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Construction

View Handout: At the Intersection of Construction and the Environment

by Environmental Topic

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= Why this environmental topic is important to Construction


 
Air Quality

Highway and transit construction can contribute to air quality concerns through emissions from heavy duty equipment, as well as dust from construction activities. Proper construction staging and design of phasing, such as night-time work and maintaining all lanes of traffic, can help mitigate air quality impacts.

Air Quality
 
Climate Change Mitigation/Adaptation

Climate Change Mitigation/Adaptation covers two complex, and distinct sub-topics: Energy/Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Infrastructure Resilience.

Climate Change Mitigation/Adaptation
 
Energy/Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Highway and transit construction can contribute to GHG emissions concerns through exhaust from heavy duty equipment. Proper construction staging and design of phasing, such as night-time work and maintaining all lanes of traffic, can help mitigate air quality impacts. Extreme weather events and changing climate conditions also pose increased risks that may require changes in construction practices.

Energy/Greenhouse Gas Emissions
 
Infrastructure Resilience

Construction practices may be impacted by increasing extreme weather events and ongoing changes in climate conditions.

Infrastructure Resilience
 
Context Sensitive Solutions

Context Sensitive Solutions is a collaborative, interdisciplinary, holistic approach to the development of transportation projects. It is based on careful consideration of community values, environmental features, land use, transportation function and available budget. CSS can be incorporated into all phases of program delivery up to and including construction. CSS in construction might include ensuring access to businesses and mobility in work zones.

Context Sensitive Solutions
 
Environmental Justice

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and environmental justice principles apply to all U.S. DOT programs, policies, and activities. Evaluation of human impacts should be given continuous attention throughout planning, project development, implementation, operation, construction, and maintenance to identify and avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate disproportionately high or adverse effects on low income and/or minority communities.

Environmental Justice
 
Environmental Management Systems

An environmental management system is the organizational structure and associated processes for integrating environmental considerations into the decision-making processes and operations of an organization. An EMS can help ensure environmental considerations are taken into account during construction.

Environmental Management Systems
 
FAST Act/MAP-21

This topic covers project delivery and environmental provisions of both the FAST Act and the MAP-21 surface transportation funding and policy legislation. The legislation may affect all aspects of transportation projects including planning, design, construction, and maintenance. It includes language on linking planning and NEPA processes.

FAST Act/MAP-21
 
Geographic Information Systems

Transportation agencies use GIS from the early inception of projects through planning, design, construction, and maintenance of transportation networks.

Geographic Information Systems
 
Health & Human Environment

Health and Human Environment topic describes a range of programs, policies, case studies and other resources related to the role of transportation in support of livable and sustainable communities, including multimodal transportation options that advance public health goals. Effective construction practices such as work zone safety can help meet these goals.

Health & Human Environment
 
Historic Preservation/Cultural Resources

Transportation agencies must address historic preservation and cultural resource issues during the transportation project planning and development processes. Historic preservation or cultural resource concerns may arise as part of transportation construction and maintenance actions in historic districts, on historic bridges, or on routine projects.

Historic Preservation/Cultural Resources
 
Invasive Species/Vegetation Management

Construction projects, transportation systems, and mowing operations can inadvertently spread invasives. FHWA encourages the selection of construction means and methods that will help prevent and control invasive species and encourage growth of native species. Soil improvement and plant establishment should be addressed through the design and construction process before maintenance takes responsibility of the roadside.

Invasive Species/Vegetation Management
 
NEPA Process

Projects must meet requirements of NEPA prior to construction. NEPA will establish environmental commitments/mitigation measures that must be followed and implemented during construction.

NEPA Process
 
Noise

Compliance with FHWA noise regulations is a prerequisite for the granting of Federal-aid highway funds for construction or reconstruction of a highway. State DOTs use a wide range of practices to reduce or mitigate noise during highway construction.

Noise
 
Planning & Environment Linkages

This topic covers efforts such as FHWA’s Planning and Environment Linkages, an approach to transportation decision-making that considers environmental, community, and economic goals early in the planning stage and carries those commitments through project development, design, and construction. Environmental issues identified in planning, including mitigation features, must be reflected in construction. Related efforts include Eco-Logical, an ecosystem-based approach to transportation planning and infrastructure development.

Planning & Environment Linkages
 
Project Delivery/Streamlining

Construction innovations such as accelerated bridge construction can be used to speed project delivery while protecting the environment.

Project Delivery/Streamlining
 
Sustainability

Sustainability refers to taking into account social, environmental and economic considerations in transportation. These principles are important in all aspects of transportation, including construction practices.

Sustainability
 
Waste Management/Recycling/Brownfields

Transportation activities including construction are affected by a variety of requirements and initiatives related to the management, disposal, and recycling of wastes. Some of these activities include use of recycled pavement, proper management of contaminated materials and waste piles, proper materials storage, and diversion of construction waste from landfills.

Waste Management/Recycling/Brownfields
 
Water Quality/Wetlands

Protecting water quality is an ongoing environmental concern for transportation agencies, including requirements for stormwater runoff and mitigation of impacts to wetlands and water resources. Agencies must ensure that adequate controls are in place to manage stormwater runoff and prevent erosion from construction sites.

Water Quality/Wetlands
 
Wildlife & Ecosystems

Sustainable transportation construction practices help reduce impacts on wildlife and ecosystems. Such practices include erosion control and prevention, avoiding disturbances during nesting or spawning seasons, protecting native vegetation, and reducing equipment noise.

Wildlife & Ecosystems

 

Air Quality

Recent Developments: Guidance on Alternative Fuel Corridor Signs Issued by FHWA

The Federal Highway Administration has issued guidance concerning use of signs for designated alternative fuel corridors. The guidance, which notes that such signs are not mandatory, specifies that all signs that are developed for such corridors should use simplified message content with reasonable sign size, while minimizing driver distraction through limited use of the signing and proper placement. The guidance also specifies that general service signage is limited to compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, electric vehicles, hydrogen and liquefied petroleum gas usage. The guidance includes instructions for signs installed on freeways, expressways and conventional roads and provides detailed illustrations of how signs should be presented. Use of such signs is not mandatory. For more information, link to the guidance. (12-21-17)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Newsletter Highlights Air Quality and Climate Change News

The Federal Highway Administration has published the October/November 2016 newsletter highlighting air quality and climate change news. The newsletter includes information on the updated interim guidance on mobile source air toxics analysis in NEPA documents, the designation of alternative fuel corridors, the updated greenhouse gas emission reduction policy analysis tool, INVEST case studies, recordings and the congestion mitigation and air quality improvement program emission reductions calculator. The newsletter also lists upcoming meetings, conferences, workshops, training opportunities and deadlines. For more information, link to the newsletter. (11-29-16)

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Recent Developments: EPA Issues Recommendations for Improving Near-Road Air Quality

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a research report with recommendations for constructing roadside vegetation barriers to improve near-road air quality. The report encompasses barrier design recommendations, characteristics for best vegetative barriers, benefits of combining vegetation with solid noise barriers and various other resources. The EPA has conducted field studies, wind tunnel assessments and modeling to examine the role of roadside barriers in reducing pollution near homes, schools and other buildings near major roadways. The report indicates that reduction in pollution is greater when vegetative barriers are thick with coverage from the ground to top of the canopy. For more information, link to the fact sheet. (11-2-16)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Highlights Use of Narrow Lanes and Shoulders to Manage Congestion

The Federal Highway Administration has released a report concerning the application of performance-based practical design solutions for the construction and use of narrower lanes and shoulders on freeways to increase capacity and reduce congestion within the existing footprint. Case studies from Los Angeles, Miami-Dade, Fla., Milwaukee and Washington state, are included regarding the successful development of general purpose lanes, managed lanes and the creation of a lane in an existing interchange. For more information, link to the report. (9-6-16)

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Energy/Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Recent Developments: DOE Report Examines Possible Mobility Scenarios for Transportation

The Department of Energy has released a report that examines four possible mobility futures that could exist in 2050 and the positive and negative impacts these can have on energy consumption and the broader economy. The report, “The Transforming Mobility Ecosystem: Enabling an Energy-Efficient Future,” considers the two factors with the highest potential to transform the transportation sector: vehicle control (driver-only vs. fully automated self-driving) and vehicle ownership (personal ownership vs. fully shared). The report evaluates four possible futures emerging from the combination of these factors. For more information, link to the report. (1-27-17)

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Recent Developments: DOE Allocates $15 Million for Energy Efficient Transportation Technologies

The Department of Energy has announced the availability of $15 million for state and local governments and their private partners to accelerate the adoption of advanced and alternative fuel vehicles through Clean Cities or Smart Cities-type projects. Projects may include the increased deployment of alternative fuel vehicles, the enhancement of new mobility systems, and the planning for and construction of alternative fuel infrastructure such as charging stations. The funding also would be available for projects that demonstrate connected and/or automated vehicle technologies that reduce energy consumption. The projects will be used to collect and share best practices and lessons learned. A webinar for applicants is scheduled for Jan. 12, 2017. For more information, link to the DOE announcement. (12-21-2016)

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Recent Developments: DOE to Use Nearly $20 Million to Fund Energy Efficient Transportation

The Department of Energy has announced $19.7 million to support the research and development of advanced vehicle technologies, including batteries, lightweight materials and advanced combustion engines, and innovative technologies for energy efficient mobility. The DOE seeks to fund projects in four areas of interest that apply to light, medium and heavy-duty on-road vehicles; energy efficient mobility; and transportation infrastructure systems. For more information, link to the press release. (12-14-16)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Newsletter Highlights Air Quality and Climate Change News

The Federal Highway Administration has published the October/November 2016 newsletter highlighting air quality and climate change news. The newsletter includes information on the updated interim guidance on mobile source air toxics analysis in NEPA documents, the designation of alternative fuel corridors, the updated greenhouse gas emission reduction policy analysis tool, INVEST case studies, recordings and the congestion mitigation and air quality improvement program emission reductions calculator. The newsletter also lists upcoming meetings, conferences, workshops, training opportunities and deadlines. For more information, link to the newsletter. (11-29-16)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Announces Webinars on CEQ’s Climate Change Guidance

The Federal Highway Administration has announced two webinars to provide overviews of the Council on Environmental Quality’s Final Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in National Environmental Policy Act Reviews. The guidance provides a framework for agencies to consider both the effects of a proposed action on climate change and the effects of climate change on a proposed action. The webinars are scheduled for Sept. 30 and Oct. 4, 2016. The webinars will cover the same material. For more information, link to FHWA's climate adaptation webpage. (9-20-16)

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Case Studies: Massachusetts - MassDOT Public-Private Partnership Generates Solar Energy on Highway Rights of Way

Generating 6 megawatts (MW) of electricity per year from solar farms is not a typical goal for a state transportation agency. But for Massachusetts DOT (MassDOT), setting that goal is part of a 20-year public-private partnership it has embarked upon with a renewable energy company located in the eastern part of the state.

Under the contract, the private sector partner has agreed to finance, develop, design, construct, commission, operate, maintain, and eventually decommission solar facilities at ten pre-approved sites it leases across the state. The rows of ground-mounted solar panels are located on small parcels of state-owned land along highway embankments, exit ramps, and service plazas.

Phase 1A of the MassDOT Highway Right of Way Solar Photovoltaic Energy Program was completed in October 2015 and included five locations. Phase 1B, comprising five additional locations, is awaiting start of construction. And Phase2A, as envisioned, will include three additional sites.

“We are very pleased to be spearheading an initiative that is bringing both economic and environmental benefits,” says Hongyan Oliver, Project Manager of the solar program.

Solar arrays, such as this facility along I-90, are being developed on MassDOT’s highway rights of way. Photo: Massachusetts DOT

“The state expects to generate at least $15 million in savings over the contract period. These savings include about $2 million in rent from the leases on state properties, money that goes into the state’s transportation fund. What’s more, the arrangement entailed zero upfront capital cost for us,” according to Oliver.

Another advantage of forming a public-private partnership is the generous incentives available to the private sector partner. In this case, besides receiving a federal income tax reduction, its partner also is tapping into the state’s Solar Renewable Credits (SREC) system. For its part, MassDOT obtains all net metering credits and associated energy savings. The state’s net metering policy allows a customer to sell power generated by distributed generation back to the grid at a certain price (the meter spins backwards).

“We are purchasing 100 percent of the electricity these solar farms are generating,” explains Oliver. “And because our partner is benefitting from the solar incentives, the purchase rates we have been able to negotiate are significantly lower than current utility rates. At this point, the solar power from the ten planned sites can meet approximately six percent of our needs; we expect that figure to rise as more solar farms from our partnership enter the grid.”

The solar program also brings strong environmental benefits. The power being generated will produce zero greenhouse gas emissions, says Oliver, thereby supporting Massachusetts’ commitment to a green and clean economy. It also supports MassDOT’s GreenDOT sustainability initiative.

“Once we fully reach our goal of generating 6 megawatts (MW) of electricity per year, we anticipate a CO2 emissions reduction of approximately 6.8 million pounds annually due to replacing fossil fuel electricity in the grid with solar power,” Oliver explains. “That is the equivalent of annual greenhouse gas emissions from 630 passenger vehicles.”

Trending

MassDOT has joined a small but growing number of state DOTs that are beginning to utilize highway rights-of-way (ROW) as locations for siting renewable energy production facilities. Oregon led the way in 2008, becoming the first agency in the United States to install a solar panel array along a highway ROW (see related case study). Over the next several years, Ohio and Colorado followed suit. In addition, at least seven state DOTS have constructed solar array or wind turbine installations at rest areas or carports that abridge highways, according to a recent FHWA publication.

Original Impetus, Careful Site Selection

The agency began its foray into the solar energy field in 2011 by releasing a parcel of state land adjacent to a highway to the adjoining town. The town had received an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant to produce solar power for its water treatment plant.

“Actually, we received indirect benefits from the project in that the public began to become accustomed to the concept of solar panels being installed next to a highway,” Oliver explains.

During that same year, her agency was beginning to have discussions about developing what now is the MassDOT solar program.

“One of the first things we did was contact our counterparts in Oregon,” Oliver explains. “Although the business model we eventually selected was different, many other components were the same. ”

The agency began with a small pilot project in the western part of the state designed to supply one-third of the energy needs of a nearby District Highway Administration building. Then it was time to move into the next phase, its multi-facility program.

“Realizing that site selection was one of the most critical elements, we hired a consultant to do the evaluation,” says Oliver.

Criteria for selection included parcel size and orientation, any existing environmental concerns, distance from the grid, easy access during construction, no interference with highway operation, and no conflict with future transportation use. Another consideration was whether a site was adjacent to a federally-funded highway, which would mean obtaining FHWA approval. Finally, if either environmental concerns or a solar zoning by-law was present, town approval would be needed.

Once sites were selected, a Request for Response (RFR) was sent out and the current partner company was selected after a three-stage competitive process. Prior to the issuance of the RFR, the Department updated its utility accommodation policy in coordination with the FHWA Mass division. Its policy now includes guidelines for renewable energy technologies. It also outlines safety criteria and design standards, the project development process, compensation requirements, and relevant license and lease agreements.

Less conspicuous than the rows and rows of solar panels, the inverter, transformer and data acquisition system are the heart and the brain of a solar farm. (Photo: Massachusetts DOT)

Multiple Installations, Multiple Advantages

“Developing multiple sites across the state under the same program umbrella makes us somewhat unique,” says Oliver. “From our perspective, this approach has a number of advantages.”

First, she explains, it requires only one procurement document, and the process is carried out through a single open bid. Second, with multiple sites in the same project, the owner and operator of the solar farms may be able to purchase equipment and subcontractors’ services in bulk at a discount, and construction mobilization can occur at multiple sites simultaneously.

“In addition,” according to Oliver, “we have been able to learn through experience as we move through the program and integrate more strategic approaches along the way.

Replicability

Other states may be well positioned to create similar programs, she said. Those that decide to pursue such a program should be aware of any site conditions or regulatory constraints that can affect generation capacity as well as available incentives.

“In our case, for instance, construction for the five sites in Phase 1B originally was slated to begin in spring 2015. However, that start date has been put on hold due to the situation of excess-demand for net metering incentives in Massachusetts.”

Oliver also advises that other states “work very closely with other divisions and sections to incorporate all concerns and requirements during site selection and development.”

Fortunately, she continues, her Planning Division uses a 25-year projection window, an extremely compatible timeframe in this case. She and her team members maintained constant communication throughout the process, especially during site selection.

Oliver concludes, “So far, the decision to use some of our highway right-of-way land to produce solar energy has proven to be extremely sound. And looking ahead, we anticipate only more of the same. ”

For more information, contact MassDOT Project Manager Dr. Hongyan (Lily) Oliver at Hongyan.Oliver@state.ma/us or link to http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/energyinitiative/Solar.aspx.

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Case Studies: Oregon - 'Solar Highway' Offers Model Approach for Renewable Energy

An array of hundreds of solar panels stretching 540 feet along an Oregon highway is helping to power a nearby interchange with clean, renewable energy through a unique public-private partnership that could serve as a model for the nation.

Oregon’s “Solar Highway Project” sits at the interchange of Interstates 5 and 205 in Tualatin, Ore., at the south end of the Portland metropolitan area. The project is the nation’s first roadside solar photovoltaic demonstration project.

According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, the project’s 594 solar panels produce about 122,000 kilowatt hours annually. The panels produce energy during the day which is used to light the interchange at night. ODOT buys the energy produced by the array at the same rate the agency pays for regular energy from the grid.

This clean, renewable source of energy will help the agency meet the mandate from Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski that state agencies obtain all of their electricity from renewable sources. By replacing energy from the grid, the solar electricity produced by the project will avoid the production of nearly 43 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions each year.

The $1.28 million project, which has been in operation for just over one year, was developed through an innovative public-private partnership between ODOT; Portland General Electric (PGE), Oregon’s largest utility; and US Bank. Material providers included Solar World US, the nation’s largest solar panel manufacturer, and PV Powered, the nation’s largest inverter manufacturer.

Making the Most of the ‘Right-of-Way Asset.’

ODOT Project Director Allison Hamilton explained that under this unique partnership “the public gets multiple values out of its right-of-way asset.”

“Using state and federal tax credits, the renewable energy projects are developed at least possible cost, which benefits the utility rate payers – including ODOT and the State of Oregon, “ Hamilton said. At the same time, ODOT gets green energy at grid rate instead of the higher green energy rate, she added.

“The solar energy project is owned, operated and maintained by the utility, which also assumes all the risk, and is responsible for maintenance of the right of way for the term of the contract (from 25 years up to 40 years or more),” Hamilton explained. But the utility also gets to count the project towards its renewable energy portfolio requirements, she said.

“It’s a win-win-win business model,” Hamilton added.

ODOT officials and PGE officials have deemed the project a success, demonstrating that solar arrays can complement and not compromise the transportation system.

In fact, Hamilton said the project has exceeded expectations, producing more than the expected 112,000 kilowatt hours in its first year, with only one maintenance incident where a panel was cracked and had to be replaced.

As a result, Oregon DOT and its partners – utility providers and private businesses – are poised to expand production of solar energy at the demonstration site and as well as other locations in the state.

Third Party Financing Model

According to ODOT, these public-private partnerships are expected to follow the same type of third-party financing model developed for the demonstration project.

“The utilities would contract with solar developers to design, build and install the arrays, which they – the utilities or limited liability companies involving the utilities – would own, operate and maintain, and which could count towards meeting statutory requirements to develop renewable energy resources. The utilities would also be responsible for maintenance and successful operation of the arrays, including any damage due to vandalism or crashes,” according to a summary on the demonstration project website.

ODOT would have a 25-year agreement to purchase all electricity generated by the solar projects, with options to renew for up to three five-year extensions.

DOTs Urged to Work with Utilities

Hamilton said many other states have expressed interest in following Oregon’s lead, but she stressed that each state will have unique circumstances. “Because each state has its own utility regulations, I would recommend project proponents work with or through their utility to learn the most efficient and cost effective way to size, permit and connect a project, and also to determine the most advantageous financing and ownership model,” she said.

“We learned that the larger the installation, the better, as you are able to spread your fixed costs out over more kilowatts, bringing down the cost per installed kilowatt” compared to the cost of existing grid energy.

Hamilton urged transportation agencies that are interested in developing a solar highway project to take advantage of the expertise of the utility, whose core business is energy generation.

“Oregon’s state transportation system has nearly 19,000 lane miles of right-of-way and there are more than 8 million lane miles of right-of-way across the nation,” according to an ODOT project summary. “Solar arrays on less than 1 percent of Oregon’s right-of-way could supply the nearly 50 million kilowatt hours needed annually by the state transportation system,” the agency said.

The project has been recognized with numerous honors, including the Federal Highway Administration’s 2009 Environmental Excellence Awards.

A wide range of information is available on the project website, www.oregonsolarhighway.com, including a solar highway meter that tracks energy generated on-site, news releases, photos, videos, research, technical documents, and information on planning for future projects. Additional information also is available by contacting Allison Hamilton at allison.m.hamilton@odot.state.or.us.

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Infrastructure Resilience

Recent Developments: FHWA Releases Long-Term Pavement Performance Climate Tool

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a new climate tool as part of the agency’s Long Term Pavement Performance database. The tool provides convenient access to worldwide climate data including temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind and solar, and allows users to select data by country and state or province. The climate data are from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) data. The tool includes a map module with GIS-based data files. For more information, link to LTPP InfoPave and a descriptive overview. (3-8-17)

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Recent Developments: Accomplishments of the U.S. Global Change Research Program Highlighted

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has released a report highlighting the accomplishments of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a working group that coordinates research across 13 federal agencies on climate change and other issues. The program has developed global observational systems and improvements in modeling capabilities and understanding the carbon cycle. The report recommends that the program sustain, expand and coordinate observations to support the needs of the nation at all levels. For more information, link to the report. (2-15-17)

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Recent Developments: AASHTO Issues Transportation Resilience ‘Roadmap’ Report

A roadmap for activities related to improving transportation systems resilience has been developed by the AASHTO Special Committee on Transportation Security and Emergency Management (SCOTSEM). The report, Understanding Transportation Resilience: A 2016–2018 Roadmap for Security, Emergency Management, and Infrastructure Protection in Transportation Resilience, is intended as a discussion tool for SCOTSEM and other committees from AASHTO and the Transportation Research Board to guide their approach to sponsoring and participating in national transportation resilience-related activities. It describes efforts including a national summit and peer exchange to be held in 2018, development of transportation resilience white papers, and development of a chief executive officer primer on transportation resilience and a series of CEO engagement forums. For more information, link to the report. (1-30-17)

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Recent Developments: Hydraulic Engineering Circular 17 Addressed in FHWA Webinars

The Federal Highway Administration is holding webinars on Feb. 8 and 22, 2017, regarding the recently released Hydraulic Engineering Circular (HEC 17): Highways in the River Environment – Floodplains, Extreme Events, Risk and Resilience. The first webinar will address climate modeling and risk and resilience, while the second webinar will focus on an analysis framework and case studies. The webinars are part of a series that also includes one that addressed floodplains, riverine flood events and nonstationarity. All webinars are being recorded. For more information, link to the FHWA hydraulics information. (1-30-17)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Releases FAQ on Emergency Relief Program and Resilience

The Federal Highway Administration has released a list of questions and answers addressing how FHWA emergency relief program funds may be used to rebuild a damaged highway in such a way to prevent future damage from extreme weather events. The FAQ specifies that though funds are provided to restore facilities to pre-disaster conditions, improvements are allowed if consistent with current standards or if it would save the FHWA money over time. Specifically, repairing facilities to current geometric and construction standards does not count as a “betterment.” Also, funds may be used to add protective features to a facility if the benefits outweigh the costs within the facility’s lifetime. For more information, link to the FAQ. (1-23-17)

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Recent Developments: EPA Issues Smart Growth Options for Climate Change Adaptation

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a report concerning the development of land use and building code policies to adapt to climate change. The report provides policy options that will provide environmental, economic, health, and societal benefits. The report addresses barriers to climate change and adaptation measures for flooding and extreme precipitation, rising sea levels, drought and wildfire. The report also includes practice pointers, community examples and references to credit summary language and metrics from community-scale rating systems. For more information, link to the report. (1-19-17)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Project Aims to Help Engineers Develop Climate-Resilient Infrastructure

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a framework and case studies to help transportation engineers design infrastructure solutions that are more resilient to future extreme weather events and climate change. The documents are the latest installment in FHWA’s Transportation Engineering Approaches to Climate Resiliency (TEACR) Study, which looked at a diverse set of transportation assets around the country to identify best practices for improving the resiliency of the transportation system. Available information includes the Adaptation Decision-Making Assessment Process (ADAP) along with seven case studies. The project also will include two additional case studies, a synthesis report, and a new module to be added to FHWA’s vulnerability assessment framework. For more information, link to the TEACR website. (12-23-16)

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Recent Developments: TRB Releases Report Summarizing Symposium on Transportation Resilience

The Transportation Research Board has released “Transportation Resilience: Adaptation to Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events,” a report summarizing an international symposium held in Brussels on June 16-17, 2016. The symposium brought together high-level experts from the European Union and the U.S. to discuss disruptions to the transportation system resulting from climate change and extreme weather events. The report focuses on the technical, financial and policy challenges to better plan, design and operate the transportation network before, during and after extreme and/or long-term climate events. For more information, link to the report. (12-20-16)

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Recent Developments: TRB Releases Report on Highway Bridge Damage Assessment

The Transportation Research Board’s has released Synthesis 497: Post-Extreme Event Damage Assessment and Response for Highway Bridges under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. The report reviews the procedures that state departments of transportation and local authorities in Los Angeles County and New York City use to assess the damage in bridges in response to extreme events and conduct emergency response activities. The report specifies that extreme events include those with geological sources, those from hydro-meteorological sources, or those of man-made origin. For more information, link to the report. (12-19-16)

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Recent Developments: Report Reveals Benefits of Green Infrastructure in Washington, D.C.

The Georgetown Climate Center has released a report regarding green infrastructure implementation in the Washington, D.C. area. The report provides a cost benefit analysis of green infrastructure strategies such as green roofs, bioretention and reflective pavements to account for future net benefits. The report indicates that the benefits would outweigh the costs by providing the city with $5 billion over a 40-year period in benefits by adopting such mechanisms. Benefits include energy cost savings, improved air quality, reduced stormwater runoff, climate change mitigation and increased employment and resilience. For more information, link to the report. (12-12-16)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Releases Report on Alaska DOT Climate Resilience Project

A final report on the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and the Alaska Federal Land Management Agencies climate resilience pilot project has been released by the Federal Highway Administration. The project is part of a program to study transportation vulnerability to extreme weather events and climate change and to evaluate options to improve resilience. The report highlights case studies for the Kivalina Airport and Denali Park Road projects to understand vulnerabilities of engineering design. The report identifies adaptation solutions for minimizing impacts of sea level rise and future permafrost thaw and slope instability. For more information, link to the report. (9-16-16)

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Recent Developments: Boston Releases Final Report on Climate Resilience

A final report has been released for Climate Ready Boston, an initiative led by the City of Boston to enhance near- and long-term climate change preparedness and resiliency. The report predicts how climate change will impact Boston and details the findings on vulnerable populations, buildings, infrastructure, the shoreline and the economy. The report also provides an extensive analysis of climate resilience initiatives and a roadmap for strategic implementation. Climate Ready Boston is coordinated with both Imagine Boston 2030 and 100 Resilient Cities. For more information, link to the report. (12-8-16)

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Recent Developments: Video Addresses Human Causes of Disaster and Mitigation Technologies

Resources for the Future has released a video addressing human causes of disaster and new technologies and policies to decrease impacts. The video includes discussion led by Robert Muir-Wood, chief research office of Risk Management Solutions, on how decisions made about how homes are built, where people choose to live, how society prepares, and how leadership communicates warnings determines whether a disaster can be combatted. For more information, link to the video. (11-28-16)

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Recent Developments: District of Columbia Releases Plan to Adapt to Climate Change

The District of Columbia's Department of Energy and Environment has released Climate Ready DC, the District's plan to adapt to a changing climate. The plan highlights climate change impacts for the District and climate risks and vulnerabilities for infrastructure, community resources, people and natural resources. The plan also outlines adaptation strategies for transportation and utilities, buildings and developments, neighborhoods and communities, and governance and implementation. It also identifies 77 actions the District can take to reduce the risks posed from climate change. For more information, link to the report. (11-15-16)

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Recent Developments: Report Highlights Lessons from Post-Hurricane Sandy Design Competition

A new report from the Georgetown Climate Center describes the lessons learned from the Hurricane Sandy Rebuild by Design Competition projects. The projects demonstrate innovative approaches for rebuilding that are resilient to future climate impacts and other environmental changes, and to social and economic stressors. The report, “Rebuilding with Resilience: Lessons from the Rebuild by Design Competition after Hurricane Sandy,” includes case studies detailing how recipients of funding in New Jersey and New York are working to transition the conceptual proposals developed during the competition to projects that can be implemented on the ground. For more information, link to the report. (11-14-16)

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Recent Developments: Report Examines How Communities Are Addressing Climate Risks

The Kresge Foundation has released a report that examines what 17 communities are doing to address climate risks. The report, “Climate Adaptation: The State of Practice in U.S. Communities,” finds that communities are often motivated by an extreme event and are more focused on reducing current vulnerabilities to extreme events than addressing future climate impacts. For each community, the report assesses what event motivated climate action, the actions they are taking, the strategies they are using to implement adaption action and their achievements. For more information, link to the report. (11-16-16)

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Recent Developments: Report Profiles How Three Cities are Institutionalizing Resilience

100 Resilient Cities has released a report regarding how three cities -- New Orleans, La.; Melbourne, Australia; and Semarang, Indonesia -- have institutionalized resilience. The report defines “institutionalizing resilience” as permanently establishing the function and structure of a Chief Resilience Officer and integrating and mainstreaming the concept of resilience into city services, plans and initiatives. Each case study provides information on the design, budgeting, engagement, and the key best practices learned from these institutionalizing efforts. For more information, link to the report. (10-17-16)

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Recent Developments: NOAA Releases Tool to Help Urban Areas Build Climate Change Resilience

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced the release of “Built Environment,” a new addition to the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit that is designed to address a range of climate change-related risks facing cities and towns. The tool provides information, case studies, decision support tools, planning guides, training courses, reports actions plans and links to regional experts. The Climate Resilience Toolkit was first launched in 2014. For more information, link to the tool and press release. (9-30-16)

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Recent Developments: TRB Videos Highlight Climate Change and Resiliency Challenges

The Transportation Research Board has released a series of videos covering webinars that discuss ways in which transportation agencies can comply with new climate- and resiliency-related requirements under the FAST Act. The five videos discuss how highway and transit agencies can adjust to extreme weather events, build more resilient infrastructure, address increased flooding, incorporate data-driven decisions, and address economic and management concerns. For more information, link to the videos. (10-4-16)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Posts Alaska Climate Trend Vulnerability Study Report

The Federal Highway Administration has posted a report presenting the findings of a study examining three transportation projects in Alaska for potential vulnerability to climate change and extreme weather events. The study focused on how a better understanding of changing climate conditions could lead to more informed decisions on transportation asset investments and used an eleven-step process for engineering vulnerability assessment to develop findings. The report found that future efforts to incorporate changing climate conditions into engineering decision-making will require a coordinated effort and that relatively low cost options can be viable strategies for dealing with climate change-related vulnerabilities. For more information, link to the study. (9-26-16)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Case Study Highlights New York Climate Resilience Pilot

The Federal Highway Administration has released a case study on the extreme weather vulnerability assessment conducted by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) under the FHWA’s Climate Resilience Program. NYSDOT collaborated with The Nature Conservancy to assess the vulnerability of culverts in the New York portion of Lake Champlain Basin. NYSDOT developed a new decision support tool to help determine when a culvert replacement is warranted based on risk, environmental importance, and economic benefits and cost. For more information, link to the case study. (9-28-16)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Announces Webinars on CEQ’s Climate Change Guidance

The Federal Highway Administration has announced two webinars to provide overviews of the Council on Environmental Quality’s Final Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in National Environmental Policy Act Reviews. The guidance provides a framework for agencies to consider both the effects of a proposed action on climate change and the effects of climate change on a proposed action. The webinars are scheduled for Sept. 30 and Oct. 4, 2016. The webinars will cover the same material. For more information, link to FHWA's climate adaptation webpage. (9-20-16)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Posts Report on Alameda County Climate Resilience Pilot

A final report on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s climate resilience pilot project for Alameda County, Calif., has been posted by the Federal Highway Administration. The project is part of a federal program to study transportation vulnerability to extreme weather events and climate change and to evaluate options to improve resilience. The project assessed adaptation options for a subset of key transportation assets vulnerable to sea level rise, focusing specifically on assets in the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Peninsula, the Oakland Coliseum Area and the State Route 92 Corridor. The report identifies adaptation strategies as potential solutions to protect key bridge, highway, transit and community assets from future flooding. For more information, link to the report. (9-13-16).

