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Design

View Handout: At the Intersection of Design and the Environment

by Environmental Topic

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= Why this environmental topic is important to Design


 
Air Quality

Design principles are important to air quality both in terms of the design of the roadway itself and land use design. Road design elements such as signal timing or placement, turn lanes, and roundabouts can improve traffic flow and reduce emissions. Land use design, such as transit oriented development or inclusion of bicycle lanes and sidewalks, may facilitate alternative travel modes that can reduce emissions from motor vehicles.

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

Design principles are important to energy and greenhouse gas emissions both in terms of the design of the roadway itself and land use design. Road design elements such as signal timing or placement, turn lanes, and roundabouts can improve traffic flow and reduce emissions. Land use design, such as transit oriented development or inclusion of bicycle lanes and sidewalks, may facilitate alternative travel modes that can reduce emissions from motor vehicles.

Energy/Greenhouse Gas Emissions
 
Infrastructure Resilience

The design of transportation facilities plays a key role in addressing potential impacts from extreme events and changing climate conditions and building resilience into the transportation system. Agencies can apply new design techniques to better ensure resilience.

Infrastructure Resilience
 
Context Sensitive Solutions

Often associated with project design, Context Sensitive Solutions is a collaborative, interdisciplinary, holistic approach to the development of transportation projects. It involves all stakeholders, and considers all trade-offs in decision making. Context sensitive project design is based on community values, environmental features, land use, transportation function and available budget.

Context Sensitive Solutions
 
Environmental Justice

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and environmental justice principles apply to all U.S. DOT activities. Evaluation of human impacts should be given continuous attention throughout planning, design, 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 as part of facility design.

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

GIS is used to enhance the transportation planning process as well as project design and development. GIS is being applied to support transportation and land use decisions at regional and local levels, improving analytical capabilities as well as helping to understand the impacts of various alternatives. It can be used to identify locations of wetlands, watershed boundaries, known contamination sites, soil types, and other features.

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. Project design can help meet public health goals by encouraging a range of transportation alternatives.

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 under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act. Design considerations can help avoid impacts to historic resources.

Historic Preservation/Cultural Resources
 
Indirect Effects/Cumulative Impacts

Transportation agencies analyze indirect effects and cumulative impacts as part of the NEPA environmental review process. These analyses include consultation with stakeholders and the public, identification of important trends and issues, and analysis of the potential for land use change and related environmental impacts on valued and vulnerable resources. Design considerations – such as implementing context sensitive solutions – can help avoid potential adverse effects.

Indirect Effects/Cumulative Impacts
 
Invasive Species/Vegetation Management

Transportation agencies are increasingly linking transportation and conservation by adopting best management practices, including roadside vegetation management plans. One of the keys to successful roadside vegetation management is treating the roadside when the highway is first built or when improvement projects are designed and constructed. 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

Design considerations are important in determining the range of alternatives examined in the NEPA process. Project alternatives may include a range of design options, including context sensitive solutions, to lessen environmental impacts while meeting project purpose and need.

NEPA Process
 
Noise

FHWA requires consideration of mitigation for highway traffic noise in the planning and design of Federally aided highways. These regulations establish standards for abating highway traffic noise. Compliance with the noise regulations is a prerequisite for the granting of Federal-aid highway funds for construction or reconstruction of a highway.

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 them through project development, design, and construction. Environmental issues identified in planning, including mitigation, must be reflected in project designs. Related efforts include Eco-Logical, an ecosystem-based approach to transportation planning and infrastructure development.

Planning & Environment Linkages
 
Project Delivery/Streamlining

Project delivery may be expedited by involving a broad range of stakeholders early in the design process and by using decisions made during the planning process in project design. Understanding project impacts early on can be helpful.

Project Delivery/Streamlining
 
Section 4(f)/Section 6(f)

Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act established the requirement for consideration of park and recreational lands, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and historic sites in transportation project development. DOTs must conduct all possible planning to minimize a project’s harm to a Section 4(f) resource. Projects should be designed in a manner that avoids Section 4(f) resources, where possible. Agencies also must meet requirements under Section 6(f) of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act regarding conversion of land to non-recreational use.

Section 4(f)/Section 6(f)
 
Sustainability

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

Sustainability
 
Waste Management/Recycling/Brownfields

Transportation activities, from project planning and development through construction, operations and maintenance, are affected by a variety of requirements and initiatives related to the management, disposal, and recycling of wastes. Using recycled materials is a sustainable practice for highway design and construction. Project design considerations also can encourage redevelopment of brownfield properties.

