads, runways, bridges, docks, and rail lines. It also seeks to include resilience within assessments of the characteristics and likelihood of future natural hazards, along with predictions of the vulnerability of the assets and their critical functions to those hazards.

[Editor’s note: In a related effort, the U.S. General Accounting Office recently issued a “Disaster Resilience Framework” to serve as an analytical guide for federal actions aimed at promoting resilience to natural disasters and changes in the climate across many policy areas, including transportation.]

The report – sponsored by USDOT and undertaken by the Transportation Resilience Metrics Committee – recommends that Congress fund a further study to define the types of data that transportation agencies need for resilience analysis, identify potential sources for this data, and explore how to make that data “more suitable” for analysis.

“Storms, floods, droughts, and other natural hazards are combining with sea-level rise and other effects of climate change to disrupt the functioning of the nation’s transportations systems,” said Joseph Schofer, professor of civil and environmental engineering and associate dean at Northwestern University, in a statement.

“Investing in resilience will require us to make carefully considered choices about how we spend money today to generate benefits that may not be realized until long into the future,” added Schofer, who authored TRB’s report.

The report also stressed that to make resilience a “routine and deliberate element” of transportation investments, Congress should consider requiring all federally funded projects involving long-lived assets to undergo “well-defined” resilience assessments that account for the risks from natural disasters and changing climate conditions.

State departments of transportation are also ramping up their focus on resilience strategies.

For example, a panel of state DOT executives and managers – as well as a team leader from the Federal Highway Administration – shared their insights on infrastructure resilience via a peer exchange during the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials 2021 virtual spring meeting in May.

“We are seeing events such as wildfires, flooding, and hurricanes becoming more extreme and occurring more often,” explained Edwin Sniffen, deputy director of highways for the Hawaii Department of Transportation. “We are also seeing more ‘man-made’ issues, too, such as cybersecurity, terrorist attacks, and the like. So it is super important to make our [infrastructure] systems more resilient.”

Sniffen also stressed that formula funding mechanisms are critical to building more resilience into the nation’s transportation system during a hearing on May 13 before the Senate Committee on Appropriations. “When considering funding for resilience, the current core formula program eligibility could be expanded to consider resilience improvements,” he said during his testimony. “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. [However] AASHTO generally recommends avoiding new plans, programs, and analysis processes as this increases cost and burden to state DOTs.”

Connecticut DOT Helping Battle Spotted Lanternfly Invasion

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to battle an invasion of the “spotted lanternfly,” which could severely affect the state’s agricultural crops – particularly apples, grapes, and hops, and ornamental trees.

[Above photo via Wikimedia Commons]

The spotted lanternfly – formally known as Lycorma delicatul – is not actually a fly, but an exotic and invasive sap-feeding planthopper that feeds on more than 70 species of plants. The preferred “host” of the spotted lanternfly is a plant known as “tree-of-heaven” or “Ailanthus altissima,” which itself is highly invasive and abundant along highways, in urban areas, and along the edges of agricultural and industrial areas.

The agency said in a statement that the concern is that the feeding of spotted lanternfly nymphs and adults on sap from trees and vines weakens the entire plant, while the excretions from these leaf-hopping insects encourage the growth of black sooty mold, thereby reducing photosynthesis.

As a result, agricultural crops face reduced yields due to the lanternfly’s feeding on fruit and general weakening of plants, if not destroying them outright.

To help combat the spread of this invasive species, the Connecticut DOT is spreading the word via informational posters and flyers at its rest stops about the spotted lanternfly invasion and is helping place traps in highway right-of-ways to help gauge the spread of this invasive pest. The agency added that it is training Connecticut field personnel in identification, reporting, and proper precautions to halt the spread of the lanternfly.

The agency also noted that during the months of August through November the adults of this pest can attach themselves or “hitchhike” on vehicles and trailers, so it is asking travelers to check their vehicles the lanternfly, and – if found – to take a picture, destroy the insect, and report it to The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

State departments of transportation across the country are regularly engaged in a variety of efforts to beat back invasive insect and plant species.

For example, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet highway crews engage in an annual effort – usually at the beginning of March – to control the spread of invasive plant species that can damage transportation infrastructure as well as interfere with motorist “line-of-sight.”

Such efforts sometimes involve usual tactics, as well. For instance, the California Department of Transportation launched a pilot project in February 2020 that used 300 goats for nearly a month to help remove invasive non-native weeds such as bur clover, mustard, and thistle from a 20-acre site adjacent to Highway 1 just north of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. Instead of relying on herbicides, Caltrans said the goal of this project is to deploy a “more sustainable approach” to revitalizing the native coastal prairie adjacent to a highway realignment project originally completed in 2017.

AASHTO’s ETAP Podcast: Monarch Butterfly Conservation with Kris Gade

Once ubiquitous in North America, the Monarch’s striking orange and black wings are likely the first image that comes to mind when picturing a butterfly. The Monarch is famed not only for its beauty but also for its role in a healthy ecosystem- the pollinators are a critical support to some uniquely American landmarks: from the Great Smoky Mountains to Zion National Park. Yet, over the past few decades, the Monarch has experienced a dramatic dip in population.

As the eastern members of this iconic species prepare for their annual migration to Mexico, we’ll sit down with Arizona Department of Transportation’s Roadside Resource Specialist, Kris Gade– one of the professionals leading the charge for Monarch conservation.