Environmental News Highlights – September 8, 2021


State DOTs Highlight Benefits of $1.2T Infrastructure Bill – AASHTO Journal

‘On Time with Tymon’ Discusses the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – Transportation TV

Lawmakers vow action after Ida floods Gulf Coast, Northeast – AP

As Congress Begins to Draft Infrastructure Reconciliation Legislation, Senate and House Have Competing Visions for the Future of Renewable and Clean Energy Tax Credits Novogradac

These charts show which states will get the most money from Biden’s infrastructure bill – CNBC


FMCSA extends historic 50 state COVID-19 Hours of Service waiver, fuel haulers now covered – CDLLife

Majority of NJ Transit riders headed back to work, survey says. Do they feel safe getting there? – NJ.com


Colorado Infrastructure Projects Include Emphasis On Green, Rail, Transit, Electric Vehicles – KCNC-TV

Ida exposes weak infrastructure as storms grow stronger – E&E News

Missouri Department of Transportation testing use of recycled materials in roads – KDOE-TV

Climate Change Is an Infrastructure Problem – Map of Electric Vehicle Chargers Shows One Reason Why Governing


Electric Vehicle Sales Are Booming In The U.S., But The Southeast Lags – WFAE Radio

30 kph max: Paris shrinks speed limit to protect climate – AP

Colorado DOT Pledges To Track Air Quality As Part Of I-270 Rebuild, But Pollution-Choked Commerce City Residents Are Skeptical – Colorado Public Radio

Port of San Diego Partners with Maritime Administration to Study Eelgrass Carbon Capture – Times of San Diego

Reliability problems stall transition to electric buses in Minnesota – Minnesota Reformer


Judge Vacates Trump’s Rollback Of Protections For Streams, Wetlands – WESA Radio

Ohio plans to discontinue use of controversial road deicer AquaSalina – Columbus Dispatch

Lake George Association unveils new tool for reporting water quality concerns – Adirondack Daily Enterprise


Documenting the Last Pay Phones in America – CityLab


With e-bike use growing, Port Authority of Allegheny County will allow them on transit vehicles – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The battle over a pedestrian-bicycle trail plan continues in The Village – KFORTV

California will offer e-bike rebates with new Electric Bicycle Incentive Project – Spectrum News 1

Building Back Bicycle-Friendly – The American Prospect

Tell Austin Where To Build Sidewalks, Bike Paths And Urban Trails – KUT Radio


Transportation Planning to the Extreme for Weather and Climate Change – TRB

Racial Equity Addendum to Critical Issues in Transportation – TRB

TRB Represented on “Future of Infrastructure” Webinar – TRB


Notice of Intent To Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Interstate 405 ExpressLanes Project, in Los Angeles County, California – FHWA (Notice)

Notice of Funding Opportunity for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements – FRA (Notice)

Public Meeting of the National Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council (NEPEC) Federal Advisory Committee – U.S. Geological Survey, (Notice of public meeting (via teleconference))

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Sunrise Wind Farm Project on the Northeast Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (Notice)

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Sunrise Wind Farm Project on the Northeast Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf; Extension of Comment Period and Corrections – Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (Notice)

Safety Zones; Delaware River Dredging, Marcus Hook, PA – Coast Guard (Interim final rule; request for comments)

National Navigation Safety Advisory Committee Meeting Coast Guard (Notice of federal advisory
committee meeting)

Public Meeting/Notice of Availability for Proposed Air Tour Management Plans at Bandelier National Monument; Great Smoky Mountains National Park; Arches National Park; Glacier National Park; Canyonlands National Park; Natural Bridges National Monument; and Bryce Canyon National Park – FAA (Notice)

Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards for Model Years 2024–2026 Passenger Cars and Light TrucksNHTSA (Notice of proposed rulemaking)

MnDOT Trying to Cut Back on Its Salt

When it snows in Minnesota, drivers want the roads and bridges cleared – now.