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 or avoidance of impacts to wetlands and water resources. Design considerations – including context sensitive solutions and sustainable green infrastructure approaches – can play a key role in effectively mitigating impacts to wetlands and managing stormwater runoff.

Water Quality/Wetlands
 
Wildlife & Ecosystems

Design considerations, such as context sensitive solutions, are key approaches to address potential impacts to wildlife and ecosystems. Roadway designs, including crossing structures and green infrastructure elements, are important practices to lessen transportation impacts.

Wildlife & Ecosystems

 

Air Quality

Recent Developments: Smart Growth America Highlights Complete Streets Success Under FAST Act

Successful implementation of complete streets provisions under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act is addressed in a report from Smart Growth America. Under the provisions, National Highway System road designs are required to incorporate access for all modes of transportation and local governments are permitted to use their own design guide to creating complete streets projects. Examples of success include the development of projects along I-40 in Oklahoma City to expand bikesharing and in Atlanta where the city is devoting $109 million to complete streets improvements over the next five years. An emphasis on project planning, design and implementation is what has made the complete streets approach so fruitful. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-6-17)

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Recent Developments: Transportation Conformity Guide for States, Local Areas Released

The Federal Highway Administration has released a guide for state and local officials addressing determinations of whether transportation improvements conform to the air quality objectives in state implementation plans. The guide describes a conformity determination and addresses the responsibility for making those determinations. The guide includes the elements of a conformity determination, such as interagency consultation and regional emissions analysis, and highlights options for metropolitan planning organizations to reduce emissions. The guide also addresses project-level conformity and hot-spot analysis required for federal highway and transit projects. For more information, link to the guide. (February 2017)

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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 (FHWA) has published the December 2016/January 2017 newsletter highlighting air quality and climate change news. The newsletter includes information concerning the Environmental Protection Agency’s final rule on guidelines for air quality models, the proposed 2015 Ozone Standard Implementation Rule and updates to the Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator 2014a. The newsletter also provides information on the 6th Transportation Research Board annual meeting and lists upcoming meetings, conferences, workshops, and training opportunities. For more information, link to the newsletter. (2-2-17)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Updates CMAQ Toolkit for Diesel Technologies

The Federal Highway Administration has announced an update to the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Emission Calculator Toolkit. The update adds a module for advanced diesel truck/engine technologies, which includes an on-road activity calculator, an on-road diesel repower or replacement calculator and an on-road diesel retrofits calculator. The tool also provides users with Motor Vehicle Emissions Simulator documentation with national-scale run parameters to support calculation of on-road diesel retrofit and on-road repower/replacement. For more information, link to the toolkit. (1-6-17)

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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 Provides New Resources for 'It All Adds Up to Cleaner Air' Initiative

The Federal Highway Administration has added new resources to its “It All Adds Up to Cleaner Air” website, including new ideas and marketing materials to help communities reduce traffic congestion and pollution. The site also highlights success stories such as the Georgia DOT’s Georgia Commute Options Program, which helps reduce single-occupancy vehicle travel by facilitating carpooling and promoting vanpooling and bicycling to work. The initiative provides tools to help mitigate congestion and promote alternative modes of transportation. For more information, link to the materials and success story. (10-7-16)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Releases Module of the CMAQ Emissions Calculator Toolkit

The Federal Highway Administration has released the first module of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Emissions Calculator Toolkit. The toolkit provides resources departments of transportation can use for the implementation of the CMAQ program, which supports surface transportation projects and related efforts that contribute to improved air quality and provide congestion relief. The traffic flow improvement tool is one of a series of spreadsheet-based tools to facilitate the calculation of representative air quality benefit data, for CMAQ project justification as well as the annual reporting requirements. Additional toolkit modules are under development. For more information, link to the toolkit. (9-26-16).

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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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Case Studies: Georgia - Georgia DOT's Commuter Program Leverages CMAQ Funds for Travel Demand Management

The Atlanta metropolitan area is one of the fastest growing population centers in the nation, and the Georgia Department of Transportation is working to make sure that having more people does not mean having more air pollution.

To accomplish that, GDOT has a suite of air quality initiatives, including diesel retrofits, improvements to highway incident management, and traffic signal optimization.

Of these, one of the lowest cost efforts with measurable results is Georgia Commute Options, GDOT’s travel demand management program operated in partnership with the Atlanta Regional Commission and local Transportation Management Associations (TMAs).

