Environmental News Highlights – October 27, 2021


Senate unanimously redirects COVID relief money for infrastructure projects – WIS-TV

What’s in, and what’s out, as Democrats trim Biden infrastructure bill – AP

White House, EPA tout climate wins and goals ahead of COP 26 – E&E News

Can the Biden Administration Meet Its Offshore Wind Goals? – Maritime Reporter and Engineering News

Billions in environmental justice funds hang in the balance – AP


COVID-19 Pandemic: Observations on the Ongoing Recovery of the Aviation Industry – GAO


WSDOT Project Keeps Traffic, Fish Moving During Construction – AASHTO Journal

Pa. to Pave Road With Asphalt, Recycled Plastic Mixture – Times Leader

Downtown Brooklyn’s Greener, Car-Free Future Is Taking Root – CityLab

For Uber and Lyft, the Rideshare Bubble Bursts – New York Times (Opinion)


New Software Puts Rail Freight On Express Track To Net-Zero Emissions – US Department of Energy

Fly more, pollute less — the great aviation conundrum – France 24

Study: Charging Up EVs Costs More Than Filling Up Gas Tanks – Detroit Free Press

CDOT issues updated air pollution reduction standard proposal – Colorado Department of Transportation (Media release)


‘Mobility Justice’: How cities are rethinking public transportation after COVID – Grist


Environmental groups say state’s trash reduction plan not strong enough – WBUR Radio


WSDOT archaeologist solves mystery of structure under Maple Valley Highway – KIRO Radio

Michigan City’s new trail connects the dunes, arts, a wild river and (eventually) Chicago – South Bend Tribune


Guide aims to help blind, low-vision pedestrians navigate Montgomery County streets – Radio WTOP

R.I. will not try to stop the South Water Street bike lane project – Boston Globe

Public comment sought on bike plans in Joplin – Joplin Globe

Group seeks to convert old South Dakota railroad line to recreation trail – AP

As e-bikes soar in popularity, a proposed Massachusetts law would clarify how and where they can be used – Boston University Statehouse Program

SCAG Receives Grant for Go Human Safety Program – Southern California Association of Governments (Media release)


Confronting a ‘Triple Existential Threat’ – NAM President Victor Dzau Discusses How Health and Medicine Can Respond to Current Crises – National Academy of Medicine

Equitably Connecting Rural and Urban Populations – TRB


Re-Designation of the Primary Highway Freight System (PHFS) – FHWA (Notice of extension of comment period)

Notification of Temporary Travel Restrictions Applicable to Land Ports of Entry and Ferries Service Between the United States and Mexico – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (Notification of continuation of temporary travel restrictions)

Notification of Temporary Travel Restrictions Applicable to Land Ports of Entry and Ferries Service Between the United States and Canada – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (Notification of continuation of temporary travel restrictions)

COVID–19 Related Relief Concerning Operations at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, New York LaGuardia Airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National and San Francisco International Airport for the Winter 2021/2022 Scheduling Season – FAA (Extension of limited, conditional waiver of the minimum slot usage requirement for international operations only)

Fire Protection for Recreational VesselsCoast Guard (Final rule)

Port Access Route Study: Approaches to the Chesapeake Bay, VirginiaCoast Guard (Notice of availability)

Notification of Regional Roundtable Discussions Regarding ‘‘Waters of the United States’’ – Corps of Engineers and EPA (Notice of events; request for nominations)

Proposed Consent Decree, Clean Air Act Citizen SuitEPA (Notice of proposed consent decree; request for public comment)

Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings; Green Building Advisory Committee; Notification of Upcoming Web-Based Meetings – GSA (Notice of public meetings)

Colorado DOT Helps Complete I-25 Wildlife Underpasses

The Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) agencies recently completed wildlife underpasses along a rural stretch of Interstate 25 between Colorado’s two largest cities, Denver and Colorado Springs.

[Above photo by the Colorado DOT]

This wildlife mitigation system is part of a $419 million transportation improvement project – known as the I-25 South Gap project – that aims to improve safety and travel on 18 miles of I-25 south of the Denver metropolitan region; a route that more than 87,000 motorists use on a daily basis.

The I-25 South Gap project’s wildlife mitigation system includes four new and one refurbished wildlife underpasses, 28 miles of deer fencing, and deer guards and jump-outs, Colorado DOT said.

Work on the underpasses is substantially complete with 8 percent of deer fencing installed – just in time to shepherd migrating wildlife safely under the interstate this fall. The I-25 South Gap project as a whole, however, should be finished by 2022, the agency noted.

The Colorado DOT and CPW are also now in the process of installing 59 cameras throughout the project’s wildlife mitigation system to help measure success.

Shoshana Lew, executive director of the Colorado DOT, said that these wildlife underpasses – used by bears, elk, and small game animals – are also some of the largest in North America.