However, simply dumping mass amounts of salt on the roads is an outdated practice for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Today, the agency is taking a new strategic – and more environmentally friendly – approach to how it removes snow and ice.

[Above photo by the Minnesota DOT]

“We want to minimize what we use,” explained Sue Lodahl, Minnesota DOT’s acting state maintenance engineer. “It’s about using the right chemical at the right time in the right location.”

During the 2020-2021 winter season, the agency spent $116 million and used more than 800 plow trucks and 354 million pounds of salt to combat 53 inches of snowfall, according to the department’s Annual Winter Maintenance Report. The salt usage was down about 15 percent from the previous year.

[To learn more about snow and ice fighting tactics, check out the winter operations podcast put together by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Snow and Ice Pooled Fund Cooperative Program, known as “SICOP.”]

The Minnesota DOT has also published “Winter Maintenance Best Practices,” a guide for using salt, with an emphasis on sustainable practices. “MnDOT seeks to reduce the use of salt on roadways while maintaining a high level of performance with regard to level of service recovery in winter operations,” the guide states.

The department’s Salt Solutions Program helps operations personnel make good decisions about selecting the best and safest materials for clearing the roads. As a result, the Minnesota DOT’s maintenance crews now have an arsenal of tools to fight snow and ice – including salt, potassium acetate, calcium chloride, sodium acetate and even beet juice.

[Editor’s note: The Minnesota DOT also began testing the technology on 10 of its snowplows in January that allows operators to activate digital highway signs to warn motorists when slow-moving vehicles are ahead on the road. That technology activates digital message signs to display certain messages as they pass, such as “Snowplow ahead, use caution” or “Maintenance vehicle ahead, use caution” during non-snow events. The message stays activated for several minutes after the snowplow passes the sign.]

[Above photo by the Minnesota DOT]

Even with all the chemical options available, plain road salt – sodium chloride – is still the “go-to” material, yet it has its limitations. Salt is not effective if the temperature drops below 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

Moreover, if salt washes off the road, it can harm water, vegetation, and wildlife.

“We’re always going to use granular salt, but we’re trying to keep it on the road,” Lodahl said. “You can’t just put down salt. Otherwise, it will go into the environment.”

The Minnesota DOT also “pre-wets” the salt with truck sprayers just as it hits the road. The water helps the salt stay on the roadway, where it reacts to the heat from vehicle tires. “But if the temperature is less than 15 degrees, that’s when we move into calcium chloride,” Lodahl pointed out.

The department’s top priority is to achieve what it calls “bare lanes,” a condition in which 95 percent of the lane between the wheel tracks is free of snow and ice and travel speeds are not impacted. Last winter, the Minnesota DOT saw bare lanes 87 percent of the time. The Salt Solutions Program’s goal is to strike a balance between achieving bare lanes and protecting the environment.

In 2020, the agency also studied using potassium acetate almost exclusively on roads in Duluth, where the average daily winter temperature is 23 degrees. The study showed promise, but there are still some environmental unknowns about the long-time use of potassium acetate, Lodahl said.

“Salt is still our biggest tool, our best tool,” she explained. “Everything is going to have some environmental factor. If salt scatters, it’s not doing us any good, and it harms the environment.”

Lodahl added that salt sustainability “is very important to MnDOT. We cherish the environment and try to keep the roads safe.”

ETAP Podcast: Reducing Rolling Resistance Lowers Emissions

In this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast, Mark Hoffman –assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Auburn University – and Karl Bohnenberger, his research assistant, explain how reducing the amount of energy required to keep a vehicle tire rolling can help lower greenhouse gas or GHG emissions.

[Above photo via Wikipedia Commons]

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, conventionally fueled vehicles use up 11 percent of their fuel to keep their tires rolling, while electric vehicles use up to 25 percent of their energy for this purpose.

Thus, reducing rolling resistance presents a “valuable opportunity” to improve vehicle efficiency and reduce the transportation sector’s carbon footprint simultaneously, argue Hoffman and Bohnenberger. To listen to this podcast, click here.