The program provides multiple benefits to the dynamic Atlanta region, according to Phil Peevy, GDOT’s Air Quality and Technical Resource Branch Chief. Congestion on the area’s highways is reduced when residents choose alternatives to driving by themselves, eliminating approximately 1.1 million vehicle miles traveled daily. Also, air pollution emissions are reduced by an estimated 550 tons per day.

Additionally, there are the intangible benefits of creating a more livable, friendly community for residents. “It is such a beneficial overall project,” Peevy said.

Outreach effort for Georgia Commute Options Program. Photo: Georgia DOT

Managing Travel Demand: A Low-Cost Option

Georgia Commute Options operates with funding from the Federal Highway Administration through its Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program. Recent studies and information from the FHWA indicate that travel demand management is a low cost but effective means of reducing air emissions. As compared to other programs such as transit upgrades or diesel retrofit programs, travel demand management ranks sixth in funding but third highest in total projects obligated.

Georgia Commute Options tackles the problem of single-occupancy vehicle travel in a number of ways. For instance, the program facilitates carpooling by making it easier to find people to share a car with. Those interested in participating can register at the program website where they will be joining tens of thousands of people already participating. The program matches carpoolers together based on where they live and where they work.

Additionally, the Georgia Commute Options offers a “Guaranteed Ride Home” option in which registered carpoolers can receive up to five rides per year—with some restrictions—in any of 20 counties in the region.

Georgia Commute Options also promotes vanpooling, which can carry up to 15 passengers to work. As with carpools, the program website helps participants find vanpools that operate close to home and work and includes the guaranteed ride home for unexpected situations. Public education and outreach for the carpool and vanpool programs are “100 percent eligible” for CMAQ funding, Peevy said.

Employers can partner with Georgia Commute Options to provide incentives to their employees to find commuting alternatives. The program provides free services to partners, such as consultations, metrics, webinars on alternative work arrangements, onsite events, and customized employee surveys. By offering alternative transportation options to commuters, these programs help employers to boost employee morale, enhance recruitment efforts, and reduce parking and facilities costs, Peevy said.

At present, more than 1,600 employers and property managers are participating, according to the website, and awards are presented annually in recognition of excellence.

Having a telework program is one thing an employer can do to participate, and Georgia Commute Options provides assistance, webinars, and a toolkit to design a program that works best for a company or organization. Sample policies, telework agreements, and memos to management, as well as surveys and checklists are some of the resources available on the website. Georgia Commute Options also sponsors a yearly Telework Week to train both workers and managers on successful telework arrangements.

Biking to work also is supported and promoted by Georgia Commute Options. The program offers on its website links to information regarding trails and other bicycle facilities, bike safety classes and advocacy, and a smart phone application developed by Georgia Tech that records bicycle travel data. Also, there are links to bicycle maps issued by the Atlanta Regional Commission and to GDOT standards, planning and guidance for bike and pedestrian facilities. Annually, the program sponsors a bike challenge, according to Peevy, which includes a series of outreach events.

Additionally, the Georgia Commute Options website provides links and information regarding nearly 20 transit systems both within the metropolitan Atlanta region and in other parts of the state. For example, the recent initiation of streetcar service in downtown Atlanta provides a new transit option that interconnects with the heavy rail system operated by MARTA, to fill in gaps in the public transportation system. The streetcar, a joint operation headed by the city of Atlanta, currently covers 2.7 miles with plans for future expansion throughout the downtown central business district.

Implementation

Georgia Commute Options uses the power of technology to educate commuters, consolidate resources, and disseminate information, mostly through the program website. GDOT used a consultant to develop and provide ongoing operation of the website, according to Peevy. “However, Georgia DOT owns the website,” Peevy said.

Using resources from a previous website created by GDOT, the consultants made some enhancements and relaunched it as GaCommuteOptions.com. “Over the past year, improvements have been made to streamline the website to make it easier for users to find information, request materials, and sign up for Georgia Commute Options programs,” Peevy said.

In addition, to the website, the program holds a variety of events across the 20-county Atlanta area each month to educate commuters about the program.

Incentive Program

A key piece to attracting new participants is the incentive program for clean commuters which is funded with CMAQ funds, these incentives include:

  • $3 a day, up to $100, for commuters to try out a clean commute option and log their trips on the program website;
  • a $25 prize from a monthly drawing of the commuters who log clean trips on the website;
  • $40-$60 monthly gas cards for carpools, depending on ridership; and
  • a $50 vanpool ride referral, for vanpoolers who refer a new vanpool rider and the new rider completes three consecutive months in a vanpool.