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Recent Developments: EPA Issues Report on Green Infrastructure, Climate Change Charrette

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a report concerning the Green Infrastructure and Climate Change Resiliency Charrette, hosted by the Green Infrastructure Program and Urban Waters Partnership Program. The charrette explored ways in which green infrastructure could help the cities of Albuquerque, Grand Rapids, Los Angeles, and New Orleans become more resilient to climate change. The report includes case studies that highlight the benefits of green infrastructure practices, the collaboration across city agencies, the unification of solutions across multiple disciplines, and the efficiencies in project implementation within each city. For more information, link to the report. (9-1-16)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Case Study Highlights Tennessee DOT Climate Resilience Pilot

The Federal Highway Administration has released a case study on the extreme weather vulnerability assessment conducted by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) under the FHWA’s Climate Resilience Program. TDOT partnered with Vanderbilt University to develop a statewide GIS-based inventory of the state’s critical transportation assets across various modes and identified historical and future extreme weather scenarios to determine where transportation assets are most vulnerable. The assessment serves as a screening process for more detailed study and provides input for developing TDOT’s risk-based transportation asset management plan. For more information, link to the case study. (9-2-16)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Case Study Focuses on Michigan DOT Climate Resilience Pilot

The Federal Highway Administration has released a case study on the climate vulnerability assessment conducted by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) under the FHWA’s Climate Resilience Pilot Program. MDOT formed a Technical Advisory Committee and internal working group, composed of state agencies, academic institutions and various other stakeholders, that was tasked with integrating the assessment into MDOT’s decision-making process. The committee and working group gathered information concerning key climate stressors; conducted an assessment of transportation assets to precipitation and extreme heat; analyzed the consequences of removing an asset from service; and performed a risk analysis for five areas across the state. MDOT identified high-risk assets and determined that additional data on elevation, flood plains and land use are needed to create a robust assessment. For more information, link to the case study. (9-2-16)

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Case Studies: Tennessee - Tennessee DOT Conducts Statewide Vulnerability Assessment for Transportation Assets

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is responsible for building and maintaining much of the state’s transportation infrastructure. Following a number of extreme weather events, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) recognized that the agency’s management of those assets required methodological approach to assess the vulnerability of the state's transportation network.

In May 2010, Nashville, Tennessee experienced a 1,000-year flood event, causing 21 deaths in Tennessee and widespread property damage. In 2013, there were severe weather-related problems on the Cumberland Plateau, in the eastern part of the state. Rockslides blocked traffic in areas lacking alternative transportation routes. In other regions, sinkholes opened on interstate highways.

Tennessee DOT faces extreme weather impacts such as this 2013 rockslide on State Route 25. Photo: Tennessee DOT

These types of extreme events prompted TDOT officials to conduct a statewide vulnerability assessment for its transportation infrastructure as a first step in identifying cost-effective approaches to increasing the resilience of the system. The assessment took advantage of a pilot program offered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

FHWA has funded a series of studies across the country to begin increasing the resiliency of the country's transportation infrastructure in the face of increasingly frequent and severe weather events. The first round of FHWA pilot projects validated a general approach to conducting an extreme weather vulnerability assessment. They focused primarily on coastal locations where many of the risks were related to storm surge and sea level rise. FHWA’s second round of pilots, although also primarily focused on coastal states, included inland states, and Tennessee became the first inland state to perform a statewide vulnerability assessment.

TDOT is now trying to integrate the results of the screening-level, statewide vulnerability assessment into TDOT’s planning, management and operational policies, according to Alan Jones, Policy Manager, Long Range Planning Division at TDOT. The agency’s assessment has been an important screening tool to identify critical transportation assets, better understand extreme weather risks, and identify specific assets that warrant a more detailed analysis.

FHWA Vulnerability Assessment Framework and Tennessee’s Approach

The Tennessee project developed an approach to the vulnerability assessment that was based on FHWA's Vulnerability Assessment Framework, while also taking into account the unique characteristics of Tennessee and its transportation system. The approach involved identifying critical transportation assets, defining the types of extreme weather events that could occur while taking into consideration expected changes in certain climate variables, assessing the damage potential and resilience of the transportation assets when impacted by the extreme weather event, and combining this information to reach conclusions about the vulnerability of the asset.

To manage the number and range of transportation assets statewide, TDOT's first step was to group its transportation assets into generic asset categories. The categories included roads, rail lines and rail yards, navigable waterways, ports, bridges, airport runways, pipelines, transit systems, and more. It was not possible in this initial screening study to differentiate the unique characteristics of specific facilities, such as pavement binder or age of asset.

Criteria for determining the criticality of an asset included the volume of activity, the asset's strategic importance, the existence of redundant capability, the asset's use for emergency response, and local knowledge of the importance of the asset.

The range of extreme weather events and climate change to be expected in Tennessee was based on analysis of information from the National Weather Service and well-tested global climate models. The types of weather events included were extreme temperatures (both high and low), heavy rain, drought, strong winds and tornados, ice storms, and major snowfalls. Trends in the data identified which counties were most likely to see increased severity and frequency of extreme events. The climate data also identified counties that can expect the most significant changes with respect to projected temperature and precipitation.

The process of assessing damage potential and asset resilience was performed through a statewide survey conducted of transportation stakeholders, such as government agencies, freight carriers, transit service providers, airport authorities, and shippers.

The survey results painted a picture of tremendous variation in vulnerabilities across Tennessee. Key findings included:

  • Wind and flooding are by far the events of greatest concern across the state, potentially affecting multiple classes of transportation assets. For example, there is significant risk from flooding in Memphis. Moreover, wet ground and strong winds could produce large numbers of tree falls and utility poles across roads, severely restricting movement.
  • Movement of vessels, including barges carrying coal and other products, on Tennessee rivers can be disrupted by extreme weather. Locks are vulnerable to flooding and river levels that allow barge traffic are vulnerable to extended periods of high temperature and low rainfall.
  • Rockslides in middle and eastern Tennessee could substantially disrupt transportation networks in areas with limited alternate routes.
  • With the exception of one county, winter weather is a less significant concern.

Next Steps for TDOT

TDOT plans to take a number of steps to implement the results of its vulnerability assessment.

The agency plans to follow-up with TDOT's four regions to communicate the results of the study. This will include developing regional "briefing books" to condense the study and communicate specific vulnerabilities so they can be easily understood and quickly referenced. These briefing books will be tailored to each of the four TDOT regions to account for differences across the State and to make the information more useful to local and regional planners. The agency also will select up to 20 of the state's most vulnerable assets for more refined, targeted analyses, including development of potential adaptation strategies.

In addition, TDOT will incorporate information from the screening-level vulnerability assessment as it develops its risk-based transportation asset management plan (TAMP) required under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).

TDOT will also consider additional tasks in following up on the vulnerability assessment.

  • TDOT has already identified slopes near roadways that are most vulnerable to rockslides, TDOT will combine this information with the data regarding locations of expected increased precipitation, to help select priority sites for potential slope stabilization projects.
  • Based on the more detailed assessment of critical transportation assets, TDOT will identify additional adaptation projects for possible addition to the State's Transportation Improvement Program (TIP. TDOT would need to determine how to evaluate adaptation projects against congestion relief projects. This would likely require quantifying the benefits of implementing adaptation projects.
  • TDOT will consider issues associated with whether and how to modify repair and replacement standards so that facilities may be upgraded to a more resilient condition.
  • Developing linkages throughout TDOT and with other transportation agencies (e.g., MPOs) to address extreme weather more effectively.

Lessons Learned and Advice to State DOTs

A statewide vulnerability assessment is an ambitious project and required a significant commitment of time and resources; however, the project results served as a vital screening tool that can be used to determine where best to focus a more detailed study to determine what, if any, adaptation measures might be warranted. For example, the statewide study required grouping assets into classes, such as “roads,” but this approach has substantially limited the number of roads in the state that warrant a further review, a review which will allow more unique characteristics of the asset to be evaluated to determine vulnerability, such as pavement binder, age of the road, and more.

Another lesson learned is the importance of local stakeholder knowledge and input. The project conducted regional meetings across the state and were able to get a much better understanding of what assets and routes are considered critical, or not, from a local perspective. Local knowledge of how assets perform during extreme weather events was also vital to the study. TDOT field staff already have a great deal of knowledge of regional vulnerabilities that were relevant to the study.

More details on the study are available in the pilot project final report. A summary of the TDOT pilot is provided in an FHWA Webinar Recording.

For more information, contact Alan Jones, Tennessee Department of Transportation at Alan.Jones@tn.gov.

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Case Studies: Vermont - Vermont Agency of Transportation Expands Emphasis on Managing Roads in Concert with Streams and Rivers

In the wake of the devastating floods wrought by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, the Vermont Agency of Transportation is working to expand training and awareness on how to properly manage highway infrastructure in concert with the natural ebb and flow patterns of the state's river systems.

Irene's torrential rains and flooding washed out or damaged hundreds of miles of roads and hundreds of bridges and left entire communities stranded. In its wake, Irene also taught an important lesson: the need to manage the state's road infrastructure to be more compatible with its streams and rivers.

Irene's devastating floods "changed the way we do business in Vermont,” according to VTrans Deputy Secretary Rich Tetreault, who served as the agency’s Director of Program Development and Chief Engineer.

In-stream restoration work following Tropical Storm Irene. Photo: VTrans

Tetreault said VTrans employees are being sent back to the classroom for coursework on the science of rivers. Also known as "fluvial geomorphology," this science stresses how natural cycles of periodic flooding and deposition allow river systems to reach a balanced state known as "equilibrium." Both online and classroom training is available. The contents, which are grouped into three tiers ranging from basic to advanced, have been developed by engineers at the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

Managing for Equilibrium

The Tier 1 training - which also is used by ANR for its own staff – is an online self-guided basic course that describes the value of rivers and hydrologic and sediment regimes; explains river behavior, including river morphology, river equilibrium, and channel evolution; discusses rivers and human development, including flood and erosion hazards and efforts to control rivers; and explains how best to manage rivers for equilibrium.

The course summarizes the following key points about river processes and management:

  • Rivers have a natural level of stability that is realized when the power of the river flow is in equilibrium with the sediment load.
  • This balance can be tipped when activities on the landscape or in the river change the amount of flow and sediments delivered to the rivers and/or the power created by the flow and resistance provided by the river channel.
  • When the balance is tipped, the river enters a disequilibrium condition and potentially a channel evolution process and the threat to property and developments is increased.
  • Working with the natural tendencies of rivers to manage for equilibrium is the most cost effective way to reduce river related damages and threats to public safety.

The training helps professionals learn how to better identify areas with severe erosion hazards, how best to mitigate areas where damage has occurred, and how to better design roads and features to avoid future damage. It is applicable to a range of transportation professionals including engineers, technicians, equipment operators, and highway foremen.

"This goes from the hydraulics engineer to the bridge and roadway designers, to the local road foreman and the excavator operator that's working in the river, so they all better understand the dynamics of the river when they are working on public infrastructure," Tetreault said. At the same time, the training is being provided to local agency partners and contractors.

The Tier Two training is a classroom and field-based training that delves more deeply into the topics of physical river processes, aquatic habitat and the interactions between rivers and adjacent infrastructure. It also explains the permitting process and standards that must be met. Emphasis is placed on accommodating stream equilibrium, avoiding practices that trigger further instability, and minimizing impacts to aquatic habitat during emergency flood response and recovery operations when technical support is not available. Contents are particularly geared toward design, construction, maintenance and planning professionals.

It includes “a lot of hands on work, both in the classroom with custom built flumes and in the field, knees deep in a local stream,” said Scott Rogers, VTrans Director of Operations. “We have mandated some of our folks from the maintenance garages attend Tier 2 to become more intimately familiar with the dynamics of the systems. They are the ones running the equipment (or making the decisions on repair work) in the field,” he added.

In 2015, the Tier 2 format was modified slightly to mix participants from VTrans with those from municipalities. In addition, a special training was held for regional planning commission transportation planners and another for private sector engineers. Mixing participants allowed for state-municipal dialogue that resulted in technical transfer and the development of greater appreciation for differing perspectives.

The Tier 3 training currently is under development, with completion scheduled for spring 2016 and training sessions to begin near the end of 2016. Tier 3 will focus on advanced engineering and construction oversight topics, specifically the design and construction oversight of the stream alteration practices outlined in the Vermont Standard River Management Principles and Practices document (2014).

Codifying the River Science Approach

In addition to offering the training courses, VTrans has updated its hydraulics manual to codify the "river science" approach. While the previous manual was based on the hydraulic capacity of infrastructure – focused strictly on water – the revised manual also considers sediment and debris.

The new manual allows for more risk-based design in terms of roadway safety and stream stability. It also corresponds to VTrans' latest stream alteration permit, codifying a process that currently is required under permit but not recognized as a standard by authorities such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

"The new manual doesn’t change the hydrologists' methodology. It codifies it such that when FEMA comes to town we will have another documented standard to fulfill when they are replacing public infrastructure," Tetreault said.

For example, where slope repairs are needed adjacent to rivers, workers historically had dumped stone down the slope, further constricting the river channel. Such repairs now would start with defining the stable channel dimensions for the river and then building the slope to match - all with the help of fluvial geomorphologists. "Across the board, we are really making this part of our standard operating procedure," Tetreault added.

Understanding River Systems

Tetreault said that the "river science"-based approach is important for all ongoing activities of maintaining existing infrastructure, up to and including reconstruction or new construction of highways. For example, such considerations are important when addressing a culvert replacement or a slope failure or a river channel that needs some adjustment to respond to the built environment around it.

"There is a dynamic going on continuously with the rivers, and there is maintenance going on with drainage systems or even the river itself. People need to be aware of the fact that the river is working and we need to work with it and understand the changes that occur over time," he said. "So the minute you get an excavator out and you're working near a river, stop and think: if I put this rock here or if I remove this tree trunk here, what is it doing to the dynamics of the river as it is now and will be in the future?"

Tetreault said other states with river systems could benefit from the self-administered training course, which is posted online and is free of charge. The Tier 1 training course can be accessed online.

For more information on Vermont's Rivers and Roads program, contact Richard Tetreault, Richard.Tetreault@state.vt.us or link to the progress report.

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Context Sensitive Solutions

Recent Developments: FHWA Releases Case Studies on Performance Based Practical Design

The Federal Highway Administration has released five case studies that illustrate the range of contexts for performance based practical design (PBPD) in transportation systems management, and operations strategies and tools. The case studies show how PBPD can be implemented through analysis of high-occupancy toll lanes, urban free reconstruction, alternative intersections, regional performance-based planning and analysis of active traffic management. For more information, link to case studies regarding toll lanes, urban freeway reconstruction, alternative intersections, regional performance-based planning and active traffic management. (1-11-17)

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Case Studies: ContextSensitiveSolutions.org

This website provides comprehensive information on context sensitive solutions, including an extensive collection of case studies. Link to http://contextsensitivesolutions.org/

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Case Studies: AASHTO Best Practice Award Winners

Case Studies: AASHTO Best Practice Award Winners - AASHTO Best Practices in Context Sensitive Solutions Competitions

Environmental Justice
Environmental Management Systems

Case Studies: EMS Implementation Update Case Studies

The AASHTO Standing Committee on Highways report Environmental Management Systems Implementation Update (2006) found that 27 state transportation agencies either had implemented or were in the process of developing EMSs. This level of activity reinforces the growing awareness on the part of transportation agencies of the performance achievements available through an EMS. The report includes a series of case studies, which can be accessed by following the report link above. The following case studies are provided:

  • California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) - Environmental Commitment Record (ECR); Standard Tracking and Exchange Vehicle for Environmental System (STEVE); and Preliminary Environmental Analysis Report Tool (PEAR)
  • Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) - Efficient Transportation Decision Making (ETDM)
  • Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) - Environmental Management System
  • Maryland State Highway Administration (MDSHA) - Environmental Strategic Plan and Management Systems
  • Massachusetts Department of Transportation (Mass Highway) - Environmental Management System
  • New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) - Environmental Management System for Traffic Bureau
  • New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) - New York State DOT's Environmental Initiative
  • Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PENNDOT) - Strategic Environmental Management Program (SEMP); and Categorical Exclusion/Environmental Assessment Expert System
  • Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) - Internal Environmental Systems Supporting Project Development, Construction Operations, and Facility Operations
  • Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District (Tri-Met) - Environmental Management System
  • Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) - Commitments Fulfillment EMS Work Plan
  • Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) - Environmental Management System

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FAST Act/MAP-21

Recent Developments: FHWA Report Examines Use of GIS in Performance Management

The Federal Highway Administration has released a report that includes four case studies regarding transportation agencies’ use of geographic information systems in transportation performance management (TPM). The report discusses how departments of transportation in Maryland, Ohio, South Carolina and Vermont approach TPM programs and determine how best to use GIS to visualize the effects of performance-based operations and planning. The report found that most states remain in the developmental stage of implementing a TPM program, which is required under MAP-21 and the FAST Act. The report also found that states are investing in the use of GIS tools to better integrate data and to centralize data storage. For more information, link to the report. (2-17-17)

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Recent Developments: AASHTO Updates FAST Act/MAP-21 Implementation Plan, Rule Tracker

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials has updated its implementation plan for the FAST Act and MAP-21 and its surface transportation rulemaking tracker. The plan updates the status of provisions regarding revenue and planning, freight, program and project delivery, planning, performance management and asset management. The tracker keeps tabs on rules related to surface transportation as they work their way through the regulatory process. The updated tracker adds a request for comments concerning commercial activities in rest areas. For more information, link to the plan and tracker. (12-1-16)

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Case Studies: Washington State - WSDOT Reports Significant Time Savings by Issuing Combined EIS, Record of Decision

Provisions of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) that allow environmental impact statements and record of decision documents to be combined for transportation projects have achieved significant time savings for Washington State DOT, according to the agency.

The authority to issue one combined document have saved approximately 60 days to 90 days for the first two projects for which the agency used it, state officials report.

The authority was enacted as a streamlining provision under Section 1319 of MAP-21. In addition, the law authorized use of errata pages rather than a separate standalone final EIS if only minor comments are received on a draft EIS.

The provisions of MAP-21 were aimed at cutting the time required to process environmental documents for transportation projects.

WSDOT has published two combined FEIS/RODs under the new law: a Final Supplemental EIS and Record of Decision for the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project, and a Final Supplemental EIS and Record of Decision for the SR 167 Puyallup River Bridge project, according to WSDOT Policy Branch Manager Carol Lee Roalkvam.

For both projects, the combined EIS/ROD eliminated one round of document circulation and streamlined the cooperating agency and legal review. Each project saved approximately two to three months’ time, she said.

Additionally, the I-90 project team used the related streamlining measure which allows for a Draft EIS and errata page to suffice for a final EIS.

The I-90 team noted that the new processes used together took less time that it would have taken to prepare an Environmental Assessment/Finding of No Significant, according to Roalkvam. In one year, the team went from notice of intent, to Draft Supplemental EIS, to Final EIS/ROD.

“Many state DOTs are searching for examples of quality environmental documents,” Roalkvam said. “While every project is unique, I encourage state DOTs to look at the way the I-90 team applied the MAP-21 streamlining provision and the abbreviated FEIS format to prepare a concise, complete and readable document.”

Washington State DOT combines final EIS, Record of Decision for I-90 Project. Photo: WSDOT

Combined FEIS and ROD

Prior to MAP-21, FHWA and FTA were required by their own regulations and Council on Environmental Quality regulations to provide a waiting period of at least 30 days between publication of the FEIS and issuance of the ROD.

Section 1319(b) of MAP-21 overrode that requirement. It directs the lead agency to issue the FEIS and ROD as a single document “to the maximum extent practicable,” unless one of the following conditions is met:

  • the FEIS makes “substantial changes to the proposed action that are relevant to environmental or safety concerns” or
  • “there are significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and that bear on the proposed action or the impacts of the proposed action.”

FHWA and FTA issued interim guidance implementing Section 1319 on Jan. 14, 2013. The interim guidance calls for a case-by-case determination as to whether it is “practicable” to issue a combined FEIS and ROD. The guidance also directs FHWA Division Offices and FTA Regional Offices to consult with headquarters before issuing a combined FEIS/ROD.

‘Errata Pages’ Format for FEIS

MAP 21 also clarified that the lead agency can issue an FEIS that consists of “errata pages” -- rather than a complete, stand-alone document -- if the agency received only “minor comments” on the Draft EIS.

This flexibility existed under the CEQ regulations even before the enactment of MAP-21. Section 1319(a) confirms that this format is acceptable.

It also requires that errata pages “(1) cite the sources, authorities, or reasons that support the position of the agency” and “(2) if appropriate, indicate the circumstances that would trigger agency reappraisal or further response.”

In the Jan. 14 guidance, FHWA and FTA described the information that should be included in errata pages, and confirmed that this documentation must undergo the legal sufficiency review required for an FEIS under 23 CFR 771.125.

For more information, link to the I-90 project documents on the WSDOT website at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I90/SnoqualmiePassEast/I90FinalSEISandROD.

The Puyallup River Bridge documents are available at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR167/PuyallupRiverBridge/Environmental.htm.

Additional information is available from Carol Lee Roalkvam, Policy Branch Manager, WSDOT, at RoalkvC@wsdot.wa.gov.

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Geographic Information Systems

Recent Developments: Study Highlights Oregon Coordinate Reference System

The Federal Highway Administration has released a program study regarding the development of the Oregon Coordinate Reference System, which is used achieve accurate three dimensional geospatial positions using global navigation satellite systems. The reference system, developed by the Oregon DOT, resolves the challenge of integrating survey data collected into geographic information system maps and databases for use in transportation applications. Geospatial surveying tools make it possible to use automated machine guidance equipment for roadway and bridge construction and disseminate information via geographic information systems. It also has created a society ready for real-time information concerning road conditions and work zone updates. For more information, link to the study summary. (7-20-16)

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Case Studies: Virginia - Virginia DOT's Environmental Data and Reporting System Improves Communication, Accountability

The Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) evolution to an environmental data management system started with more than 73 decentralized spreadsheets and personal databases. In 2001, VDOT developed its GIS Integrator, an internal geographic information systems (GIS)-based tool to support the agency’s efforts to improve early project development and environmental review by capturing a spatial inventory of project shapes used to identify existing environmental resources with the potential for project impact through spatial analysis.

In 2003, VDOT expanded their data management solution by consolidating all non-spatial data sources into an environmental data repository called the Comprehensive Environmental Data and Reporting system (CEDAR). This internal web based application provides a single user interface for capturing all VDOT’s environmental business data, including National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), permitting, and environmental contracts. The CEDAR application synchronizes nightly with the agency’s project pool and active directory databases for improved management of project data and user accounts. It also links to the agency’s GIS Integrator, which allows for streamlined project reviews.

“The CEDAR system provides VDOT staff with an invaluable comprehensive environmental data management tool that has successfully improved communication and accountability, said Geraldine Jones, VDOT CEDAR Administrator. “Since its deployment in 2003 CEDAR has been the backbone of VDOT’s environmental operations. CEDAR’s success, usability, and permanence can be attributed to its user championed platform and staff dedicated to maintain and enhance an application subject to dynamic regulations and processes,” she said.

The GIS Integrator allows users to buffer project shapes to determine potential resource issues. In this case, the project shape was buffered 2 miles for conservations lands. Source: VDOT

The integrated CEDAR system centralizes where staff enter and retrieve data for all VDOT’s environmental activities on a project-by-project basis, allowing for restricted viewing and editing based on roles and permissions. It captures project history, handles all project types – including construction and maintenance – tracks project status through the life of the project and generates system alerts.

The system also:

  • stores, manages and distributes documents;
  • contains a task assignment function;
  • tracks commitments;
  • documents project details such as meetings and phone calls using the journal feature;
  • contains links for environmental permit tracking and houses regulatory agency correspondence;
  • links to VDOT’s Integrated Project Manager (IPM) system, which contains project pool information;
  • links to the GIS Integrator, which allows for digitizing project shapes and spatial analysis functionality to identify environmental impacts in a project area;
  • includes both standard and ad-hoc project reporting such as new projects, tasks schedule, and advertisement schedule; and
  • provides access to project contract and other administrative information.

Benefits of the system include increased project accountability, satisfaction of mandates, and interagency coordination. It also provides documentation for decisions, and offers a tool for communication of commitments, project status, accuracy of project estimates, and efficiency of projects.

Current Efforts and Key Take-aways

Today, VDOT’s CEDAR and GIS Integrator applications are positioned for upgrades. A user advisory committee has been formed to identify functional requirements. The upgrade is expected to come with an updated user interface and be launched within the foreseeable future.

Key motivators for an integrated environmental data management system as exhibited by VDOT’s CEDAR and Integrator include the following:

  • Economic savings: Compared to “pre-CEDAR” 2003, VDOT environmental projects in 2011 experienced notable time savings. For example, the labor hours required to complete tasks associated with a project categorical exclusion (such as a biological assessment, state environmental review, or field survey for endangered species) decreased between 33 and 50 percent.
  • Process efficiencies: CEDAR consolidates applications (project management, GIS, data storage) and makes it easier to document environmental decisions and communicate environmental commitments and project status.
  • Quality control improvements: CEDAR provides standardized spatial data and pre-approved data schemes. It provides a basis for program management and trend analysis.
  • Interagency coordination and relationship building: CEDAR helps streamline interagency coordination by supporting compliance with mandates, reducing the time required for advancing projects through regulatory approvals, compiling all external agency communication, providing transparency of environmental data from all participating entities, and increasing the visibility of project.

Transferability

VDOT is not alone in its development of an environmental data management system. Though many state DOTs still use spreadsheets, databases, paper maps, and shapefiles as data management tools, many others have developed standalone systems or contemplated environmental data management systems of their own. In August 2015, numerous state DOTs gathered in Oregon and online to discuss data management approaches in their agencies in an effort to share information and experiences across agencies.

VDOT’s advice to other DOTs interested in their own data management systems includes supporting an IT staff dedicated to application maintenance, and involving users from the beginning to confirm requirements and increase staff adoption of the system.

For more information on VDOT’s CEDAR, please contact Geraldine Jones, CEDAR Administrator, VDOT Environmental Division, at Geraldine.Jones@VDOT.viriginia.gov.

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Health & Human Environment

Recent Developments: Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation Handbook Issued by FHWA

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a handbook for incorporating pedestrian and bicycle transportation into regional planning activities. The report addresses approaches to engaging stakeholders, identifying walking and bicycling conditions and needs, developing regional plans and priorities and increasing funding. The report includes recommendations for analyzing existing travel behavior and addresses identification of where people want to walk and bike, development of nonmotorized transportation and examples of municipal organization-led counting programs. For more information, link to the report. (3-8-17)

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Recent Developments: Report Seeks to Answer Parking Question Near Transit

Smart Growth America has issued a report concerning the use of land for parking at transit-oriented developments (TODs). The report includes data from five TODs across the country to address how much less parking space is required at TODs and how many fewer vehicle trips are generated than standard estimates. The report examines the estimated number of vehicle trips versus actual vehicle trips, peak parking occupancy and average mode shares at each TOD. The report indicates that fewer vehicle trips are made and a reduced amount of parking space is used. The results highlight the need to align industry standards with TOD needs. For more information, link to the report. (3-1-17)

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Recent Developments: FTA Reports on Transit-Oriented Development Technical Assistance

The Federal Transit Administration and Smart Growth America have released a report concerning the Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Technical Assistance Initiative. The program is a four year project that provides resources and on-the-ground assistance on TOD, land use, urban planning, affordable housing, and community-based economic development to help local governments retain transit investments. The report on the project’s first year addresses TOD education, the importance of first-mile and last-mile connections, TOD market dynamics and the connection between TOD and affordable housing, and includes case studies. The report also focuses on program challenges and indicates that future assistance must focus on equity gaps, support of peer sharing and in-depth assessments of communities. For more information, link to the report. (1-19-17)

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Recent Developments: Volpe Report Highlights Future of Transportation Sector

The Department of Transportation’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center has issued a report to highlight safety aspects, opportunities and innovation within the transportation sector. The report, The Future of Transportation: Safety, Opportunity, Innovation, addresses the importance of behavioral change to reduce vehicle miles traveled and the need for policies that facilitate mobility in both urban and suburban environments. The report also discusses the effective development of autonomous vehicles through the Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot Model Deployment for vehicle testing and the need for changing urban policy to promote accessibility and allow cities to confront automated vehicle challenges. For more information, link to the report. (1-12-17)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Issues Guide on Rural Bicycle Facility Design

A guide issued by the Federal Highway Administration provides information and best practices specifically aimed at designing and building bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in small towns and rural areas. The guide finds that active transportation planning and design is rapidly gaining popularity, but most of the work to date has been focused on large urban areas. Taking into account the factors of roadway speeds and volumes, the extent of the networks, and land use, the guide provides ideas under four categories: mixed traffic facilities, where vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles share the roadways; visually separated facilities, such as paved shoulders and bike lanes; physically separated facilities; and operational controls such as vehicle speed management, pedestrian lanes, and road markings. For more information, link to Small Town and Rural Multimodal Networks. (1-9-17)

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Recent Developments: USDOT Issues Report on LadderSTEP Pilot in Seven Cities

The Department of Transportation has issued a report concerning progress under the Ladders of Opportunity Transportation Empowerment Pilot LadderSTEP Program. The report describes the achievements made under the pilot program in Atlanta, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Charlotte, N.C., Indianapolis, Phoenix, and Richmond, Va. Projects developed under the program were aimed at improving access to transit and employment centers, developing bus rapid transit and light rail systems and creating successful bicycle and pedestrian plans. The LadderSTEP program, which facilitates sustainable economic development through transportation decisions, is place-based model of providing technical assistance directly to cities. For more information, link to the report. (12-19-16)

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Recent Developments: NCHRP Report Highlights Application of Pedestrian Crossing Treatments

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program has issued a synthesis composed of existing practices concerning the application of pedestrian crossing treatments for streets and highways. The report includes data from state departments of transportation and local transportation agencies and a review of over 25 pedestrian crossing treatments. Data indicates that at least 16 major cities have adopted vision zero strategies to hold system designers and operators accountable for minimizing the possibility of people dying or becoming injured. The report also says that 90 percent of states and local jurisdictions use pedestrian median crossing islands, curb extensions and raised median islands and that 100 percent use pedestrian warning signs as treatments. For more information, link to the report. (12-14-16)

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Recent Developments: FTA Selects Five Cities for Transit-Oriented Development Support

The Federal Transit Administration has announced the selection of five cities to receive guidance concerning transit-oriented development (TOD) as part of the TOD Technical Assistance Initiative. The program provides planning and analysis tools, a comprehensive online database of TOD information and facilitation of peer-to-peer information exchange. Albuquerque, Birmingham, Charlotte, Omaha and Tacoma were chosen to develop a station area plan for a new bus rapid transit station; preserve neighborhoods with appropriate TOD measures; and deploy a housing market study to project employment, housing and property trends for potential development of TOD sites. For more information, link to the press release. (12-12-16)

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Recent Developments: FTA Issues Clarifications Regarding Funding, Equity in Shared Mobility

The Federal Transit Administration has issued question-and-answer guidance regarding the use of on-demand, shared mobility services such as ride-hailing companies as part of the nation’s public transportation system. The agency has addressed issues concerning whether federal funds can be used for shared mobility partnerships with transportation network companies, the distinction between a grant recipient and a contractor, issues regarding bike share services, and drug and alcohol testing requirements. The agency also addressed shared mobility in relation to the Americans with Disabilities Act and other civil rights requirements. An online dialog on the topic will open Dec. 12. For more information, view the FAQ and a “dear colleague” letter from Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. (12-8-16)

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Recent Developments: Project for Public Spaces Releases Report on Healthy Placemaking

The Project for Public Spaces has released a report concerning the improvement of health through placemaking. The report includes guidance, recommendations and various case studies to reshape a community’s streets, parks or other public spaces to maximize shared value and increase the quality of life for residents. The report analyzes the impacts of physical, mental, and social health in areas such as social support and interaction; play and active recreation; green and natural environments; healthy food; and walking and biking. The report also provides characteristics of projects that incorporate the social determinants of health and includes recommendations for health care institutions to become placemaking champions. For more information, link to the report. (12-8-16)

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Recent Developments: Pedestrian, Bicycle Facilities Needed on Bridges: Paper

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center has released a white paper to demonstrate the need for investing in bicycle and pedestrian facilities during bridge rehabilitation projects. The paper, “Improving Pedestrian and Bicycle Connectivity During Rehabilitation of Existing Bridge,” states that Federal Highway Administration policy on pedestrian and bicycle considerations should be addressed at the state, local and regional planning levels. The paper also suggests that providing pedestrian and bicycle facilities as part of bridge rehabilitation projects is a net benefit for communities. Additionally, the paper includes case studies summarizing the positive effects of bicycle and pedestrian connections. For more information, link to the white paper. (11-16-16)

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Recent Developments: FTA Selects Projects for Transit-Oriented Development Planning Pilot Program

The Federal Transit Administration has selected projects for the Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development Planning. The projects will receive fiscal year 2015 and 2016 appropriations amounting to approximately $20.49 million. The program is authorized under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and supports planning efforts for new fixed guideway and core capacity improvement projects that are seeking or have received funding through the Fixed Guideway Capital Investment Grants Program. For more information, link to the notice. (10-31-16)

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Recent Developments: Case Studies Show Metro Agencies Using Data to Select Transportation Projects

Transportation for America has released case studies showing how four metropolitan areas used data-driven ways to conceive, select and build transportation projects which strengthened the local economy, improved public health outcomes, promoted social equity and protected the environment. The case studies, which were prepared in partnership with American Public Health Association, cover projects in Broward County, Fla., Greensboro, N.C., Nashville and Sacramento. For more information, link to the case studies for Sacramento, Broward County, Nashville and Greensboro. (9-22-16)

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Case Studies: Hawaii - Hawaii DOT Promotes Benefits of Walking with Nation's First Pedestrian Master Plan

A new focus on pedestrian safety and the benefits of walking can be seen throughout Hawaii thanks to the nation’s first Statewide Pedestrian Master Plan adopted by the Hawaii Department of Transportation.

