Environmental News Highlights – December 2, 2020

A roundup of headlines curated for state transportation environmental professionals


Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight – The Hill

Telework may be the recruitment and retention solution agencies – and Congress – are looking for – Federal News Network

Neal eyes massive coronavirus relief, climate and infrastructure package – Roll Call

Feds Deny Permit for Mine Planned Near Pristine Alaska Bay – Courthouse News Service


Pandemic has surprising impacts on public transit demand – Ohio State News

Female chiefs of Arkansas, Mississippi highway agencies discuss COVID, tell their stories – Talk Business & Politics

Complete Streets in a Pandemic and Beyond with Jennifer Toole, Toole Design – ITE Talks Transportation (podcast)


How Trump’s $1 Trillion Infrastructure Pledge Added Up – CityLab

Airport continues aircraft noise update – High Point Enterprise

Regional initiative targets transportation, climate change in underserved rural communities – Boston University News Service

5 maritime sustainability trends for 2021 – Freightwaves

Along the crumbling Sonoma coast, an ambitious project paves the way for ‘managed retreat’ – Los Angeles Times


GM hits reverse on Trump effort to bar California emissions rules – Reuters

Illegal Tampering by Diesel Pickup Owners Is Worsening Pollution, E.P.A. Says – New York Times

It’s time to dump diesel trucks in N.J. – NJ.com (Opinion)


Bearing the Brunt of Expanding E-Commerce: Logistics Sprawl, Goods Movement, and Environmental Justice – Transfers

Racial Injustice in Environment Policy Becomes White House Focus – Bloomberg Law


Artificial floating islands will help safety of water for Ohioans – The Lantern

EPA fights suit forcing it to act on Pennsylvania, New York cleanup plans – Bay Journal

Wildlife uses Utah’s first interstate crossing just for them – KCRG-TV

Turkeys in Your Neighborhood? Get Used to It. – CityLab

Weed Science Societies Announce Plans for Virtual Annual Meetings – Weed Science Society of America (Press release)


Oakley adopts ban on shared-mobility devices – The Press (California)

Ford unveils plans for mobility innovation district around Michigan Central Station SmartCitiesWorld

TxDOT puts down signs to help pedestrians, bicyclists find walkways in construction zones – KXXV-TV

Some Residents Push For Denver’s ‘Shared Streets’ Program To Become Permanent – KCNC-TV


Building resilient transportation networks – TRB

Webinar: Cross-Cutting Issues in Urban Congestion Pricing – TRB

A Pandemic Playbook for Transportation Agencies – NCHRP/TCRP

Availability and Use of Pedestrian Infrastructure Data to Support Active Transportation PlanningNCHRP

Last Mile in General Aviation – Courtesy Vehicles and Other Forms of Ground Transportation – ACRP

RFP: Toward a Touchless Airport Journey – ACRP

NCST Webinar on Monday, December 7: “Development of an Innovation Corridor Testbed for Shared, Electric, Connected, and Automated Transportation -NCST

Toward Universal Access: A Case Study in the Los Angeles and Puget Sound Regions – Eno Center for Transportation (link to PDF)

U.S. Department of Transportation Announces First Ever Comprehensive ‘Pedestrian Safety Action Plan’ – USDOT (Press release)


Design Standards for Highways – FHWA (Notice of proposed rulemaking, request for comments)

State Highway Agency Equal Employment Opportunity Programs – FHWA (Notice of proposed rulemaking)

Vessel Incidental Discharge National Standards of Performance; Public Meetings EPA (Notice)

Agency Programs Subject to Intergovernmental Review Under Executive Order 12372, Section 204 of the Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act, and Section 401(a) of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act of 1968 – EPA (Notice and request for comments)

Proposed Settlement Agreements, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act – EPA (Notice; request for public comment)

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Compliance – Forest Service (Final rule)

Deepwater Port License Application: Bluewater Texas Terminal LLC; Correction – Maritime Administration (Notice; correction)

