Environmental News Highlights – October 28, 2020

A roundup of headlines curated for state transportation environmental professionals


AASHTO to Examine Election Impact on Transportation at Annual Meeting – AASHTO Journal

Congressional Policymakers Propose Infrastructure Resilience Review Board – Transport Topics

Alan S. Boyd, Nation’s First Transportation Chief, Dies at 98 – New York Times

House Transportation leader in the race of his life – Politico

On Infrastructure, Trump Touts Regulatory Streamlining, Biden Eyes Clean Energy – Transport Topics

Biden says he would if elected mandate masks in interstate transportation – Reuters


Emissions Exposure May Increase COVID-19 Mortality – Stateline

The Pandemic Kick-Started an Urban Motorcycle Boom. Are Cities Ready? – CityLab

Interim Guidance: Wearing of face masks while on public conveyances and at stations, ports, and similar transportation hubs – Centers for Disease Control


The Supreme Court’s Environmental Legacy Was Tarnished Even Before Barrett – Jewish Journal (Commentary)


A Green Way Forward: Can we lead with nature in addressing NYC’s climate crisis? – Regional Plan Association (Webinar)

Interacting Infrastructure Disruptions Due to Environmental Events and Long‐Term Climate Change – Earth’s Focus

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signs $1.9 billion public works bill – Star Tribune

Virginia releases sweeping plan to prepare for sea level rise, increased flooding – Virginian-Pilot

Wildfire shuts down major US transportation corridor, signaling yet more climate disruption – PRI’s Living on Earth


Prosecutions under the Clean Air and Water acts dropped in half after Trump took office – Popular Science


Climate policy, environmental justice, and local air pollution – Brookings Institution


Caltrans Resumes Litter Cleanup on California Highways – Caltrans (Press release)

Iowa finds new tools to control stormwater erosion and sediment at construction sites – Iowa DOT (Blog)

HDOT Harbors Division Announces Award for Critical Improvements Project – Hawaii Department of Transportation (News release)

Georgia Department of Transportation Aims to Combat Litter Statewide with Launch of Keep It Clean Georgia – Georgia DOT (Press release)


Process to regulate electric bikes, scooters underway in Colorado Springs – KRDO-TV

Tahoe transportation plan means more trails over 25 years – KCRA-TV

Research Report 669 Transport impacts on wellbeing and liveability – NZ Transport Agency

Reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled, Encouraging Walk Trips, and Facilitating Efficient Trip Chains Through Polycentric Development – University of Utah (Registration required)

Fun, safe transportation: Artist creates active transportation toolkit for WCI – Fergus Falls Daily Journal

Expanded pedestrian area around Town Square to be removed – Jackson Hole News & Guide

CVAG approves nearly $53 million for CV Link construction – KESQ-TV (Coachella Valley)


Flight Plan to Recovery: Preparing Airports for the Return of the Traveling Public – TRB (Report)

TRB Offers a Running Start to Transportation’s Next Generation – TRB (Press release)

TRB Webinar: Keep on Truckin’- Using Simulators for CDL Testing During COVID-19 – TRB

Comparing the Promise and Reality of E-Scooters: A Critical Assessment of Equity Improvements and Mode-Shift – Portland State University


Off-Road Vehicle Use – Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation (Final rule)

Anchorage Grounds; Atlantic Ocean, Jacksonville, FL – Coast Guard (Final rule)

Agency Information Collection Activities; The National Map Corps (TNMCorps)—Volunteered Geographic Information Project – Geological Survey (Notice of information collection; request for comment)

Center of Excellence for Domestic Maritime Workforce; Notice of Opportunity To Apply for Training and Education Designation – Maritime Administration (Notice)

Vessel Incidental Discharge National Standards of Performance – EPA (Proposed rule)

Security Training for Surface Transportation Employees; Compliance Dates; Amendment – TSA (Final rule)

Video: WSDOT Makes Bridge Safer for Human Travelers & Fish Species

The Washington State Department of Transportation recently wrapped up a roughly $13 million fish barrier correction project – resulting in a new 440-foot bridge that spans Kilisut Harbor along State Route 116. The new bridge not only improves safety for human travelers but also is, in the words WSDOT Project Engineer Dan McKernan, a “huge win” for local salmon and other fish species in the area.

[Photo courtesy of Washington State Department of Transportation.]

“The work involved replacing two small culverts that were installed in the 1950s. The channel here now with the bridge was not here previously,” he said, adding that the new channel aids in the annual migration of salmon in the area.

This work is part of WSDOT’s Fish Barrier Removal Program, which identifies and removes barriers to fish caused by culverts under state highways. The agency noted in a statement that it worked with the North Olympic Salmon Coalition or NOSC to complete this specific bridge project while also continuing to work with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to identify locations where culvert replacement will increase fish habitat.