Released in May 2013, the Hawaii Statewide Pedestrian Master Plan was developed to improve pedestrian safety, mobility, and connectivity. At the same time, the plan sought to promote the benefits of walking – including a healthier environment, healthier citizens, and a stronger economy.

The plan provides a formalized process to assess the needs of pedestrians, develop and prioritize projects, and provide an implementation strategy, according to Rachel Roper, the project manager for the plan and a civil engineer with the HDOT Highways Division Planning Branch.

The plan identifies ways to improve pedestrian safety and mobility through engineering, education, and enforcement. It prioritizes 31 pedestrian infrastructure projects, advances the state’s complete streets policy, and fulfills federal multimodal planning requirements.

A key component of the plan is the Hawaii Pedestrian Toolbox, a companion document containing best practices for planning, design, operation, and maintenance of pedestrian facilities.

Features such as this pedestrian bridge on the east shore of Kauai are described in the Hawaii Pedestrian Toolbox. (photo: Hawaii DOT)

To ensure effective implementation, the plan also describes potential funding strategies and provides performance measures for monitoring progress. The performance measures reflect specific objectives and methods to achieve the following goals of the plan:

  • improve pedestrian mobility and accessibility;
  • improve pedestrian safety;
  • improve connectivity of the pedestrian network;
  • promote environmental benefits of walking;
  • encourage walking to foster healthy lifestyles;
  • enhance communities and economic development by creating pedestrian-oriented areas and positive pedestrian experiences; and
  • promote and support walking as an important transportation mode that reduces overall energy use.

Examples of the pedestrian projects HDOT is advancing include implementing Walk Wise Hawaii, a program to educate communities about pedestrian and driver awareness; replacing traditional traffic signals with countdown timers; and installing sidewalks to improve connectivity.

The American Planning Association recognized Hawaii’s pedestrian plan with its 2014 National Planning Award for Excellence in Transportation Planning, citing the plan for being the first in the nation with a statewide, pedestrian-only focus and for being transferable to other states.

HDOT’s efforts in engaging the public and identifying priority areas of concern also were featured as noteworthy practices in the Federal Highway Administration’s Statewide Pedestrian and Bicycle Planning Handbook, released in September 2014.

Developing the Plan

HDOT sought to develop a pedestrian-focused plan to fulfill a goal of reducing traffic-related deaths in Hawaii’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan, 2007-2012. Hawaii had the fifth highest pedestrian fatality rate nationwide due to traffic-related crashes from 2001-2005, with 22 percent of traffic crashes statewide involving pedestrians.

The agency structured the plan development process to balance technical expertise from HDOT’s Highway Design and Traffic Operations Sections with extensive involvement from the public, Roper said. HDOT established two stakeholder committees: a Technical Advisory Committee and a Citizens Advisory Committee. The technical group was comprised of staff from federal, state, and city and county agencies. The citizens committee represented diverse public interests, such as neighborhood organizations, seniors, students, local businesses, and minority and disadvantaged populations. HDOT also held a series of public meetings and workshops and maintained a project website throughout the plan development process.

The public validates existing conditions at a public workshop in Maui. (Photo Hawaii DOT)

The project team identified “areas of concern” for recommended pedestrian improvements through a geographic information system analysis of existing conditions statewide. This was combined with input from the stakeholder committees and the public. Criteria to evaluate the areas of concern and to prioritize recommended solutions were developed based on the key factors of pedestrian connectivity, accessibility, pedestrian-oriented populations, and safety. The criteria were reviewed by the two advisory groups and validated through public meetings.

The project team then applied best practices in pedestrian-oriented design from the companion Hawaii Pedestrian Toolbox to evaluate potential solutions in the areas of engineering, education, and enforcement. The process – which included sharing potential solutions with the citizens’ advisory committee and the public – resulted in a prioritized list of 31 recommended pedestrian projects and programs.

Lessons Learned

HDOT invested a lot of time with stakeholder groups to develop a comprehensive set of goals, objectives, and recommendations addressing all the facets of pedestrian issues, Roper said.

While the extensive process of public and stakeholder involvement was immensely valuable, it was also challenging and added a lot of time to the plan development process,” Roper said. This is something that other state DOTs should consider when developing a project schedule or contract.

Roper also emphasized that it’s important to approach the process holistically, including both technical and nontechnical staff as well as internal and external stakeholders. “It can’t be thought of separately and then just mushed together at the end,” she said.

Having an established process for decision-making and sharing of information between the project team and stakeholders at the start of the process also was key, Roper said. HDOT was doing extensive outreach, and there was a lot of interest in the project from the public, community groups, the media, and others.

“A lot of people wanted to provide input and wanted to see it in the plan, but some were afraid that all the input we received would go into a ‘black box’ somewhere and get lost,” according to Roper. “It was important to ensure that accurate and consistent information was being disseminated” so everyone involved could see how information was used in the plan.

The process also featured a two-way information flow between the project committees and stakeholder groups throughout, Roper said. Members of the technical committee attended public meetings, as did HDOT leadership, when possible.

Other challenges included scheduling meetings with stakeholders who have busy schedules; collecting and responding to the many comments; and balancing the wide variety of opinions.

Ultimately, HDOT wanted the plan to be implemented by its staff and not to “just sit on the shelf,” Roper said. The agency conducted internal roll-out sessions to make sure staff needs were addressed and that “everyone involved in the project delivery process, including planning, design, construction, operations, and maintenance, was aware of the plan and felt it was feasible and implementable.” In the end, this extensive and transparent public involvement process succeeded in generating a lot of support for the plan, both within HDOT and externally, and was a key contributor to the success of the plan and its implementation, Roper said.

For more information, link to the Statewide Pedestrian Master Plan and Hawaii Pedestrian Toolbox or contact Rachel Roper, HDOT Highways Division Planning Branch, at rachel.la.roper@hawaii.gov.

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Historic Preservation/Cultural Resources

Recent Developments: NTHP Launches New Tool That Explores Urban Built Environment

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has launched a new research tool, Atlas of ReUrbanism, that provides data currently available about cities to explore the connections between the physical character of urban development and a range of economic, social and environmental outcomes. Initial findings of the tool found that in New York City, blocks with older, smaller, mixed-age buildings have more racially and ethnically diverse populations, more than twice as many jobs in small businesses, and nearly twice as many women and minority-owned businesses. The tool currently features interactive maps for the five largest American cities, with plans to eventually include 50 major cities. For more information, link to the tool and the associated report. (12-12-16)

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Case Studies: Case Study Compilations

Case Studies: Case Study Compilations - AASHTO Report Offers Case Studies on Historic Bridge Rehabilitation

Case studies of best practices for historic bridge rehabilitation from across the country are detailed in a report produced by the Center for Environmental Excellence by AASHTO’s Historic Bridges Community of Practice. The report provides 16 case studies developed in partnership with state DOTs and local transportation agencies and their contractors. For each case study, the report information on each bridge and its context including significant issues associated with project; project description, including purpose and need; traffic levels, loading needs, and other related issues; Section 106 effects finding (no adverse, adverse); and lessons learned.

The report includes the following case studies:

  • Stone Arch Bridges:
    • Johns Burnt Mill Bridge (Adams County Bridge No. 56), Mount Pleasant and Oxford Townships, Pennsylvania
    • Prairie River Bridge (aka Merrill Bridge or First Street Bridge), Merrill, Wisconsin
  • Concrete Arch Bridges
    • Carrollton Bridge (Carroll County Bridge No. 132), Carroll County, Indiana
    • Robert A. Booth (Winchester) Bridge, Douglas County, Oregon
  • Movable Span Bridges
    • Bridge of Lions, St. Augustine, Florida
  • Metal Truss Bridges
    • Tobias Bridge, Jefferson County, Indiana
    • New Casselman River Bridge, Grantsville, Maryland
    • Walnut Street Bridge, Mazeppa, Minnesota
    • Pine Creek Bridge, or Tiadaghton Bridge, Clinton and Lycoming Counties, Pennsylvania
    • Washington Avenue Bridge, Waco, Texas
    • Lone Wolf Bridge, San Angelo, Texas
    • Goshen Historic Truss Bridge, Goshen, Virginia
    • Hawthorne Street Bridge, Covington, Virginia
    • Ross Booth Memorial Bridge (aka Winfield Toll Bridge), Putman County, West Virginia
  • Metal Arch Bridges
    • Lion Bridges (North and South), Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Metal Girder Bridges
    • Hare’s Hill Road Bridge, Chester County, Pennsylvania

For more information, link to the report, Case Studies on Rehabilitation of Historic Bridges and related resources on the Center for Environmental Excellence by AASHTO website.

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Case Studies: Arizona - Arizona DOT Uses Adobe Bricks to Help Restore Historic Building in Tombstone

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has made what it calls an “architecturally challenging” decision to carry out both historic preservation work and transportation safety work in one of the nation’s most significant and infamous towns -- Tombstone.

Tombstone was one of the last frontier boomtowns in the American Old West. In its heyday, it produced millions of dollars of silver bullion and is best known as the site of the Gunfight at the OK Corral. There, ADOT is shoring up water-damaged sections of a local historic landmark called Schieffelin Hall, named for 19th century resident and silver prospector Ed Schieffelin.

Arizona DOT is using adobe bricks to shore up water-damaged sections of a local historic landmark, Schieffelin Hall. Photo: Arizona DOT

“Carrying out preservation work with very unique materials alongside one of our highway projects is not what we do every day,” says ADOT Southeast District Engineer Bill Harmon.

Preservation Work

“But in this case, it was a natural fit. We were part of the scope of work for both projects. They both are being carried out in Tombstone’s Historic District. And ADOT is proud to be helping restore and preserve a treasured National Landmark.”

The unique materials Harmon is referring to are adobe bricks. ADOT is shoring up the Hall using replacement bricks that are being painstakingly produced using 19th century techniques. The fabrication process is taking place at a mine not far away in Cochise County by a crew headed up by a third-generation adobe maker. Precise historic replication will enable the new bricks to tightly weld to the remaining original bricks, thus increasing stability and also helping to fend off more water damage.

To create the bricks, wooden molds are set down and a slurry mixture of sand, silt, clay and grass is poured into the forms. After the mixture sits for a day or two and the bricks have taken shape, the forms are removed and the bricks are stacked in the sun to completely dry, a process that can take several weeks. Once the bricks arrive on site at the Hall, they are put into place and secured with a mud and straw mixture that functions like mortar. Finally, a layer of stucco is added on top to conform to the rest of the building’s façade.

Crews create adobe bricks for restoration of the Schieffelin Hall using historic techniques. Photo: Arizona DOT

Besides replacing some of the bricks, ADOT also will add a porch to the Hall to replace the original one removed in the early 1900s. Its corrugated metal roof will be supported by wooden posts, and a downspout will be incorporated to carry away rainwater.

Funding for the preservation work comes from a FHWA Transportation Enhancement (TE) grant awarded to the City of Tombstone. The TE grant was the culmination of several years of hard work involving numerous groups including ADOT, the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the Tombstone Restoration Commission, the Federal Highway Administration, and the National Park Service, as well as local government, businesses, and citizens. All work is being carried out according to guidelines from the Department of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, a technique required by the National Historic Preservation Act.

Safety Work

In the same neighborhood as its preservation work, ADOT also is carrying out an associated project to improve motorist and pedestrian safety along the Fremont Street portion of State Route 80 where Schieffelin Hall stands. Funding for the highway safety project comes from FHWA’s Highway Safety Improvement Program under MAP-21 and from state gas-tax dollars.

Key safety features being installed under the ADOT grant, begun in August of this year, include the following:

  • narrowing a portion of Fremont Street from 68 feet to 44 feet to make room for sidewalks and other pedestrian improvements;
  • installing landscaping and constructing sturdy concrete sidewalks that look like weathered wood to deter pedestrians from jaywalking; and
  • providing continuous street lighting throughout the area.

He continues, “Sadly, part of the impetus for installing extra rigorous safety features came from a tragic crash that took place here in Tombstone in 2009 involving two tourists. After that happened, ADOT and the city of Tombstone began to work together even more closely to implement a range of advanced pedestrian safety improvements.”

In 2010, he says, ADOT and the city of Tombstone completed a comprehensive traffic study soon after the accident. Short-term actions that ensued included road striping, parking restrictions, and reduced speed limits. The study also recommended several longer-term improvements.

Besides the key pedestrian safety features, the project also entails repaving the roadway and constructing new curbs with handicap ramps,, removing an obsolete pedestrian bridge, and installing an irrigation system for landscaping. Driveways not needed by property owners will be closed, others will be improved to meet current standards.

“Construction for both projects is moving forward steadily,” Harmon says. “Our schedule calls for completing both in the spring of 2016. The value of the two projects, combined, is right at $1 million.”

Groundwork

According to Harmon, while it’s not uncommon for ADOT to be involved in the preservation of historic properties through the Transportation Enhancement grants program, it is unusual for the agency to play a role in the preservation of a National Historic Landmark, including such an architecturally challenging project. As he puts it: “This project truly is one of a kind.”

Extensive collaboration took place so that both historic preservation and improved safety goals were met, he continues. The two projects were evaluated together under one NEPA categorical exclusion document. ADOT retained historic preservation specialists to help during the design and construction phases. The restoration concepts were reviewed and approved by the State Historic Preservation Officer. Detailed plans were prepared based on old photographs plus an onsite investigation of the soundness of the walls.

To meet the requirements of both Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and Section 4(f) of the Transportation Act, AZDOT incorporated several historic preservation features. For example, to mitigate the porch’s potential impact on the historic adobe material, the design was tweaked so to have the porch be a free-standing structure rather than be attached. And the street lighting that was installed was carefully chosen in conjunction with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) so as to carry forward aspects of period lighting design.

“Other state DOTs could, and may well be, carrying out similar community improvement projects under what has become the Transportation Alternatives program,” says Harmon.

“But in addition to the challenges of coordination across many different groups, there is also the issue of funding, including matching funds. We were very fortunate in this project to have both the funding and a great group of people who were willing to do what it took to make this happen.”

The project’s most memorable moment to date? Easy one, is Harmon’s reply. It was the day some cattle wandered into the brick-making area and trampled over some of the fresh adobe.

“Not a typical delay at a modern construction site,” he says, “but it probably happened more than once a century or so ago. I guess it’s to be expected when, for historic preservation’s sake, we decide to work on the cutting edge of low technology.”

For more information, link to the ADOT blog post and video or contact Dustin Krugel, ADOT Public Information Officer, at Dkrugel@azdot.gov.

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Invasive Species/Vegetation Management

Recent Developments: Report Evaluates Vegetation Management Practices Along Ohio Roadways

Evaluation of vegetation management practices along state and interstate right-of-ways is addressed in a new report by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). The report discussed a study to investigate current practices and identify techniques to increase efficiency and improve roadside aesthetics. The study indicated that ODOT is currently using reactive maintenance practices with limited use of Roadside Integrated Vegetation Management (RIVM) methods and lacks the tools for effective management programs. The report recommends that ODOT implement routine educational and training programs; take inventory of roadside vegetation; incorporate RIVM plans for each district; and use cultural practices to prevent invasive species. For more information, link to the report. (4-21-17)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Memo on Improving Pollinator Habitats Released

The Federal Highway Administration published a memo highlighting available agency resources to help expand and improve pollinator habitats on transportation assets. The agency has created a website focused on providing resources to transportation agencies and roadside managers regarding policy and guidance, agency pollinator publications, pollinator-friendly practices, agency funding eligibilities and other funding sources and state DOT pollinator-friendly practices and information. The agency has also published the Pollinators and Roadsides: Best Management Practices for Managers and Decision Makers. For more information, link to the memo, website, and publication. (3-25-16)

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Case Studies: Colorado - Colorado Landscape Architecture Manual Provides Guidance, Best Practices

At the Colorado Department of Transportation, effective landscape architecture provides benefits beyond just a pretty view.

In fact, CDOT regards one of the major focuses of landscape architecture to be the “protection and enhancement of natural systems affected by the transportation system.”

To ensure this, the transportation agency recently issued the CDOT Landscape Architecture Manual (2014). The manual, which took about two years to write, brings together all information relevant to highway landscape design including aesthetic, sustainability, environmental, and landscape considerations.

Glenwood Canyon is an example of Western Slope Canyons and Valleys, one of CDOT’s five designated design zones. (Photo: CDOT)

The intent of the manual is to ensure that federal and state requirements are addressed uniformly across the agency’s decentralized regions and the state’s diverse geography. “Transportation design is required to fit [in with] the existing physical environment using context sensitive design and practices,” according to Mike Banovich, a landscape architect who has been with CDOT for 25 years.

Banovich said CDOT undertook creating the manual because it recognized the need to create guidance that would “improve program quality and compliance.”

Focus on Context

The manual presents landscape architecture as a component of the entire planning and design process for transportation projects, using a multi-disciplinary approach. There is a “direct relationship” between design and place, the manual says.

With that in mind, the manual provides broad-ranging guidance on how to plan and design landscapes that appear natural, conserve water, protect resources, and are sustainable for the life of the road or highway.

The intent is to “expand transportation design decisions beyond strictly functional and engineering criteria within a Context Sensitive Solutions approach,” according to the manual.

Protecting vegetation, designing areas for new plantings, and controlling noxious weeds are key components of the landscape architect’s job and the manual discusses best practices and requirements under state and federal laws. Each of these tasks involves many variables, not the least of which are climate and geography.

Use of ‘Design Zones’

The identification of design zones is “critical to creating a relationship between transportation and landscape,” the manual said.

According to the manual, the state of Colorado encompasses five design zones:

  • High Plains (east of Denver),
  • Front Range Urban (Denver and its suburbs),
  • Southern Rocky Mountain,
  • Western Slope Basin, and
  • Great San Luis Valley (at the border with New Mexico).

“By understanding the characteristics of each zone, CDOT can design unified corridors with consistency and a recognizable sense of place in each zone,” the manual said. For example, “the road alignment should respond to the dominant land form of a zone while the plant palette should be derived from plant species native to the zone and micro-climatic conditions. Details, such as colors and textures, applied to transportation facilities could be reflective of the cultural and landscape context.”

The design zones are consistent with the ecoregions described in the Federal Highway Administration’s Vegetation Management: An Ecoregional Approach handbook, issued in 2014. The handbook defines ecoregions as areas of similar geographic, vegetative, hydrologic, and climatic characteristics, and emphasizes the use of native plants along roadsides to reduce maintenance costs, provide better erosion control, and create ecological diversity.

Native Plants a Requirement

At CDOT, a nearly four-decade-old policy requires department personnel and contractors to use native or dryland adaptable plants on all landscaping projects. To implement that policy, the manual directs landscape architects to preserve or salvage existing vegetation in the project area. If that is not practical, the area must be replanted with native species and must follow the principles of xeriscaping, a technique that reduces or eliminates the need for irrigation.

“Xeriscaping is very important [at CDOT] because Colorado is primarily a semi-arid cold desert experiencing drought and extreme weather fluctuations,” Banovich said. “CDOT’s objective is to use native plants adapted to our arid climate in non-irrigated conditions.”

Additionally, the manual directs that existing topsoil must be preserved and reused, which includes stockpiling during the construction phases of projects. Topsoil can be imported from elsewhere only as a last resort.

Threats from Invasive Species

Like many states, Colorado faces threats from invasive plant species that diminish the value of cropland, rangelands, and native habitat. The state has enacted legislation that identifies noxious weeds that are to be contained, controlled, or eliminated. Also, state law for the protection of stream-related fish and wildlife requires the department to consider noxious weed eradication while planning for construction projects in riparian zones, according to the manual. Additionally, construction equipment and stockpiled topsoil must be kept free of invasive weeds.

Vegetation planted or maintained in highway rights-of-way must not create unsafe conditions for drivers and vehicles. The manual discusses the importance of maintaining sight distances for drivers, having trees and other large plantings set back from the roadway, and avoiding conditions where too much shade can cause visual hazards or allow ice to form on road surfaces. Additionally, newly constructed features in rights-of-way should include landscape designs that minimize rainwater runoff and the need to irrigate.

Role of the DOT Landscape Architect

In addition to laying out the standards and best practices, the manual provides information on the role of the landscape architect in the transportation department. The landscape architect is a valuable participant in projects from the early planning stages through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and even after completion, according to the manual. Many state departments of transportation such as CDOT have landscape architects on staff.

The landscape architect’s role is “to act as the design liaison between environmental specialists and engineers…by incorporating environmental needs and requirements into the project objectives,” Banovich said. Additionally, stormwater management and water quality have “become important components” of the landscape architect’s job in recent years, Banovich said.

According to the manual, planting design concepts are a result of the landscape architect’s training in elements such as color, form, line and texture. The placements of plantings on the highway right of way serve to:

  • Protect against erosion.
  • Minimize water use through the use of native drought tolerant species, mulches, and the use of irrigation systems designed for low precipitation systems.
  • Promote stormwater reduction runoff practices via interception and root infiltration.
  • Screen undesirable views from the highway and screen highway from adjacent land owners.
  • Guide traffic.
  • Avoid root or foliage contact from deicers.
  • Minimize maintenance requirements.
  • Provide shade at scenic overlooks or at rest areas.
  • Frame and emphasize a view.
  • Screen highlight glare.
  • Mitigate impacts to surrounding communities.
  • Reduce driver monotony.
  • Provide wildlife habitat.
  • Salvage, protect or reuse existing vegetation, when possible.
  • Mitigate for wetland/riparian impacts.

Lessons Learned

For other DOTs considering creating their own landscape architecture manual, Banovich suggests obtaining “concurrence from DOT leadership” while also involving environmental resource specialists.

Additionally, it is important to “define the use of the manual in a policy objective which in turn will justify the use of the manual” as a part of the DOT’s operational procedures, Banovich said.

For more information, link to the CDOT Landscape Architecture Manual or contact Mike Banovich, RLA, CDOT Ecological Design Unit Manager, at michael.banovich@state.co.us.

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Case Studies: Kansas - Kansas DOT Roadside Management Policy Evident as Wildflowers Bloom

The Kansas Department of Transportation’s successful roadside management policy is getting some well-deserved recognition each spring, as motorists enjoy the sight of pink evening primrose and other native wildflowers in full bloom along the state’s highways.

KDOT’s roadside management policy encourages growth of native grasses and wildflowers on more than 150,000 acres of state-owned right-of-way.

KDOT environmental scientist Scott Shields said the agency began including native wildflowers in its seed mix in 2003-2004, and began to increase its focus on the native landscape even before that.

In 2008, KDOT staff and partners from conservation groups and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks formed the Roadside Vegetation Task Force to focus on best practices for managing the state’s rights-of-way.

The resulting policy calls for seed blends that include native plants and wildflowers, use of certified mulch to prevent the spread of weeds, reduced mowing, and storing and replacing topsoil disturbed during construction.

Mowing Policy Revised

Most recently, KDOT revised its mowing policy, a practice that saves on fuel and labor costs while benefiting the environment. Mow-outs of the full right-of-way are done only once every four years instead of every three years, and are timed so the mowing does not interfere with late fall wildflower seed propagation. For the shoulders, mowers make only one pass and let the grass grow to 12 inches before cutting.

The agency also is stressing the importance of topsoil, requiring contractors to strip and store topsoil removed during construction. This practice helps to reestablish native plants and helps to control erosion.

Other practices include spot spraying rather than broadcasting of herbicides whenever possible.

Shields said the roadside vegetation management practices have been a big success. He noted the importance of educating maintenance and construction workers so that those in the field know what to do.

“As a result of these and other practices, we’ve reduced maintenance costs, provided erosion control, taken advantage of the vegetation’s natural filtration system and beautified our highways,” Shields said.

KDOT’s Northeast Kansas District Engineer Clay Adams, who led the task force, also noted the importance of such practices.

“Together we’ve developed a wiser approach to roadside management, we’ve found a way to stretch KDOT’s maintenance budget, and we now have guidelines that will enhance the natural beauty of our state,” Adams said.

The success of the policy can be seen each spring when native wildflowers – including purple rose verbena, white and yellow ox-eye daisy and yellow Missouri primrose – beautify the roadway while providing natural erosion control and filtration and habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.

For more information on KDOT’s roadside management practices, link to KDOT’s Roadside Management Brochure or contact Scott Shields at scottsh@ksdot.org.

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Case Studies: Washington State

Case Studies: Washington State - Reduced Roadside Mowing Policy Promises Multiple Benefits in Washington State

Reduced fuel consumption, fewer carbon emissions, better weed control, cost savings and improved habitat for pollinators are among the many benefits of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) new policy to reduce mowing on the state’s roadsides.

WSDOT’s revised mowing policy, adopted in 2015, changes the focus of roadside maintenance from aesthetics in favor of a more natural approach.

Under the revised mowing policy, WSDOT has eliminated almost all mowing that had been conducted for aesthetic reasons in areas with wide rights of way extending beyond 30 feet from the pavement edge. The change will result in a one-third reduction in mowing for non-safety-related reasons annually, according to an agency summary.

The policy specifies that routine mowing “will generally be limited to one pass adjacent to the paved shoulder except in rare cases where a wider annual mowing swath is necessary for safety or for specifically indicated vegetation control.”

Most areas beyond the 30-foot limit that had previously been managed with routine mowing will now be designated as “naturally managed areas” and left to grow mostly naturally, unless hazard trees or designated noxious weeds need to be controlled. Certain higher profile areas will be selectively managed as meadows where all weeds are controlled and natural succession of desirable native plants is encouraged.

With the new mowing policy, areas beyond the first pass will be managed for natural succession of desirable plant species. (Photo: Washington State DOT)

In a related effort, the agency is conducting a pilot study during the summer of 2015 that will be the first published research in the country to provide a cost/benefit analysis of grazing (using goats) as a mowing tool in state highway rights of way.

All of these actions are part of a multi-year strategy by the agency to create more self-sustaining and lower-maintenance roadsides that are complimentary to the surrounding native ecosystems, according to Ray Willard, Roadside Maintenance Program Manager at WSDOT.

Benefits of Reduced Mowing

Benefits of reduced mowing include lower fuel consumption—the department expects to save approximately 2,500 gallons per year of diesel fuel for mowing equipment—and an associated reduction of 23 metric tons in CO2 emissions.

WSDOT also expects to save money in labor and equipment costs. The department will be able to divert its maintenance crews to higher priority work and also switch from using large tractors with wide mowing decks to smaller, more efficient and versatile mowers. Overall, WSDOT expects to save approximately $550,000 each year in mowing costs.

The revised policy will also provide more effective nuisance weed control in designated high profile areas. In freeway interchanges and designated scenic corridors, WSDOT will carefully coordinate mowing patterns and timing with other vegetation management treatments with the goal of removing unwanted nuisance weeds and trees and encouraging more desirable native roadside plant communities over a series of years.

Looking out for Pollinators

Another benefit of reduced mowing is improved habitat for pollinators such as honey bees and butterflies, a topic that has recently taken on national significance. In June 2014, President Barack Obama issued a memorandum directing federal agencies to take actions to protect pollinator species, including calling on the Department of Transportation to work with state DOTs to increase pollinator habitat along roadways.

Roadsides can offer pollinators improved forage for food, breeding, or nesting, and help link fragmented habitat, according to a literature review released by the Federal Highway Administration in May 2015. The report supports the development of best management practices for pollinator habitat protection and enhancement in highway rights of way.

The Transportation Research Board is also planning a webinar on promoting the practice of integrated vegetation management and managed succession over routine mowing, according to Willard, who also serves as research coordinator for TRB’s Roadside Maintenance Operations Committee (AHD50).

Federal leadership together with the agency’s executive leadership on the pollinator issue were contributing factors leading to WSDOT’s revised mowing policy, according to Willard. “What we have now is really good motivation from the top down that we should be taking a more natural approach to managing roadsides,” Willard said.

He also pointed to a recent FHWA publication, Vegetation Management: An Ecoregional Approach, which he said laid the groundwork nationwide for this new approach. The FHWA document, described in this agency article, has been distributed but not yet posted online by the agency.

System Tracks Acres Mowed

To monitor progress in implementing the new policy, WSDOT maintenance staff will be deploying the department’s new Highway Activity Tracking System (HATS). The system allows field staff to document their vegetation management activities in greater detail using tablet computers and geographic information system mapping.

In the past, documenting the number of acres mowed was “kind of a wild guess,” according to James Morin, Maintenance Operations Manager at WSDOT. “You knew how wide the mower was and roughly how far you travelled.” But under the new system “as long as [maintenance crews] turn on their iPADs, they’ll know exactly how many acres they mowed.”

HATS will be integral to implementing the revised mowing policy because it will allow the department to document savings in terms of fuel consumption, carbon emissions and other lifecycle costs, according to Willard.

Public and Agency Outreach

As roadsides begin to take on a more natural and less manicured appearance, people will continue to question and debate the merits of visual quality vs. environmental sustainability, Willard said. “It is important that we collect and maintain clear scientific evidence of the overall environmental benefits from mowing less,” he added

The popular desire to see neatly mowed roadsides carries over into the culture and historic practice of highway maintenance, where agencies receive positive feedback when the roadsides are mowed, Willard said.

There’s also the potential for political pressure on state DOTs to mow for aesthetics in the name of tourism, quality of life, or for the benefit of neighboring businesses, according to Willard.

To help educate the public, WSDOT is developing a four-page color print folio on the revised mowing policy and is developing similar language to feature on its website.

To help convince the agency’s staff, managers have focused on the benefits to the natural environment. “The maintenance employees take a lot of pride in a neatly cared-for roadside, so it’s really [about] shifting from seeing the roadside as a pretty thing to seeing it as a beneficial thing to the natural environment,” Willard said.

Where environmental considerations alone might not convince staff, the economic savings are also compelling, according to Morin. “If we can have a native roadside that’s high functioning, we don’t typically have as many weed issues and it doesn’t cost us as much in terms of effort or money to maintain,” Morin said.

An important factor in WSDOT’s success in implementing the new policy has been having planning guidelines and objectives that are consistent statewide, yet still offer flexibility to the local maintenance areas, according to Willard. For WSDOT this has involved updating the integrated roadside vegetation management plans for each of the state’s 24 maintenance areas to incorporate reduced mowing on a case by case basis.