Agency Information Collection Activities: Requests for Comments; Clearance of Renewed Approval of Information Collection: Commercial Air Tour Limitations in the Grand Canyon National Park Special Flight Rules Area – FAA (Notice and request for comment)

Hazardous Materials: Adoption of Miscellaneous Petitions To Reduce Regulatory Burdens – Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (Final Rule)

Regulated Navigation Areas; Harbor Entrances Along the Coast of Northern California Coast Guard (Notice of proposed rulemaking)

USDOT Unveils Pedestrian Safety Action Plan

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued what it is calling a “first-of-its-kind” Pedestrian Safety Action Plan on November 23 – a plan that will be overseen by the Federal Highway Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

[Photo courtesy of the Federal Highway Administration.]

“This unprecedented comprehensive safety effort is focused solely on protecting pedestrians because crossing a street should not be lethal for thousands of adults and children every year,” noted U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a statement – noting that USDOT’s plan will promote the expanded use of countermeasures, technology, and data-driven practices to address pedestrian fatalities and injuries.

According to NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, pedestrians comprised 17 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2019. In 2019 – the most recent year in which data is available – 6,205 pedestrians died in traffic crashes, which is 44 percent more compared to 2010.

The USDOT noted that pedestrian fatalities are largely a phenomenon in urban areas during dark conditions, typically increasing in the fall and winter months – analysis that dovetails with findings from a report issued by the Governors Highway Safety Association in February.

The USDOT also designated October this year as the first-ever National Pedestrian Safety Month  – and, concurrently, many state departments of transportation highlighted their efforts at the state level to improve pedestrian safety.

The USDOT also initiated a national series of “stakeholder discussions” in July regarding pedestrian safety, with the FHWA launching “STEP UP” –short for “Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian” – in June to help states make roads safer for everyone.

“Reducing pedestrian fatalities is a team effort that requires collaboration between federal, state, and local transportation leaders,” noted Nicole Nason, FHWA administrator. “We need safer roads, and this plan provides a road map to get us there.” “At some point in the day, we are all pedestrians – especially right now, when everyone wants to get outside for some fresh air,” added NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens.  “Everyone has a role to play in ensuring pedestrian safety and this Pedestrian Safety Action Plan will help communities, drivers, and pedestrians take steps to save lives.”

California Transportation Commission Recommends $2B in New State Projects

The California Transportation Commission released recommendations on November 16 for a $2 billion three-year program to fund new projects to reduce traffic, improve goods movement, increase transit service, and invest in bicycle and pedestrian improvements across the state – projects that also would create more than 100,000 jobs statewide.

[Photo courtesy of the California Department of Transportation.]

The commission said that $2 billion in funding comes from three programs created by the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 – the Solutions for Congested Corridors Program, the Trade Corridor Enhancement Program, and the Local Partnership Competitive Program.

Overall, approximately 60 percent of the $2 billion funding recommendation would go to areas in Southern California and 40 percent to areas in Northern California, which reflects the funding distribution historically used for transportation projects in California. This “geographic balance” ensures communities throughout the state share equitably in the transportation benefits and the jobs created, which will help the state’s economic recovery, the commission said.

“The projects we’re recommending will boost the state’s economy and help transform our transportation system to become more efficient,” said Mitch Weiss, the commission’s executive director, in a statement.

Mitch Weiss, Executive Director, California Transportation Commission. Photo courtesy CTC.

“We’re proposing large investments in transit and bicycling projects that will take cars off our roads, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in support of our climate goals,” he added. “We’re proposing investments in new lanes at choke points where trucks get stuck trying to move the goods our economy depends on, as well as carpool, express, and bus rapid transit lanes so people can get home from work faster to spend more time with their families.”

The proposed transit projects within that $2 billion program aim to make public transportation more accessible and reliable by adding new transit stations and modernizing and expanding services, the commission noted – pointing to the Bay Area Rapid Transit Train Control Modernization project as an example.

Transit projects such as that one are “critical for getting more people out of their cars and moving California toward its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030,” the commission stressed.