The incentives have been successful so far at reducing single-occupancy vehicle travel. Citing studies conducted by the Center for Transportation and the Environment on behalf of GDOT, Peevy said that with the $3-a-day program, 85 percent of the participants have continued with their clean commuting choices for as much as 24 months after completing the program.

Furthermore, the Georgia Commute Honors are held annually to recognize employer partners, property managers and individual commuters for their outstanding efforts, according to Peevy. “Publicly recognizing the employers that go the extra mile to make clean commute programs available to their employees goes a long way toward making those partners feel valued by the program, and thereby makes them more likely to continue their efforts,” Peevy said. The honorees are all participants in CMAQ-funded programs, Peevy said, and the ceremony is covered by a combination of CMAQ and state funds.

Lessons Learned

Georgia Commute Options is essentially attempting to change human behavior, and “it takes a while to do that,” Peevy said. He said the program tries to “focus on the long-term change.”

Also, since Georgia Commute Options is a completely voluntary program, “gas prices play a major role in participation numbers,” Peevy said. When gas is inexpensive and plentiful, participation in the program goes down, Peevy said.

Additionally, Atlanta has a federally-designated “smog season” that runs from April 1 to October 31. That is the busiest time for transportation demand management programs, and the best time for Georgia Commute Options to roll out new incentives and programs, Peevy said.

In 2015, for instance, the program offered the “Commute Pursuit,” a challenge to find better commute options. The challenge, which ran until July 31, included cash incentives to find a carpool, answering daily trivia questions about commuting, and posting pictures of clean commuting to social media. The promotion spurred an increase in participation. More than 500 people registered with Georgia Commute Options during the promotional period, with 101 of these commuters entering the $3 a day programs.

In regard to the incentive programs, a consultant handles the day-to-day operations. “Each month, the contractor runs reports to determine which commuters are eligible to win prizes then sends the prize recipients an e-mail with instructions to redeem their reward,” Peevy said. The prizes can be in the form of Visa reward cards, or in some cases a retail purchase reward, according to Peevy.

Peevy said the Georgia Commute Options program could easily be modified for use in other states, noting that there are a few states that have already done this exact thing.

“I would also recommend to anyone starting a new program from the ground up to keep their initial goals realistic and understand these programs can take time to get up and running,” he added.

For more information, see the Georgia Commute Options website or contact Phil Peevy, Georgia Department of Transportation at ppeevy@dot.ga.gov.

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Energy/Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Recent Developments: Report Highlights Energy Needs of Changing Transportation Sector

The Department of Energy has issued a report concerning the changing transportation sector and its impact on energy consumption. The report focuses on the rise of the shared economy, increased urbanization, and pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and how these trends affect the need for energy-efficient, low carbon technologies for transportation. The report discusses incremental policy change, the prevalence of personal vehicle ownership and shared mobility vehicles in the future. The report also discusses the adoption of zero-emission vehicles; an increase in urban sprawl; increase in higher-occupancy vehicle trips; and a predominance of low-occupancy ridership. For more information, link to the report. (2-24-17)

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Recent Developments: EPA Releases Draft of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a draft of its annual inventory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and sinks, which provides information by source, economic sector, and type of greenhouse gas. The report, which covers the period from 1990 to 2015, provides a comprehensive accounting of total greenhouse gas emissions for all man-made sources in the U.S. It is submitted to the United Nations in accordance with the Framework Convention on Climate Change. For more information, link to the draft report. (2-14-17)

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Recent Developments: Study Evaluates Role of Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure to Grow Plug-In Market

A study on availability of public charging infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles, including a forward-looking case study in Massachusetts, has been conducted by the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The study includes a literature review on PEV infrastructure, a case study focused on supporting 300,000 PEVs by 2025 in Massachusetts, and a discussion of a potential methodology for estimating economic impacts of PEV infrastructure growth. For more information, link to the study. (2-9-17)

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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: FHWA Issues Report on National Alternative Fuel Corridors

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a report on the first round of designations for national alternative fuels corridors. The report, National Electric Vehicle Charging and Hydrogen, Propane, and Natural Gas Fueling Corridors, provides maps and narrative descriptions of the corridors—both “signage ready” and “signage pending” designations—for electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and vehicles that run on compressed natural gas, liquid natural gas, or propane. The report also describes the agency's goals for the corridors looking toward 2020, envisioning an alternative fueling network having the same consistency and convenience, reliability and performance, and coordination between the public and private sectors as the current system based on gasoline and diesel. For more information, link to the report. (1-13-17)

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Recent Developments: Paper Estimates Cost for U.S. to Transition to Electric Vehicles by 2035

The UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies has published a paper estimating the cost for the United States to transition to electric drive vehicles by 2035. The paper finds that the new capital investments in chargers and refueling station infrastructure could total $300-$600 billion. The paper finds that these investments and subsidies will be a relatively small share of the total projected U.S. consumer spending on new vehicles and fuels and could be paid for with fees on new vehicle sales and a small increase in fuel taxes. For more information, link to the paper. (12-28-16)

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Recent Developments: DOE Awards $18 Million for Propane, Plug-In Electric Vehicles

The Department of Energy has announced awards of $18 million for projects aimed to accelerate the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles and other alternative fuels. Projects include the development of plug-in hybrid work trucks, plug-in electric school buses, and a propane direct injection engine and emission control system that will be demonstrated on a delivery vehicle. Projects also include the development of electric highway corridors along Interstates 15, 70, 80, and 84 in Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming, and multi-fuel stations (including electric, compressed natural gas, biofuel, and propane stations) along I-94 in Michigan. For more information, link to the DOE announcement. (12-21-2016)

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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: TRB Releases Transportation Energy Data Book: Edition 35

The Transportation Research Board has released the Transportation Energy Data Book: Edition 35, which is a statistical compendium focused on information that characterizes transportation activity and factors that influence transportation energy use. The data book focuses on various aspects of the transportation industry, including petroleum, energy, various vehicle types including alternative fuel vehicles, nonhighway modes, greenhouse gas emissions and criteria pollutant emissions. For more information, link to the data book. (11/16/16)

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Recent Developments: Energy Department Awards $32 Million For Connected, Automated Vehicle Efficiency

The Department of Energy, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), has announced $32 million in funding for 10 projects as part of the Next-Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Autonomous On-Road Vehicles (NEXTCAR) Program. The program enables technologies that use connectivity and automation to co-optimize vehicle dynamic controls and powertrain operation to reduce energy consumption of the vehicle. The selected projects build upon connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technologies to enhance vehicle safety, add driving convenience and ultimately reduce vehicle energy use. Projects were selected from states such as California, Indiana, and Michigan to develop mobile cloud computing centers, test vehicle-powertrain eco-operation system for natural-gas-fueled plug-in hybrid electric buses and improve various other aspects of CAV technologies. For more information, link to the press release. (11-2-16)

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Recent Developments: Federal Guidance Released on Electric Vehicle Charging Stations for Federal Workers

The Office of Federal Sustainability has released guidance on the installation, operation and maintenance of plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) charging stations for privately owned PEVs in parking areas used by federal employees and authorized users. The document, Guidance for Federal Agency Implementation of Workplace Charging Pursuant to the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act: Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment, also provides an approach for a uniform fee for the use of existing and new alternating current Level 1 charging receptacles. For more information, link to the guidance. (10-19-16)

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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: California - Caltrans Works to Advance 'Smart Mobility' Approach

Since 2010, the California Department of Transportation has been working to implement a new vision for integrating transportation and land use decisions that promises to combine a range of familiar solutions taking hold across the nation: smart growth, livability, context sensitive design, transit-oriented development, complete streets, and sustainability.

Caltrans’ “Smart Mobility 2010” framework was developed to ensure that the state’s transportation investments achieve balanced outcomes for mobility, environmental protection, social equity, and economic growth – all backed by specific performance measures.

Caltrans describes the concept as follows: “Smart Mobility moves people and freight while enhancing California’s economic, environmental, and human resources by emphasizing: convenient and safe multi-modal travel, speed suitability, accessibility, management of the circulation network, and efficient use of land.”

Developed using a smart growth program grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, the framework establishes six Smart Mobility principles to be applied based on specified place-types, each with its own set of performance measures.

The six principles are:

  • location efficiency,
  • reliable mobility,
  • health and safety,
  • environmental stewardship,
  • social equity, and
  • robust economy.

Under the Smart Mobility approach, transportation planning and design would be conducted based on seven newly established place-types: urban centers, close-in compact communities, compact communities, suburban areas, rural and agricultural lands, protected lands, and special use areas.

For each place type, performance measures would be targeted to align with the principles. Types of performance measures include the following:

  • support for sustainable growth;
  • transit mode share;
  • accessibility and connectivity;
  • multi-modal travel mobility, reliability, service quality, safety;
  • design and speed suitability;
  • pedestrian and bicycle mode share;
  • climate and energy conservation;
  • emissions reduction;
  • equitable distribution of impacts;
  • equitable distribution of access and mobility;
  • congestion effects on productivity;
  • efficient use of system resources;
  • network performance optimization; and
  • return on investment.
Increasing pedestrian mode share in San Francisco. Photo: Caltrans

Interregional Blueprint Process

The plan also calls for a “transformed state transportation planning process” developed through a multimodal “Interregional Blueprint” process, incorporating transportation and land use planning efforts underway by regional and metropolitan planning organizations in the state.