Another key strategy within the new policy is encouraging local governments to “adopt” freeway roadsides through their cities if they desire a more park-like appearance. WSDOT has developed permits to allow this type of local participation where appropriate.

Testing Goats as ‘Biological Mowers’

In a related effort to evaluate a more natural approach to vegetation management, WSDOT is conducting a pilot project using grazing goats as a mowing tool on state highway rights of way.

“Goats are basically biological mowers,” Willard said, and can perform a similar function as mechanical mowing but without burning fossil fuels and generating carbon emissions. Another advantage is that some weed seeds are sterilized as they pass through a goat’s digestive system, allowing for more effective weed control than mechanical mowing. Goats can also easily access steep and uneven terrain.

However, concerns over the use of grazing in highway applications include higher costs associated with fencing, watering and supervising the animals; liability; and potential distractions to drivers, according to an agency summary of the research.

While there has been extensive research on grazing for vegetation management and weed control over the years, the feasibility and cost/benefit of grazing in the highway right of way has not been well documented. To help do this, WSDOT is conducting field trials using goats in three different vegetation management situations and terrains around the state.

The study is testing goats for routine mowing of unwanted weeds and brush around fenced stormwater ponds at several sites near Vancouver, using goats donated by a WSDOT maintenance employee. The trials also will study water quality impacts in areas with standing water and potential outflow.

Goats clear grass and weeds near Olympia area interchange. Photo: Washington State DOT Flickr Photostream

A second site in Spokane is studying the use of goats to prevent or delay seed production in a noxious weed infestation along US 395.

Finally, the department is using goats to clear unwanted vegetation from a former homeless camp along Interstate 5 in Olympia.

As part of the study, WSDOT will document all costs associated with labor, feed, transportation, and fencing of the goats and will issue its findings in a research report, expected in fall of 2015.

The initial finding of the research is that in general, goats have a very limited application for roadsides, according to Willard. One type of situation that may prove effective is in controlling vegetation within fenced stormwater ponds, where the animals don’t require constant supervision and don’t present a potential distraction to drivers.

For more information, link to WSDOT’s Vegetation Management Program and Pollinators and the Roadside webpages or contact Ray Willard at WillarR@wsdot.wa.gov.

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Case Studies: AASHTO's Compendium of Environmental Stewardship Practices, Policies, and Procedures

Case Studies: FHWA Compilations - FHWA Pollinator Website Case Studies/Practices

Case Studies: FHWA Compilations - Greener Roadsides

Many successful practices are documented in Greener Roadsides, a publication produced by the Federal Highway Administration.

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NEPA Process

Recent Developments: USDOT Issues Draft of Revised NEPA Implementing Procedures

The U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Secretary, is requesting comments on a proposed update to the department’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementing procedures. Last updated in 1985, the revised order, Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts (DOT Order 5610.1D), is intended to be the overarching procedures for the U.S. DOT and its modal administrations, while recognizing that some administrations have unique NEPA responsibilities and processes. The order addresses the relevant project delivery provisions of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act and updates references to the Council on Environmental Quality regulations. The order also significantly revises provisions regarding planning and coordination, expands discussion of the various classes of environmental action, and will replace Attachment 2 with a Desk Reference providing more specific guidance. In addition, the order updates terminology and substantially renumbers the sections. Comments are due Jan. 10, 2017. For more information, view the Federal Register notice and the proposed Order 5610.1D. (12-20-16)

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Recent Developments: AASHTO’s Updated Handbook Series Provides Environmental Compliance Advice

Practical advice on environmental compliance for transportation projects is provided in recently updated Practitioner’s Handbooks published by the Center for Environmental Excellence by AASHTO. The series includes 15 handbooks, each of which includes key issues to consider; a background briefing; practical tips for achieving compliance; and a list of reference materials. Recently updated handbooks include: Maintaining a Project File and Preparing an Administrative Record for a NEPA Study (Handbook 1); Responding to Comments on an Environmental Impact Statement (Handbook 02); Managing the NEPA Process for Toll Lanes and Toll Roads (Handbook 3); Consulting Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (Handbook 6); Defining the Purpose and Need and Determining the Range of Alternatives for Transportation Projects (Handbook 7); Assessing Indirect Effects and Cumulative Impacts Under NEPA (Handbook 12); and Applying the Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines in Transportation Project Decision-Making (Handbook 14). For more information, link to the Practitioner’s Handbooks web page. (9-23-16)

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Noise

Case Studies: California - Caltrans Uses Air Bubble Curtain Technology to Protect Wildlife During Bridge Implosions

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is using cutting-edge technology to remove the marine foundations of the former East Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge while protecting area wildlife and reducing project cost and schedule.

The technology controls the blast sequence down to microseconds by using a computer system to precisely detonate hundreds of small individual charges to implode the foundations, thus greatly reducing impacts. At the same time, Caltrans is implementing a blast attenuation system that creates a shield of air bubbles to abate resulting sound waves and pressure.

Cutting edge technology helps protect the environment during implosion of this former bridge pier. (Photo: Caltrans)

“By employing leading edge technology, we have reduced the temporal environmental impact of our demolition work from years to seconds,” said Stefan Galvez-Abadia, Chief, Office of Environmental Analysis and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Environmental Manager. “Simultaneously, we are working more safely and efficiently and saving money.”

The agency’s other option would have been to build a cofferdam, he said, which is an enclosure around each foundation pumped dry to enable loud, heavy machinery to carry out the demolition work. With a limited construction window each year, it could have taken up to four construction years to remove each foundation, a very expensive undertaking. In addition, this approach can result in continuous environmental impacts and safety risks.

“Real-time results have exceeded those anticipated by the model,” Galvez-Abadia said. “Both in-water noise and pressure as well as water quality impacts were significantly less than anticipated. We view this cutting-edge technology as another valuable tool in our toolbox.”

Caltrans’ implosion technology supplements additional steps it routinely takes to protect wildlife. The marine foundations are located in a portion of the San Francisco Bay that contains several fish species protected by the Endangered Species Act as well as marine mammals protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Caltrans avoids impacts to most of these species through seasonal work windows. However some species are present in the Bay year round and the agency has developed specific work windows to avoid impacts to these species to the greatest extent practicable.

History of Project

The reason for removal dates back to 1989, when a segment of the bridge partially collapsed during the Loma Prieta earthquake. Although it reopened later that year after extensive retrofitting, experts decided that the East Span needed to be more earthquake-resistant than would be possible by retrofitting the existing bridge. Construction of a replacement span began in 2002 and was opened to traffic in 2013. After beginning to dismantle the original span’s superstructure in 2013, Caltrans began to remove its foundations as stipulated in the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the replacement span.

The first of the former East Span’s 21 foundations, called Pier E3, was imploded in November 2015. Two more foundations followed suit in 2016, and an additional six to thirteen are slated for demolition in 2017 and 2018, when the project is slated for completion.

Permits, Protections

Caltrans’ engineers and environmental team spent years working closely with a variety of resource agencies to determine how best to minimize potential environmental impacts to area wildlife and habitat.

Before beginning the project, the agency received federal permits from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). State agencies granting permits included the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. These permits covered the building of the new bridge as well as the removal of the original bridge by mechanical means.

As the implosion work advances, Caltrans will continue to implement its impact avoidance and minimization measures. In addition, marine mammal species in the area will be protected via monitoring of pre-established exclusion zones around each foundation. If marine mammal species such as harbor seal, sea lion, or harbor porpoise, are spotted, the implosion will be delayed until the individual has moved outside the zone. Water quality and air quality monitoring also will continue to be conducted.

Perhaps the most powerful piece of the protection arsenal is Caltran’s air bubble curtain. To activate the system, a compressor pumps air through a manifold of perforated pipes set in a steel frame. Multiple frames contiguously surround the foundation and are activated just before the implosion process begins. The escaping air bubbles create a continuous shield, or wall, that provides a robust acoustic barrier.

Lessons Learned and Advice

Caltrans has tweaked several of its procedures along the way, said Galvez-Abadia. For example, after analyzing the results of the Pier E3 Demonstration Project, then determining that potential impact areas were less than modeled and subsequently consulting with associated resource agencies, the expanse of the wildlife exclusion zone was reduced to reflect the minimized impacts.

He recommends that other state departments of transportation consider adopting a similar approach for their own underwater implosion work provided they adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Allow sufficient time to develop and tailor the technology and time of year to the particular locale and scenario – in Caltrans’ case, it took about two years;

  • Ensure that those carrying out the work possess a high level of expertise and will not cut corners;

  • Identify appropriate work windows when the least number of species may be affected;

  • Reach out early to local environmental stakeholder groups as well as resource agencies, and continue the dialogue throughout the process.

The technology behind the air curtain will be added to Caltrans’ Technical Guidance for Assessment and Mitigation of the Hydroacoustic Effects of Pile Driving on Fish. The current version provides guidance on the environmental permitting of in- and near-water pile driving projects. It includes an extensive collection of data on pile driving under a variety of conditions that can be used as an empirical reference for the permitting process.

For more information on Caltrans’ bridge marine foundation implosion work, contact Stefan Galvez-Abadia, Chief, Office of Environmental Analysis and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Environmental Manager, at stefan.galvez@dot.ca.gov. Information also is available from Dr. Brian Maroney, SFOBB Project Manager and Chief Engineer, at brian.maroney@dot.ca.gov.

Additional information and videos of the E-3 pier implosion are available at http://www.dot.ca.gov/e3implosion/. A video describing the environmental monitoring efforts is available here.

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Case Studies: Texas - TxDOT's Traffic Noise Toolkit Helps Streamline Compliance

Highway project developers in Texas responsible for compliance with traffic noise regulations now have a comprehensive collection of documents to turn to for reference, thanks to Texas DOT’s (TxDOT) online Traffic Noise Toolkit. The toolkit contains a dozen documents on topics including traffic noise regulations, compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), compliance with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requirements, and instructions for using FHWA’s Traffic Noise Model.

To assist with documentation, the toolkit includes a template letter to local officials about noise contours for land use planning as well as recommended text for documenting traffic noise analyses. And it provides direct links to relevant federal requirements and websites as well as a brochure about traffic noise abatement in both Spanish and English for public outreach.

Texas DOT's Noise Toolkit helps streamline requirements for projects such as this noise barrier in Austin. Photo: Texas DOT

One of a Group

The Traffic Noise Toolkit is one among a group of 17 environmental compliance toolkits developed by TxDOT’s Environmental Affairs Division. Subject matter ranges from air quality to Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act to bicycle and pedestrian accommodation. Each toolkit contains background policy information, general guidance for compliance, procedures, and standards, and a variety of forms for conducting environmental compliance work and recording environmental decisions.

“Our goal in developing the toolkits was to provide a one-stop shop for information pertaining to compliance policy and guidance,” said Ray Umscheid, TxDOT’s Noise Specialist and lead for the Traffic Noise Toolkit. “These types of materials can be difficult enough to understand without having to scavenge the Internet to find them. By having all of the guidance in one location, related materials can clearly be linked and better understood.”

Compliance and the Toolkit’s Origins

Adherence to traffic noise regulations involves compliance with sections of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as well as the Federal Highway Aid Act. The latter Act mandated that FHWA develop and promulgate procedures to abate highway traffic noise and construction noise. Compliance with these procedures is a prerequisite for granting federal-aid highway funds or FHWA approvals for construction or reconstruction of a roadway. In Texas, regardless of the funding source, all projects must undergo the same process for a noise analysis and ultimately must be approved by TxDOT.

When developing the toolkit, TxDOT determined the contents and developed the draft documents. The documents then were sent to FHWA for input, revised as needed, and posted online. Umscheid said the toolkits already were under way when his agency was granted authority to assume federal NEPA responsibility from FHWA in December 2014. The toolkits will serve TxDOT well as it carries out that role, he added.

Using the Toolkit

“Traffic noise guidelines and modeling methodologies can vary widely from state to state. Because many of the consultants that perform our work are from other states, it is important to have this information readily accessible to facilitate quicker project turn-around,” explained Umscheid.

One of the toolkit’s benefits is that the documentation for complying with FHWA requirements now can be dropped directly into the documentation for complying with relevant portions of NEPA. Before the toolkit was developed, the TxDOT noise guidelines were posted online while there was an overall environmental manual posted elsewhere on the TxDOT intranet site. In the toolkit, the manual has been revised as a noise only manual which references the noise guidelines and the additional supporting documentation, which either didn’t exist or had to be e-mailed to consultants for specific situations.

Umscheid offered specific advice for those using the toolkit. He said there is an inherent hierarchy in the documents posted, with guidance documents having the most detail and therefore being the key documents for ensuring compliance. Next down in the hierarchy come the standard operating procedures documents, which ensure that procedures are performed and documented appropriately. The information posted has been specifically broken out to address the needs of many audiences and users including in-house users, TxDOT district personnel, local governments, and the public.

A substantial portion of the information in the toolkit is “Texas-specific.” FHWA’s Federal Aid Policy Guide 23 CFR 772 gives states considerable discretion on precisely how to abate construction and traffic noise. The Texas-specific information includes TxDOT policy, guidance, and procedures as well as standards for environmental studies and document production. It reflects the fact that TxDOT has several agreements with resource agencies that require certain formats for information submittals, procedures for consultation, and communication protocols.

Recently, said Umscheid, the toolkit was put to particularly good use on a US 290 project in Houston. Consultants were able to access the TxDOT Traffic Noise Model Manual online and use that reference material to help them update an older noise model so that it was consistent with the agency’s modeling methodology for its current projects. In general, the toolkit helps to ensure that all projects are as consistent as possible, that impacts are predicted accurately, and that abatement will be proposed in a similar fashion throughout the state.

Work in Progress

“While the toolkit clearly already has proven its worth, I still view the current version as a starting point… a work in progress,” said Umscheid.

From time to time, he receives feedback from TxDOT Districts and other users in the form of suggestions for additional toolkit components. The latest was a request for a blank letter template intended to inform local officials of noise impact contours. Although the requirement is directed in the federal rule, a consistent, easily accessible template aids in the effort for districts with little noise experience, he said.

In terms of whether other state DOTs can use the Traffic Noise Toolkit as a starting point for their own toolkits, Umscheid reiterated that much of the content is state-specific. However, he suggested that the general format of the kit (and its counterpart kits) may be useful.

The toolkit is continually under development as federal guidance evolves, best practices are incorporated, and questions and issues arise. Because much of the overall guidance is not prescriptive, associated documentation is easy to create and update within that structure.

One example of an anticipated change to the toolkit will be to post an updated Traffic Noise Model manual upon completion of the beta testing of the upcoming model. When available, it will include additional details regarding the modeling barriers for multilevel apartments or other special land uses.

For more information about the toolkit, contact Ray Umscheid, TxDOT Noise Specialist, at ray.umscheid@txdot.gov, or go to http://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/division/environmental/compliance-toolkits/traffic-noise.html.

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Planning & Environment Linkages

Case Studies: Utah - Utah DOT’s Web Mapping Tool Helps Link Planning, Environmental Decisions

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has developed a powerful interactive planning tool, UPlan , that provides a comprehensive data repository where users from state, local, and federal agencies and the public can share data. With this wealth of information in hand, transportation planners, as one of many user groups, can make more informed, strategic decisions that reflect a broad understanding of the potential impacts each project may have, including its environmental impacts.

“UPlan gets everyone on the same page,” said Becky Hjelm, GIS Manager at UDOT. “It’s a visual tool that connects our users to current, relevant business systems and data sets within UPlan as well as data sets outside it.”

UPlan data takes the form of hundreds of dynamic GIS web maps and apps that incorporate information from multiple datasets. For instance, transportation planners interested in environmental links to a project can simultaneously view the locations of critical environmental attributes such as streams, wetlands, rare plant habitats, and historic sites, along with maps of planned transportation projects scheduled to be carried out in the same geographic area. Users can search for data in a variety of ways.

Diverse Users

Currently, according to Hjelm, there are approximately 100 UPlan users who actively are creating content, And there are hundreds more who come to Uplan for the information they need. Users include representatives from transportation agencies, resource agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, local governments, citizen groups, and the public. A very small percentage of the data in UPlan is sensitive. Access is to sensitive data is handled in two ways, 1) by providing secure access via a login; and 2) an MOU with the responsible agency defining acceptable use. One way around the sensitive data concern is to provide what is called a buffer data set, which provides general but not precise locations.

Hjelm said one positive outcome of UDOT’s investment in web GIS development is the Utah Mapping and Information Partnership (UMIP), a coalition of Utah state agencies that includes the Department of Environmental Quality, UDOT, the Department of Public Safety, and other agencies, as well as a handful of Utah counties.

UPlan originated in 2008 when UDOT planners and engineers realized that they were spending inordinate amounts of time looking for data that was in silos and scattered across agencies. They decided that it would be well worth investing time and money to create a single location where relevant data from a wide variety of sources could be gathered and housed for convenient access.

In 2011, UDOT applied to AASHTO’s Technology Implementation Group and UPlan was accepted as a Focus Technology within its Innovation Initiative. Since then, the UPlan model has been piloted in 39 states, and a number of them have developed, or are in the process of developing, their own state-specific version of the repository.

One of the strongest benefits of UPlan, says Hjelm, is that it opens up opportunities for collaboration that did not easily exist in the past. By sharing information with partner agencies and stakeholders early in the planning process, transparency is created that can foster greater trust across agencies. It also creates conditions in which more efficient, effective, and sustainable approaches to projects can be identified.

uPEL Report

One of UPlan’s most useful applications has been its ability to identify potential environmental impacts of projects and generate what is called Utah’s Planning and Environment Linkages Report (PEL) (uPEL report). Each report summarizes all of the environmental and community resources that are intersected by a potential project’s footprint. Resource information on nearly 20 topics can be drawn upon for the analysis, such as floodplains, rare plants, Section 4(f) lands, environmental justice concerns, and historic sites. An accompanying factsheet with each report provides information related to the project needs, forecasts, conditions, and other current and planned work in the area. More information about uPEL can be found in the uPEL User Guide

Utah DOT's uPEL User's Guide helps link planning and environmental decisions. Source: UDOT

Underlying each uPEL report are the collaboration and integration principles that form the basis for FHWA’s Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) approach to transportation decision-making. Using the approach means 1) considering environmental, community, and economic goals early in the transportation planning process; and 2) using the information, analysis, and products developed during planning to inform the environmental review process.

Hjelm cited several examples in which uPlan and uPEL have been used to great benefit. The first was the Uinta Basin Rail project in which it was used to screen 26 possible alternatives for laying approximately 4500 miles of track. What normally would have taken a few years of investigation was achieved in a few months.

In another case, uPEL was used to support analysis for a Programmatic Biological Assessment (BA) for the Utah prairie dog. UDOT conducted a GIS analysis to identify locations where Utah prairie dog habitat intersected highways using UPLAN and uPEL. Then, UDOT and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted one single Section 7 consultation that cleared an entire sub-set of projects for a 20-year period. The Programmatic BA enabled UDOT to streamline compliance with the Endangered Species Act while helping to ensure conservation of the Utah prairie dog.

Continuous Improvement

Hjelm said that although uPEL in its current form definitely has proven its worth, UDOT is planning to overhaul the application in several significant ways. First, the format of uPEL reports is being revised so that the information can be dropped more easily into required documentation for National Environmental Policy Act compliance. In addition, changes are being made that reflect changes in the system’s data sets.

In addition, the current online User Guide is being revised to make the information more easily understood and include lessons learned. The guide explains how uPEL works, how reports are generated, and the benefits of using it as a planning tool. It also contains sections on each environmental system included in the repository (e.g., floodplains) and describes how transportation projects can affect that system, repercussions if that is the case, datasets about the system that are included in the repository, and contacts for more information.

Code Available to Other States

Hjelm said the code behind UDOT’s uPEL is being offered free to other state DOTs who are interested in creating their own PEL-type application. Although they will have to invest considerable time modifying the framework and populating it with data to fit their needs, obtaining the code “should provide a starting point.” Several other states have, or are developing, tools that are similar to uPEL, she said. Each state will have its own challenges with data sharing.

Her primary advice to other state DOTs who may be contemplating a PEL-based tool: Be bold in your thinking and be patient with the process. Sharing data and building constructive relationships with other agencies and citizen organizations sometimes can take time. But the time invested, especially at the beginning of the process, is well worth the effort over the longer term.

UPlan and uPEL will continue to evolve to reflect constantly changing circumstances, she adds. One option UDOT is exploring is the possibility of incorporating 3-D maps. The ultimate goal is to have information flow seamlessly across multiple disciplines including engineering, design, construction, operations, maintenance, and environment.

For more information, contact Becky Hjelm, GIS Manager, UDOT, at bhjelm@utah.gov, or visit the UPlan website.

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Project Delivery/Streamlining

Recent Developments: FHWA 'Successes in Stewardship' Monthly Newsletter

Recent Developments: Final Rule Authorizes Construction Manager/General Contractor Method

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a final rule authorizing use of the construction manager/general contractor (CM/GC) contracting method. The rule, issued pursuant to Section1303 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP–21), allows a contracting agency to use a single procurement to hire a construction contractor early in a project’s design phase to obtain the contractor’s input on constructability issues that may be affected by the project design. It is intended to accelerate project delivery and reduce costs while protecting the integrity of the National Environmental Policy Act review process. For more information, link to the final rule. (12-2-16)

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Case Studies: Federal Highway Administration Compilations - FHWA's Successes in Stewardship Newsletter

FHWA's Monthly Successes in Stewardship Newsletter provides profiles of successful practices in environmental stewardship and streamlining.

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Case Studies: Federal Highway Administration Compilations - Environmental Stewardship and Streamlining State Practices

Environmental streamlining success stories are catalogued on the FHWA website under State Practices Database.

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Case Studies: Federal Highway Administration Compilations - Meeting Environmental Requirements After a Bridge Collapse: Five Cases

A report published by the Federal Highway Administration analyzes the environmental review process in five cases of bridge reconstruction following collapse in Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. The report, which was prepared by the U.S. DOT’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, describes how key elements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process were completed comparatively quickly due to a sense of urgency on the part of stakeholders following an emergency. The report also describes several practices that allowed agencies to expedite the environmental review process. For more information, link to Meeting Environmental Requirements After a Bridge Collapse.

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Sustainability

Recent Developments: FHWA Announces 2017 Environmental Excellence Award Recipients

The Federal Highway Administration has announced the recipients of the 2017 environmental excellence award. The recipients received awards for projects that address organization and process innovation, natural environment and human environment. Projects include the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Impaired Waters Program, Atlanta Roadside Emissions Exposure Study and the I-70 Eastbound Peak Period Shoulder Lane in Colorado. The recipients were chosen based on innovative initiatives that incorporate environmental stewardship and streamlining into transportation planning and project development. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-24-17)

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Recent Developments: Civil Engineers Issue 2017 Infrastructure Report Card

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has released its 2017 infrastructure report card, distributed every four years to assign a letter grade rating the physical conditions and needed investments for infrastructure improvement. The nation was given a D+ rating overall for 16 categories of infrastructure. Individually, the report card gave a rating of C+ for bridges, indicating that 9.1 percent of bridges were structurally deficient and rehabilitation needs are $123 billion. The report card provides a grade of D for roads due to poor conditions and increased traffic congestion and fatalities. Transit received a D- due to increased demand without significant funding, but rail transportation has a grade of B because of significant capital investment. The report card also addresses aviation, energy, dams and levees, ports, parks, schools, solid waste and wastewater. For more information link to the report card. (3-9-17)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Releases Vehicle-to-Infrastructure Resource Collection

The Federal Highway Administration has released a collection of resources concerning vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) to accelerate deployment of V2I communication systems. The systems capture vehicle-generated traffic data through hardware, software, firmware and wireless communication. The resources include a primer on connected vehicle impacts, references for connected vehicle planning processes and products and analysis tools, techniques and data concerning highway capacity and traffic simulation models. The resources also provide a guide to licensing dedicated short range communications for road side units and resources for connected vehicle training. For more information, link to the resources. (1-19-17)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Releases Report on Sustainable Pavement Systems

The Federal Highway Administration has released a reference document concerning sustainable pavement systems. The reference analyzes sustainability considerations throughout the entire pavement life cycle and highlights the importance of recognizing context sensitivity. The report addresses sustainability concepts, pavement materials, maintenance and preservation treatments and considerations for the construction phase, the use phase and the end-of-life phase. The report also provides a list of technologies and innovations and sustainability trends. For more information, link to the report. (1-23-17)

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Recent Developments: USDOT Releases 5-Year Strategic Plan for Transportation System

The Department of Transportation has released a five-year strategic plan concerning research, development and technology. The report identifies research priorities for fiscal years 2017-2021 concerning the current and future performance of the nation’s transportation system. The report addresses several solutions from the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, Federal Aviation Administration and the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to mitigate the effects of transportation activities on climate change. Solutions include development of pollinator-friendly practices for sustainable highway roadsides; deployment of clean technology transit buses under the Low and No Emissions Program; increased pipeline safety research and development; and research concerning aircraft energy use, noise and air pollutant emissions. For more information, link to the plan. (1-13-17)

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Recent Developments: USDOT Releases Beyond Traffic 2045 Final Report

The Department of Transportation has released the final draft of its Beyond Traffic 2045 report. The report found that the U.S. transportation system, and the current planning and funding mechanisms, will not meet the demands presented by population growth, climate change and new technologies like driverless cars. The report is a comprehensive study of the major trends that will shape the U.S.’s transportation system over the next 30 years. The report also outlines three strategies that will ensure the U.S. can meet the coming challenges: take better care of legacy transportation systems; fund and prioritize new projects based on future projections; and use technologies and better design approaches to maximize the use of old and new transportation assets. For more information, link to the report. (1-9-17)

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Recent Developments: USDOT Releases Report Detailing Results of Smart City Challenge

The Department of Transportation has released a report detailing the results of the Smart City Challenge, which offered mid-sized cities the chance to win $50 million with their ideas for creating an integrated, smart transportation system. The report describes the solutions presented by the seven finalists, including the winner, Columbus, Ohio. The report summarizes the commonly-proposed ideas, including inductive wireless charging to charge electric vehicles; implementing a unified traffic or transportation data analytics platform; and creating vehicle to infrastructure communication with dedicated short range technology. For more information, link to the report and a public database of all proposals from applicant cities. (1-3-17)

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Recent Developments: USDOT Build America Bureau To Finance Seattle Transit

The Department of Transportation has announced that an innovative infrastructure financing tool could provide nearly $2 billion for four transit projects in Seattle. USDOT’s Build America Bureau, a one-stop finance office launched this summer, signed a Master Credit Agreement with the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority. Under the agreement, the transit authority will be able to expedite multiple loan requests. The first of these loans, $615.3 million for the Northgate Link Extension, has been closed, allowing the extension to move forward. For more information, link to press release. (12-22-16)

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Recent Developments: Colorado DOT Project Plans Road That Recharges Electric Vehicles

The Colorado Department of Transportation has announced plans for an pilot project that would build into a public road power coils that allows electric vehicles to recharge while moving. Through the use of inductive charging, the project is intended to allow electric vehicles to travel farther with smaller battery packs and still maintain an effective travel range for commercial operations. The project is a result of an agreement reached this month between CDOT’s RoadX program and the engineering firm AECOM, and the potential benefits include the increased use of heavy-duty trucks powered by electricity. For more information, link to the AASHTO article. (12-16-16)

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Recent Developments: USDOT Issues $300 Million in University Transportation Center Grants

The Department of Transportation has announced $300.3 million in five-year grants for 32 university transportation centers under the University Transportation Centers Grant Program. The program funds academic research on issues concerning long-term sustainability of the nation’s transportation system and provides opportunities for future transportation professionals. The awards amount up to $72.5 million for fiscal year 2016 and includes annual awards for FY2017-FY2020. The recipients are composed of two and four-year institutions in various locations across the U.S, with five national centers or institutes and seven regional centers. The recipients must address topics that include improving mobility of people and goods; reducing congestion; promoting safety; improving the durability and extending the life of transportation infrastructure; preserving the environment; and preserving the existing transportation system. For more information, link to the press release and recipients. (12-5-16)

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Recent Developments: White House Announces Federal Agency Sustainability Plans/GreenGov Awards

The White House has announced the release of federal agency sustainability performance plans. The plans detail how federal agencies are working to cut greenhouse gas emissions, increase the use of renewable energy, reduce water and energy usage in buildings, improve efficiency of federal vehicles, and enhance climate resilience. The White House also announced the winners of the 2016 GreenGov Presidential Awards, which recognizes achievement in promoting sustainability within the government. For more information, link to the press release. (9-7-16)

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Case Studies: Arizona - Arizona DOT Champions Sustainability Using INVEST Tool

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is using a self-evaluation tool to assess and improve its projects and programs, helping the agency integrate sustainability into virtually every component of the transportation lifecycle, including planning, design, construction, operations, and maintenance activities.

Over the last several years, ADOT increasingly has recognized the importance of delivering transportation solutions in a more sustainable manner to achieve economic, social, and environmental goals.

“After three years of progress, our Sustainable Transportation Program has reached every corner of the agency,” said Steven Olmsted with ADOT’s Office of Environmental Planning. “It has become our standard way of carrying out our work and is bringing multiple benefits.”

Arizona DOT’s Sustainable Transportation Program has implemented solutions such this roundabout on US 89. Photo: Arizona DOT

History and Program Structure

The roots of ADOT’s sustainability program extend back to 2012 when the agency published two planning documents that both called for sustainability to be a key objective. At that time, it also was adding sustainable land use and urban planning into its Multimodal Planning Division, and beta testing the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool (INVEST).

In 2013, ADOT began incorporating sustainable practices into its project development and construction activities, “cherry-picking” successes and bringing them to the attention of managers to build internal support. For example, by addressing the storm water run-off component of a pavement project during construction, project managers could point out that heavy rains otherwise would have shortened the lifespan of the pavement an added to maintenance costs.

ADOT’s Sustainable Transportation Program was formalized in 2014 and is housed in the Environmental Planning Office, with management and oversight remaining largely centralized. Olmsted described the method as a “bottom up approach.” Since that time, the program has been working through designated milestones to ensure consistent adoption across a balance of disciplines. These have included an ADOT Resilience Program and ADOT’s 2016 Complete Transportation Handbook, which is a foundational resource to guide sustainable project development efforts. The handbook includes a set of strategies and tools to improve transportation system sustainability.

ADOT’s Administrative Services Division is the most recent agency component to be placed under the sustainability program lens. Draft policies are being developed for practices such as fuel efficiency, office recycling, and commuting, and are expected to become standard policy in 2017. Meanwhile, the agency continues to incorporate and assess best management practices for achieving sustainability in every component of the transportation lifecycle. For instance, INVEST has been used to assess the effectiveness of mobile onsite batch plants for cement production in sensitive eco-regions of the state.

Operational Focus Areas

To frame ADOT’s sustainability program for the year ahead, a roadmap containing several dozen “Operational Focus Areas” is agreed upon annually that span the agency’s work: planning, project development, operations, maintenance, and administrative activities. For 2016, focus areas included activities such as:

  • sustainable outreach to Arizona tribes,
  • upgrading the heavy equipment idling policy,
  • developing a reuse policy for millings, and
  • assisting the Transportation Research Board (TRB) in framing global sustainable transport.

Efforts also include stand-alone projects such as the Black and Green Sustainable Pavement Pilot Program. Sustainable pavement management enhances roadway safety and optimizes pavement life cycles to reduce costs, while also considering the environmental impacts of construction and material usage. Other projects are on the drawing board, including efforts related to clean energy and sustainable freight.

In addition, ADOT plans to publish a progress report on the three framework components of its FHWA Climate Resilience Pilot Project: storm water, extreme weather, and downscaling of climate data as it relates to transportation systems.

Evaluating Performance Using INVEST

ADOT has advanced its sustainability efforts in large part by pioneering the FHWA’s INVEST sustainability tool. FHWA developed INVEST to help transportation agencies incorporate the “triple bottom line” objectives of environmental, economic, and social sustainability into their programs and projects. Web-based INVEST includes four independent modules: Systems Planning for States, Systems Planning for Regions, Project Development, and Operations and Maintenance.

Using INVEST modules, agencies can self-score how well they have achieved specific sustainability goals by measuring their work against carefully chosen best practice “criteria.” Each criterion has been selected because it links to one or more components of the “triple bottom line.” For example, one criterion included in the Project Development module is ecological connectivity, while the Operations and Maintenance module includes an electrical energy efficiency criterion. In total, INVEST incorporates 81 criteria spread across the four modules.

