New USDOT Volpe Transportation Research Center Opens

Officials from the U.S. General Services Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – among others – recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the new USDOT John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

[Above photo by the USDOT]

The event celebrated the completion of the decade-long $750-million project to design and build a sustainable USDOT facility for experts focused on “transforming transportation for all” across the various modes of mobility.

In 2012, USDOT and GSA began conversations about redevelopment of USDOT’s 14 acres in the Kendall Square area of Cambridge, MA. In 2017, GSA entered into a first-of-its-kind Exchange Agreement with MIT to design and construct a state-of-the-art, low-emissions building as a new home for the Center on approximately four acres of a 14-acre site.

 In exchange for the design and construction of the new facility, the federal government agreed to convey the portion of the property no longer needed by the federal government to MIT for mixed-use development.

“The Volpe development is a unique collaboration that benefits everyone involved,” said MIT President Sally Kornbluth in a statement. “Through their cutting-edge research and policy work, the center’s transportation experts will continue to serve the nation by grappling with crucial transport challenges – but now in a facility that reflects the quality of their far-sighted work.”

The new facility will replace the Volpe Center’s six existing buildings and surface parking lots with a highly energy efficient, climate resilient structure that will house multiple agencies. The new facility is expected to reduce emissions by over 50 percent from a typical building and achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED Platinum certification.

It includes triple-paned glass, heat recovery chillers, electric vehicle charging stations, rainwater reclamation and reuse system, green and cool roof technology including a rooftop solar array, and an Advanced Building Automation System to optimize energy use, USDOT noted.

“Since its establishment in 1970, the Volpe Center has been the engine for research, innovation and deployment for U.S. DOT and beyond. The experts who come to work every day for Volpe are an integral part of the DOT family,” noted Carlos Monje Jr., USDOT under secretary of transportation policy.

“This was a unique opportunity to make smart investments in sustainability, empower the federal workforce, and ensure that federal buildings remain vital parts of the communities around them,” added GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan.

GSA noted that, although the majority of the Volpe Center’s work is sponsored by USDOT, it also lends key technical support to over a dozen other federal agencies including the Department of Defense, NASA, the Department of the Interior, and Department of Homeland Security, as well as state and local governments.

Arizona DOT Hosts Highway Litter Cleanup Event

The Arizona Department of Transportation and its “Adopt a Highway” volunteer program recently conducted a roadway trash cleanup event; collecting 214 bags worth of litter from along state highways across Arizona.

[Above photo by the Arizona DOT

Fifteen groups with 123 volunteers answered the call to participate in day-long event on September 16. One of those groups, the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, had seven volunteers fill 13 bags with litter along Oracle Road (State Route 77) on the north side of Oro Valley. 

“It feels good just cleaning up native habitat along the highway and making sure that all the native vegetation has space to grow and that people have a nice place to bike,” said Jonni Zeman, the group’s program and communications coordinator, in a statement. “It’s great to just be here making a difference, even if it’s small.”

Arizona DOT’s Tucson North Motor Vehicle Division office had 12 team members pick up 16 bags of litter along Oracle Road between Ina and Orange Grove roads, while two other team members delivered drinks and collected bags. The office has adopted this segment and will hold cleanups throughout the year.

“It’s just a way for us to connect to the community and be part of it,” said Jessica Robeson, an MVD customer service representative. 

Other state highways where volunteers removed roadside trash included Interstate 19, State Route 260 and US 60. 

This event complements the work of more than 6,000 volunteers participating in Arizona DOT’s Adopt a Highway program who help keep state highways as trash-free as possible throughout the year. In 2022 alone, these volunteers filled more than 12,500 bags of litter while contributing time and effort worth more than $600,000.

State departments of transportation are using a variety of tactics to combat littering on state highways.

For example, the Mississippi Department of Transportation recently launched a new anti-litter webpage as part of a renewed statewide anti-littering campaign that kicked off in August – a “one-stop hub” that contains information about the state’s Adopt-a-Highway program, Mississippi litter statistics and resources, stormwater pollution information, anti-litter resources for school teachers, and much more.

Then there is the Tennessee Department of Transportation, which recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of its “Litter Grant Program.” That program – started in 1983 – provides funding to all 95 counties within the state to pay for a wide variety of litter-related efforts, such as litter and tarp law enforcement; cleanup and recycling events; and litter prevention education campaigns.

Meanwhile, in April, the Illinois Department of Transportation launched a new public outreach effort called “Think Before You Throw!” as part of its ongoing awareness campaign to reduce littering on state highways and roads.

The “Think Before You Throw!” initiative aims to reduce roadside litter along the state’s more than 150,000 miles of roads by raising awareness of the negative environment impact of trash, for both state residents and the nearly 100 million tourists who visit annually, the agency said.