“One of [our] core values is safety, and we are thrilled to deliver on this value to all who use I-25 in the area,” she explained in a statement.

“In Colorado, nearly 4,000 animal-vehicle crashes are reported annually, resulting in injuries and fatalities to people and costing an estimated $80 million,” Lew added. “In the I-25 South Gap, it is estimated that one animal-vehicle crash occurs per day. Our wildlife mitigation system aims to reduce these crashes by 90 percent.”

Photo by Colorado DOT

“Colorado DOT met with various agencies, including CPW, early in the planning process to come up with a collaborative solution,” noted Brandon Marette, land use coordinator for CPW’s Northeast Region. “Fast forward from our first collaboration meeting nearly five years ago to today, where wildlife is now using the underpasses that we planned together. There is more collaboration to come between our agencies as we continue to plan and implement strategies to keep both people and wildlife species safe, thus protecting what is unique to Colorado.”

State departments of transportation in various parts of the country have been working on ways to improve wildlife mitigation tactics over the past several years.

In 2019, the Pew Trusts issued a report that highlighted the work states are doing to boost safe passage for wildlife around roadways, while at the same time improving motorist safety.

“Big-game animals in the American West today are increasingly squeezed by growing suburban areas, energy development, climate change, and an expanding road network,” noted Matt Skroch, a manager with the Pew Charitable Trusts’ U.S. public lands and rivers conservation team and author of the report, at the time.

“[Those] factors are threatening the landscape connections that wildlife needs to move to and from their seasonal feeding and breeding grounds,” he added. “To conserve wildlife corridors while reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions in the West, state and local governments need to take the lead on these issues and guide their agencies to effectively link science with policy. Fortunately, this is beginning to happen. From Montana to New Mexico, states are identifying hot spots where collisions occur and linking those areas with the larger habitat conservation needs on either side of the road.”

For example, in April, the construction of the new Rock Creek Bridge to replace a culvert on US-20 recently won an engineering excellence award from the American Civil Engineers Council of Idaho – an award shared by the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and Jacobs Engineering. That new bridge now allows wildlife to pass under the highway, reducing the risk of possible collisions involving wildlife and vehicles on the roadway.

The ITD added in a statement that this particular section of US-20 witnessed 64 vehicle-wildlife collisions over the last five years, which totals a “societal cost” of approximately $2 million when adding together the cost of vehicle repair or replacement, medical bills, and increased insurance rates – not to mention the cost to wildlife.

Oregon DOT Installing More Pedestrian Activated Beacons

Over the next two years, the Oregon Department of Transportation plans to install more than two dozen new rectangular rapid flashing beacons – known as pedestrian-activated beacons – to help improve safety for pedestrians along major traffic corridors in the Portland area and statewide.

[Above photo by the Oregon DOT]

Those rectangular rapid flashing beacons give people walking, rolling, or biking an additional level of control over the traffic they face, the agency explained – activating flashing lights that alert oncoming motorists to people crossing the road.

The Oregon DOT said it started using such beacons on Portland area roads a decade ago and found them to be an effective tool for improving pedestrian safety on busy traffic corridors – especially in areas with long distances between traffic signals.

They provide an additional layer of safety and assurance for anyone crossing a busy road and play an especially important role in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, areas with higher rates of pedestrian injuries, the agency noted in a statement

In the past two years, the Oregon DOT installed 18 pedestrian-activated beacons around the region, including on Southwest Barbur Boulevard (OR 99W), Tualatin Valley Highway (OR 8), Southeast Powell Boulevard (U.S. 26), and OR 211 in Molalla. In the next few years, the agency expects to install 25 more in all three Portland-area counties, including 10 on Southeast Powell Boulevard.

Many other state departments of transportation are deploying similar technology to improve pedestrian safety as well.

For example, the Georgia Department of Transportation is using what are known as “hybrid beacons” to improve crosswalk safety for pedestrians.

Also known as the High intensity Activated crossWalK or HAWK, these beacons are pedestrian-activated warning devices located on the roadside or mounted on “mast arms” over mid-block pedestrian crossings signal both drivers and pedestrians attempting to cross a street.

Such devices are also part of a sweeping set of changes proposed by the Federal Highway Administration in late 2020 to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices or MUTCD – changes the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials is urging the agency to keep moving forward on.

“It has been over 10 years since the last update and, during this time, numerous advancements have been made in transportation research, technology, and practice that are not yet reflected in the manual,” AASHTO noted in a May 14 letter to FHWA. [To view AASHTO’s full comments regarding the FHWA’s proposed MUTCD revisions, click here.]

“These advancements have the potential to save lives and prevent serious injuries on the nation’s transportation system,” the group said. “Rescinding the NPA [notice of proposed amendment] and starting over, as some have suggested, would negate years of important work by FHWA and countless volunteers, and would miss the opportunity to save lives now.”