ADOT has played a key role in the evolution of INVEST. In 2011 it participated in the INVEST Version 1.0 beta-test program. Then in 2013 and 2014, it implemented the PD module, and in 2015 and 2016 it scored and adopted the OM module. Also during 2016, it assisted with developing INVEST Version 1.2 and issued its 2nd Annual Sustainable Transportation Program Report which included the Arizona DOT Sustainability Implementation Report. Being a pilot test agency for the modules gave his agency an early lead in leveraging INVEST’s capabilities to make major strides forward in its own internal sustainability work, said Olmsted.

“We use INVEST to measure, plan, discuss, and improve,” he said. “It is a shortcut for arriving at what the current FHWA sustainable universe encompasses and helps us do more with less.”

Putting INVEST to Work

ADOT already has put INVEST to good use. In 2015, it scored 50 projects in the agency’s five-year construction program using the Project Development Module, with an initial specific focus on statewide roundabout projects. ADOT then expanded the scoring from roundabouts to projects ranging from pavement preservation to bridge deck rehabilitation to new lane miles. It was particularly interested in how green infrastructure, low-impact development, multimodal mobility, freight and Context Sensitive Solutions can be measured and defined.

Out of the projects scored, two were rated gold (50 percent of total possible points), 9 were rated silver (40 percent of total possible points), and 20 were rated bronze (30 percent of total possible points).

In 2016, ADOT’s INVEST scoring focus centered on the agency’s operations and maintenance efforts The agency received an independently scored 142 points out of a possible 210, sufficient to achieve INVEST’s highest platinum rating.

ADOT also has harnessed INVEST’s capabilities to help meet NEPA requirements. For example, the agency applied INVEST as a scoring tool for design alternatives and a public outreach tool for two Environmental Impact Statements by requesting comment during the scoping period.

Challenges Encountered

Selling the concept of sustainability inside a traditional road-building agency can be challenging, Olmsted said. And working with a self-scoring tool such as INVEST initially may be met with resistance from some managers. But by maintaining the focus on exchange of information, and with a potential to highlight successes as well as areas for improvement, managers usually transition from initial skepticism to active involvement in sustainability discussions.

Another challenge is that precise financial benefits are difficult to quantify. Comprehensive sustainable transportation is still in its infancy without the benefit of cost-benefit analysis and return on investment statistics.

Advice for DOTs

For other state DOTs interested in developing a comprehensive sustainable transportation program, Olmsted offered the following guidance:

  • Identify an internal senior-level champion early in the process.
  • Work closely with FHWA staff, who are extremely knowledgeable.
  • Be prepared to invest considerable time and effort to make the program viable.
  • Incorporate an awards program such as ADOT’s Excellence in Advancing Sustainable Project Development Award Program.
  • Carry out training on how to use INVEST for continuous improvement, and make its use a standard operating procedure.

Training on using INVEST is crucial, said Olmstead. In 2014 and 2015, his agency carried out classroom training on INVEST and also trained several local public agencies. During 2016, most sustainability training took place by having the training team “embed themselves” with individuals in their offices. In the coming years, the agency plans to continue classroom training classes as well as sponsor larger state-wide training sessions.

For more information about ADOT’s sustainable transportation program and use of INVEST, access the ADOT Sustainable Transportation Program web page or contact Steven Olmsted, ADOT Office of Environmental Planning at SOlmsted@azdot.gov.

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Case Studies: Chicago - Chicago DOT Advances Model Sustainable Streetscape

Urban streetscapes in a major city may appear to be an unlikely environment to find leaner and greener practices. However, the Chicago Department of Transportation has shown that it is not only possible to make sustainable upgrades to city streets, but that such upgrades improve the quality of the landscape and the livability of the community in many ways.

To demonstrate the scope of sustainable practices in an urban context, Chicago DOT used a grant from the Federal Highway Administration under the Eco-Logical program to help transform an approximately 2-mile stretch of urban street on Chicago’s south side. Known as the Cermak/Blue Island Sustainable Streetscape, the project follows South Blue Island Avenue and West Cermak Road along the South Branch Chicago River. In addition to the FHWA grant, the $14 million project was funded through Tax Increment Financing, as well as grants from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Midwest Generation.

Planners and designers identified several performance goals for the project. These include:

  • stormwater management,
  • water efficiency,
  • multi-modal transportation improvements,
  • energy efficiency,
  • use of recycled materials,
  • reducing the urban heat island effect,
  • air quality improvements, and
  • education, beautification, and community development.

Phase I has been completed and Phase II, a portion of South Blue Island Avenue between South Wolcott Avenue and South Western Avenue, is underway, according to Janet Attarian, Project Director for the CDOT Streetscape and Sustainable Design Program.

CDOT held a dedication ceremony on Oct. 9, 2012, to highlight the successes of Phase I of the project. In announcing the completion of the first phase, CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein said the project “demonstrates a full range of sustainable design techniques that improve the urban ecosystem, promote economic development, increase the safety and usability of streets for all users, and build healthy communities.”

Stormwater management feature, Photo Courtesy of Chicago DOT

CDOT said the first phase of the project has achieved a number of sustainability goals:

Material Recycling and Innovation: the first commercial roadway application of photocatalytic cement, which cleans the surface of the roadway and removes nitrogen oxide gases from the surrounding air through a catalytic reaction driven by UV light; the recycling of more than 60 percent of all construction waste and the sourcing of more than 23 percent of all new materials from recycled content; the first installation of sidewalk concrete with 30 percent recycled content in the city; and the first installation of roadway asphalt that includes reclaimed asphalt pavement, slag, ground tire rubber, reclaimed asphalt shingles, and warm mix technology.

Stormwater Management: the project diverts up to 80 percent of the typical average annual rainfall from the combined sewer through a combination of bioswales, rain gardens, permeable pavements, and stormwater features; the creation of two public plazas that infiltrate stormwater and include seating and educational opportunities.

Water Efficiency: the elimination of the use of potable water for all landscape irrigation; the piloting of 95 drought tolerant, native plant species in bioswales, and infiltration planters to evaluate effectiveness in roadside conditions.

Energy Reduction: the project reduced the energy use of the street by 42 percent and used dark-sky friendly light fixtures; installed the first permanent wind/solar powered pedestrian lights and the first LED pedestrian light poles on a streetscape in Chicago; 76 percent of all materials used were manufactured and extracted within 500 miles of the project site; and 23 percent of all materials were within 200 miles of the project site; piloted use of microthin concrete overlay to extend pavement life and increase solar reflectance.

Urban Heat Island Effect Reduction/Air Quality: the project included high-albedo pavement surfaces to decrease the urban heat island effect, representing 40 percent of the total public right of way; provided a 131 percent increase in landscape and tree canopy cover; used ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel for construction vehicles.

Community and Education: the project developed community identity with education kiosks, a walking tour brochure, and a guide book in Spanish and English that provide a wide range of information about the sustainable best practices used in the project.

Alternative Transportation: the installation of a pedestrian refuge island in Cermak Road adjacent to Juarez Community Academy, and curb-corner extensions throughout the project, in order to improve pedestrian safety; one half mile of new bike lanes on Blue Island Avenue; improved bus stop areas with signage, shelters and lighting.

Monitoring and Evaluation: modeled and monitored stormwater best management practices to analyze design, ensure predicted performance, and determine maintenance practices; performed air quality testing to analyze photocatalytic impacts on air quality; and developed a maintenance protocol with the community to transition maintenance responsibility from the city over a two year period. For the first time, the project required that a streetscape contractor fully track and document the use of recycled content, recycled materials, and local manufacture and extraction on the project.

Site Chosen for Mix of Uses

The site was chosen because it includes a complex mix of uses that made it especially attractive for testing different design elements, according to project manager David Leopold, with Knight Engineers & Architects. The neighborhood includes a park, a high school, commercial real estate, a power plant, a brick yard, a scrap yard, a nonprofit organization, and, only a block away, residential areas.

One of the main goals of the project was to balance the needs of the all the existing users while at the same time minimizing the ecological impact of the uses, all in a limited amount of space, according to Leopold. CDOT made an effort to find opportunities for ecology “based on the limitations of our urban area,” Leopold said.

Another goal was to push the technology for sustainable infrastructure, Attarian said. As a pilot project, the design goals set a very high standard and a lot needed to be done “to make sure that [technology] would be available for us,” Attarian said. For example, for the photocatalytic cement CDOT had to find a domestic source willing and able to produce it, according to Attarian.

Another example is the high albedo pavement used in the project. The concrete mixes were developed and tested by CDOT, using slag and lighter aggregates

Key to the effort was realizing that “a single design mode can have multiple benefits,” Leopold said. As an example, bioswales are effective at trapping stormwater to reduce the amount of runoff flowing into the city sewers. They also serve as a buffer between the pedestrian space and the street. In addition, they provide habitat for birds and insects. Finally, they are attractive, serving to beautify the area and promoting economic development in the process.

In addition, the project was intended to be a laboratory to learn how to design, build, and install sustainable infrastructure. CDOT wanted to find out “what we [could] do if we try to take advantage of everything we had” in terms of innovative technologies, processes, and practices, according to Attarian.

The redesign of one streetscape provides a blueprint that can be scaled up to address stormwater issues, the urban heat island effect, and other sustainability issues throughout the entire city, both Attarian and Leopold noted. What was developed for and learned from this project will be standardized and implemented as much as possible citywide. CDOT has received information from the project’s contractor on what worked and what did not work, information that will be instructive to new efforts going forward, Attarian said.

“A big part of what we are doing is education,” Attarian said. There is education of CDOT employees on how to use the new materials and design principles. The project team is developing a set of sustainable urban infrastructure policies that will be publicly available.

In addition, public education is integral to the project. The FHWA Eco-Logical grant aided in the purchase of the hybrid wind- and solar-powered information kiosks placed along the sidewalks to provide educational material about the streetscape design.

Lessons Learned

There were several lessons learned from the design and construction of the project, according to Attarian. They include the following:

  • integrated design requires new roles within interdisciplinary design teams;
  • technology availability may not always coincide with project schedules;
  • changing “business and usual” within a public right of way requires communication with all users;
  • monitoring local pilot projects is critical for the accurate comparison of grey versus green alternatives; and
  • addressing livability issues within the public right of way involves inherently sustainable practices.

CDOT has installed the means to perform ongoing monitoring of the sustainable materials and techniques, including the monitoring of stormwater, pavement and air temperatures, and air quality. This monitoring was not required, but rather it was “what we wanted to do” to learn from the project, Attarian said.

More information is available on the CDOT Streetscapes and Sustainable Design website, http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/supp_info/streetscapes_andsustainabledesign.html. Additional information is available by contacting Janet Attarian at (312) 744-3100), Jattarian@cityofchicago.org, or David Leopold at (312) 742-4772), dleopold@knightea.com.

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Case Studies: Chicago - Chicago's Green Alley Program

Since 2006, the Chicago Department of Transportation has been upgrading the city’s alleys with state-of-the-art green pavement materials and designs to better manage stormwater and prevent flooding. The agency also is testing use of reflective surfaces to reduce the urban “heat island” effect, and is increasing use of recycled materials for rehabilitation of alleys. Chicago’s Green Alley program was launched to help address rainwater collecting in alleys and flooding surrounding areas. Additionally, the program helped meet goals to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change established in Chicago’s Climate Action Plan. Each of the city’s departments was charged with determining how climate change will affect its programs and taking action to help mitigate and adapt to the expected impacts, including increases in temperature and more frequent and severe flooding.

Chicago’s urban landscape includes more than 1,900 miles of public alleys accounting for more than 3,500 acres of impervious surface, one of the largest alley networks of any city in the world, Leopold said. Rehabilitation of the city’s alleys using green techniques offered a good starting point to help relieve environmental stresses on the city’s transportation and sewer infrastructure. Most of the aging alleys throughout the city are not connected to the city’s storm sewer system and are prone to flooding. When flooding problems occur, instead of tearing up the alley and diverting water to the sewer system, officials now install permeable surfaces that slow down the flow of water and allow natural infiltration and recharge to the groundwater below.

The Green Alley program began with five pilot projects, and soon expanded for use on a regular basis. Rehabilitation using green infrastructure practices is taking place as the need arises to upgrade existing alleys. As of the end of 2009, the city will have installed more than 100 green alley designs throughout the city. To help get the word out on its sustainable infrastructure practices, the city published the Green Alley Handbook, which describes best management practices used in the program and examples from pilot projects. The handbook describes the following types of Green Alley techniques:

  • improved drainage through proper pitching and grading of the alley;
  • use of pavement materials such as permeable pavers, permeable concrete, and permeable asphalt;
  • installation of “high albedo” pavement which is light in color and reflects sunlight away from the surface rather than absorbing and radiating heat.
  • use of recycled construction materials, including recycled concrete aggregate used in concrete mix and as a base beneath surface paving, use of slag from industrial processes as a component of concrete mix, and use of ground tire rubber in porous asphalt and reclaimed asphalt pavement in non-porous asphalt;
  • use of energy efficient, “dark sky compliant” lighting that directs light downward and reduces light pollution.

The handbook describes four applications that used different combinations of these techniques based on site conditions. These included use of green pavement materials with conventional drainage, use of full alley infiltration using permeable pavement, use of center alley infiltration using permeable pavement, and use of green pavement materials with a subsoil filtration system. It also recommends a variety of best management practices that adjacent property owners can use, including recycling, composting of yard waste and scraps, planting shade trees and native plants, use of permeable pavements and green roofs, installation of energy efficient and dark-sky lighting, and creation of naturalized detention and vegetated swales to encourage stormwater infiltration.

The agency has had some “lessons learned,” including the need for increased maintenance for the permeable surfaces. The pervious pavements need to be cleaned on a regular basis to maintain permeability, and cleaning must begin before the pavement becomes deeply clogged with debris. City officials have found they can get the job done by running their traditional street sweepers twice a year – in the fall and the spring – as part of a regular maintenance routine for the green alleys. Chicago DOT is continuing to monitor the performance of green alleys to determine whether maintenance practices are sufficient and to measure infiltration rates, pavement strength and durability, and reflective characteristics of the materials.

For more information, link to the Green Alley Handbook or contact David Leopold, Project Manager, Streetscape and Sustainable Design Program, Chicago DOT, at david.leopold@cityofchicago.org. Information on Chicago’s Climate Change Action Plan may be accessed at http://www.chicagoclimateaction.org/.

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Case Studies: District of Columbia - District of Columbia DOT Advances Sustainable Practices Department-Wide

Environmental stewardship and sustainability efforts in the nation’s capital are continuing to advance, with the District of Columbia Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) implementation of a sustainability plan and a range of sustainable practices for the department.

DDOT’s Sustainability Plan incorporates and integrates sustainable practices throughout the department’s work, according to Faisal Hameed, Chief of the Project Development, Environment, and Sustainability Division at DDOT. The agency has established measures and targets that will be revised regularly so that DDOT can track and improve its environmental performance and increase the sustainability of the city’s transportation projects and programs.

Environmental, Social, Economic Goals

DDOT’s Sustainability Plan reflects the “triple bottom line” approach to sustainability, targeting environmental quality, social structure, and the economy.

DDOT defines a sustainable transportation as “a transportation system that provides its users with various mode choices in a balanced manner without compromising their safety, accessibility, and mobility while supporting the economy, promoting livability and protecting the environment.”

The plan identifies eight priority areas for sustainability and establishes goals, actions, measures, and targets for each. The priority areas and goals are:

  • Promoting transportation and land use linkage
  • Improving mode choices, accessibility and mobility
  • Effective cost assessments in decision-making
  • Supporting the economy
  • Improving DDOT operations and project development processes
  • Protecting the environment and conserving resources
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Promoting livability and safety

For each priority area, measures and targets are identified, such as reduction of annual greenhouse gas emissions from DDOT projects by 5 percent annually. DDOT will track each area and report annually on progress made in achieving the targets.

Sustainable Initiatives and Projects Underway

Examples of sustainable efforts include DDOT’s “Great Streets” initiative, with efforts such as the Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue project, which won one of the first grants from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under its Green Highways Partnership. DDOT employees successfully worked with EPA, the Federal Highway Administration, District Department of Environment, National Park Service, and other agency partners and the community to develop a sustainable design that improves bicycle and pedestrian safety by adding bike lanes, enhancing sidewalks, and incorporating low impact development (LID) features. Project features include bioretention areas, stormwater planters, and permeable concrete sidewalks, all of which help treat stormwater and reduce runoff into local waterways.

DDOT’s work to develop a Climate Change Adaptation Plan is another key sustainability effort. The plan will focus on developing a framework of recommendations for adapting to impacts brought on by a changing climate, especially as they relate to transportation infrastructure. DDOT has conducted workshops with the Federal Highway Administration, EPA, AASHTO, Metropolitan Washington Area Council of Governments, District Department of Environment, and various other agencies to develop this framework.

DDOT also is emerging as a national leader in bike-sharing and bicycle improvement programs, spearheaded by DDOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager. Over 100 bike-share stations have been installed in the city and several more are planned.

Another example is the Klingle Valley Trail project, which will address historic flooding that caused erosion of a stream and road in Rock Creek Park. Working through an interagency partnership focused on a watershed approach to mitigation, DDOT will replace the existing storm-damaged roadway with a 10-foot-wide permeable-surface multi-use trail, use LID techniques and build a consistent bioswale parallel to the trail, and conduct innovative full stream channel restoration and bank stabilization for Klingle Creek.

In addition, historic preservation goals were achieved in a sustainable manner in the reconstruction and restoration of O and P Streets in the Georgetown National Historic District.

Restoration of one and a half miles of the roadway required the excavation of more than 300,000 granite pavers and removal of historic trolley tracks. After inspecting each granite paver, more than 90 percent of the original stones were reused. Each was power washed and placed one-by-one into the new roadway base. The trolley tracks and underground appurtenances were refurbished and returned to their original locations. At the same time, the 19th century water mains were replaced. DDOT employees led the complex design and construction of the roadway features while maintaining traffic and access for residents in a street that consists of all historic houses.

Other successful efforts include DDOT’s Green Alley pilot program to demonstrate use of permeable pavement and other low impact development techniques in alleys throughout D.C., as well as the city’s LED street lights programs.

EMS Advances Sustainability

In support of its sustainability efforts, DDOT also is implementing an environmental management system (EMS), based on the International Standards Organization (ISO 14001) structure. The agency may seek ISO certification in the future, Hameed said. The EMS is being implemented in phases. As the first phase, DDOT focused on the project development and environmental review process as well as office operations.

Following the “plan-do-check-act” EMS model, DDOT’s EMS outlines the agency’s environmental policy and describes objectives, measures, and targets as well as roles and responsibilities for implementation, measuring and reporting progress, and ensuring continuous improvement.

For project development and environmental review, the plan applies to all phases of project development, including planning, preliminary engineering, environmental review, final design, construction and maintenance. It calls for incorporation of environmental features in DDOT projects and increased use of beneficial and recycled materials.

For example, under the plan, projects will set a goal to achieve a 5 percent decrease in overall emissions as well as a 5 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, and at least half of all projects will include environmental components such as low impact development features and tree planting.

In addition, measures and targets are included to help streamline environmental reviews by reducing delays from environmental issues, avoiding delays in obtaining permits, and fulfilling environmental commitments on projects.

As part of the EMS implementation, environmental audits will be conducted at every phase of the project development process, and environmental commitments and mitigation will be tracked to ensure that the commitments are carried through to design and construction. The results of the reviews will be documented in an annual report, including recommendations for corrective actions.

“The idea is to monitor and evaluate environmental considerations throughout the project development process,” Hameed said. Forms must be filled out when a project is initiated, he said, and based on that form, determinations are made regarding potential environmental impacts and mitigation. That form is reviewed and approved by the Project Development, Environment, and Sustainability Division to ensure commitments are carried out.

For more information, link to the DDOT Sustainability Plan.

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Case Studies: Illinois - Illinois - Livable and Sustainable Transportation Rating System and Guide (I-LAST)

Transportation design and construction groups in Illinois have helped to design a voluntary guide intended to encourage use of sustainable practices for the transportation projects in the state. The Illinois - Livable and Sustainable Transportation Rating System and Guide (I-LAST), issued in January 2010, was developed in a cooperative effort between the Illinois Department of Transportation, the American Council of Engineering Companies–Illinois (ACEC-Illinois), and the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association (IRTBA). The guide – which is voluntary and “advisory in nature” – provides a description of sustainability in transportation and provides a tool for identifying and documenting sustainable practices on highway projects in the state.

The purpose of the guide is to:

  • provide a comprehensive list of practices that have the potential to bring sustainable results to highway projects;
  • establish a simple and efficient method of evaluating transportation projects with respect to livability, sustainability, and effect on the natural environment; and
  • record and recognize the use of sustainable practices in the transportation industry.

The I-LAST guide identifies the following goals of providing sustainable features in the design and construction of highway projects:

  • Minimize impacts to environmental resources
  • Minimize consumption of material resources
  • Minimize energy consumption
  • Preserve or enhance the historic, scenic and aesthetic context of a highway project
  • Integrate highway projects into the community in a way that helps to preserve and enhance community life
  • Encourage community involvement in the transportation planning process
  • Encourage integration of non-motorized means of transportation into a highway project
  • Find a balance between what is important: to the transportation function of the facility, to the community to the natural environment, and is economically sound,
  • Encourage the use of new and innovative approaches in achieving these goals.

The guide includes a checklist-based scorecard for evaluating the sustainable practices included in a highway project, with 17 separate sustainable features in eight categories:

  • Planning: context sensitive solutions, land use /community planning;
  • Design: alignment selection, context sensitive design;
  • Environmental: protect, enhance or restore wildlife communities; protect, enhance, restore native plant communities; noise abatement;
  • Water: reduce impervious area; stormwater treatment; construction practices to protect water quality;
  • Transportation: traffic operations, transit, improve bicycle and pedestrian facilities;
  • Lighting: reduced electrical consumption, stray light reduction;
  • Materials; and
  • Innovation.

For each of the 17 features, the scorecard lists activities and available points that could be earned for each activity included on a project. It also provides an explanation and resources to help users better understand how to implement each of the sustainable features.

The effort started with a desire to be more proactive on sustainability and was inspired by the GreenLITES approach developed by New York State DOT (see related case study). Industry partners worked with Illinois DOT to tailor their own system, agreeing that it would be used only on a voluntary basis. There is currently no certification or other incentive for the project scoring system, but such an approach may be added in the future.

While the I-LAST approach is voluntary, District 1 already has begun using the approach. The sustainable actions listed in the guide are already being done on many projects, but it is expected to bring awareness and encourage sustainable practices. While officials say they do not foresee a statewide mandate for the approach, it is expected to raise awareness of the types of practices that can be done.

The extent to which the Illinois guide takes hold also may be influenced by a sustainability tool currently under development by the Federal Highway Administration. The agency is in the process of developing its own rating system to provide criteria for sustainable practices.

For more information on the Illinois approach, link to the Illinois - Livable and Sustainable Transportation Rating System and Guide (I-LAST).

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Case Studies: Massachusetts - MassDOT Advances GreenDOT Sustainability Initiative

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is continuing to make progress on sustainability initiatives, a process that began with the 2010 GreenDOT policy directive.

In 2014, the agency conducted a comprehensive review of its progress on sustainability initiatives and issued the GreenDOT Report 2014 Status Update Report. Key priorities being pursued include:

  • improving the consideration of GHG impacts in transportation planning;
  • implementation of a complete streets funding program;
  • initiating a statewide climate adaptation and vulnerability assessment;
  • development of renewable energy on MassDOT assets;
  • delivering travel demand management services;
  • improving energy efficiency of MassDOT’s fixed assets; and
  • supporting increased uptake of electric vehicles.
Increasing bicycle and pedestrian mode share is an important element of MassDOT’s sustainability initiative. Photo: MassDOT

Improving Consideration of GHG impacts

MassDOT has been working with Metropolitan Planning Organizations for a number of years to incorporate GHG impacts of projects as a consideration when transportation projects are selected. This work has taken on new urgency with the 2015 passage of state regulation 310 CMR 60.05 which makes the consideration of GHG impacts a legal requirement.

The agency has provided metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) with analytical tools, guidelines and training to enable the quantification of GHG impacts. It also is undertaking analysis to identify the most efficient and effective means of reducing transportation sector GHG emissions through implementing a pilot of the Federal Highway Administration’s Energy and Emissions Policy Analysis Tool and a project with UMass Amherst under the Massachusetts Cooperative Research Program.

Shannon Greenwell, MassDOT’s project lead, noted that the central challenge in this work is to develop a system of GHG impact assessment that is consistent across the Commonwealth’s MPOs and allows the quantification of GHG impacts at a relatively early stage in the project development process.

Implementing a Complete Streets Funding Program

MassDOT has been a national leader in promoting Complete Streets designs. Early efforts were recognized in the award-winning 2006 Project Development and Design Guide. More recently, MassDOT issued the 2012 Healthy Transportation Engineering Directive and supporting engineering directives that set minimum standards for accommodation of active modes of transportation.

Its pioneering efforts to promote complete streets continue with the finalization of a Complete Streets Funding Program. This program will be released in January of 2016 and will help incentivize municipalities to adopt complete streets policies and construct complete street projects.

The agency also finalized a ground breaking Separated Bike Lane Planning & Design Guide in 2015 that significantly advances bicycle facility design in the Commonwealth and aims to set new precedents for design in the United States.

MassDOT Complete Streets Engineer Luciano Rabito noted that the first projects will be ready for funding in 2016 and that MassDOT has sought to provide flexibility for all participating municipalities. “We have designed a program that will offer assistance to all municipalities large or small; urban, suburban, or rural. The program, which will be managed online, will be easy to use and keep municipalities engaged throughout the process. Based on the positive feedback we have received, we are anticipating a hugely successful program.”

Statewide Climate Adaptation and Vulnerability Assessment

MassDOT has initiated a climate vulnerability assessment to help prepare the Commonwealth for the likely impacts of climate change on transportation infrastructure.

The scope of this first phase will include mapping the full inventory of MassDOT assets; compiling and mapping climate change predictions; conducting workshops to gather data on current conditions; assessing the level of risk to individual assets and the system as a whole; developing asset vulnerability criteria; and identifying a prioritized set of high-risk hazards and high-risk assets.

Development of Renewable Energy on MassDOT’s Assets

MassDOT’s work to support increased generation of renewable energy continues. The first phase of the project to establish solar farms on underutilized areas near State Highways was completed in 2015 with the addition of five solar arrays. These projects utilize an innovative form of Power Purchase Agreement financing, under which a solar developer bears the upfront cost of the installations and operation and maintenance responsibilities, and MassDOT secures a long term agreement to purchase low cost electricity. Additional solar projects are planned, as well as a wind turbine project for a commuter rail facility.

These developments add to a range of existing renewable energy initiatives on MassDOT’s assets which include solar projects as well as a wind energy project at an MBTA facility.

The project lead, Lily Oliver, explained that MassDOT is starting to see the benefits of highway solar projects after almost 2 years of design and construction. “A lot of upfront work was required for these projects to go ahead” says Oliver. “This included a competitive procurement process, price negotiations, town and highway access permits, obtaining approvals from FHWA and securing state incentives. It is satisfying to see these projects coming online which means reduced operating costs for MassDOT and lower greenhouse gas emissions for Massachusetts,” Oliver said. (see related AASHTO case study under Energy/GHG Emissions topic)

Delivering Travel Demand Management Services

In the area of travel demand, MassDOT supports the reduction of single-occupant vehicle travel by increasing the availability and use of commuting options such as carpooling, vanpooling, transit, bicycling, and walking through its MassRIDES program.

The use of these options leads to reduced traffic congestion; improved air quality; reduced GHG emissions; and enhanced quality of life in Massachusetts. MassRIDES now serves 495,000 employees within its 335 partner organizations.

Improving Energy Efficiency of MassDOT’s Fixed Assets

MassDOT has a number of initiatives underway and planned to reduce the energy used in its buildings and other fixed assets. These include the following:

  • Energy audits and high-payback upgrades of 130 buildings covering almost 1.9 million square feet; An estimated $4.4 million dollars will be invested in upgrades to the 130 MassDOT facilities, which are expected to produce an annual saving for Massachusetts taxpayers of $500,000.
  • Installation of LED lights in the tunnels of the Metropolitan Highway System in downtown Boston. The tunnels to be covered by the project contain approximately 25,000 existing fixtures that will be replaced.
  • Upgrading the heating units that prevent the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s third rail from freezing during winter. The existing heaters are outdated, have outmoded controls, and require a large amount of electricity to power. They are turned on in late fall and remain on until spring, running 24 hours per day. The MBTA is installing efficient units that can be remotely controlled based on actual weather conditions. It is estimated that this initiative could create savings of over 39.8 million kWh and $3.4 million annually in electricity costs.

Supporting Increased Use of Electric Vehicles

Massachusetts committed to a goal of 300,000 zero emission vehicles registered in the state by 2025 under a Multi-State ZEV Action Plan. MassDOT has a number of responsibilities under its draft Massachusetts’ Zero Emission Vehicle Action Plan. They include the installation of up to 12 DC fast charging stations at locations close to State Highways within Massachusetts to provide range confidence for drivers on longer journeys and providing signage to guide drivers to charging stations.

Challenges arise when installing a new layer of refueling technology on a busy State Highway system. They include meeting rules governing the use of federal air quality funds and complying with restrictions on commercial activities near the highway. MassDOT also must work with existing lessees, utility companies and other state government agencies, all while siting the charging stations where they will be most useful to the traveling public.

For more information on MassDOT’s sustainability initiatives, visit MassDOT’s GreenDOT Sustainability Initiative website.

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Case Studies: Massachusetts - MassDOT's 'Fast-14' Bridge Replacement Project Saves Time and Money, Lessens Environmental Impacts

The replacement of one deteriorating highway bridge typically requires years of planning and construction. In 2011, Massachusetts DOT completed the replacement of 14 bridge structures on I-93 in a matter of weeks, saving time and money, improving public safety, and lessening environmental impacts.

The project, which used prefabricated, modular superstructure units, was dubbed “Fast 14” – one of several projects under MassDOT’s Accelerated Bridge Program. The project was “one of the most ambitious and innovative infrastructure projects in the nation,” according to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

Accelerated bridge construction technologies are being advanced through the Federal Highway Administration’s Every Day Counts Initiative. Intended to address the nation’s deteriorating bridges, these new techniques are aimed at cutting costs, increasing safety, and minimizing inconvenience to travelers.

According to FHWA, by using these techniques, DOTs can reduce the time associated with traditional planning, design, and bridge construction efforts by years. In addition, the newer designs and materials produce safer, more durable bridges with longer service lives than those built using conventional techniques.

Such methods also can lessen the environmental impact of construction. Most of the bridge fabrication occurs offsite in factories rather than on the construction site, minimizing disruption to sensitive ecosystems such as wetlands. Shorter construction time also allows projects to be scheduled around critical natural cycles for plants and animals.

Ten Summer Weekends

For the Fast 14 project, MassDOT announced the awarding of a design/build contract in January 2011. The $92 million contract was for the rapid replacement of 14 deteriorated bridge superstructures on I-93 northbound and southbound in the City of Medford over ten weekends between June and August 2011. This is a fraction of the estimated four years that would have been required if conventional construction methods had been used. A traffic management plan and a comprehensive communications plan allowed MassDOT to minimize congestion and other community impacts during construction, which was limited to off-peak hours. The project was completed ahead of schedule, according to Mass DOT.

One bridge that was replaced carries I-93 northbound over Riverside Avenue in Medford. On the weekend of June 3-5, 2011, the bridge was closed to traffic Friday evening, with the I-93 traffic diverted to two lanes in each direction. The substructures required only minor repairs, allowing for the rapid replacement of the superstructure.

MassDOT used excavators to demolish the old superstructure overnight, completing the removal by Saturday morning. Then the prefabricated, modular superstructure units were installed and concrete was poured to fill in between the panels. The bridge construction was completed on Sunday at midnight, and the Interstate was open to traffic in time for the Monday morning commute. The bridge was replaced in approximately 55 hours, according to MassDOT.

Project Innovations

Fast 14 debuted several innovations, according to Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for MassDOT. Of special note is a mix of concrete that was especially formulated for this project. “It's a high-early strength concrete mix that had a shrinkage-reducing admixture. This mixture was able to reach a compressive strength of at least 2,000 psi within four hours of it being set,” said Verseckes.

“Before finalizing this mix, it went through 40 test recipes to get to where we wanted to be,” Verseckes said.