The freight sector, which is responsible for an estimated one-third of the state’s economy and jobs, also would benefit from projects to improve highway interchanges; add lanes at choke points for trucks; and upgrade truck inspection and border crossing facilities. For instance, the I-80 Cordelia Vehicle Enforcement Facility project would replace an outdated truck inspection facility along I-80 in Solano County with a new facility using “weigh-in-motion” scale technology, increasing freight volume by 8 million trucks over two decades. More broadly, the commission noted that it fit a variety of “multimodal” corridor projects within its $2 billion recommendation package – combining highway improvements, such as adding new merging lanes to smooth the flow of traffic and improve safety, with increased transit service and bicycle and pedestrian improvements on nearby streets to provide a safe alternative to driving.

SCDOT Workers Bag Tons of Roadway Trash

The South Carolina Department of Transportation noted that 1,700 of its employees picked up 13,130 bags of roadside trash weighing 209,725 pounds on November 17 in support of Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette’s “Grab A Bag SC 2020” statewide cleanup program.

[Photo courtesy of the South Carolina Department of Transportation.]

“We ask the public to help us keep the newly cleaned highways litter-free,” noted Christy Hall, SCDOT’s secretary in a statement. “Not only is litter an eyesore, but it can clog drains, pollute waterways, and hurt our state’s economy by discouraging economic development.”

The agency added that SCDOT employees are planning to participate in another statewide litter cleanup day in spring 2021.

SCDOT’s Keith Bowman and Peter McKnight picking up litter during the agency’s “Fall Cleanup.” Photo by SCDOT.

SCDOT’s litter cleanup effort mirrors similar efforts conducted nationwide in 2020 by state departments of transportation.

For example, the Georgia Department of Transportation launched an anti-litter campaign in October called “Keep It Clean Georgia” that seeks to prevent and eliminate litter along 50,000 miles of interstates and state routes that crisscross Georgia.

That followed the Virginia Department of Transportation’s recent Virginia is for Lovers, Not Litter public outreach campaign, kicked off in September, that aims to raise awareness about Virginia’s roadway litter problem. The agency noted 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.

Then there is the Alabama Department of Transportation, which launched an anti-litter campaign entitled “Trash Costs Cash” in August. The 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 agency – which spent almost $7 million in 2019 to clean up litter along state roadways – noted that fines for littering have doubled statewide. The minimum fine is now $500, up from $250 for a first conviction, while the second conviction is $1,000 and up to 100 hours of community service.

ETAP Podcast: How Texas DOT Implements ‘Environmental Justice’

In the latest episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast, Carlos Swonke – environmental affairs division director for the Texas Department of Transportation – explained how his agency implements environmental Justice or “EJ” strategies within its transportation project work.

[Photo courtesy of the Texas Department of Transportation.]

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “EJ” refers to the process by which both the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people – regardless of race, ethnicity, income, national origin, or educational level – is integrated into the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Texas DOT’s Swonke noted during the 25-minute podcast that the National Environmental Protection Act or NEPA plays an important role in the EJ process.

“NEPA talks about addressing the natural and human environment,” he said. “More recently, in the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve looked harder at the social and economic impacts of transportation projects, especially on urban streets. NEPA is the umbrella law that puts us in the position of looking at those issues and conducting analysis to look at impacts on communities – especially minority and low-income populations.”

Swonke offered up an example of how EJ works within transportation project planning by highlighting the $7 billion North Highway Improvement Project, which seeks to reconfigure four interstates in and around the city of Houston.

“We’ve been working on this project for almost 10 years now and it will result in 160 single-family home relocations, 463 apartment unit relocations, 486 low income, and public housing relocations, and 344 businesses being displaced,” he said. “Along with public meetings to hear directly from affected communities, we engaged in technical analysis using 2010 census data and on-the-ground work to identify populations and neighborhoods considered to be EJ neighborhoods—information we just published in the final report on this project.” To listen to this podcast, click here.