Environmental News Highlights – October 21, 2020

A roundup of headlines curated for state transportation environmental professionals


Rep. Rodney Davis Introduces Highway Funding Measure – Transport Topics

A Regulatory Rush by Federal Agencies to Secure Trump’s Legacy – New York Times

Administration wants to exclude ‘anarchist jurisdictions’ from coronavirus safety grant – Washington Post


FTA COVID-19 Recovery Listening Sessions – FTA

Gov. Baker says public transit safe to ride amid pandemic: ‘People have done a lot of work to make it safe.’ – Boston Globe

Fear of Crowds May End Up Haunting U.S. Transit Agencies – CityLab

Defense Department study finds low risk of coronavirus infection through air on a packed airline flight – The Washington Post

Metro-North Railroad tests new air filtration to combat coronavirus – Stamford Advocate


Graves’ bill delivers solutions to rural communities and the environment – Livingston Parish News (Opinion)


Mayor Baraka Launches Planning Process For Newark’s Port-Industrial District – City of Newark (Press release)

New solar parking canopy at EVV complete, will produce half of terminal’s power – Courier & Press

Geolocation Data Could Help Planners Design Communities that Require Less Driving – Route Fifty

Port of San Francisco study warns of $30 billion damage from earthquake & sea level rise – American Journal of Transportation

Minnesota Senate passes $1.9 billion infrastructure bill loaded with local projects – Pioneer Press


Vermont leadership releases bold proposal to reduce carbon emissions from the largest source: transportation – Mountain Times

Funds to aid Kentucky transportation initiatives – Transportation Today


EPA awards $200,000 grant to DHEC for environmental justice in North Charleston – WCIV -TV

The Equity Case For Caltrain’s Measure RR – San Jose Inside (Op-ed)

Why highways were designed to run through Black communities. SC faces historic dilemma again. – Post and Courier

The road to transportation equity – Roads and Bridges (Commentary)


Report: Animal-Vehicle Crashes Jump in North Carolina – AASHTO Journal

Pitkin County’s highway pot signs serve cleaner purpose; sponsorship helps one of Colorado’s dirtiest sections of road – Aspen Times

Refining Right-of-Way Management with IVM – North American Oil & Gas Pipelines

Swatting litterbugs: North Carolina lets people report trash tossers caught in the act – Citizen-Times

Mn/DOT abruptly pulls no-spray signs – Winona Post

Boston seeks partners for $500,000 ‘urban forest’ plan – Cities Today


IIHS Report Focuses on E-Scooter Safety Issues – AASHTO Journal

Washington law allows bikes to use stop signs as yield signs – Associated Press

Caltrans Highlights Efforts to Reduce Pedestrian Injury and Death – Caltrans (Press release)

UDOT touts biking and walking to improve family well-being, relieve traffic congestion – KSL-TV


TRB Webinar: Protection Detection – Making Roads Safe for Drivers and Wildlife – TRB


Release of Waybill Data – Surface Transportation Board (Notice)

EPA Guidance; Administrative Procedures for Issuance and Public Petitions – EPA (Final rule)

Environmental Protection Agency Acquisition Regulation (EPAAR); Scientific Integrity – EPA (Final rule)

NYSDOT Helps Expand Artificial Reef off Long Island

The New York State Department of Transportation is helping expand a series of artificial reefs off the shores of Long Island as part of a three-year long multiagency effort. In September, the agency helped dump a retired tugboat, 16 rail cars, and a streel turbine on Hempstead Reef – the first of multiple “reef deployments” scheduled for 2020.

[Photo courtesy of New York State DOT.]

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo

In his 2020 State of the State address, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) committed to doubling New York’s existing reef acreage by expanding seven of 12 existing sites and creating four new artificial reefs in Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean – an expansion expected to be complete by 2022.

“[We are] proud to work with our sister agencies on this important program, repurposing transportation materials to expand artificial reefs and support biodiversity, fishing, and tourism,” explained Marie Therese Dominguez, NYSDOT’s commissioner, in a statement.

“It is another example of how [our state] is taking bold steps to protect our ecosystems and foster sustainable economic growth that will benefit current and future generations of New Yorkers,” she said.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation or DEC manages the state’s 12 artificial reefs, which include two reefs in Long Island Sound, two in the Great South Bay, and eight in the Atlantic Ocean. The 413-acre Atlantic Beach Reef is located three nautical miles south of Atlantic Beach with a depth of 55 to 64 feet. One of the first reefs created in New York, this reef was previously comprised of two vessels, nine barges, surplus armored vehicles, 404 auto bodies, 10 Good Humor trucks, steel crane and boom, rock, concrete slabs, pipes, culvert, decking, and rubble.

Moving forward, recycled materials from NYSDOT, New York Power Authority/Canal Corporation, and the Thruway Authority – among other public and private partners – are being put to new use to develop New York’s artificial reef sites.

The types of materials deployed onto the reefs from the NYSDOT over the last year include old concrete highway barriers, steel girders with concrete tops from the Staten Island Expressway, and 15 steel pipes from the old Kosciuszko Bridge; replaced by a new structure that opened in 2019.