Accelerated bridge construction embraces a number of techniques, according to FHWA. Primarily, there is the prefabricated bridge elements and systems. These are bridge components that are fabricated offsite or outside of the traffic areas, transported onsite, and installed with the use of cranes or other lifting equipment. Bridge elements include decks, beams, piers, and walls. Bridge systems refer to an entire superstructure or total bridge that is lifted into place.

Another component of accelerated bridge construction is the bundling of projects. Project bundling involves assigning multiple similar improvement projects along a corridor to one contractor, such as the 14 bridges in Medford. The bundling of projects saves procurement time and leverages expertise and momentum.

A third component of accelerated bridge projects is use of the design/build contracting method. According to FHWA, conventional bidding for design and construction contracts is a time-consuming sequence of events. Under design/build, a majority of the design work and all of the construction is the responsibility of one contractor. Thus, many tasks can be performed simultaneously and errors in design can be resolved more quickly.

Model Project

Fast 14 was highlighted when MassDOT hosted FHWA’s Every Day Counts Northeast Regional Peer-to-Peer Exchange on Prefabricated Bridge Elements and Systems in July 2012. The four–day event was attended by over 100 state DOT personnel from 11 states.

“People across the country are very interested in accelerated bridge construction,” Verseckes said.

In addition, many logistical lessons were learned from Fast 14. As an example, Verseckes points out “the importance of early coordination for transporting and storing the [prefabricated bridge units], which involved working with the state police, the contractor, and MassDOT, and keeping residents of the city of Medford and travelers using I-93 informed.”

MassDOT’s Accelerated Bridge Program continues to be at the forefront of highway construction innovation. In the 2012 construction season, MassDOT had over 20 accelerated bridge projects planned or completed, according to Verseckes. In addition, work began on the state’s first "mega project," the Burns Bridge in Worcester, which carries Rt. 9 over Lake Quinsigamond. The Burns Bridge project is using the design/build accelerated delivery technique. Mega projects are those with a construction budget in excess of $100 million.

As of Sept. 1, 2012, MassDOT had reduced the number of structurally deficient bridges in the state by 19.5 percent since the baseline year of 2008.

Nationwide, FHWA reports that 44 states have deployed accelerated bridge construction methods.

More information is available on the MassDOT Accelerated Bridge Program website and at FHWA’s Every Day Counts website, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/everydaycounts/. Additional information also is available by contacting Michael Verseckes at michael.verseckes@state.ma.us.

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Case Studies: New York - GreenLITES Certification Offers Incentive for Sustainable Practices

New York State Department of Transportation is pioneering an effort to measure its own performance on sustainability and is also creating a powerful incentive for its employees to go green. NYSDOT’s Green Leadership in Transportation and Environmental Sustainability (GreenLITES) program, launched in September 2008 and continuing to evolve, is a certification program that recognizes projects and operations that incorporate sustainable practices. The more green practices performed, the higher the certification level that can be achieved.

The first program of its kind in the nation used to rate all DOT projects, GreenLITES is modeled after the building industry’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program for green building practices and the University of Washington’s Greenroads program. GreenLITES applies a similar approach to recognize and encourage environmentally sustainable practices in transportation. The GreenLITES rating system tracks specific sustainable practices and awards credits based on the degree to which such practices are implemented. The system recognizes varying certification levels, with the highest level going to those efforts that go above and beyond standard practice and “clearly advance the state of sustainable transportation solutions.” Depending on the cumulative score acquired by incorporating sustainable choices into project design or operations, one of the following GreenLITES certification levels may be assigned:

  • Certified: Certification is awarded for incorporation of a number of sustainable choices.
  • Silver: Silver certification is awarded for incorporation of a number of sustainable choices with several of these choices having a high level of impact, or having advanced the state of practice.
  • Gold: Gold certification is awarded for incorporation of a substantial number of sustainable choices with many of these choices having a high level of impact, or having advanced the state of practice.
  • Evergreen: Evergreen certification is awarded for incorporation of the highest number of sustainable choices with many of these choices having an extremely high level of impact. Additionally, these efforts may advance the state of practice or are innovative in the way environmental sustainability is approached.

Scoring Projects and Operations
For Project Design, each project is tracked on a “scorecard” that lists and scores more than 170 practices in categories including sustainable sites, water quality, materials and resources, energy and atmosphere, and additional innovations and other actions. For each category, a list of activities is provided along with the number of credits that may be earned.

Because of the different nature of its work, the Operations Program takes a slightly different approach, incorporating GreenLITES sustainability measures into its existing annual maintenance and operations planning process. The long list of 130 operations and maintenance practices includes GreenLITES measures and other “green” practices available for credits in the following general categories:

  • Bridges
  • Drainage
  • Snow and Ice
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)
  • Guiderail & Fencing
  • Signs
  • Walls and Rock Slopes
  • Multimodal & ADA
  • Pavement
  • Signals & Lighting
  • Facilities
  • Roadside Environmental
  • Markings
  • Fleet Administration
  • Communications Technology & Emergency Preparedness
  • Other

The scoring is conducted each year at the end of March at the close of NYSDOT’s fiscal year. For both Operations and Project Design, the Department presents Evergreen and Gold awards each April on Earth Day.

The program has been implemented in stages, starting with the September 2008 GreenLITES Project Design Program, followed by the April 2009 GreenLITES Maintenance/Operations Plan Spreadsheet, the March 2010 Regional Sustainability Assessment tool and the Planning, Project Solicitation tool. The Department has also launched a Local Projects Certification Program that allows other state agencies, authorities, municipalities, and non-governmental organizations to use the GreenLITES project design tool.

The GreenLITES project design tool and operations tool have proved to be good for evaluating projects that are part of an existing construction or maintenance program. However, the Department also needed a way to select the “right projects.” This led to the development of the 2010 Project Solicitation Tool and the Regional Sustainability Assessment Table.

The project solicitation tool is a questionnaire that helps determine how closely a project is consistent with seven identified sustainability goals. Points are awarded for each goal criterion in the proposed project. Project scores may then be used as a discussion point when deciding what projects to include in long-term capital program submissions.

The Regional Sustainability Assessment Table is used by NYSDOT regions to develop and assess regional long-term sustainability goals from a more holistic perspective, across program areas and using the triple bottom line realms of economy, environment and communities. The table is used to identify current states, desired future states, and plans for accomplishing future states in all three sustainability realms as they relate to specific NYSDOT goals.

All these tools are continually being updated and refined. For example, the Department is currently using the 2.1.0 project design scorecard, and after each round of operations awards the operations plan spreadsheet is updated. Also, NYSDOT is currently working on how to better integrate sustainability into the Department’s asset management and program update processes.

“The Department of Transportation is more than concrete, asphalt and steel. We are, in fact, a vital connection to and part of the path toward economic recovery,” NYSDOT Commissioner Joan McDonald said in announcing the 2011 awards. “As we plan for the future, our transportation investments must be done in a manner that is both environmentally sensitive and sustainable. GreenLITES is the Department’s nationally recognized program which keeps us focused on making transportation decisions that support a sustainable society.”

For more information, link to NYSDOT’s GreenLITES website, which includes links for the Project Design Certification, Operations Certification Program, GreenLITES Regions, Local Projects Certification, GreenLITES Planning, and links to awards. Information also may be obtained by contacting the program staff via e-mail at GreenLITES@dot.state.ny.us.

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Case Studies: Ohio - Ohio DOT Innerbelt Bridge Project: A Commitment to Sustainability

In February 2009, the Ohio Department of Transportation (DOT) initiated the first of two projects designed to replace the aging steel truss bridge that carries Interstate 90 over the Cuyahoga River Valley and into Cleveland’s central business district. The first Innerbelt project, developing a new westbound bridge adjacent to the existing bridge, demonstrates how Ohio DOT is working to make its major transportation investments sustainable by reducing cost, maximizing benefits, and conserving resources.

The Innerbelt project team committed to achieving sustainability goals in seven categories, which have been dubbed the “Green 7.” These include:

1. energy and energy efficiency;

2. community environment;

3. green building;

4. waste reduction and recycling;

5. green project administration;

6. materials and resources; and

7. construction practices.

Photo: Courtesy Innerbelt Bridge Photo Stream

ODOT's Commitment to Sustainability

The Innerbelt project’s design and construction team found several ways to cut project costs while conserving resources and getting the bridge built faster. Progress toward achieving these goals is documented in Monthly Sustainability Summaries posted on the agency’s website. For example, as of Oct. 31, 2012, the agency reported the following achievements:

  • Construction Vehicle Fuel Savings: By using construction vehicles with greater load-carrying capacity, the project has documented savings of over 85,000 gallons of diesel fuel.
  • Carbon Emissions Reductions: By reducing the fuel usage during earthmoving, the project team has saved more than 1,074 metric tons of CO2 emissions.
  • Materials Recycling: The demolition debris from the project is processed and sorted and more than half of all materials are recycled. The project team has recycled almost 5 million pounds of steel, preventing more than 123,000 cubic yards of waste from entering landfills.
  • Smaller Bridge Footprint - By using a creative bridge design that featured a modified alignment from the one originally proposed, the project team was able to reduce the amount of earthwork needed during construction by about 35,000 cubic yards and decrease the amount of steel and other materials needed to build the bridge.

Other examples of sustainability on the project include construction of a pair of “pocket habitats” under the new span of the bridge. These areas allow growth of native plants and provide a safe haven for migrating fish. In addition, the project team is relocating Peregrine Falcons that made their home beneath the existing bridge.

Based on these and other attributes, Ohio DOT has used the Federal Highway Administration’s INVEST sustainability self-assessment tool to give the project a “gold” rating.

More information on the project, access Ohio DOT’s Innerbelt Bridge website and project sustainability page.

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Case Studies: Oregon - Oregon DOT Advances Sustainability Planning, Practices

A pioneer in sustainable transportation, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) was the first state transportation agency to adopt an agency-wide sustainability plan. Issued in 2004, that plan stressed inclusion of sustainability considerations in the update of the Oregon Transportation Plan, implementation of a sustainable bridge delivery program (OTIA III), and development of an environmental management system for ODOT’s maintenance yards.

In 2008, ODOT embarked on a broader three-volume sustainability plan aimed at addressing both internal and external operations in seven focus areas: health and safety; social responsibility/workforce well-being and development; environmental stewardship; land use and infrastructure; energy/fuel use and climate change; material resource flows; and economic health. Volume I of the plan, issued in 2008, provides the vision and framework for ODOT’s sustainability goals and strategies.

Volume II of the Sustainability Plan, completed in 2010, sets goals, strategies, and performance measures for ODOT’s internal operations, such as its facilities and fleet. It includes goals such as increasing use of alternative fuels and electric vehicles in the ODOT fleet, reducing the amount of waste generated by facilities, and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from overall agency operations.

Volume III of the plan, which has not yet been completed, will address goals and strategies for management and operation of the statewide transportation system. This will include sustainable practices in project delivery, highway design and construction, and identification of the best tools to manage and implement sustainability within individual projects.

Annual Sustainability Report

The long list of sustainable practices and programs overseen by ODOT’s Sustainability Program Manager and the cross-discipline ODOT Sustainability Council are documented in an annual sustainability progress report. Some examples include installation of electric vehicle charging stations, purchase of electric vehicles, increased use of alternative fuels such as biodiesel for the ODOT fleet, and installation of solar panels on ODOT right-of-ways for the first-ever “Solar Highway” projects.

ODOT also considers sustainability in project decision-making. The Columbia River Crossing Project – a joint effort of the Oregon and Washington DOTs – was the first in the nation to include a project-level sustainability plan. Sustainability goals for the project are to be achieved through a long list of project elements, including addition of high capacity transit, reducing vehicle miles traveled, use of tolling, electronic safety technologies, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and use of sustainable construction materials and methods.

ODOT also is working with its sister agency, the Department of Land Conservation and Development, to implement the Oregon Sustainable Transportation Initiative (OSTI), an integrated statewide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector while creating healthier, more livable communities and greater economic opportunity.

ODOT Supports Electric Vehicle Infrastructure. Photo: Oregon DOT

Sharing Sustainable Practices

A wide range of programs and projects underway are documented on ODOT’s Sustainability Program Website, including a “sustainability news” section with articles describing recent efforts.

For more information on ODOT’s sustainability programs, visit the ODOT Sustainability Program web page, or contact ODOT Sustainability Program Manager Marjorie Bradway, marjorie.c.bradway@odot.state.or.us.

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Case Studies: Oregon - 'Solar Highway' Offers Model Approach for Renewable Energy

An array of hundreds of solar panels stretching 540 feet along an Oregon highway is helping to power a nearby interchange with clean, renewable energy through a unique public-private partnership that could serve as a model for the nation.

Oregon’s “Solar Highway Project” sits at the interchange of Interstates 5 and 205 in Tualatin, Ore., at the south end of the Portland metropolitan area. The project is the nation’s first roadside solar photovoltaic demonstration project.

According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, the project’s 594 solar panels produce about 122,000 kilowatt hours annually. The panels produce energy during the day which is used to light the interchange at night. ODOT buys the energy produced by the array at the same rate the agency pays for regular energy from the grid.

This clean, renewable source of energy will help the agency meet the mandate from Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski that state agencies obtain all of their electricity from renewable sources. By replacing energy from the grid, the solar electricity produced by the project will avoid the production of nearly 43 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions each year.

The $1.28 million project, which has been in operation for just over one year, was developed through an innovative public-private partnership between ODOT; Portland General Electric (PGE), Oregon’s largest utility; and US Bank. Material providers included Solar World US, the nation’s largest solar panel manufacturer, and PV Powered, the nation’s largest inverter manufacturer.

Making the Most of the ‘Right-of-Way Asset.’

ODOT Project Director Allison Hamilton explained that under this unique partnership “the public gets multiple values out of its right-of-way asset.”

“Using state and federal tax credits, the renewable energy projects are developed at least possible cost, which benefits the utility rate payers – including ODOT and the State of Oregon, “ Hamilton said. At the same time, ODOT gets green energy at grid rate instead of the higher green energy rate, she added.

“The solar energy project is owned, operated and maintained by the utility, which also assumes all the risk, and is responsible for maintenance of the right of way for the term of the contract (from 25 years up to 40 years or more),” Hamilton explained. But the utility also gets to count the project towards its renewable energy portfolio requirements, she said.

“It’s a win-win-win business model,” Hamilton added.

ODOT officials and PGE officials have deemed the project a success, demonstrating that solar arrays can complement and not compromise the transportation system.

In fact, Hamilton said the project has exceeded expectations, producing more than the expected 112,000 kilowatt hours in its first year, with only one maintenance incident where a panel was cracked and had to be replaced.

As a result, Oregon DOT and its partners – utility providers and private businesses – are poised to expand production of solar energy at the demonstration site and as well as other locations in the state.

Third Party Financing Model

According to ODOT, these public-private partnerships are expected to follow the same type of third-party financing model developed for the demonstration project.

“The utilities would contract with solar developers to design, build and install the arrays, which they – the utilities or limited liability companies involving the utilities – would own, operate and maintain, and which could count towards meeting statutory requirements to develop renewable energy resources. The utilities would also be responsible for maintenance and successful operation of the arrays, including any damage due to vandalism or crashes,” according to a summary on the demonstration project website.

ODOT would have a 25-year agreement to purchase all electricity generated by the solar projects, with options to renew for up to three five-year extensions.

DOTs Urged to Work with Utilities

Hamilton said many other states have expressed interest in following Oregon’s lead, but she stressed that each state will have unique circumstances. “Because each state has its own utility regulations, I would recommend project proponents work with or through their utility to learn the most efficient and cost effective way to size, permit and connect a project, and also to determine the most advantageous financing and ownership model,” she said.

“We learned that the larger the installation, the better, as you are able to spread your fixed costs out over more kilowatts, bringing down the cost per installed kilowatt” compared to the cost of existing grid energy.

Hamilton urged transportation agencies that are interested in developing a solar highway project to take advantage of the expertise of the utility, whose core business is energy generation.

“Oregon’s state transportation system has nearly 19,000 lane miles of right-of-way and there are more than 8 million lane miles of right-of-way across the nation,” according to an ODOT project summary. “Solar arrays on less than 1 percent of Oregon’s right-of-way could supply the nearly 50 million kilowatt hours needed annually by the state transportation system,” the agency said.

The project has been recognized with numerous honors, including the Federal Highway Administration’s 2009 Environmental Excellence Awards.

A wide range of information is available on the project website, including a solar highway meter that tracks energy generated on-site, news releases, photos, videos, research, technical documents, and information on planning for future projects. Additional information also is available by contacting Allison Hamilton at allison.m.hamilton@odot.state.or.us.

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Case Studies: Rhode Island - Rhode Island DOT Targets Stormwater Pollution through Public Education, Outreach

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) has taken a leadership role in achieving sustainable solutions to manage stormwater through a unique statewide outreach and education initiative.

The “Stormwater Solutions” initiative, funded by RIDOT with a grant from the Federal Highway Administration, supports implementation of the new state-level stormwater regulations as well as RIDOT’s ongoing compliance with the federal Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) program.

The purpose of Stormwater Solutions is to:

  • conduct a statewide campaign to raise public awareness of the stormwater problem and actions individuals can take to prevent stormwater pollution;
  • develop consistent educational materials and outreach methods that municipalities, state agencies, and community organizations can use to empower citizens, businesses, and builders to solve local stormwater problems;
  • provide model ordinances for local stormwater management with related training; and
  • train government staff, local officials, and others in updated stormwater management practices.

State regulations call for incorporating Low Impact Development (LID) as the “industry standard” for development. LID is an approach to land development that works with nature to manage stormwater that runs off impervious surfaces as close to its source as possible and treats it as a resource rather than a waste product. It reduces the impact of built areas and promotes natural movement of water within an ecosystem.

By proactively integrating LID and sustainable practices into a comprehensive outreach and education program, the Stormwater Solutions initiative is finding sustainable ways to protect the environment, save money, achieve regulatory goals, and build public support for sustainable transportation infrastructure.

The initiative is being implemented in partnership with Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM); the University of Rhode Island (URI) Cooperative Extension’s Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials program; and the Southern Rhode Island Conservation District. As part of the initiative, a team of professionals from these organizations is developing materials to educate and inform towns, cities, and the general public across the state about compliance with the new stormwater regulations.

Training Programs to Prevent Runoff

Through the Stormwater Solutions outreach effort, more than two dozen training workshops for RIDOT and municipal employees have been completed. The training has addressed new ways to prevent runoff pollution at public works garages and construction sites; the inclusion of improved pollution controls in new project designs, construction practice, and routine maintenance; and designing for “green streets“ and ways communities can make a difference in preventing stormwater pollution.

RIDOT is also integrating LID techniques in new project designs. An early example of this integration is the reconstruction of Route 138 in South Kingstown. LID techniques will convey stormwater away from the road through grassed swales instead of standard piping and inlets, saving construction costs, improving water quality, and enhancing the road’s appearance. The project also includes a landscaped bio-retention feature in a roundabout to provide water quality treatment and to infiltrate stormwater into the ground.

Community Outreach

Stormwater Solutions is working to reduce impacts to stormwater at the source by conducting community outreach to educate the public and municipal officials on the importance of pollution prevention and applying environmentally sustainable and cost saving LID techniques. These source reduction activities – which include everyday actions such as reduced use of fertilizer, litter control, hazardous material control, and use of ground infiltration and bio-swales to filter pollutants – reduce the need to build and maintain expensive treatment structures and provide opportunities for creating greener, more visually attractive landscapes along roadsides.

Stormwater Solutions offers easy-to-use materials for public education and outreach to inform communities about ways they can help manage stormwater runoff. The materials – which are publicly available on a website – are designed for use by municipalities, stormwater managers, watershed organizations, or interested civic groups.

Illustration of Combined Sewer Overflow from Stormwater Fact Sheet: Source: http://ristormwatersolutions.org/docs/1.Intro.ResFactSheet.pdf.

For example, the website provides a series of fact sheets on various aspects of stormwater management:

  • Where Does It Come From, Where Does It Go?
  • Where Do I Fit In?
  • What Do You Do With Household Chemicals?
  • How Healthy Is Your Septic System?
  • Is Your Lawn Care Stormwater-Friendly?
  • Is Your Yard A Sponge?
  • Do You Scoop the Poop?
  • Making Auto Care Stormwater-Friendly
  • Involving Your Neighbors in Storm Drain Marking
  • Promoting Stormwater-Friendly Yard Care in Your Neighborhood
  • Promoting Responsible Pet Waste Disposal in Your Neighborhood
  • Involving Local Businesses in Stormwater Management

A variety of other outreach materials also are provided, including cartoons, articles, display materials, radio spots, videos, and stormwater training manuals. The website also provides a variety of strategies, examples from towns in the state, and an inventory of LID practices such as bio-swales, green roofs, cisterns, permeable pavement, rain gardens, and site design.

Next Steps

Allison Hamel, Environmental Scientist/Stormwater Program Coordinator with RIDOT, said the agency is working with DEM and URI to develop a second five-year agreement for public education and outreach. The second agreement will focus on:

  • training in use of a new Erosion & Sedimentation Control Handbook (currently under revision) for a variety of audiences, particularly field inspectors;
  • exploring greater focus on hands-on training to actively assist MS4s in managing local storm drain systems;
  • customizing assistance to meet local needs based on stormwater managers existing resources and their priorities;
  • targeting training/workshops/workgroups on priority areas such as high quality Special Resource Protection Waters (SRPWs) and restoration of impaired waters with total maximum daily loads (TMDLs); and
  • state and local permitting issues and implementation of the RI Stormwater Design and Installation Standards Manual, with emphasis on implementing LID at the local level and permitting in priority areas such as high quality SRPWs and restoration of impaired waters with TMDLs.

Transferability and Lessons Learned

Hamel said other state DOTs could benefit from efforts similar to the Stormwater Solutions program.

“We think that this would most definitely be transferable to other DOTs, particularly in other states where the DOT is the only state-wide MS4,” she said.

“Not only did RIDOT receive full compliance ‘credit’ for Minimum Measure 1 & 2 (except for the public notice part) from the state regulatory agency (RIDEM), RIDOT staff received personalized training that we would not have received otherwise (i.e. the linear LID training),” she added.

Hamel also stressed the importance of training. “One of our greatest lessons learned was that the ‘train the trainer’ workshops provided great resources, but those resources were rarely used and implemented once the ‘trainer’ got back to work.”

“This is one of the reasons why we are focusing on the hands-on training in the second agreement,” she said.

Hamel also noted the importance of training not only for staff, but also for upper-level management, that is, “those with decision-making capabilities and money-wielding powers.”

“It is important that managers and the directors recognize the money and assets and resources that stormwater management truly needs,” she added.

More information is available on the Stormwater Solutions website, at http://ristormwatersolutions.org/ and by contacting RIDOT’s Allison Hamel at ahamel@dot.ri.gov.

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Case Studies: Washington - Washington State DOT Works to Integrate Sustainability Throughout its Operations

As a leader in sustainability, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has been working for many years to incorporate the concept into all aspects of its work.

WSDOT defines sustainable transportation as a system that “preserves the environment, is durable, takes into account how we build and the materials we use and is managed and operated using policies and strategies that meet society's present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

WSDOT Secretary Paula Hammond has stated that the agency’s sustainability effort is not a program. The secretary sees it as an ethic and wants it embraced throughout the agency by finding new ways to extend the life of assets, invest wisely, and work efficiently.

Agency Organization

The emphasis on sustainability as an agency-wide priority is reflected in how the department is organized, according to WSDOT Sustainable Transportation Manager Seth Stark. WSDOT seeks to integrate sustainable practices in every facet of its work, from long-range plans to day-to-day operations. Stark points out that while he reports to Secretary Hammond, he also coordinates the Sustainable Transportation Leadership Team made up of five different agency directors representing such divergent areas as Environmental Services, Maintenance and Operations, Planning Public Transportation, and a Regional Office.

The sustainability efforts also support Secretary Hammond’s Moving Washington strategy, the agency’s investment framework for developing an integrated transportation system for the 21st century. The strategy focuses on three key elements: operate the system efficiently; manage demand on the system; and add capacity strategically. “By considering the impact of the state’s system on the economy, the environment and communities in a cost-effective and resource responsible manner we act responsibly and sustainably,” according to a WSDOT description of its strategy.

Secretary Hammond has explained the interconnectivity of the Moving Washington framework and the agency ethic of sustainability as, “Moving Washington is what we do, and sustainability is how we do it.”

Empowering Employees

A key to the incorporation of sustainability into WSDOT’s day-to-day decision-making is the Secretary’s Executive Order “Business Practices for Moving Washington.” The order calls on all employees to incorporate business practices that guide them toward innovation, sustainability, efficiency, and resource management in their daily work. It empowers employees to act sustainably, to get every benefit, every efficiency, and the best use out of the department’s limited resources. According to Stark, “Viewing each employee as the front-line specialist of their own work leads to the simple question, ‘Is there a better way, a more efficient way, a more cost effective way to do this task or make this decision?’”

WSDOT employees are further empowered through an additional supporting directive to agency executives, managers and supervisors to create a workplace culture and process that encourages employees to recommend sustainability initiatives.

Another effort in support of the agency’s sustainability goals is the agency’s work with the “Lean” process improvement system. The Lean system builds on efficiency and performance improvement methods already taking place at WSDOT to develop a culture that encourages employee creativity and problem-solving skills, Stark said.

Efforts to empower WSDOT employees already are paying of. For example, three Washington State Ferries (WSF) employees collaborated to identify a method to save fuel on one of the largest vessels in the system. The employees studied the effect of vessel speed on fuel consumption and suggested revised throttle settings to maximize fuel efficiency. Following a successful pilot project, WSDOT management adopted and implemented their suggestion, which is now the operating standard for the vessels on the route. These fuel conservation efforts – which also helped reduce vessel exhaust emissions – were honored with AASHTO’s 2012 America’s Transportation Award.

“Thanks to the ingenuity of these employees, WSF found a way to conserve fuel and save money without sacrificing on-time performance or a commitment to customer service,” Secretary Hammond said.

Sharing Sustainable Practices

A wide range of sustainable practices are described on the agency’s Sustainable Transportation website, including a series of “folio” fact sheets developed to educate and inform the public. Examples of WSDOT’s sustainable practices cut across a broad range of focus areas:

  • improving mobility and traffic operations with the installation of electronic, variable speed limit and lane status signs, electronic tolling, ramp meters, roundabouts and high occupancy vehicle lanes;
  • conserving fuels and energy through the West Coast Green Highway Initiative to support the use of electric and alternative-fuel vehicles; upgrading WSDOT vehicle fleet; and installation of solar-powered traffic control systems;
  • promoting economic vitality and stewardship by addressing key traffic chokepoints, investing in rail, separating freight from rail and light-vehicle traffic around ports, and boosting incident response and traffic management;
  • focusing on preservation and maintenance of the existing system by promoting longer lasting pavements, using recycled materials, using native plants, and using “precision” roadway salt applications in winter months to minimize amount of salt needed;
  • improving safety by installing cable median barriers, cleaning catch basins and drains to prevent flooding, retrofitting bridges and structures to withstand earthquakes, and building roundabouts to improve traffic flow and reduce the risk of collisions;
  • improving design and construction techniques with innovative engineering for structures that can endure a harsher climate, and innovative contracting for more efficient project delivery;
  • protecting and enhancing the environment by removing fish passage barriers, addressing stormwater pollution by preventing erosion and filtering runoff, connecting wildlife habitat, and restoring natural vegetation;
  • advancing community partnerships by integrating bicycle and pedestrian elements into highway projects and increasing investments to promote carpools, vanpools, transit, and telecommuting; and
  • reducing emissions linked to climate change through efforts focused on operating the system efficiently, lowering the carbon content of fuels, supporting improved vehicle technologies, and supporting a variety of transportation options.

Sustainability in Action

WSDOT also is promoting “sustainability in action” – a website feature that documents specific efforts underway within the department, such as a pilot project to retrofit a number of WSDOT vehicles to run on cleaner-burning propane and a pilot project that allows WSDOT workers to telecommute. Other examples include the following articles:

Dan Dollar, WSDOT’s Southwest Region fleet superintendent, fuels up a Ford Taurus, one of 21 WSDOT fleet vehicles being retrofitted to run on propane autogas and regular gasoline. Each $5,000 retrofit includes installing a propane tank in the trunk if it’s a passenger vehicle.

Adaptation Seen as Key Element

According to Stark, a key initial step that many DOTs can do regardless of where they are on implementing sustainability and climate change initiatives is the work that WSDOT has done through its climate change adaptation efforts. “Maintaining and preserving our existing system is central to providing a system that is sustainable,” Stark said.

“People throughout our agency are more frequently confronted with negative impacts from the increasing frequency of extreme weather events,” he said. WSDOT has performed a statewide infrastructure vulnerability assessment that identified all state-owned transportation facilities that are at risk.

“Through a scenario-based approach, WSDOT was able to recognize that while a lot of our system is resilient, we still have facilities where we need to be more sustainable,” he added.

By instituting an agency-wide sustainable transportation ethic, WSDOT aims to help target its limited resources on the state’s most pressing transportation needs.

For more information on WSDOT’s sustainability transportation program, contact Seth Stark at seth.stark@wsdot.wa.gov, or visit the WSDOT Sustainable Transportation Web Page.

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Waste Management/Recycling/Brownfields

Recent Developments: Use of Recycled Concrete Aggregate Examined in MnDOT Report

A review of the use of recycled concrete aggregate (RCA) in new construction has been issued by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The report evaluates the current state of practice across the U.S. and historical performance data to understand differences between RCA pavements and non-RCA pavements. It includes an economic analysis and provides guidelines from the American Concrete Institute, Federal Highway Administration and AASHTO for suggested uses and quality types of concrete. The report recommends that the use of recycled fines not be permitted during construction and that mitigation techniques should be used to prevent alkali-aggregate related distress. For more information, link to the report. (3-4-17).

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Recent Developments: TRB Report Provides Bridge Foundation Reuse Guidance

The Transportation Research Board has issued a report under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) concerning the management of aging bridges. The report addresses the reuse of bridge foundations to reduce costs and traffic impacts, and to provide environmental benefits. The report provides a review of the national bridge system that highlights reasons at the state level for reusing foundations. The report discusses methods for investigating reuse, design of reused foundations, and construction techniques and performance monitoring. The report also focuses on case studies from Colorado, Illinois, Maine and Ontario. For more information, link to the report. (2-27-17)

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Recent Developments: Report Highlights the Use of Reclaimed and Recycled Asphalt

The Transportation Research Board’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program has released a report concerning the use of reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) and recycled asphalt shingles (RAS) in asphalt mixtures. The report summarizes current practices for the use of RAP and RAS in the design, production and construction of asphalt mixtures. The report also focuses on collecting information about the use of high percentage RAP, RAS and/or a combination of RAP and RAS. For more information, link to the report. (9-9-16)

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Case Studies: Missouri - Missouri DOT Pioneers Roofs to Roads Efforts, Inspires other DOTs to Follow Suit

The Missouri Department of Transportation has been a pioneer in the use of recycled asphalt pavement in its asphalt mixes, allowing the agency to save money and protect the environment.

When a contractor approached MoDOT in 2003 with the proposal to try recycled tear-off shingles in an asphalt mix, MoDOT stood to save millions of dollars while simultaneously keeping waste out of landfills. MoDOT used an average of 4,170,300 tons of asphalt each year between 2004 and 2014 to build and maintain its state roadways.

“It’s not often that you come across a product that can be used in pavement that is inexpensive, produces a good viable product, saves taxpayers money, and helps the environment, said Sarah Kleinschmit, Field Materials Engineer at MoDOT. “Using recycled shingles is more than win-win!” she said.

Post-consumer RAS was not being used by any other state DOT at the time MoDOT and the contractor began their investigation into the viability of using RAS-containing asphalt mixes. Today, about 20 state DOTs allow or are making efforts to allow using post-consumer RAS in their asphalt mixes. Integrating shingles in asphalt was not a new concept when MoDOT and their contractor used a pilot shingle mix—based on favorable test results—on Route 61/67 in St. Louis County in 2005; manufacture waste recycled asphalt shingles (RAS) were being used at various state DOTs. However, using post-consumer RAS represented an innovative step towards continuing to reduce waste and increase cost-savings for roadway projects.

