Environmental News Highlights – November 3, 2021


AASHTO Disappointed with Yet another Transportation Bill Extension – AASHTO News

Here’s what’s in the bipartisan infrastructure bill – CNN

Buttigieg defends bipartisan infrastructure bill, ‘optimistic’ it will pass – ABC News

U.S. Supreme Court to hear bid to curb federal power to limit carbon emissions – Reuters


Alaska Railroad rescinds employee vaccine mandate just days after announcing policy – Anchorage Daily News

FTA Recognizes Outstanding Rural Transit Agencies That Have Gone Above and Beyond for Their Communities Amid the Pandemic – FTA (Media Release)

Fact Sheet: Biden Administration Releases Additional Detail for Implementing a Safer, More Stringent International Air Travel System – White House (Media release)


Proposed Legislative and Executive Branch Changes to NEPA Process – JDSupra


Reconstruction of an urban highway in NC named nation’s top transportation project – Charlotte Observer

MoDOT project intends to help flood-prone stretch of Highway 67 rise above traffic woes – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

NJ TRANSIT Continues Resiliency Upgrades In Hoboken – NJ Transit (Media release)


EPA Chief Michael Regan Touts Collaborative Approach of SmartWay Program – Transport Topics

FAA Administrator: Freedom to fly brings environmental responsibility – Runway Girl Network

More Urban Chargers Will Prompt EV Adoption, Experts Say – Government Technology

London expands vehicle levy to improve air quality – Reuters

Connecticut drivers have paid hundreds of millions in clean air and emissions fees. Where did they go? – Yankee Institute

States With Highest Portion Of Their CO2 Emissions Coming From Transportation: California, Washington, & Hawaii – US Department of Energy


This Squad of Researchers Is a Real-Life Justice League – Boston University


Arizona DOT Tests New ‘Watch for Animals’ Placards – AASHTO Journal

Keep it Clean, Arkansas campaign launched by ARDOT – Arkansas DOT

GDOT’s Wildflower Program provides pop of color along state highways – WMAZ-TV (Video)

Environmentalists and Chicago Rockford airport officials beg to differ over the Bell Bowl Prairie – WREX-TV

Wetlands are a nature-based solution to climate change – Vermont Business Magazine (Opinion)


Loss of Fire Lookouts Spurs Questions About Historic Preservation – Columbia University

Can a Map Rekindle London’s Love of Walking? – CityLab


Massachusetts Considers Letting Electric Bikes in Bike Lanes – AP

DC makes roadway changes as part of fall safety campaign to protect pedestrians, bicyclists – WTOP Radio

Burlington airport monitoring sound levels following jet-noise complaints – VTDigger

Gov. Kathy Hochul Signs Legislation Cracking Down On Noise Pollution – WCBS-TV

A controversial connection? Thomasville Road multi-use trail in Tallahassee draws fire as planners gather input – Tallahassee Democrat

San Luis Obispo installs new pedestrian-bicycle bridge as part of Railroad Safety Trail project – The Tribune

Orlando Crosswalk Uses Infrared Heat Technology To Detect Pedestrians – WRBW-TV


Clearing the Skies with Research on Electric Vehicles – TRB

TRB Webinar: Building Information Modeling for Infrastructure – TRB

Equity in University Research Centers Workshop – C2SMART Center (Link to registration)


Port Access Route Study: Alaskan Arctic Coast; Reopening of Comment PeriodCoast Guard (Notice)

Proposed Consent Decree, Safe Drinking Water Act ClaimsEPA (Notice of proposed consent
decree; request for public comment)

Air Plan Approval; NC; Removal of Transportation Facilities Rules for Mecklenburg County – EPA (Proposed rule)

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Mayflower Wind Project on the Northeast Atlantic Outer Continental ShelfBureau of Ocean Energy Management (Notice; request for comments)

Request for Information on NOAA Actions To Advance the Goals and Recommendations in the Report on Conserving and Restoring America The Beautiful, Including Conserving At Least 30 Percent of U.S. Lands and Waters By 2030 – NOAA (Notice)

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Regulations for Designating Critical HabitatU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – (Proposed rule)

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Regulations for Listing Endangered and Threatened Species and Designating Critical HabitatU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries (Proposed rule)

Session Examines State DOT Efforts to Advance Equity

Several state department of transportation executives recently shared insights into how their agencies are advancing equity through infrastructure projects during a knowledge session at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials annual meeting in San Diego.

[Above photo left to right: Diana Mendes, HNTB; Shoshana Lew, Colorado DOT; Paul Ajegba, Michigan DOT; Bill Panos, North Dakota DOT; and Marie Therese Dominguez, New York State DOT.]

“I think we as leaders have to strive for a diverse workforce and get diverse opinions. When we have true representation in the room, we have true inclusive decision-making,” explained Paul Ajegba, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation. “In the past with our transportation projects, we would make decisions and then come back and say ‘was that the right decision?’ We had those questions because did not have the right representation at the beginning.”

Bill Panos, director of the North Dakota Department of Transportation, emphasized that “advancing equity” is not just an urban-focused philosophy. It also applies to transportation work in rural communities as well.

