AASHTO Comments on Proposed Trichloroethylene Rule

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recently provided feedback to the Environmental Protection Agency on its proposal to address the “unreasonable risk of injury to human health presented” by trichloroethylene or TCE as part of the Toxic Substances Control Act.

[Above photo by AASHTO Re:source]

AASHTO noted in a letter to the EPA that TCE is widely used as a solvent in a variety of industrial, commercial, and consumer applications. Where state departments of transportation are concerned, the organization noted that TCE is critical to the testing process for asphalt pavement material – and that a wide ranging ban on TCE use would adversely impact their roadway paving capabilities.

“EPA is proposing (in part) to prohibit all manufacture, processing, and distribution in commerce of TCE – and industrial and commercial use of TCE for all uses,” AASHTO noted in its letter. “As part of this ban, EPA is proposing compliance timeframes for certain processing and industrial and commercial uses, including proposed phase-outs and time-limited exemptions of up to 50 years for certain applications.”

AASHTO stressed that while both the organization and the state DOTs it represents “fully support the intent of the proposed regulation to address the health and safety of the workforce,” state DOTs need time to “investigate alternative methods for asphalt testing” with the goal of eliminating TCE from their testing protocols.

“It takes time to research and test alternate procedures to determine their validity in asphalt testing,” AASHTO said in its letter. “Thus we respectfully urge consideration of a time-limited exemption of 20 years from the ban on TCE in laboratory asphalt testing to provide state DOTs with a necessary transition period in which to research and test alternate methods for accomplishing the important work of quality control of the vast amounts of asphalt used on our nation’s transportation system.”

AASHTO pointed out that currently at least 23 state DOTs would be impacted by an immediate ban on TCE, noting that that there are a host of technical reasons – such as the physical properties of the aggregates available in a given state – why some state DOTs specify TCE in their testing protocols. There are also concerns about the use of TCE as it impacts sustainability efforts, for states using recycled asphalt pavement (RAP) and recycled asphalt shingles (RAS) in their pavement mixes require a solvent extraction method to determine the amount of asphalt in the mix, as well as the grade of asphalt, which determines the strength and durability of the product.

The organization is also “highly concerned” that laboratory testing of asphalt is specifically excluded from any phase-outs or time-limited exemptions in the EPA’s proposed rule regarding TCE usage.

“Repeatedly throughout the proposal, asphalt laboratory testing is specifically excluded from the list of laboratory procedures that are granted a temporary exemption or phase-out period for the removal of TCE from their processes,” AASHTO noted.

“As we believe there is a strong case for asphalt testing to qualify for a temporary exemption, it is concerning to see explicit preclusion of this activity,” the organization emphasized. “Banning TCE would impact quality determinations in the use of RAP and RAS, which has been instituted to address federal sustainability objectives and improve environmental product declarations for asphalt mixtures.”

ETAP Podcast: Wrapping up Transportation Equity Series

The final episode of a four-part Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP podcast series interviews key transportation officials about the ways to make mobility systems across the United States more attractive, equitable, and inclusive for all users. To listen to this episode, click here.

[Above: ETAP Podcast Host Bernie Wagenblast (left) with TxDOT’s Michael Bryant. Photo by AASHTO.]

The ETAP podcast – part of a technical service program for state departments of transportation provided by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials – explores a wide array of environmental topics that affect transportation and infrastructure programs.

[To listen to the first three episodes in this equity podcast series, click here, here, and here.]

This podcast episode is comprised of interviews conducted at the 2023 AASHTO Annual Meeting – held November 13-16 in Indianapolis – following a knowledge session entitled “Stop, Look, Listen: Engaging Communities to Put Equity into Action.” 

Experts interviewed for this ETAP podcast episode include: Tanya Smith, director of the Office of Civil Rights at the North Carolina Department of Transportation; Michael Bryant, director of the Office of Civil Rights for the Texas Department of Transportation; Gloria Jeff, livability director for the Minnesota Department of Transportation; and Angela Berry Roberson, senior advisor with the Office of Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Those podcast participants discussed the ways state departments of transportation, transit agencies, and other mobility-focused organizations are working to create more partnerships with underserved communities and disadvantaged businesses across the country to help better identify current and future transportation and mobility needs.