“The area between Indian and Marrowstone Islands was historically comprised of tidal channels and salt marsh,” NOSC noted in separate statement. “Tidal waters exchanged freely between Oak Bay and Kilisut Harbor, flushing cold water, moving sediment, and allowing juvenile salmon to migrate northward from Oak Bay into the shallow, productive waters of Kilisut Harbor. The installation of the causeway in between Kilisut Harbor and Oak Bay eased transportation between the Islands, but choked the flow of water and sediment, eventually creating an artificial beach berm, a filled channel, and increased water temperatures in Kilisut Harbor.”

The construction of the new bridge also resulted in the removal that land barrier, reconnecting the large numbers of Hood Canal and Puget Sound out-migrating juvenile salmon that converge at Oak Bay with immense foraging opportunities available within Kilisut Harbor while also restoring and enhance important staging and foraging habitat for multiple coastal dependent and migratory birds. “Clean, cold water is now flowing north into Kilisut Harbor/Scow Bay,” the organization noted. “This mixing on each tide cycle is expected to improve water quality in Kilisut Harbor over time.”

Video: How State DOTs Work to Ensure NEPA Compliance

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 or NEPA for short established regulations and processes for project planning and implementation to ensure the consideration of environmental impact and sustainability from transportation projects. The term “NEPA assignment” refers to the transfer of the Federal Highway Administration’s role for NEPA environmental reviews to a state department of transportation.

In this video from the AASHTO Center for Environmental Excellence, Kyle Schneweis – the outgoing executive director of the Nebraska Department of Transportation – explains how NEPA assignment’s work to streamline the environmental review process without sacrificing environmental protections; saving both time and taxpayer dollars.

Georgia DOT Launches New Anti-Litter Campaign

The Georgia Department of Transportation is launching a new anti-litter campaign – called “Keep It Clean Georgia” – focused on preventing and eliminating litter along 50,000 miles of interstates and state routes that crisscross Georgia.

[Photo courtesy of Georgia Department of Transportation.]

The agency said it plans work with individuals, businesses, environmental organizations, and state agencies like the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Keep Georgia Beautiful Foundation via this new campaign to emphasize the importance of litter prevention and highlight the role teamwork plays in maintaining Georgia’s natural beauty.

It’s also an effort aimed at saving money, as the agency said the average American produces five pounds of trash each day, which plays a part in the nearly $11.5 billion spent on litter clean-up in the United States each year.

“We are excited to support Georgia DOT’s efforts with the Keep It Clean Georgia campaign and encourage all Georgians to do their part to help the Peach State remain a place we are proud to call home,” said Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R), in a statement.

“The Keep It Clean Georgia campaign is intended to motivate Georgians to think twice about throwing trash where it doesn’t belong and to take an active role in preserving Georgia’s beauty,” added Russell McMurry, Georgia DOT’s commissioner. “Whether your home is a wide-open countryside or in one of Georgia’s bustling city centers, litter is everyone’s problem and as a community we can work together to keep our beautiful state clean and litter-free.”

Other state departments of transportation are also ramping up their anti-litter activities:

  • The Virginia Department of Transportation recently launched Virginia is for Lovers, Not Litter in September – a public outreach campaign aimed at raising awareness about Virginia’s roadway litter problem. The agency said it spends nearly $3.5 million annually to remove litter from Virginia’s roadways, with more than half of that litter coming from motorists with another 25 percent from pedestrians.
  • The Alabama Department of Transportation initiated an anti-litter campaign entitled “Trash Costs Cash” in early August. That campaign uses television, radio stations, and social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube to highlight a major increase in litter fines and penalties authorized by the state legislature in 2019.
  • The Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation, and Keep Tennessee Beautiful recently joined forces to reduce personal protective equipment or PPE litter during the COVID-19 pandemic, while highlighting the proper ways to dispose of PPE and facemasks.
  • The California Department of Transportation and the California Highway Patrol resumed litter removal on state highways in mid-June; cleanup activity that has been limited since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

AASHTO to Examine Election Impact on Transportation at Annual Meeting

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Annual Meeting – held via a virtual format November 9-13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic – will focus on the potential ways the results of the 2020 national elections could affect the nation’s transportation policy agenda.

As part of AASHTO’s annual meeting, the organization’s Transportation Policy Forum will delve into the Congressional policy outlook for surface transportation funding reauthorization in 2021 and conduct two interactive polling exercises – the first on the pending COVID-19 relief package, including AASHTO’s $37 billion backstop request before Congress, and second on the development of the 2021 AASHTO legislative action agenda.

Several knowledge and spotlight sessions focused on a variety of transportation topics will take place over the course of AASHTO’s annual meeting.

For example, on Thursday, November 12, AECOM will host a resilient infrastructure knowledge session focused on how state DOTs can continue to maintain a connected transportation system in the face of hazards and threats such as hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, derechos, as well as cyber and other potential attacks.

Also on November 12, Bentley Systems will host a spotlight session on how safety culture is evolving with state departments of transportation at different levels, such as in communications with the public and legislators or other external partners; through the project development process; and by pilot projects to transform traffic safety culture among road users.

Registration for AASHTO’s virtual annual meeting is now open and can be accessed by clicking here.