“In rural states, you can drive for four hours and not see another human being,” he said. “Rural states like mine have small populations and large landmasses, which makes for isolated communities. A major snowstorm might lock those communities down for up to a week: you cannot get a car or truck out; you cannot get food or fuel in. That happens to many of them two or three times per year.”

Panos stressed that in primarily rural and small states, a strong federal formula program is the key to sustaining equity. “For rural states like mine, we don’t have a lot of transportation funding options; we don’t have a large population or businesses to tax. That’s why for us 50 percent or more of our transportation dollars come from the federal government. That’s why formula funding is so important – it sustains us and helps maintain the national supply chains that run through our state.”

Shoshana Lew, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, explained that forging closer connections to the communities impacted by transportation projects is another key to advancing equity.

“One of the areas we’ve particularly focused on is the project planning process,” she said. “Not only do we make ourselves more approachable and accessible, but we also use bilingual translators to better connect with the communities impacted by our projects. That helps us generate very real and meaningful dialog.”

Colorado DOT is also trying to “integrate” infrastructure projects better within the communities those structures serve. For example, for the recently completed I-70 highway project in Denver, the agency refurbished homes located near the road to mitigate noise and air pollution. Colorado DOT also helped redesign an elementary school located near the roadway, built parks for the children of families living near the highway, and regularly conducted job fairs during construction to provide employment opportunities to the residents of the communities near the roadway.

“That’s connecting them to economic benefits and long-term employment,” Lew noted. “We have taken this experience [with the I-70 project] – a hard one with ups and downs – and are using it to help us promote equity with other projects.”

Marie Therese Dominguez, the commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation, said making sure everyone in the community benefits from a transportation project also means working more closely with other state and local agencies.

It means working with housing authorities so they can reconfigure post-project space for homes, along with education departments to determine how long-term construction could affect schools.

“It’s about bringing all the state and local agencies together to form a long-term plan – to factor in environmental, housing, and workforce impacts so we get a much more regional and comprehensive look at how a transportation project affects the communities it touches,” she said. “It is all about lifting everyone up because transportation really expands opportunity for communities of kinds.”

Active Transportation Council Building “Research Roadmap”

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Council on Active Transportation is planning to implement a “research roadmap” finalized in July to “prioritize and categorize” state DOT pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure investments in the near future.

[Council Chair Toks Omishakin, director of the California Department of Transportation, is second from left in the above photo with Vice-Chair Melissa Batula, deputy secretary for highway administration for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, at far left.]

That roadmap – developed via the National Cooperative Highway Research Program or NCHRP – seeks to focus on six specific areas:

  • Applying and integrating active transportation data into planning and operations
  • Using minimum accommodations versus alternative approaches to increase active transportation
  • Determining context-driven optimal spacing between marked crosswalks
  • Addressing barriers to integrating active transportation throughout planning and engineering practice
  • Racial and economic disparities in pedestrian and bicyclist safety
  • Speed management solutions and strategies to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety on arterial roadways

“As you know, the Active Transportation Council was created as part of the AASHTO restructuring a few years ago, born from the institutional desire to make active transportation more prominent within the association,” explained Omishakin during a panel discussion during AASHTO’s annual meeting in San Diego.

“The Active Transportation Council has also successfully collaborated with various AASHTO committees in 2021,” he added. “For example, earlier this year, we worked with the Committee on Safety to hold a peer exchange on active transportation safety, with the discussion including data collection, asset management, plus project planning and delivery.”

Omishakin emphasized that, in terms of active transportation external engagement, AASHTO entered into a memorandum of understanding or MOU in February with the Adventure Cycling Association in terms of expanding their joint efforts to expand the U.S. Bicycle Route System or USBRS. That helped spur the designation of 18 new bicycle routes in five states in August, adding 2,903 miles to the USBRS – representing the largest addition to the USBRS to date in terms of both the number of designations and their total mileage.

“We have identified a lot of ways to help one another and work together,” Omishakin stressed during the council’s session at the AASHTO annual meeting. “We will keep both the internal and external conversations and coordination going.”

ETAP Podcast: Noise Working Group with Noel Alcala

From loss of sleep to loss of hearing, noise can pose a real threat. Recent studies have even identified a possible link between noise exposure and dementia. Traffic noise is a major contributor to noise pollution that fuels these negative health outcomes. Tires hitting pavement make up the majority of highway noise. Better modeling and barriers can work to mitigate this for folks living near areas with high levels of noise- and DOT practitioners are working toward such solutions for all affected.

Joining us on the podcast today is Noel Alcala, Noise and Air Quality Coordinator at the Ohio Department of Transportation. Noel also heads the AASHTO Noise Working Group, which operates under the Committee on Environment and Sustainability. The noise working group convenes state DOTs and promotes discourse on, and works in reducing traffic noise and its negative effects.

FHWA Now Accepting Nominations for 2022 Environmental Excellence Awards

The Environmental Excellence Awards (EEAs) recognize outstanding transportation projects, processes, and organizations that incorporate environmental stewardship into the planning and project development processes using Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funding sources.

Any organization, agency, group, or individual in the public, private, or non-profit sectors may submit a nomination. Entries are due by December 15, 2021. Please visit the EEA Applications Website to learn more about the EEA process and to submit an application.