Environmental News Highlights – November 17, 2021


With President Biden’s Signature, State DOTs Ready to Implement Infrastructure Bill – AASHTO

Biden chooses Mitch Landrieu to coordinate infrastructure plan implementation – NBC News

The High Stakes of Infrastructure – The New Yorker

How Biden’s infrastructure win falls short in one big area – Politico (Commentary)

Fact Sheet: What the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Will Mean for American Mobility – USDOT (Media release)

USDOT Announces Key Priorities, Funding for Public Transportation Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal – FTA (Media release)


Government Groups Voice Support COVID-19 Funding Flexibility – AASHTO Journal

Executive Q&A: Biggest Lesson Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic – Metro Magazine

NY, NJ, Conn. agree on dividing up federal transit aid – AP

On the Horizon: Planning for Post-Pandemic Travel – APTA (Media release)


Amtrak chief outlines expansion plans with infrastructure spending – The Hill

Biden rolls out multibillion-dollar plan to upgrade aging U.S. ports after passage of infrastructure bill – CNBC

The Detroit Smart Parking Lab: Mobility Meets Infrastructure – Detroitisit

Homeowners on Hook for Repairs After San Diego Airport ‘Free’ Soundproofing – KNSD-TV


U.S. unveils roadmap for net-zero aviation emissions by 2050 – Axios

America Isn’t Ready for the Electric-Vehicle Revolution – New York Times (Editorial)

Hawaii Administrative Rules Changed To Allow Electric Vehicles To Use HOV Lanes – Hawaii DOT (Media release)


Ohio DOT Project Helping Revitalize Cleveland Neighborhood – AASHTO Journal

A state pollution trading program aims to improve air quality, but critics worry about environmental justice – Delaware Public Media

Despite calls to improve, air travel is still a nightmare for many with disabilitiesNPR’s Morning Edition

Like Basic Income, But for Transportation – CityLab

Officials target undoing racial divides created by Florida highways, interstates – WTVT-TV

How we reported the story on highway displacements – Los Angeles Times


Montana Department of Transportation tests a new way to decrease wildlife collisions – NBC Montana

LA Metro Installs Early-Warning Earthquake Alerts – Next City

Think green – clean your vehicle at a car wash – LI Herald (Editorial)


Commuting on a bike – Washington State DOT

Wyoming Pathways Seeks Project Ideas That Need Federal Funds – Big Horn Radio Network

Vehicle noise radar may be coming to Philadelphia – Axios

There’s a New 750-Mile Bicycle Route in New York. Take a Look. – New York Times

Localities Pose Stricter Rules on E-Scooter Use, But Challenges Remain – Route Fifty

U of Minnesota study shows how small changes can make big improvements to pedestrian safety – KMSP-TV

Officials across Central Florida push for pedestrian safety – WKMG-TV

Lane County sets ambitious goals of safety, reliability with proposed Bicycle Master Plan – Register-Guard


Research Can Help Micromobility Have a Supersized Effect on Future Transportation – TRB

TRB Webinar: Paving the Way Toward Carbon-Neutral Concrete – TRB


Approval and Promulgation of State Plans for Designated Facilities and Pollutants; Colorado; Control of Emissions From Existing Municipal Solid Waste LandfillsEPA (Final rule)

FY 2021 Competitive Funding Opportunity: Enhancing Mobility Innovation – FTA (Notice)

Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Over People; Technical AmendmentsFAA (Technical amendments)

Notice of Intent To Conduct Scoping and To Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary – NOAA (Notice)

Pipeline Safety: Safety of Gas Gathering Pipelines: Extension of Reporting Requirements, Regulation of Large, High-Pressure Lines, and Other Related AmendmentsPipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (Final rule)

PennDOT Turning Plastic Waste into Roadway Surface Material

For several weeks now, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has been dumping plastic waste onto the roadway near a state park – and that is actually a good thing.

[Above photo by PennDOT]

PennDOT is wrapping up a pilot project that uses pellets (seen in above photo) made from grocery bags, milk jugs, and other recyclable plastics in an asphalt reconstruction project. The pellets are being added to the asphalt in two quarter-mile test sections of the project at the entrance to Ridley Creek State Park, about 15 miles west of Philadelphia.