Testing and Developing RAS Specifications

When MoDOT began investigating the potential for using post-consumer RAS in asphalt mixtures, it began with a literature review and then participated in a demonstration project with the contractor in 2004. MoDOT found results from testing the demonstration mixture favorable enough to launch the pilot project on Route 61/67 in St. Louis County. Though some reflective cracking was visible on the roadway after six years, the pavement’s performance was still deemed favorable by MoDOT.

Another project using manufacture-waste RAS was constructed in Joplin, MO, around the same time and produced similar results. With the initial positive performance of these two text mixtures, a provisional MoDOT specification allowing RAS in asphalt mixes was developed in 2006. In 2008 MoDOT’s added specifications to include different types of asphalt products (surface levels, bituminous mixes, and asphaltic concrete). In 2010, MoDOT added “Roofs to Roads” to its Tracker performance reporting accountability tool.

Key takeaways from MoDOT’s Roofs to Roads efforts:

  • Economic savings: RAS saves the state $3 to $5 per ton of asphalt mixture when used between 5 percent and 7 percent RAS. With the average resurfacing project in the state using 30,000 tons of asphalt, the cost savings amounts between $90,000 and $150,000 per project. The reduced cost helps MoDOT resurface more roadways overall.
  • Waste reduction: Incorporating RAS in its asphalt mixtures reduced 395,360 tons of shingles from disposal in landfills between 2004 and 2014.
  • Innovation breeds innovation: Being open to and encouraging innovation within and around an agency often makes way for continued innovation. MoDOT finds that supporting its staff and contractors to come up with creative solutions to agency problems is a solid recipe for success.
  • Recycled does not have to mean lower quality: Fear of inferior quality often accompanies attempts of using recycled materials. However, experience with RAS in asphalt mixes has shown significant economic and raw materials savings without a significant reduction in quality. Quality control is key, especially when ensuring the material meets specifications and is placed during optimal conditions (e.g., above 50°F).

Other State DOTs Using Roofs to Roads

Texas DOT was one of the first states to allow RAS in asphalt mixes and has developed stringent deleterious materials requirements for RAS. Its first RAS testing began in 1990, and Texas DOT developed its RAS program after the Asphalt Shingle Recycling Forum in Chicago, IL, in 2007.

Many examples from various state DOTs can serve as a starting point for other state DOTs interested in RAS. MoDOT recommends keeping any RAS program outcome-based, staying focused on the end result that meets its state’s particular needs (e.g., cheaper mixes, longer lasting pavement, pavement that does not crack, diverting waste from landfills, or all the above). State DOTs can reference other DOTs specifications to help develop their own specifications to include RAS.

The following state DOTs have effectively used RAS in projects:

Current Efforts and Next Steps

Today, every contractor working for MoDOT has mixtures that incorporate manufacture waste or post-consumer RAS in their asphalt mixes. MoDOT continues to lead the way in using RAS in asphalt mixes by serving as the lead state of the Transportation Pooled Fund Study TPF-5(213), Performance of Recycled Asphalt Shingles in Hot Mix Asphalt.

With the help of partner agencies and other states—including Federal Highway Administration, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, California, Colorado, Illinois Tollway, and Wisconsin—this TPF study includes demonstration projects aimed at understanding how RAS affects both the binder and mixture properties of asphalt mixes. The study focuses on quality control practices, grind size of the shingles, and both post-consumer and manufacture waste shingles.

Study results showed that RAS can be successfully used in asphalt mixes; field performance showed no rutting, thermal cracking, or fatigue cracking after two years. Reflective cracking was noted on five of the projects.

Moving forward, MoDOT will continue to use RAS in asphalt mixes, monitoring mix performance and making adjustments as needed. Contractors are excited about the possibilities of using even more shingles in their asphalt mixes and are experimenting with how different grades of virgin binder are affected by the increase in shingles. MoDOT prides itself on encouraging innovation in collaboration with its contractors.

The following additional resource offer more information on recycled asphalt shingles in road construction:

For more information on MoDOT’s Roofs to Roads efforts, contact Sarah Kleinschmit, Field Materials Engineer, MoDOT, at Sarah.Kleinschmit@modot.mo.gov.

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Case Studies: Virginia - VDOT Demonstrates Benefits of Recycled Asphalt in I-81 Rehab Project

The Virginia Department of Transportation has realized cost and energy savings using recycled asphalt paving processes for a repaving project along a portion of Interstate 81, prompting the agency to consider broader use of the technique across the state.

The VDOT project repaved a 3.7 mile southbound section of the I-81 using pavement processes that reuse existing material from the road surface in the new pavement structure, reducing construction time by about two-thirds and saving millions of dollars, according to an announcement from the office of Governor Bob McDonnell.

Asphalt pavement recycling on I-81. Source: Virginia DOT
Asphalt pavement recycling on I-81. Source: Virginia DOT

The paving processes are known as cold in-place recycling, cold central-plant recycling, and full-depth reclamation. The project was the first time that the three processes were used together in a single interstate project in the country, according to VDOT.

“Cold” refers to processing at ambient temperatures rather than using heat, according to VDOT’s project description. The recycling was done both within the roadbed and next to the highway.

Due to differences in the level of deterioration, different processes were used for the right and left lanes. After the top 10 inches of pavement were removed from the right lane, the aggregate between 10 inches and 22 inches below the surface was recycled in-place using the full-depth reclamation process. A stabilizing agent called Calciment was added. In the meantime, the pavement from the top 10 inches of the right lane was milled and processed next to the highway using the cold central-plant recycling process. The layer was then reapplied using traditional paving equipment. Finally, the right lane received a surfacing of four inches of hot-mix asphalt.

The left lane, having less deterioration, was recycled in-place to a depth of 5 inches using the cold in-place recycling method. With this process, the front of the machine mills the existing pavement, moving the milled material to the middle of the machine where the asphalt is stabilized and a binding agent is added. The reconstituted asphalt is then applied back to the roadbed. The three stages of the process occur in one pass. The left lane was also topped off with hot-mix asphalt.

Substantial Savings

Savings on the I-81 in-place pavement recycling project go beyond time, money, and materials," according to VDOT Commissioner Greg Whirley. He cited fuel savings, reduced work-zone congestion, and reduced maintenance as additional benefits.

Using conventional methods, the project would have taken two years or more to complete, requiring lanes to be added to accommodate traffic during construction, according to Mal Kerley, chief engineer at VDOT. These methods would have cost around $40 million, Kerley said.

VDOT looked at six different options for this project and considered the benefits of doing major reconstruction rather than short-term “band aid” fixes, which would require additional ongoing maintenance.

The announced contract award amount for the option VDOT chose was $7.64 million and was completed in about seven months using the new processes. Kerley said the agency anticipates that the processes will be as adequate, in terms of durability, as traditional processes.

Traffic Management Techniques

The project also employed a new traffic management plan to handle vehicle traffic during construction. Truck traffic was routed to the right or left lane when the adjoining lane was being repaired, while passenger vehicle traffic was detoured off of the interstate. Use of a detour at all was unprecedented for such a busy travel corridor, Kerley explained.

VDOT made an effort to get the word out of the dates and routes of the detours along the corridor, Kerley said. VDOT also used changeable message signs, traffic cameras linked to the internet, and warnings of traffic backups using an advance warning vehicle and notices to trucks over CB radio.

VDOT recognizes that the trend in highway project management is to help the public make informed decisions and “minimize the impact to the traveling public,” Kerley said.

Governor McDonnell also highlighted plans to use pavement recycling processes in future projects to save time and money. "Using these pavement recycling methods has the potential to revolutionize how we rehabilitate our aging roads, both in Virginia and nationally," the governor said in a statement.

VDOT will be working with district offices and the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research to develop standard specifications for this kind of rehabilitation work in the future, Kerley said. He noted that there are one or two more projects planned for 2012 that will use the pavement recycling methods.

VDOT is “trying to standardize this [type of project] so it is another tool in our toolbox,” Kerley said.

The Asphalt Recycling & Reclamation Association presented VDOT with its 2012 Recycling Award in the "Cold In-Place" category for the project at its annual meeting Feb. 21-24 in Bonita Springs, Fla.

More information about the project, including photos and a link to a VDOT study on full-depth reclamation, is available at http://www.transportation.virginia.gov/News/viewRelease.cfm?id=1108.

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Water Quality/Wetlands

Recent Developments: Webinar Series Addresses Stormwater Management for Transportation Projects

A webinar series on management of stormwater for highways and the transportation sector has been announced by the Water, Environment and Reuse Foundation, in collaboration with the Federal Highway Administration. The series includes three sessions concerning the international stormwater best management practices database and how it can be applied to transportation projects. The series also addresses an overview of the stochastic empirical dilution model (SELDM) and application of SELDM in transportation and highway stormwater projects. The webinars are scheduled for April 18, May 16 and June 22, 2017. For more information link to the announcement. (4-12-17)

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Recent Developments: NCHRP Report Details Watershed-Wide Stormwater Mitigation

Watershed-scale stormwater mitigation strategies are highlighted in a new report issued under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP Report 840). The report suggests that DOTs take full advantage of mitigation projects that are not directly in the right-of-way but are within the affected watershed. Such off-site mitigation within the watershed—whether in-kind or out-of-kind—can make use of a greater array of options. The report is accompanied by a spreadsheet-based tool, known as the Watershed-Based Stormwater Mitigation Toolbox or WBSMT, to help transportation agencies characterize a project watershed and identify mitigation options. The report indicates that additional research is needed to understand the relationship between watershed processes, receiving water health, and ecosystem services. For more information, link to the report. (4-3-17)

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Recent Developments: Hydraulic Engineering Circular 17 Addressed in FHWA Webinars

The Federal Highway Administration is holding webinars on Feb. 8 and 22, 2017, regarding the recently released Hydraulic Engineering Circular (HEC 17): Highways in the River Environment – Floodplains, Extreme Events, Risk and Resilience. The first webinar will address climate modeling and risk and resilience, while the second webinar will focus on an analysis framework and case studies. The webinars are part of a series that also includes one that addressed floodplains, riverine flood events and nonstationarity. All webinars are being recorded. For more information, link to the FHWA hydraulics information. (1-30-17)

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Recent Developments: EPA Releases Green Infrastructure Modeling Toolkit

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a green infrastructure modeling toolkit for communities to manage urban water runoff. The toolkit includes a green infrastructure wizard application to connect communities to tools and resources; a watershed management optimization support tool to facilitate integrated water resources management across wet and dry climate regions; and a visualizing ecosystems for land management assessment model to quantify effectiveness of green infrastructure practices. The toolkit also contains a stormwater management model for stormwater planning, design and analysis and a national stormwater calculator to estimate annual runoff from a specific location in the U.S. For more information, including a recent webinar discussing the tools, link to the toolkit. (11-8-16)

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Recent Developments: EPA Announces Stormwater Planning Guide, Toolkit and Technical Assistance

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced a draft guide, toolkit and technical assistance for voluntary long-term stormwater planning for communities. The guidance specifies how to develop a comprehensive stormwater plan that integrates stormwater management with communities' broader plans for economic development, infrastructure investment and environmental compliance. The EPA also is developing a toolkit to provide tailored sets of financial and technical resources to develop stormwater plans. In addition, the EPA will be providing technical assistance in Iowa, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Pennsylvania to create plans to serve as national models. For more information, link to the news release. (10-27-16)

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Recent Developments: EPA Issues Report on Benefits of Small Stormwater Retention Projects

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a report regarding the potential benefits of stormwater management using small retention practices such as green infrastructure and low-impact development. The report examines methods for recharging groundwater in ways that will create hydrology similar to that of undeveloped land, with the intent to provide a nationwide estimate of the monetary benefit that could be assigned to such groundwater recharge. The report found that such techniques could provide between 6.8-10.8 million acre-feet of aquifer recharge, valued at an estimated $16-225 million annually. For more information, link to the report. (9-29-16)

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Recent Developments: Green Infrastructure Toolkit Aims to Help Cities Manage Stormwater

The Georgetown Climate Center has released a toolkit to aid cities in deploying green infrastructure strategies and techniques in their respective communities to manage stormwater. The toolkit addresses common trends such as green roofs; permeable pavements; bioretention and bioswales; green streets, alleys and parking lots; rain gardens; and urban forestry. It includes the benefits that each technique provides. The toolkit also provides strategies for developing pilot projects, how to fund programs and how to integrate green infrastructure into existing processes. Such strategies will provide local governments the ability to compare best practices and create similar policies for their own jurisdictions. For more information, link to the toolkit. (9-14-16)

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Recent Developments: Report Analyzes Connection Between Stormwater and Road Systems

The River Network has released a report concerning the integration of water and transportation infrastructure. The organization developed a green streets methodology for mid-sized cities to reduce stormwater runoff and analyzed the percent of impervious cover represented by the road system. The network conducted a project in Nashville to test the methodology and provide best practices for other mid-sized cities to implement. Ultimately, the report found that the choice of neighborhood, connecting different city departments and involving neighbors are important aspects to consider when implementing green streets strategies. For more information, link to the report. (9-15-16)

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Case Studies: EPA Compilations - Green Infrastructure Case Studies

EPA has a website that documents case studies on green infrastructure. Link to: Green infrastructure case studies web page.

EPA also has published a report presenting case studies of how 12 local governments developed and implemented policies for managing stormwater using green infrastructure. Examples of policy approaches include capital and transportation projects, stormwater regulation, demonstration and pilot projects, stormwater fee discounts, and other incentives. The report is intended to serve as a policy guide for municipalities, and includes descriptions of the most common and influential policies; background on how each policy approach works; and examples from the case studies about results, barriers, and processes for implementation. For more information, link to Green Infrastructure Case Studies: Municipal Policies for Managing Stormwater with Green Infrastructure.

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Case Studies: FHWA Compilations

Case Studies: Arizona - Arizona DOT Provides Guidance for CWA Section 404/401 Permits, Certification

The Arizona Department of Transportation has developed a manual to ensure compliance, provide consistency, and increase awareness of permitting and certification requirements for its projects under Sections 404 and 401 of the Clean Water Act. The ADOT Clean Water Act Sections 404/401 Guidance Manual, issued in October 2013, provides ADOT-specific guidance for obtaining and complying with required permits and certifications.

ADOT 404/401 Program Coordinator Julia Manfredi said the manual was developed to assist ADOT staff in project development as well as maintenance and construction. In response to a 2010 404 permit violation and a desire to improve its compliance efforts, ADOT added a 404/401 program coordinator to its staff, conducted a wide-ranging training program for hundreds of employees, and developed the Guidance Manual to provide additional guidance.

Manfredi said one of the purposes of developing the manual was to help determine when certification and permits are needed for maintenance activities, in addition to construction activities. Common "waters of the U.S." that would be subject to regulation in Arizona include washes, rivers and streams, natural ponds, wetlands, and canals.

Construction activities that could trigger Section 404/401 compliance by ADOT include culvert or bridge construction, roadway and utility crossings and geotechnical borings. Examples of maintenance activities would include channel bank protection, wash realignment and channelization and removal of sediment buildup from culverts.

Step-by-Step Process Outlined

The guidance manual provides a step-by-step permitting decision process for transportation agency staff. It outlines the following process both for construction and maintenance activities:

  • Step 1: Could "waters of the U.S." be involved?
  • Step 2: Will the activity involve discharges of dredged or fill material into "waters of the U.S."?
  • Step 3: Will a jurisdictional determination be needed? This may require preliminary calculation of impacts. Conduct a jurisdictional delineation if required.
  • Step 4: Quantify impacts and determine the type of Section 404 permit that is needed: either nationwide or individual permit.
  • Step 5: Prepare the Section 404 permit application and determine if a preconstruction notification is required for a nationwide permit. Submit the application to the Corps.
  • Step 6: Determine Section 401 certification required - whether conditionally or individually certified - and acquire certification.

The manual also provides information on staff roles and responsibilities, timing of permit decisions, clarification on how Corps guidance applies to ADOT, information on the internal coordination processes for construction activities and for maintenance activities, documentation for non-notifying permits, and check lists and flow charts. A link to the manual has been distributed widely, including districts and district engineers, and has been the subject of a series of webinars, she said.

Lessons Learned

Manfredi said the manual, which took about six months to develop, is currently in use and has been well-received by ADOT staff and regulatory agencies. She said it has helped to simplify the process and empower those required to make permit decisions. The process of developing the manual went smoothly, in large part because it was developed through a collaborative effort of ADOT staff and district offices, the Corps, and the Federal Highway Administration, she said.

She also noted that the manual - which includes a range of check lists and templates that are also available on the ADOT website - is a work in progress and will likely be updated on an ongoing basis. Future efforts will include ongoing compliance tracking and additional audience-specific training programs.

Manfredi said the manual could be used as a starting point for other state DOTs looking to document their own CWA Section 404/401 permitting processes - particularly western states in arid climates. The step-by-step process for permit decisions could be adapted for most any state, she added. ADOT anticipates the manual will help avoid permit violations and will help ensure better protection of resources by training staff how to better identify resources in the field. It will also serve as a streamlining tool by simplifying the process and allowing better use of time and resources within the agency, Manfredi said.

For more information, link to the Guidance Manual, and the ADOT Section 404/401 Procedures website or contact Julia Manfredi at JManfredi@azdot.gov.

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Case Studies: Maryland - Watershed Resources Registry Helps Maryland DOT Identify Priority Restoration, Mitigation Sites

An online tool developed by transportation and environmental agencies is helping transportation officials in Maryland identify watershed restoration and mitigation opportunities for projects.

The Watershed Resources Registry was developed by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maryland State Highway Administration, and others. Launched in the spring of 2012, the web-based tool is being used to identify opportunities for watershed restoration or mitigation in connection with federally funded projects requiring compliance with federal environmental and transportation laws.

According to a fact sheet, the geographic information system (GIS)-based tool was developed to analyze watersheds and identify the best opportunities for the protection of high quality resources, restoration of impaired resources, resource conservation and planning, and improvement of stormwater management.

Maryland SHA is using the tool to assist in avoidance and minimization of impacts during planning, design and maintenance operations, according to Sandy Hertz, Deputy Director of SHA's Office of Environmental Design. Additionally, the tool is used to prioritize watershed needs when a construction project requires mitigation. SHA staff gathers environmental inventory information and identifies potential mitigation sites using the registry.

The Watershed Resources Registry helps MDSHA locate high-quality wetland mitigation sites, such as Lizard Hill, in Maryland. Photo: MDSHA

The tool also helps with initial field reconnaissance by providing data that can be exported to a print map, including GPS coordinates for navigation. The tool helps to streamline information collection and preparation for permit processes, aids in National Environmental Policy Act and state environmental reviews, and is used to justify mitigation site selection as part of the review process. In addition, the tool allows SHA to achieve multiple goals using limited resources.

Recently, SHA used the registry in the preparation of the MD 4 Project Planning Study Preferred Alternative Concurrence Package, according to Hertz. Based on acreage replacement ratios agreed upon by the Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of the Environment, the proposed project would require just under one acre of compensatory mitigation for wetlands. A review using the tool was completed to identify potential wetland mitigation sites in the Patuxent River and Lower Potomac River watersheds. The registry identified significant acreage with potential for wetland restoration within both watersheds, Hertz said.

Web-based Model

The tool, which can be publicly accessed over the web using typical web browser software, includes an abundance of data for identifying restoration or preservation opportunities, including maps, GIS layers, GPS coordinates, federal hydrological unit codes, and an analysis of the ecological needs of each parcel.

Source: Watershed Resources Registry

Users typically would begin with the "find opportunities" template. The template guides in the selection of opportunities for restoration or preservation in compliance with one or more federal resource statutes and includes four ecosystem types:

  • uplands,
  • wetlands,
  • riparian (rivers and streams) areas, or
  • stormwater-impacted areas.

The WRR Technical Advisory Committee has created a ranking system applicable to each opportunity by performing suitability analyses. Each watershed or waterway segment has a score of 1 to 5 based on these analyses and is mapped using GIS data.

Once opportunities have been identified, various GIS layers can be switched on or off, including satellite imagery, and the locations can be viewed at multiple scales, showing their spatial relationships to nearby features.

When a site is selected, the tool provides location details that include the reasons the parcel is suitable for a mitigation or restoration opportunity and its particular ranking. For instance, a site with a score of four for stormwater compromised infrastructure restoration means that a significant number of criteria that reflect the disruption of the natural hydrologic system by stormwater are present at that location. The criteria were developed through the suitability analysis process.

A user can access the tool to identify sites that are consistent with environmental regulatory requirements and have the best potential for mitigation or restoration based on available data, according to Dominique Lueckenhoff, Deputy Director of EPA Region III Water Protection Division.

The tool includes a training video for new users, technical documentation about the suitability analyses, and a user guide. In addition, there is access to all the underlying data that allows for more sophisticated GIS analysis, according to Ellen Bryson of the Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District.

The tool currently contains data only for the state of Maryland, but its internal architecture is flexible enough to eventually serve other states and jurisdictions, according to officials who have worked on the registry from the beginning.

Developing the Registry

The registry began as an idea for using a watershed-based approach for planning a transportation project in Maryland, Lueckenhoff said in an interview. In 2006, discussion had begun on plans for improvements to U.S. Highway 301 in Charles and Prince George's counties, in Maryland, that would use the "green highways" principles, taking a watershed approach to sustainable infrastructure planning and delivery. As the various agencies came together on the project, there was talk about a "watershed bank" that would "become a multiple end-user product" and achieve benefits beyond just the one project to address U.S. 301, according to Lueckenhoff. "It could serve future projects and help preserve and restore resources, in addition to being supported through various credit markets," Lueckenhoff said.

It was clear that the U.S. 301 project was trying something new. The Maryland SHA along with federal and local agencies were attempting to build a highway in such a way that both the transportation needs and the environmental needs were met within a highly sensitive area encompassing four watersheds, according to SHA's Hertz.

Starting with a geographic information system (GIS) and data on watershed resources developed during the U.S. 301 planning, the WRR partners also added the regulatory requirements of the various statutes that affect watershed health, said Denise Rigney, an environmental scientist with EPA Region 3. The desire to bring the needs of watersheds earlier in the NEPA process and other planning processes led to the registry concept, Lueckenhoff said.

There was a "groundswell of partnership in Maryland," said Lueckenhoff, allowing for the product to eventually expand statewide. There was support from the top for this, Lueckenhoff said, but more importantly, it was built from the bottom up, addressing the needs of those at the field level.

The usefulness of the Watershed Resources Registry has exceeded expectations, Lueckenhoff said. All of the team partners – EPA, the Corps of Engineers, Maryland SHA, and FHWA – are using the tool.

Other agencies are using the tool as well. Field inspectors are using it to preview sites before a visit, local agencies are using it, and there is growing interest from the public. "There are uses that we didn't even imagine it for," Lueckenhoff said.

Interagency Collaboration

One of the most satisfying things is that the registry is the result of successful interagency collaboration, officials said.

It "evolved out of the willingness" of the various agencies to step outside their comfort zones, Lueckenhoff said.

This cooperative environment has been exciting, Bryson, of the Corps of Engineers, agreed. By bringing together the various types of information into one integrated tool, people are creating new kinds of information that weren't possible before, said Bryson. Members of various agencies can coordinate over the web and be assured that they're all looking at the same thing. "All the agencies are together on this," Bryson said.

The agencies continue the development process by meeting once a month to discuss improvements. As data change, they will be added to the tool, Bryson said. As new models are developed, the tool will be tweaked to accommodate them.

Also going forward, sites that are identified by the tool will be inventoried with site visits, and information regarding selected or completed restoration projects will be added, said Ralph Spagnolo, a wetland hydrologist with EPA Region III and a member of the WRR Technical Advisory Committee.

The Baltimore District of the Corps of Engineers includes portions of Pennsylvania, and Bryson said that a roll-out of the registry using Pennsylvania data is likely.

In producing a registry for another state, developers would be able to take advantage of the eight pre-existing suitability models in the Maryland WRR and start with available federal and state data, according to Lueckenhoff. An interagency technical advisory team or committee should be established (or utilized if one already exists) to collaboratively identify stakeholder needs and interests and evaluate to what degree the data and existing models are able to address them.

Due to the work done already, the next state will be able to develop and use its registry in significantly less time than it took for the initial development in Maryland, according to Lueckenhoff. The team already has been approached by several Mid-Atlantic States for transfer of the WRR to address a variety of needs, Lueckenhoff said. "It is highly adaptable, without being overly complex and challenging to multiple end users. This is a pretty good [model]," she said.

The registry has been selected to receive technical assistance from AASHTO's Technology Implementation Group, chosen as a National Water Program Best Practice by the EPA, and included in a handbook issued by the Environmental Law Institute.

The Watershed Resources Registry is available at http://www.watershedresourcesregistry.org/. For more information, contact Dominique Lueckenhoff (lueckenhoff.dominique@epa.gov) or Ralph Spagnolo (spagnolo.ralph@epa.gov) at EPA, or Sandy Hertz at Maryland SHA (shertz@sha.state.md.us).

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Case Studies: New Hampshire - New Hampshire DOT Pioneers New Approach to Construction Stormwater Management

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation’s award-winning work managing construction stormwater to protect two water bodies adjacent to Interstate 93 has been a successful demonstration of innovative techniques under real-world conditions.

NHDOT took a completely new approach, especially for the temporary stormwater controls, when widening and reconstructing I-93 south of Manchester where it passes between Canobie Lake and Cobbett's Pond, according to NHDOT’s Director of Project Development Peter Stamnas.

The proposed work on the segment, a nearly three-mile stretch at Exit 3, prompted significant public concern over the potential for turbidity and sediment affecting the nearby water bodies, especially Canobie Lake which provides local drinking water.

I-93 between Manchester and the Massachusetts border had not been significantly upgraded since it was built in the early 1960s, according to project documentation. NHDOT was faced with performing major construction while still meeting the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services’ stringent water quality standards and the public’s demand for the cleaner construction.

Comprehensive Plan

Knowing that the entire 20-mile project, and the Exit 3 construction in particular, was constrained by the natural geography, NHDOT “really had to start from scratch from a design standpoint” to create a solution for the construction stormwater that would meet NHDES standards and receive public support, according to Stamnas, who joined the project in 2006.

NHDOT used a “new design approach that would be similar to a traffic control plan” but applied to construction stormwater, Stamnas said. The agency reviewed the entire length of the project, analyzing the runoff risk and calculating runoff volumes. Prior to the construction phase, staff identified the areas that would require stormwater controls, resulting in a comprehensive stormwater management plan.

The agency faced constraints within the right of way regarding the surface area for stormwater storage, the hilly terrain, and the nearby water bodies, and had to devise innovative solutions. “There was just too much water and not enough real estate,” Stamnas said.

NHDOT maximized the limited land available within the right of way by collecting water wherever possible and using a system of pumps and pipes to get the water “where it needed to go” for storage and treatment, Stamnas said. This had the added benefit of reducing the number of treatment cells that needed to be constructed.

New Hampshire DOT uses innovative methods to pump and divert construction stormwater for treatment on I-93 project. (Photo: NHDOT)

Treatment with Polyacrylamides

Canobie Lake and Cobbett's Pond created significant challenges since they are the low geographic points along Exit 3 and “everything went there,” Stamnas said. NHDES standards for class B waterbodies (Cobbett’s Pond) require down stream flows not be increased by more than 10 nephelometric turbidity units (NTUs) after the introduction of the stormwater flows. For Class A waterbodies (Canobie Lake) the standard is further reduced to a 0 NTU increase above background levels.

To address this, the agency pioneered a program for linear highway projects which included flocculent system designs, contract bid items, and procedures for the construction use of anionic polyacrylamides (PAMs) as a flocculant to induce the suspended solids in the runoff to form larger flakes. These particles then could be filtered out or allowed to settle, turning sediment-clouded runoff into clear water that would not disrupt local water quality.

NHDOT started out using self-dosing blocks that control the release of PAM into the runoff water. The flocculant was added to a flocculant dosing tank system. The water was then run through in-ground settling basins and clarifying structures that used filtration baffles.

In 2008 and 2009, “we were on the cutting edge” of PAM use from a linear construction standpoint, Stamnas said, and the dosing and filtration methods evolved over time during the project. At the beginning, NHDOT had “difficulties” receiving regulatory approval to use PAMs but “we finally worked through it,” Stamnas said.

The regulators’ concern was that NHDOT would use too much PAM, causing it to be a pollutant itself. Stamnas said eventually they were able to prove that they could make effective use of the flocculants without creating a hazard to water quality. The agency found that by switching from self-dosing blocks to PAM powders, the dosage could be controlled more accurately.

Techniques also were used to divert water that was coming into the site, directing it through bypass pipes so that it did not pick up sediment. This lowered the amount of water that required treatment, Stamnas said.

In addition to treatment, PAMs were used as a soil stabilizer for disturbed slopes.

Contracting and Costs

The significant permanent stormwater retention structures and the locations for construction stormwater controls were included up front in the original contract documents, Stamnas said.

NHDOT provided base plans, required contractors to provide more detailed stormwater control plans, and set up regular meetings to review progress. This allowed the contractors and the field staff to be a lot more prepared, Stamnas said. Conventional erosion and sediment control best management practices (BMPs) and typical management approaches to construction were determined to be inadequate and unnecessarily expensive, Stamnas said.

Also, agency planners and designers created strategies and tools they knew would work in various situations and that could be applied to address field conditions. It provided the contractors and the field staff with options from which they could make decisions based on the situations they were presented with, Stamnas said. Examples of these tools included hydraulically applied mulch systems, unit water diversion items, standard pump and pipe systems, and a packaged flocculent treatment system. NHDOT provided the proposed collection of tools early on so that contractors could bid on them up front rather than including them later through change orders or creating a situation where there was a sole-source supplier.

The construction work at Exit 3 cost approximately $150 million. The agency wanted to place the stormwater controls into the bidding environment to achieve some level of economy. NHDOT was looking for ways to reduce costs, Stamnas said, “and I think we did that.”

Lessons Learned

According to NHDOT, completing a construction stormwater assessment during the design phase of large projects pays dividends. It identifies potential risks early and allows items to be included in the contract to minimize costs and mitigate risk potential. Also, contractors are more prepared, and it reduces their time to prepare stormwater protection plans, so work can start sooner.

Diverting water around the active construction zone is critical and constructing temporary sedimentation basins as early as possible reduces treatment efforts.

Also, the construction site is constantly changing, and strategies that work one month may not work as well the following month. The matrix of tools allows for solutions to be implemented quickly and cost-effectively.

Additionally, PAMs are very effective in reducing turbidity in construction runoff and are safe for the environment when used properly. They reduce soil loss, reduce phosphorous levels in treated stormwater, have negligible effect on water pH, and lower biochemical oxygen demand in runoff.

Traffic was placed in the final lane configurations through the Exit 3 area over the summer and this segment of the corridor project was declared substantially complete in November of 2016. Four more years of construction lie ahead along the remaining segments of the 20-mile corridor project.

The Exit 3 stormwater control project earned NHDOT the “Best Use of Innovation” award in the medium-sized project category from the Northeast Association of State Transportation Officials (NASTO) for its efforts to protect the natural resources.

“It’s a new way of looking at linear construction and it’s working really well,” Stamnas said. Based on the size and complexity of future projects NHDOT now has a comprehensive list of strategies to draw from for use around the state.

For more information on the Rebuilding I-93 project, visit the project website at http://www.rebuildingi93.com/ or contact Wendy Johnson, Project Manager with NHDOT, at wjohnson@dot.state.nh.us.

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Case Studies: Oregon - Oregon DOT Develops Center to Test Stormwater Treatment Technologies

A facility to help practitioners test the effectiveness of stormwater treatment technologies is being developed by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The Stormwater Technology Testing Center (STTC), under construction at the Northeast Portland Maintenance Yard, is intended to provide designers and users of stormwater treatment technologies a tool to provide non-biased assessments of the effectiveness and maintainability of technologies being considered for installation at their facilities, according to Paul Wirfs, P.E., Deputy Geo-Environmental Manager.

Officials hope the new center – which is expected to open in 2017 – will help develop information on the maintainability and life cycle cost for stormwater treatment technologies that will help to protect the environment and transportation investments.

Background on Testing Center Development

State and federal agencies, together with environmental organizations, have expressed increasing concern regarding the effectiveness of stormwater treatment devices and facilities in achieving water quality standards required by permits. Transportation agencies also face ongoing concerns over maintenance costs related to stormwater treatment.