California is subject to some of the nation’s most ambitious environmental and sustainability goals, including the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), under which the state must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

In addition, Senate Bill 375, enacted in 2008, requires regional targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles. SB 375 – which has been touted as a possible national model for transportation planning – establishes a process and incentives for the creation of integrated regional land use, housing and transportation plans called “sustainable communities strategies.” Building on these regional efforts, SB 391 passed in October of 2009, requires that the California Transportation Plan prepared by Caltrans identify the statewide multimodal transportation system that will achieve the state’s climate change goals.

The California Interregional Blueprint, a statewide land use-transportation plan will integrate the state’s various modal plans and incorporate individual blueprints developed by regions across the state. Caltrans currently administers the California Regional Blueprint Planning Program for regional transportation planning agencies to conduct comprehensive scenario planning, bringing together a range of stakeholders to develop preferred long-range growth scenarios.

The Interregional Blueprint will incorporate the Smart Mobility principles and improve modeling and data gathering, serving as the foundation for the next update of the California Transportation Plan. The Interregional Blueprint planning process is underway.

Next Steps

A number of short-term actions will be undertaken between 2012 and 2014 to develop and test approaches to implement the Smart Mobility principles and performance measures. These include applying the framework in separate planning efforts in the northern and southern portions of the state. The agency plans to document these efforts and develop a “how-to” guide for implementation.

The vision for using the framework is described by Caltrans as follows:

  • find your place type;
  • forecast transportation needs;
  • apply Smart Mobility principles;
  • assess Smart Mobility Performance;
  • prioritize transportation investments;
  • achieve Smart Mobility.

Additional Efforts

Other efforts include a Caltrans-funded study, Improved Data and Tools for Integrated Land Use-Transportation Planning in California, which was completed in October 2012. Over a three-year period, the project team collected and analyzed data on land use-travel relationships at more than 200,000 locations in most of California. The project provided a final report as well as analytical tools for use in “sketch”-planning tools, which local and regional agencies use to assist in developing scenarios, and travel demand forecasting models, which are commonly used to analyze resulting scenarios. These products will be helpful to regional agencies in their Blueprint and sustainable community strategies and regional transportation planning, and to local governments for their planning efforts. Another significant Caltrans effort has been implementation of its complete streets directive.

Caltrans also has completed a survey, “Smart Mobility: A Survey of Current Practice and Related Research,” that looks at federal, state and regional activities to assess the current state of the practice of sustainability-oriented planning and performance measurement

For additional information on the framework, link to the Smart Mobility page on the Caltrans website or contact Chris Ratekin, senior transportation planner with Caltrans, at Chris_Ratekin@dot.ca.gov. Information on the planning process may be accessed at in the interregional blueprint web page.

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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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Case Studies: Vermont - Vermont’s Solar Power Plan Aims to Help Meet Renewable Energy Goals

The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) expects to use an increasing number of properties and rights-of-way for the installation of solar power projects that could help the agency meet its renewable energy goals, reduce emissions and save money, joining seven other state departments of transportation in developing such facilities.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation Solar Plan was issued in December 2016 to help with the complex decision making involved in siting and operating solar projects.

The plan defines for the agency the costs, benefits and processes of solar photovoltaic (PV) installation in the state, with the goal of understanding and navigating toward successful solar developments. The plan is required by state law, but just as importantly it serves to communicate the agency’s goals to the public, said Gina Campoli, a retired VTrans project manager who oversaw the plan development.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation is installing solar projects to offset energy use at its properties statewide, such as this solar array at the Rutland Airport. Photo: VTrans

“The former [state transportation] secretary felt it was very important for the public to understand the various processes that we were using to develop projects, [including] why we were developing projects, why on Earth the Agency of Transportation was getting into the solar business, what were the processes we were going to use when we planned projects, just like we would for a transportation project,” Campoli said.

Vermont joins a growing number of state DOTs, including Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio and Oregon, that are beginning to use transportation properties for siting renewable energy facilities, according to the plan. Vermont used Oregon DOT’s solar plan as a reference for their own, even commissioning the same consulting firm to prepare the plan, Campoli said. (See related case studies for Massachusetts and Oregon.)