The expected benefits from this project – due to wrap up by the end of November – include diverting waste plastics from landfills, helping to establish a market for recycled plastics, and extending the useful life of asphalt pavements.

“We are very pleased when we can pursue innovations bringing benefits to the public, our transportation assets, and our environment,” Mike Keiser, PennDOT’s acting deputy secretary for highway administration, explained in a recent news release.

Mike Keiser, PennDOT

The pellets are comprised of high-density and low-density polyethylene – known colloquially as Number 2 and 4 plastics, respectively – plus an additive. Common Number 2 plastic products include milk jugs, shampoo bottles, and some plastic toys. Number 4 plastics, by contrast, are lighter and best known for making grocery bags, shrink-wrap, and bread bags to package.

[Click here to learn more about how to recycle different types of plastic.]

First, those pellets are mixed together with recycled asphalt pavement or RAP, which is then heated and applied to the road surface. The entire process is “relatively consistent with conventional pavement preparation processes,” noted PennDOT Press Secretary Alexis Campbell.

The amount of pellet material can vary from job to job, usually comprising two to four percent of the asphalt binder, Campbell said. If a project uses the maximum amount of pellet material in an application, that can translate to up to three million plastic grocery bags per mile paved.

As PennDOT evaluates the project for performance and environmental properties, it is also looking for other suitable roadway locations for testing “plastic asphalt,” Campbell said.

The agency added that this pilot project is coordinated through PennDOT’s Strategic Recycling Program, funded through the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Report Urges More Funding for Colorado DOT Wildlife Protection Projects

A state government report is calling for increased funding for transportation projects that protect big game habitats and corridors and prevent thousands of vehicle-wildlife crashes each year on Colorado’s roads.

[Above photo by the Colorado DOT]

The Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources authored the Big Game Policy Report, subsequently released by Governor Jared Polis (D) on September 29.

A statement from the governor’s office said the report seeks to “prioritize state policy, coordination and investment to support our wildlife and ecosystems.”

The report notes that the effects of climate change, increased industrial, residential construction, plus ongoing infrastructure development increase the number of situations putting wildlife in conflict with people. The most glaring examples of such conflicts are the estimated 4,000 vehicle crashes with wildlife that cost an estimated $80 million each year in Colorado.

The Big Game Policy Report served as a follow-up to an executive order Gov. Polis issued in 2019 directing Colorado DOT to incorporate wildlife protection measures into “all levels of its planning process, to the greatest extent possible.”

The Colorado DOT already planned to make road improvements to U.S. 160 between Pagosa Springs and Durango when it decided to incorporate wildlife protection elements. The busy stretch of highway has been the scene of more than 350 big game-vehicle collisions in the last 10 years as drivers make their way to the Chimney Rock National Monuments.

The project, expected to wrap up this winter, now includes a wildlife overpass and underpass, high-deer fencing, and “jump out” ramps within the two-mile project area. The fencing helps “funnel” the moving herds toward the overpass or underpass, where they can safely cross the busy highway. The earthen ramps are inside the fencing and allow the animals to safely escape traffic.

By including wildlife elements into planned projects, “it gives us a bigger bang for our buck,” said Lisa Ann Schwantes, a Colorado DOT regional communications manager.

“We look at the projects already identified that need to be done, and we overlap them with wildlife projects and marry them together,” she said.

Though incorporating wildlife protection elements into existing planned projects can be cost-effective, the costs still add up. The U.S. 160 project has a total price tag of $12 million, $5.4 million of which include just the construction costs for the wildlife protection features.

The report points out that, while Colorado DOT continues to look for ways to protect big game and drivers from each other, the agency has no dedicated funding source for such wildlife projects – one reason why the new report calls on the state legislature to find new money to support such projects.

“While progress has been made, the General Assembly should prioritize new funding for transportation projects identified by CPW (Colorado Parks and Wildlife) and Colorado DOT that provide a clear benefit to wildlife populations and human health,” the report states.