The concept for the STTC was developed by a group of stormwater professionals that ODOT convened in 2011 to discuss the challenges and ways to improve the management of large stormwater programs. The group included representatives from ODOT, other state and local agencies, and the Washington Department of Ecology (WDOE). A board has been established to provide direction on the operation of the STTC including local, state, and federal agency representatives from Oregon, Washington, and California.

Although WDOE and several other agencies had facilities or protocols established to evaluate pollution removal effectiveness of stormwater treatment devices, they could not demonstrate the capability of a long-term stormwater treatment device, the maintenance required for the technology, the costs of maintenance, and at what point the technology would fail and require replacement.

Over a two-year period between 2009 and 2011, the STTC concept was developed, including a business plan, maintainability evaluation protocols and a quality assurance project plan.

The STTC Board identified several potential sites for the center, ultimately choosing the Northeast Portland Maintenance Yard site. The site provided adequate stormwater supply and representative stormwater, an adequate facility site area with the possibility of expansion, an appropriate discharge point, and gravity flow stormwater conveyance to the testing facility. In addition, the site offered safe access and was already owned by ODOT.

Officials also noted that the STTC was one of several projects that ODOT funded to meet the commitments of a settlement agreement in response to a notice of intent to sue over alleged permit violations.

The Northwest Environmental Defense Center alleged that ODOT was not in compliance with its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) permit. While that allegation was never proven, ODOT officials said the agency “chose to invest in stormwater improvement rather than on litigation.” The STTC qualified as part of that investment along with multiple other stormwater retrofit projects within the Willamette River Watershed.

The Art and Science of Stormwater Testing.

The testing center consists of a combination of pumps, pipes, an air compressor, sensors and computers that work together to gather representative stormwater samples for laboratory analysis.

The STTC includes 3 “pads” or “test bays” where each technology is connected to the testing center control and piping systems. The technologies can be installed at the appropriate elevation and configuration as defined by the specifications provided by the owner of the technology. This is all located within the footprint of the STTC.

Stormwater is diverted from a 7-foot diameter drainage pipe along I‐ 205 at Columbia Slough to a large manhole called the feed wet well. A pump recirculates the stormwater and the debris in the feed wet well, allowing suction pipes to pull in a representative sample of the pollutants in the stormwater.

High-velocity vacuum samplers pull samples of the raw stormwater into jars to be sent to a laboratory for analysis. The diameter of the suction pipes, which varies from 2 inches to 4 inches depending on the pumping flow rate, ensures that flow velocity is fast enough to move sand and other debris along and carry it to the test bays. Clear PVC pipe and clear hose allow pipe-flow to be monitored, especially when leaves and sand are entering storm drains.

The process also uses a “programmable logic controller” that controls pneumatic valves in order to match the suction pipe diameter to the required pump speed. It monitors the water surface in the feed wet well and test bays with sensors to determine if too much water is being sent to the technology being tested. If the water level is rising and is about to bypass some of the raw stormwater, the programmable controller slows the dosing flow rate. All of the data regarding the water surface and flow rate are sent to a remotely operated computer program for archiving and analysis.

Ultimately, samples are sent to the laboratory, where the influent and effluent are analyzed for pollutant levels, providing data on the removal efficiency of the technology being tested.

The site is currently configured to test any type of vault, filter, or manhole shaped devices, and it can test up to three technologies simultaneously. The site also can be expanded in the future to test swales, slopes and small ponds.

“Currently, we can run the system and have made a few test runs,” according to Dan Gunther, a hydraulics engineer at ODOT. “We are still working on the software and controlling the site remotely,” he said. Testing of technologies will begin in earnest once all the software and remote controls are installed.

Quantifying Technology Costs, Maintainability.

ODOT officials said the STTC will help to quantify the maintainability performance characteristics and costs of commercially ready stormwater treatment technologies. It is available to serve as a national laboratory for the professional stormwater community and will provide an unbiased and credible assessment of stormwater treatment technologies.

ODOT intends for the STTC to become a self-sufficient facility, supported by testing fees; however, financial support by owners and operators of stormwater technologies will ensure continued operation of the facility. In the future, the facility may be expanded to include additional testing bays and testing parameters such as dosing, bacteria, nitrates and more.

In terms of challenges, officials said it has taken longer than planned to obtain start-up funding and to get the facility up and running.

In that regard, states can help support the center by contributing to an ongoing Federal Highway Administration pooled fund program. A total of $300,000 is being requested to go toward business management services, calibration and testing, and data protocols. So far, a total of $125,000 has been committed, including $100,000 from Pennsylvania DOT, $15,000 from Washington State DOT, and $10,000 from the Port of Portland.

Other elements of the STTC calibration and start-up have been funded by a State Transportation Innovation Council grant from the Federal Highway Administration.

To date, ODOT has invested approximately $950,000 on the concept development and construction of the center. One more push of funding will move the project forward to full operation when testing can begin.

In addition, ODOT officials said they would like to hear from other DOTs that are interested in joining the Board or participating as a stakeholder.

For more information on the STTC, contact Paul Wirfs at Paul.R.WIRFS@odot.state.or.us or link to the pooled fund program solicitation.

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Wildlife & Ecosystems

Recent Developments: TRB Ecology Committee Releases Newsletter on Roadside Landscapes

The Transportation Research Board’s Committee on Ecology and Transportation has released the January 2017 edition of their newsletter, which highlights the of monitoring wildlife crossing structures along highways in Changbai Mountain, China, and state departments of transportation using roadsides to benefit pollinators. The newsletter also addresses analyzing the biological functions of microbial communities within roadside landscapes, the Arizona State Route 260 animal activated detection system, wildlife usage of a constructed wildlife underpass and a geographic information system-based wetlands impact forecast model developed by the South Carolina Department of Transportation. For more information, link to the newsletter. (1-30-17)

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Recent Developments: Montana DOT Report Evaluates Wildlife Mitigation Measures

The Montana Department of Transportation has released a report evaluating the wildlife crossings installed along U.S. 93 North on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The highway reconstruction project included installation of wildlife overpasses or culverts at 39 locations and wildlife exclusion fences on 8.71 miles of road. Using research conducted from 2002-2015 to address the effectiveness of the mitigation measures, the report finds that collisions with large mammals has been reduced by more than 50 percent. The report indicates that wildlife fences were most effective in reducing collisions with large mammals if the fences were installed over road lengths of at least 3.1 miles. For more information, link to the report. (1-7-17)

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Recent Developments: Report Presents Impact of Wildlife-Vehicles Conflict on Drivers and Animals

The Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis, has released a report regarding the impact of wildlife-vehicle conflict on drivers and animals in California. Animal and vehicle collisions cost the state at least $225 million, equaling 2 percent of the states’ transportation budget, based on 2015 data. The report analyzes conflict hotspots on state highways that are based on reported traffic incidents and places these conflicts in the context of carcasses observed from 2009-2015 that were reported to the Roadkill Observation System. The report also presents measures to combat animal and vehicle collisions, including building fences and underpasses to allow safe passage for wildlife. For more information, link to the report. (9-20-16)

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Case Studies: Colorado - Agreement Offers Streamlined Mitigation Option for Impacts to Canada Lynx in Colorado

An innovative Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) created by Colorado DOT (CDOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will provide CDOT with a new streamlined option for fulfilling its mitigation responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act as they relate to the Canada lynx (lynx). In essence, for projects that are determined to have impacts on lynx, CDOT now can propose that it pay an in-lieu fee (ILF) into a Lynx Mitigation Fund rather than carry out mitigation measures onsite. The MOA was signed on July 7, 2015.

Colorado DOT’s in-lieu fee mitigation fund will support broad efforts to mitigate impacts to the Canada lynx. Photo: Colorado Division of Wildlife

“We have known for some time that our actions were impacting lynx by increasing the barrier effect of highways,” explains Jeff Peterson, Wildlife Program Manager for CDOT’s Environmental Programs Branch. “However, because our right-of-way very seldom contains usable habitat, mitigation has been challenging. Choices such as providing safe passage over or under the highway at the site often can end up being more costly than the project itself, and possibly less-effective.”

Under the terms of the MOA, Peterson says, “we can propose using the ILF as our preferred mitigation choice in our Biological Assessment (BA). USFWS then either agrees or disagrees with our choice in its Biological Opinion (BO). Furthermore, we can propose it under both Section 7 and Section 10 of the Act.”

From Peterson’s perspective, the new option is a win-win. If the ILF gets a green light for a particular project, CDOT’s ESA responsibilities are fulfilled and it can get on with its project. And from a species preservation perspective, adding an in-lieu fee to the fund opens up the possibility of using the fund for more strategic and comprehensive mitigation elsewhere in the state. Although CDOT has not yet had the opportunity to put the MOA to work, Peterson says, his agency is planning a number of projects that are strong candidates for the ILF option. “And when that time comes -- and I’m virtually certain it will -- we’re ready,” he says.

The lynx is listed as threatened in Colorado. Currently, there are believed to be approximately 200-300 lynx statewide. Peterson says it has been estimated that approximately 670 miles of Colorado highway are located in lynx habitat, and an additional 210 miles or so of lynx movement corridors exist between patches of suitable habitat.

MOA Provisions

ILF contributions to the mitigation fund are based on project “award” costs with the rationale that they represent the most accurate construction cost estimates. The amount contributed is tied to the type and severity of the impact(s) the project would be expected to have on the lynx. It is based upon the average cost of mitigation and compliance with the ESA compared to total construction costs (by percent) for past projects that included mitigation for impacts to lynx. Maximum contribution for an individual project is 5 percent.

The fund can be used for a new stand-alone mitigation project or, more likely, to enhance a current project. For example, if a highway project is in lynx habitat, and mitigation normally would call for a concrete box culvert (CBC) to be installed under a portion of the highway to channel flowing water, the ILF could be used to cover additional costs of building a bridge, which would open up passage for lynx under the bridge.

Under the terms of the MOA, funds can be leveraged, and partnering is encouraged. For instance, the Forest Service may be carrying out a project to consolidate land parcels that includes trading some of its land for private parcels throughout the forest. If some of those parcels are in an area known to be frequented by lynx, CDOT could partner with the Forest Service so the land on either side of a proposed lynx crossing would be protected from development.

The MOA calls for two management teams to be created: an Advisory Committee and a Fund Management Team. The teams are in charge of managing the ILF mitigation process for individual projects. Besides participation on the teams, each of the three lead agencies has additional responsibilities spelled out in the MOA. For example, CDOT is in charge of setting up the two management teams; FHWA must participate in the development of ESA compliance documents and consult with USFWS on any project that may affect lynx; and USFWS is responsible for providing the most up-to-date information and science available when determining the most appropriate mitigation for lynx.

Benefits, Challenges and Transferability

Peterson predicts that numerous benefits will accrue from using the MOA. First, there are the direct benefits of enabling projects to move forward efficiently and mitigation efforts to be broader and more strategic for the benefit of the lynx. In addition, he anticipates that it will also foster increased trust between CDOT/FHWA and the resource agencies. Other potential benefits may include a more positive public perception of CDOT’s wildlife department and demonstrated success in interagency collaboration.

Challenges in putting the MOA to work remain to be seen. In the meantime, challenges definitely were encountered in creating and signing off on the MOA. The first was securing active and substantive support from senior-level management on the concept itself. Beyond that, obtaining agreement among Regional Managers on the terms of the sliding scale initially was a hurdle. Yet another obstacle encountered was how to account in budgets for moving money from one project into another one that isn’t in the same CDOT region, or perhaps even proposed yet.

“The good news is that the basic procedure outlined in the MOA can serve as a template for creating a similar document in another state,” he says. “It would be a matter of plugging in state-specific details such as funding sources, maintenance responsibilities, and reporting requirements. To my knowledge, no one else is using anything similar.”

According to Peterson, perhaps the most important thing to do at the very beginning is to get all the parties together for several informal discussions during which everyone is heard but nothing is yet put down on paper. The time is well worth it, he says. Once everyone is invested in the success of the endeavor, the chances of developing the MOA in a spirit of collaboration are much greater.

“But everyone should be prepared for a fair amount of wordsmithing before the document is finalized. No matter how well everyone gets along, each agency needs to feel comfortable that its mission is protected. I’d recommend access to a lawyer to help with that aspect; for our MOA, we used the USFWS legal advisor and it worked well.”

Peterson concludes, “At the end of the day, it’s a case of rolling up your sleeves and putting the effort in now to reap benefits well into the future.”

For more information, contact Jeff Peterson, Wildlife Program Manager, Environmental Programs Branch, Colorado DOT, at Jeff.peterson@state.co.us or visit the CDOT website at www.CODOT.gov/programs/environmental/wildlife.

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Case Studies: Road Ecology Center, UC Davis

Case Studies: Road Ecology Center, UC Davis - Transportation Agencies Test Advanced Imaging for Wildlife Movement

The use of web-enabled cameras to better understand wildlife movements on and near highway rights of way could provide transportation agencies with more timely data, lower costs, and help prevent animal-vehicle collisions.

The Federal Highway Administration is sponsoring research on the use of wildlife cameras that can feed data directly through the internet to a web-database (wildlifeobserver.net). Transportation agencies would use the proposed system in areas with wired, wireless or cellular system connectivity to track animal movements, verify the effectiveness of protective measures for wildlife, and gather data. Eventually, agencies could use the system “in conjunction with existing traffic camera infrastructure and adding wildlife monitoring to the data stream,” according to the agency.

Web-enabled cameras immediately transfer images such as this moose crossing through a culvert on US 91 in Utah. Photo: Fraser Shilling, Road Ecology Center at UC Davis

Working in partnership with the California Department of Transportation and other state departments of transportation, researchers are now further refining commercially-available camera systems to meet the needs of DOTs. The agencies and partners are field testing the camera and database systems to evaluate both their effectiveness in capturing and managing wildlife images and their ease of use.

An integral part of the system is an online database which is set up to receive image files uploaded either by transportation agency staff or directly by the remote, wire­less cameras. The system then automatically creates database records for image files based on information already attached to the file, such as the date and time an image was captured. From there, agency biologists can manage, analyze and share the wildlife images.

Transportation agencies in California, Colorado, South Dakota, Virginia and Utah are field testing the technologies, supported by FHWA’s Exploratory Advanced Research Program (FHWA-PROJ-13-0107).

New Era of Wildlife Monitoring

In an era when most of us have nearly instant information concerning most things in our lives, these types of technologies could “up the game” regarding roadside wildlife monitoring, said Fraser Shilling, the principal investigator on the project,

As compared to cameras and sensors used for monitoring traffic and other environmental conditions, camera methods used by state departments of transportation for wildlife monitoring are quite a bit behind, said Shilling, co-director of the Road Ecology Center located at the University of California, Davis.

That’s why the use of advanced imaging technology such as web-enabled cameras potentially could advance the state of the practice on understanding wildlife movements and roadside ecology, and help improve highway safety. Such technologies are important to transportation agencies and society, with costs of wildlife-vehicle collisions estimated to be in the millions of dollars annually.

A recent report issued by the Road Ecology Center and co-authored by Shilling estimated the cost to society of wildlife-vehicle collisions in California in 2015 was around $225 million. The cost of property damage alone was estimated at more than $88 million annually for the state.

FHWA Supports Research

The FHWA is working with state DOTs to promote their wildlife stewardship and public safety missions. Safer wildlife crossings, for instance, are a key component of the FHWA’s efforts to implement Eco-Logical, the landscape-level approach to integrate infrastructure development and ecosystem conservation.

The EAR project is supporting the field testing of cameras and other low-powered sensor systems or unstaffed sensor technologies that will provide data for project delivery, environmental assessment and decision support.

Currently, state DOT biologists monitor wildlife such as deer, bears, mountain lions, elk, and pronghorn sheep using static camera systems in remote locations, known as camera traps, Shilling said. While static camera traps have been useful for gathering data about what types of animals interact with highways, they have some limitations.

Shilling explained that camera traps require the efforts of staff or contractors in order to retrieve pictures or video. One camera trap can yield around 3,500 pictures per month that must be viewed, sorted and recorded. Spread over several miles, a wildlife monitoring project that includes around 50 cameras could result in tens of thousands of pictures to review. Thus, having cameras that stream data to the headquarters office or a web-connected database such as wildlifeobserver.net would allow DOT staff to evaluate pictures within minutes of the animal being sighted.

Colorado DOT SH-9 Project

The Colorado Department of Transportation has used the web-connected cameras as part of its SH-9 Colorado River South Wildlife & Safety Improvement Project. This 10-mile section of highway near Kremmling had more than 500 wildlife-vehicle collisions in the previous 10 years, mostly elk and deer. To monitor the installed mitigation features, CDOT is working on a monitoring study involving more than 60 motion-triggered wildlife cameras, some of which are connected using cellular phone networks, according to Bryan Roeder, CDOT’s Environmental Research Manager.

“The camera data is critical not only for determining the success of the mitigation, but for adaptive management of that mitigation and applying lessons learned to future mitigation,” Roeder said. “This project is expected to produce about one million photos per year, so we are very interested in the future of automated image analysis processes.”

Using the connected cameras, which instantly send photos by e-mail to project researchers, “is a much more convenient method than traditional cameras,” Roeder said. “The ability to view and share photos within minutes of an animal crossing in front of a camera is valuable.”

Jeff Peterson, Manager of CDOT’s Wildlife Program, agrees. “Because SH-9 is the first project in the state to include wildlife overpasses, we are very interested in how effective they are in facilitating connectivity between habitat areas,” and having instant notification from the web-connected cameras is a key component, Peterson said.

Cost Savings

Another issue that such systems would improve upon is the cost—in time and money—for DOTs to maintain camera traps.

Bridget Donaldson, a senior research scientist with the Virginia Department of Transportation, says she is the only one in VDOT that manages the state’s camera traps, relying on university students for help. She hopes to soon install one of the cameras for Shilling’s field test, but for now it takes time to go into the field and visit each camera to gather data and check on battery life.

There would be “huge time savings involved” with the web-enabled cameras, Donaldson said. VDOT currently has a monitoring project along I-64 near Charlottesville, and the time spent visiting each camera to check the number of stored photos would be significantly less since that data would instead be transmitted to her office. Moreover, researchers would know sooner whether cameras are encrusted with winter road salt or knocked out of alignment by snow plows, she said. In cases where cameras are located at some distance from DOT offices, there is simply the travel time to get there.

Also having to pull over on a 70 mile-per-hour interstate to service the cameras presents issues of safety, Donaldson said.

These types of savings can be coupled with savings to society from avoiding animal-vehicle collisions.

In Virginia, Donaldson mentioned that an area VDOT is monitoring outside Charlottesville has deer-vehicle collisions at an average rate of eight per mile per year. Taking into consideration the drain to the economy and the constant potential for loss of human life, this is a rate that justifies VDOT installing fencing along the highway to lead deer and other wildlife to safer underpasses.

Connect With Public, Other Agencies

Shilling sees data being shared with researchers, DOT staff, and the public. For example, in a situation where a DOT has recently installed wildlife crossings to protect mountain lions, if a camera captured a mountain lion using the new structure, the DOT press office could use pictures from the cameras in a news release issued the next day.

Sharing data with other agencies such as fish and game departments could also improve collaboration between departments, Shilling said, and researchers are investigating the use of image analysis software to automate the identification of common wildlife species. The combination of science and public relations becomes increasingly important as public knowledge and awareness can contribute to safer wildlife interactions within rights of way, according to Shilling.

Lessons Learned

The Road Ecology Center tried developing its own web-connected camera but now is mostly testing commercially available systems, Shilling said. With some of the systems that have been tested, the picture resolution is lower than what biologists typically are used to, which manufacturers say permits faster internet transmission.

Camera systems will probably continue to improve as more and more—as many as 100 or 200 at a time, by Shilling’s estimate—are purchased and used by DOTs. The companies that manufacture the systems, which can cost between $100 and $1200 apiece, are beginning to take notice, Shilling said.

Next Steps

The FHWA’s EAR project envisions a system for monitoring wildlife in rights of way that “resembles current traffic flow monitoring systems.” Shilling suggested that creation of wildlife operations centers would “up the game” of wildlife monitoring for transportation agencies.

Using information from the field tests, the researchers will develop short training videos, conduct a webinar, and provide onsite training with DOT staff. The research­ers will then present to the FHWA recommended camera and database systems, along with doc­umentation describing how to acquire, set up, and use them.

Also, the researchers will be writing articles describing both the informatics and camera sampling process for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Additionally, the researchers will improve the data associated with the pictures—called EXIF data—to include such information as location and weather. This more complex information will allow biologists and DOT staff to more easily visualize the ecological context of camera placements and will add value to the information being collected, Shilling said.

Information regarding the Road Ecology Center research is available at https://roadecology.ucdavis.edu/research/projects/remote-wireless-camera-systems-environmental-monitoring-transportation-corridors.

For more information on the web-connected wildlife camera research, contact principal investigator Fraser Shilling, co-director of the Road Ecology Center, University of California, Davis, at fmshilling@ucdavis.edu or Deirdre M. Remley, Environmental Protection Specialist/Research Coordinator, FHWA at deirdre.remley@dot.gov.

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Case Studies: Washington - I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project Improves Mobility for People and Wildlife

A project to construct needed improvements to a stretch of mountain highway in Washington State will provide new opportunities for moving people through the corridor and reconnecting wildlife habitat and natural systems, which for years have been fragmented by the roadway.

Washington State DOT and partner agencies worked to develop innovative solutions for the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project, to achieve needed safety and mobility improvements for drivers, provide safe passage for wildlife, and reestablish vegetation and hydrologic connections across the roadway.

The solutions were developed by a unique partnership of agencies – including state and federal transportation agencies and the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the surrounding land – as well as other agencies, nonprofit conservation and public advocacy groups, universities, and citizens.

The 15-mile project area is on National Forest land and must be compatible with the U.S. Forest Service’s adaptive management plan for the area.

The DOT agreed to include wildlife connectivity along with transportation improvements as a part of the project purpose and need statement. The environmental impact statement specifies that the project is intended to meet traffic demands and improve public safety by addressing avalanches and slope instability, repairing structural deficiencies in the existing roadway, and expanding capacity, while also providing for ecological connectivity.

Regarding highway improvements, the project will:

  • expand the roadway from two lanes to three lanes;
  • replace the concrete pavement, straighten dangerous curves, and provide additional chain-up areas for trucks,
  • construct a new six-lane snow shed for protection from avalanches, and
  • stabilize dangerous slopes to reduce rock fall hazards.

In addition, wildlife passing structures are planned at 14 major wildlife crossing areas as part of the project. Structures include replacing narrow bridges and culverts with longer and wider structures to facilitate wildlife passage; adding wildlife exclusion fences to keep animals off the highway; and adding wildlife overcrossings at strategic locations.

A key aspect of the project was the identification of 14 separate “connectivity emphasis areas” – locations near streams or upland that can benefit fish, wildlife and hydrologic functions through restoring or enhancing a connection to habitat on both sides of the road. The areas were identified by a multi-agency mitigation development team.

Gold Creek Bridges and Wildlife Crossing

Gold Creek is one example of a connectivity emphasis area on the project, with improvements planned to achieve wildlife passage, hydrological connectivity, and re-establishment of vegetation.

The existing bridge structures at Gold Creek are 138-feet and 126 feet long, with a large quantity of imported fill within the floodplains and wetlands – a situation that has allowed little connectivity for aquatic or terrestrial species. Roadway improvements will replace the existing structures with wider and longer spans – two 1100-foot structures – and add a new wildlife undercrossing, all designed to improve connectivity and restore ecological functions.

Gold Creek was among the project areas that also benefited from partnerships among agencies and conservation groups to acquire private land to protect and contribute to the effectiveness of the conservation emphasis areas.

Over the last 15 years, a coalition including the Cascades Conservation Partnership, the Mountains-to-Sound Greenway Trust, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service have invested more than $100 million to protect land in the I-90 project area. Through combinations of land purchases and exchanges, the partnership has added 75,000 acres of conservation land and National Forest land within the area.

The Gold Creek improvements will allow multiple benefits – connecting wildlife habitat for small and large species while also helping to restore achieve hydrologic connectivity and providing mitigation for wetlands impacts.

Other noteworthy aspects of the project’s environmental commitments include creative solutions that combine benefits for wildlife connectivity and wetland mitigation and efforts to test and reestablish native vegetation in ecologically challenging environments.

In addition, the project includes extensive efforts to monitor wildlife occurrences – both before and after construction of wildlife crossings – to determine the effectiveness of the structures.

The monitoring program includes a unique public involvement effort, I-90 Wildlife Watch, in which citizens are encouraged to help gather data on wildlife in the area and to report wildlife sightings – including live animals or victims of collisions with vehicles.

The many environmental commitments of the project were in part the result of the extensive collaborative effort of the environmental review process itself, which was led by an interdisciplinary team including FHWA, WSDOT, USFS, USFWS, and Washington Department of Fish and Game. In addition, a range of other advisory committees, consultations, and partnerships with agencies, organizations, and the public helped to streamline the process of developing the Environmental Impact Statement. The project received FHWA’s 2011 Environmental Excellence Award in the category of Environmental Streamlining.

For more information, visit the project website at www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/i90/SnoqualmiePassEast.

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Case Studies: Wisconsin - Relocation of Karner Blue Butterflies

WisDOT Moves Karner Blue Butterflies by the Bushel

US Highway 10 cuts through the middle of Wisconsin, connecting the Fox Valley Cities in Wisconsin with the Twin Cities of Minnesota. This main traffic artery needed to be upgraded from a two- to four-lane expressway. Unfortunately, the new westbound lanes cut through a small 1/3 acre patch of Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis) and native barrens habitat that was occupied by Karner Blue Butterflies (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) (view a picture of a Karner Blue Butterfly, a federally endangered species. Recent surveys indicated a population of at least 10-20 adults consistently bred on this tiny patch of habitat.

WisDOT is part of a multi-partner Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the Karner Blue. WisDOT accommodates Karners along about 500 miles of highway right-of-way in central and northwestern Wisconsin. After going through the usual mitigation negotiation procedures of avoidance and minimizing, it appeared there was no way this swatch of earth could be spared from the new lanes. Another question arose as to the future viability of the Highway 10 site for the butterflies. It was unrealistic that a site this small, surrounded by Eurasian weeds, in the presence of a major highway, would remain viable in the long term. During the mitigation process, WisDOT began to explore the possibility of moving the butterflies. Although ideas about moving butterflies had been written about, no one had previously done this in the wild.

Fortuitously, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) just completed removing brush and most of the trees from an area near Emmons Creek, a lupine barrens community. Wild Lupine responded very well to the DNR barrens restoration effort, along with several other butterfly nectaring plants, but several surveys indicated that no Karners moved in to take advantage of the restored habitat. This presented an opportunity to move the Highway 10 population to the newly restored area.

The easiest way to move butterflies is in the egg stage. Karners conveniently lay almost all their eggs on the stems of Wild Lupine near the base of the plant. Methods included marking each Wild Lupine plant during peak flowering period, then after the egg laying period, clipping the Wild Lupine at the base of the stem with either a knife or clippers, gently laying the stems in large plastic bins and transporting the stems to the new site. The clipped stems were then inserted in the midst of living lupines at the Emmons Creek site. It seemed fairly straightforward, but there were a few questions. Would the eggs over-heat in the sun during the move and die? Would the eggs remain attached for the ride to their new home? After hatching, would the larva climb from the clipped stems to living plants?

To help with these potential pitfalls, the bins containing the clipped lupine stems with the Karner eggs were not tightly covered and were shaded from direct sun light. Fortunately, the weather during egg movement was relatively cool, with cloudy, nearly windless days. It is believed these weather conditions helped preserve the eggs from overexposure during movement. Care was taken not to over-pack or crush the bins with lupine stems. Once cut and placed in the bins, batches were moved within an hour to the new site. During the clipping portion of the work, a number of eggs were observed (3-6 on some stems) and it was noted that a few larvae had already hatched and were actively feeding on the lupine. The clipped stems were placed in the middle of healthy plants at the new site with as much contact between each as possible.

About 120 pounds of stems and leaves were removed from the Highway 10 site. Once this movement was complete, it was time to wait for eggs to hatch, larva to pupate and form new adults. About six weeks after the move, surveys were conducted at the new site for adults. It was very gratifying to report that 42 adults were observed on the new site where none had been seen before. It appears that the larva did find their way to new lupine stems and successfully pupated to adult butterflies.

This process may have implications for other butterflies, and perhaps even other insects. If the host plant and egg laying process is known, capture and release of these species can be quite easy, with minimal disruption to the individuals themselves. This may also provide a method for population expansion to new areas, or at least within nearby, similar, ecological areas.

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Case Studies: Wyoming - Wyoming DOT Provides Safer Passage Where Highway Meets Migrating Pronghorn

A series of underpasses and overpasses recently completed along a Wyoming highway has improved safety for the traveling public while preserving an historic wildlife migration route for pronghorn antelope and mule deer. Completed in October 2012, the Trappers Point project included design and construction of two overpasses and six underpasses on a 12-mile section of US 191, west of Pinedale.

Each overpass consists of a long-span precast-concrete arch culvert constructed over the highway to provide an artificial tunnel over which wildlife can cross safely. The culverts are surrounded by earth berms supported on each end by large precast-panel retaining walls. The project also includes about 30 miles of special fencing to direct animals to the safe crossings.

Historic Migration Route

In an area known as the Upper Green River Valley corridor, pronghorn travel between their winter range in the high desert, south of Pinedale, and their summer range in Grand Teton National Park. The corridor, which represents the second-longest wildlife migration route in the Western Hemisphere, intersects with US 191 at Trappers Point.

The Trappers Point area was named for the nineteenth-century fur trappers who took advantage of natural terrain that bottlenecks the migratory herds. In modern times, it had become the site of frequent vehicle collisions with pronghorn, mule deer, and other animals.

Seeking to address this concern, a collaborative effort between WYDOT and a number of state and federal agencies and other organizations identified key locations where wildlife crossing structures could be beneficial. To facilitate the passage of pronghorn – which are reluctant to use traditional wildlife underpasses – WYDOT committed to build its first-ever wildlife overpasses.

Trappers Pond Wildlife Crossing. Photo: Wyoming DOT

Locations for the various crossing structures were chosen based on areas with the highest instances of motor vehicle collisions, observations by local game and fish and WYDOT personnel, and studies of the movement of collared antelope and deer. The agencies also considered the terrain, as well as already-preserved movement corridors, such as public lands or conservation easements.

Development of the wildlife connectivity plan for the area was a collaborative effort that included the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal Highway Administration. It also incorporated wildlife research from organizations including the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the Wyoming Outdoor Council, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and National Geographic.

Focus on Highway Safety

The agencies initially collaborated in an effort to obtain funding for the project under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. When that funding fell through, WYDOT was able to continue the effort by stressing the importance of highway safety: the combined loss of wildlife and property damage to vehicles was estimated at nearly $4.1 million from 2005 through 2009.

Under the focus of highway safety, WYDOT was able to secure the National Highway System federal funds to advance the project, according to Tim Stark, Environmental Services Engineer with WYDOT. The funds are expected to provide a valuable return. According to WYDOT, “The savings from reducing wildlife deaths and damage to vehicles is expected to exceed the project cost of $9.7 million in 12 years.”

Monitoring Shows Promising Results

The project already has proven to be beneficial for thousands of animals that have found their way safely across the highway. The most recent monitoring, conducted between Oct. 1 and Dec. 15, 2012, used remote cameras to document 8,878 mule deer and pronghorn moving through the new crossing structures.

Wildlife crossings help pronghorn safely cross the highway. Photo: Wyoming DOT

These results were particularly encouraging by demonstrating pronghorn’s use of the overpasses. Of the 8,878 animal crossings, 2,442 were pronghorn and 6,436 were mule deer. While most mule deer moved through the underpasses, 92 percent of the pronghorn used the overpasses. “The Trappers Point overpass is so well designed and so well suited to accommodate pronghorn migration, that we observed pronghorn using the overpass even before completion,” Jeff Burrell, Northern Rockies program coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society, said in a release. Stark said WYDOT will consider lessons learned from the Trappers Point project in planning for future efforts to ensure the safety of travelers and wildlife.

The Trappers Point project has received numerous awards, including the Wyoming Engineering Society’s 2012 President’s Project of the Year and the Federal Highway Administration’s 2011 Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative award. A National Geographic video featuring the project also is posted on the WYDOT website.

For more information on Trappers Point and other wildlife protection projects, visit the WYDOT Wildlife and Fisheries website, or contact Tim Stark, WYDOT Environmental Services Engineer, at timothy.stark@wyo.gov or by phone at 307-777-4279.

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