Photo courtesy of New York State DOT

The DEC said those materials are then “strategically placed” to expand the reef, with the agency overseeing the cleaning of contaminants from recycled reef materials to mitigate potential impacts to sea life before being deployed to the reef sites. Once materials and vessels settle to the seafloor, larger fish – such as blackfish, black sea bass, cod, and summer flounder – move in to inhabit the new structures, and encrusting organisms such as barnacles, sponges, anemones, corals, and mussels cling to and cover the material. Over time, the recycled structures create a habitat mimicking that of a natural reef, DEC noted.

State DOTs Push Protective Measures During Pedestrian Safety Month

The U.S. Department of Transportation established October as the first-ever National Pedestrian Safety Month and, concurrently, many state departments of transportation are highlighting their efforts to improve pedestrian safety.

[Photo courtesy of the Oregon DOT.]

For example, the California Department of Transportation is enhancing pedestrian safety measures at high-risk locations based on traffic collision data, using what it calls a “first-of-its-kind” pedestrian safety toolbox that includes 47 countermeasures. Those include:

  • Signal timing enhancement and extended pedestrian crossing times.
  • Intersection and roadway design changes, such as adding sidewalks, curb extensions, and roundabouts or raised intersections that provide enhanced pedestrian safety in high traffic locations.
  • New pedestrian signs and markings, including high-visibility crosswalks, advanced stop and yield markings, or “yield to pedestrian” signs.
  • Caltrans is already implementing those safety measures and expects to identify further safety improvements by September 2021.

The agency noted that in California, pedestrians are 37 times more likely to be injured in a collision than any other roadway user. On top of that, between 2008 and 2017, the department said pedestrian-related incidents accounted for 19 percent of all collisions resulting in death or serious injury.

“At least two pedestrians or cyclists lose their lives on California’s transportation system each day — a number we refuse to accept or normalize,” stressed Toks Omishakin, director of Caltrans, in a statement. “Safety remains our top priority and the department will work diligently until the trend is reversed.”

Director Omashakin.
Photo courtesy of Caltrans

In addition, the California Transportation Commission recently approved $100 million for projects that promote active transportation options, including the addition of 310 miles of new and repaired bike lanes; installing and repairing nearly 50 miles of sidewalk; installing nearly 3,000 new crosswalks; making 178 transit stop improvements, such as installing and improving bus shelters.

The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) is also providing more than $8 million in funding for programs dedicated to the safe and equal access to roads for pedestrians, including:

  • Complete Streets Safety Assessments to assist local agencies statewide in identifying and implementing infrastructure improvements to pedestrian safety and accessibility.
  • Community Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Training programs that encourage local residents in underserved communities to develop a community action plan to improve walking and biking safety.
  • Coordinate Walking Tours and education outreach with health care providers and senior centers. Focus on high-collision areas for older adult pedestrians and measures to improve safe travel for older adults.
  • Develop “walking school buses” with groups that walk with students to school and educate students on traffic rules and best safety practices.

“Behavior change goes hand-in-hand with infrastructure improvements,” noted Barbara Rooney, director of OTS. “Safe habits by drivers and pedestrians complement a transportation system that is designed with pedestrian travel in mind.”

Meanwhile, the Utah Department of Transportation and Zero Fatalities donated 3,500 reflective drawstring backpacks to homeless service providers throughout Salt Lake County to help those experiencing homelessness stay visible to drivers during the fall, which is typically the most dangerous time of year for pedestrians.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation kicked off its 2020 Watch for Me NC awareness campaign in late September with a new twist: distributing safety tips in English and Spanish for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians within food delivery orders.

At the same time, North Carolina law enforcement officers are getting special training for enforcing bicycle and pedestrian safety laws as part of the program, which officially launched in 2012 to promote pedestrian safety. There are now 30 participating partner communities across the state, the North Carolina DOT said.

“It’s great to be partnering with so many communities to proactively deliver safety messages to help raise awareness and reduce fatalities among pedestrians and bicyclists in our state,” explained Heather Hildebrandt, interim director of the department’s Integrated Mobility Division, in a statement.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is using the focus on pedestrian safety to bring attention to “White Cane Safety Day,” which falls on October 15. Established by Congress in 1964, “White Can Safety Day” aims to be “a day of awareness, education, and celebration of white canes and guide dogs for independent and safe travel” for blind pedestrians.

The Oregon DOT noted in a statement that crashes between pedestrians and motor vehicles are far more likely to take place at night when it is often harder to see people walking. Between 2015 and 2017, 77 percent of such fatal crashes occurred at night. The agency added that the number of crashes involving pedestrians in Oregon increased from 849 in 2013 to 984 in 2018, the year for which the latest such data available. Concurrently, the number of pedestrians killed in a motor vehicle crash has increased from 52 in 2013 to 79 in 2018. The top driver error involved in those crashes? Failing to yield right of way to a pedestrian, the Oregon DOT said.