And, in March, the Maryland Department of Transportation launched “Operation Clean Sweep Maryland,” a new initiative that seeks to nearly double the frequency of litter pickup and mowing efforts along state roads.

This new effort – which began in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., regions – is under the purview of the Maryland State Highway Administration, one of Maryland DOT’s modal divisions.

Environmental News Highlights – September 27, 2023


Administration Announces New Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Combat the Climate Crisis -White House (fact sheet)

PHMSA Invests Nearly $15 Million to Improve Pipeline Safety -Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (media release)



Transit Agencies Rethink Schedules for Fewer CommutersGoverning


San Francisco considers lifting the Ferry Building by 7 feet to save it from the sea -NPR/WNYC

Can more canal trails connect Utah’s transportation and water needs? –KSL

Miami-Dade again floats using its waters to curb traffic -Florida Politics

Mississippi DOT Promotes National Roundabouts Week 2023
-Mississippi DOT (media release)

New infrastructure strategy meets climate change head-on -Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (media release)



EPA approval for Denver smog-reduction plan partially tossed by US appeals court –Reuters

Wildfires are destroying decades of clean air efforts in the U.S. -NBC News

Sustainable aviation fuel: agriculture’s ticket to redemption? -S&P Global



Chicago takes on new approach to fight pollution problems, focusing on environmental justice -WLS-TV

To Achieve Justice and Climate Outcomes, Fund These Transit Capital Projects –TransitCenter

Pa.’s expanded environmental justice policy goes into effect this month –WHYY

Chesapeake Bay Trust establishes $17M environmental justice participatory fund -Maryland Daily Record

Four Decades of Work on Environmental Justice at Duke -Duke University (media release)



Florida looks to increase number of wetland mitigation banks, credits available to developers -Florida Politics

Missouri farmers face soaring harvest transportation costs amid drought and low Mississippi River levels -KRCG-TV

MARTA Railcars Head For Atlantic Ocean As Part Of Department Of Natural Resources Reef Project -MARTA (media release)


Disneyland’s renovation plan gets environmental review -Los Angeles Times

Secrets of the World’s Coolest Bike Tunnel –CityLab

FHWA, National Park Service Celebrate Completion of Roadway Safety Improvements Along Natchez Trace Parkway -FHWA (media release)


Bozeman City Commission finalizes Parks, Recreation and Active Transportation plan -KECI-TV

Transportation safety advocates want SF to ban turns on red -Axios San Francisco

Complaints continue to mount as Austin finds itself unable to regulate driverless rideshares -KEYE-TV

To Help Cyclists, and the Environment, This Tool Looks for Crashes -New York Times

Houston could have two bike share programs soon -Axios Houston

Union County, NJ to receive One Million Dollars for NY Connects to Union County NJ East Coast Greenway Bikeway Project -Union County, NJ (media release)

George Washington Bridge upgrades improve pedestrian, cyclist accessibility -North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (media release)


TRB Webinar: Maximizing the Power of the Research in Progress (RIP) Database –TRB

Airfield Turf and Vegetation Management Practices –ACRP

E-Scooter Safety: Issues and Solutions -Behavioral Traffic Safety Cooperative Research Program

Homelessness: A Guide for Public Transportation –TCRP

Postwar Commercial Properties and Section 106: A Methodology for Evaluating Historic Significances –NCHRP

Postwar Commercial Properties and Section 106: Piloting the Methodology for Evaluating Historic Significance –NCHRP

Telecommuting, Remote Work, and Hybrid Schedules: Managing the Shift to a Flexible Work Future –NCHRP


Notice of Adoption of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Categorical Exclusion Under the National Environmental Policy Act -Office of the Secretary, USDOT (Notice)

Interstate System Access -FHWA (Notice of proposed rulemaking; request for comments)

Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program; Florida DOT Audit #4 Report -FHWA (Notice)

Notice of Availability of Programmatic Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Transit Projects; Request for Comments -FTA (Notice)

Safety Advisory 23–1 Bus-to-Person Collisions -FTA (Notice of Safety Advisory)

Railroad Safety Advisory Committee; Notice of MeetingFRA (Notice)

Spring Valley II Solar Project -Tennessee Valley Authority (Notice of intent)

Advisory Committee on Landslides; Request for Nominations -U.S. Geological Survey (Notice)

National Boating Safety Advisory Committee; October 17, 2023 Virtual Meeting -U.S. Coast Guard (Notice)

Hazardous Materials: Modernizing Regulations To Improve Safety and Efficiency; Extension of Comment Period -Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (Advance notice of proposed rulemaking; Extension of comment period)