Solar PV at VTrans

There has never been a better time for VTrans to install solar generation, according to the plan. It describes several factors driving the momentum for solar PV at VTrans. These include:

  • Saving on energy costs. Systems that VTrans has already installed in Rutland and at various maintenance garages statewide are providing significant cost savings for electricity, with the project at the Rutland State Airport expected to save the agency $400,000 over 30 years.
  • Installation costs are going down each year. Using VTrans staff for construction saves even more on up-front costs, a strategy the plan recommends for smaller projects.
  • Aligning with state policies to consume cleaner energy, mitigate climate impacts, and build resilience. In the event of an emergency loss of power, PV systems can provide continuous power to VTrans or to feed power back to the grid, creating greater resilience.

Also, the Vermont state Comprehensive Energy Plan sets an ambitious goal of having 90 percent of the state’s energy needs—both state government operations and the private sector—met by renewable sources by 2050, Campoli said. For VTrans, that means power for street lights, traffic signals, all of the equipment in the maintenance garages, computers and office lights. “There is a ton of power we consume,” Campoli said.

The state energy planning requirement has allowed VTrans to document and better understand its energy footprint, Campoli said. Knowing the amount of energy use “justifies the investment in solar,” she said.

“There is enough sun in Vermont,” Campoli said.

How to Implement

The plan discusses how VTrans—or any other state DOT—would pursue development of more solar PV projects, steps that include assembling a project team, evaluating potential project sites, evaluating financial arrangements and ownership models, performing due diligence, and final implementation.

At VTrans, a team has already screened candidate sites at VTrans-owned properties and highway rights-of-way sites. Using tools such as VTrans’ geographic information system, the mapping office found that 124 out of 375 sites demonstrated potential for solar PV. Further screening has narrowed the list to 24 sites.

After sites are identified, VTrans must conduct analysis to determine whether the site merits continued development. Such analysis includes a study of the requirements for utility interconnection, environmental impact analysis at the state and, if necessary, federal level, and engagement with stakeholders and the public.

As a public agency, VTrans would need to investigate possible public-private partnerships including a power purchase agreement—where the agency agrees to buy electricity from the project developer—and a site license or lease agreement that grants a third party the right to install the system. Also, VTrans would need a net metering agreement with the local utility to allow the agency to receive credit for its power production, something VTrans is already doing with the solar arrays installed at maintenance garages, Campoli said.

Key Considerations

VTrans will need to make some organizational adjustments to continue to pursue solar projects. The plan recommends having a dedicated PV projects manager and the necessary support from agency leadership.

Additionally, VTrans must consider the markets for renewable energy, federal and state financial incentives, and regulations and policies with regard to renewables, including Vermont’s own renewable energy standard.

If using federal-aid rights-of-way, state DOTs must comply with all federal requirements including ensuring that vehicle safety and the transportation purpose are not compromised, and performing environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act. Campoli noted that placing solar facilities within federal right-of-way increases the complexity of the project, and therefore nearly all of the projects VTrans has installed so far have been on state land. The 24 sites that VTrans has identified as having a high potential for solar PV are mostly either VTrans maintenance garages or regional airports.

According to the plan, if the project is for a public utility, siting and permitting can be managed in accordance with state's approved utility accommodation policy (UAP) without further FHWA approval. Facility types not currently in the UAP must be referred to the FHWA division office, and projects that are strictly for private use are subject to federal right-of-way use agreement regulations.

Lessons Learned

The VTrans renewables plan is part of a state planning effort that is an interagency collaboration including the Department of Buildings and General Services and the Department of Public Service, the state’s utility regulator, Campoli said. “We’ve broken down silos on this issue,” she said.

Also, the projects that are operational are already paying dividends. “The Rutland Airport is producing way beyond our wildest expectations,” Campoli said, noting that production can exceed what is promised by PV panel manufacturers.

Additionally, more land with solar panels equals more solar power generation. However, it is important to site the solar panels in locations that consider future transportation needs, Campoli said, by making sure that the panels are not where a future storage area or parking lot will need to go. Meeting the agency’s goals for renewables will require VTrans to find additional sites, such as interchanges or cloverleaves, former quarry or gravel sites, brownfield sites, inactive or abandoned weigh stations, and park and ride areas, the plan said.

Next Steps

VTrans has set a renewable electricity goal for the agency of 25 percent. To meet that target, an additional 610 kW of capacity—that generates 715,000 kWh—is needed. This capacity is equivalent to an additional seven projects like the system installed in 2016 at Fair Haven Welcome Center or 36 additional 15 kW garage projects.