“For me, I think civil rights is the foundation of where we are today with equity,” explained TxDOT’s Bryant on the podcast. “I think equity is taking the foundational principles from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – the fight for equality and justice – and figuring out new ways to implement those principles into all things that we’re doing at state DOTs across the country.”

To listen to the full final episode of this four-part ETAP podcast series on transportation equity, click here.

Environmental News Highlights – December 20, 2023


USDOT Issues $645M in Rural Transportation Grants -AASHTO Journal

USDOT Issues ‘Safe Streets and Roads for All’ Grants -AASHTO Journal

Biden convenes national infrastructure advisory council as he looks to build resiliency -Spectrum News/AP

Who Will Manage the US Climate Retreat? –CityLab

An Answer to Our Transit Crisis -Philadelphia Citizen



A Historic Milestone: Ohio and New York Unveil First EV Charging Stations in U.S. -Motor Mouth

Researchers find SFO runways sinking faster compared to other coastal airports -KPIX-TV

FAA Addresses Resiliency in IIJA Aviation Programs but Lacks Data and a Framework for Prioritizing Climate Change Projects -USDOT Inspector General

General Motors and partners open first 17 locations of their national EV fast-charging network –Teslarati

Transportation, Infrastructure Move Toward Electrification -Government Technology



Impact in More Electric Vehicles Improve Air Quality for Everyone but Have Less Polluted Areas –UCLA

How to slash emissions across the U.S. economy, according to experts -PBS NewsHour


King County Metro’s vision for a sustainable, inclusive and innovative commuting experience -Intelligent Transport

Greyhound bus stops are valuable assets. Here’s who’s cashing in on them –CNN



Congressional Committees Eye Water Resources Act for 2024 -Transport Topics

For Cities, Going Green Is No Cure-All –CityLab


Cayuga Nation sues New York state, claims Thruway on reservation land -Finger Lakes Times

An Underground Lunch Delivery Train Comes to the Atlanta Suburbs –CityLab

Tennessee, North Carolina DOTs Release Mountain Byways E-Guide -Tennessee DOT (media release)

ATU Receives $500K for Trail Management Institute -Arkansas Tech University (media release)


Why are so many American pedestrians dying at night? -New York Times

Bethlehem to receive $10 million to revitalize Broad Street from heavy traffic passageway to pedestrian, biking corridor -Morning Call

Warning Systems To Prevent Drivers From Dooring Cyclists Announced by Ford and Volkswagen –Bicycling

San Diego eyes parking districts as a solution for transportation woes -KPBS-TV

New E-Bike Training Resources Come Online –CalBike

Cambridge, Massachusetts Mandated Separated Bike Lanes on Every New Road. Here’s How It’s Going –Velo


Elevating Equity in Transportation Decision Making: Recommendations for Federal Competitive Grant Programs -National Academies

TRB’s 4th International Conference on Access Management –TRB

How Highway Conversions Can Pave the Way for More Inclusive and Resilient Places -Urban Land Institute


Federal Travel Regulation (FTR); Sustainable Transportation for Official Temporary Duty (TDY) Travel -GSA (Announcement)

Advisory Committee on Transportation Equity (ACTE); Notice of Public Meeting -Office of the Secretary, Department of Transportation (Notice)

National Boating Safety Advisory Committee; January 2024 Virtual Meeting -Coast Guard (Notice)

Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board -Forest Service (Notice of meeting)

Ozark National Scenic Riverways; Motorized Vessels -National Park Service (Final rule)

Determination of Eligibility for Consideration as Wilderness Areas, Congaree National Park -National Park Service (Notice)

Atlantic Wind Lease Sale 10 for Commercial Leasing for Wind Power Development on the U.S. States Central Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf – Proposed Sale Notice -Bureau of Ocean Energy (Notice; request for comments)

Notice of Availability of a Final Environmental Impact Statement for Sunrise Wind, LLC’s Proposed Sunrise Wind Farm Offshore New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island -Bureau of Ocean Energy (Notice)

Policy Regarding Processing Land Use Changes on Federally Acquired or Federally Conveyed Airport Land -FAA (Notice of final policy)

Policy Regarding Processing Land Use Changes on Federally Acquired or Federally Conveyed Airport Land; Correction -FAA (Notification of final policy; Correction)