For these larger PV facilities, such as the 75 kW Fair Haven project within the federal right-of-way, the agency will need to establish partnerships. VTrans also should continue to coordinate with stakeholders such as the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation and the various regional planning commissions to determine if VTrans sites could meet mutually beneficial goals, the plan said.

For more information, link to the Vermont Agency of Transportation Solar Plan or contact Daniel Dutcher, Vermont Agency of Transportation Senior Environmental Policy Analyst at Daniel.Dutcher@vermont.gov.

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Infrastructure Resilience

Recent Developments: TCRP Report Reviews Practices for Extreme Weather at Bus Stops

The Transit Cooperative Research Program has released a report concerning best practices for transit stops susceptible to extreme weather. The report, a review of 32 transit systems, finds that clearing snow and ice at bus stops is the most common problem, and that there is often a disconnect over who is responsible for clearing bus stops. The report also finds that temperatures are getting higher and hot weather is lasting longer, creating safety hazards. The report specifies that most agencies have an extreme weather plan and that public announcements are effective for communicating bus stop conditions. The report also suggests there is no definitive response but that agencies realize that adapting to extreme weather is necessary to protect their infrastructure and customers. For more information, link to the report. (5-29-17)

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Recent Developments: Materials Posted from AASHTO Resilient and Sustainable Transportation Systems Committee Meeting

Materials from the May 24 meeting of AASHTO's Resilient and Sustainable Transportation Systems (RSTS) steering committee have been posted on the RSTS page of the Center for Environmental Excellence website. RSTS is designed to help state DOTs understand the potential effects of climate change and the range of strategies and options for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Under AASHTO's new committee structure, RSTS will be combined with AASHTO's Special Committee on Transportation Security and Emergency Management (SCOTSEM) to form the new Committee on Transportation Systems Security and Resilience.

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Recent Developments: Best Practices for Variable Speed Limit Signs Described in FHWA Report

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a report describing the state-of-the-practice on variable speed limit (VSL) signs. The report describes how VSL systems have been successfully implemented in the U.S. for congestion-based active traffic management, work zones, and weather. It also includes lessons learned and best practices from the perspectives of planning and policy; design, deployment and standards; operations and maintenance; and outcomes. According to the report, VSL infrastructure requirements include changeable speed limit signs, weather/environmental sensors, traffic speed/volume sensors, and communications equipment. For more information, link to the report. (5-25-17)

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Recent Developments: Report Details Minnesota Climate Adaptation Efforts

Climate resiliency efforts in Minnesota are highlighted in a new report issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The 2017 Interagency Climate Adaptation Team (ICAT) Report serves to update the 2013 release and represents efforts among state agencies to address climate change issues. An overview is provided of the state’s changing climate conditions including substantial warming and increased precipitation throughout the year along with projected climate impacts such as continued loss of cold weather. The report also highlights extreme weather, pest and disease management and energy emergency planning implemented by state agencies. ICAT recommends that the state prepare for extreme precipitation, focus on impacts in cities and towns and strengthen the climate information infrastructure. For more information, link to the report. (May 2017)

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Recent Developments: Clarification on Climate Impacts in NEPA Reviews Issued by FHWA

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a memo to explain the withdrawal by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) of guidance on how federal agencies should address climate change in National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews. Due to the withdrawal, the guidance no longer applies to environmental assessments or environmental impact statements conducted by the FHWA. More information on FHWA policy regarding environmental reviews will be issued as it becomes available. Under the guidance, the CEQ advised agencies to quantify direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions and to consider alternatives to make communities more resilient. For more information, link to the announcement. (5-19-17)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Seeks Projects on Integrating Extreme Weather, Asset Management

The Federal Highway Administration is soliciting applications from state DOTs for developing case studies on integrating extreme weather and climate risk into asset managementpractices. The pilots also would develop a whole life cost management plan for at-risk assets. The agency expects to select and provide partial funding for 4 to 6 pilots. The program is aimed at states that have at least begun to consider risks from extreme weather events and climate change. Webinars to describe the pilot program will be held on May 15 and May 22. For more information, including webinar registration, link to the call for pilots. (5-11-17)

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Recent Developments: Report Describes Ability for Urban Climate Resiliency

A framework for urban climate preparedness is addressed in a new report issued by Georgetown Climate Center. The report includes data from interviews; a review of city adaptation plans; feedback from city practitioners and researchers; and a literature review to help cities prosper in the face of climate disruptions. Seven capacities for adaption are highlighted that include scientific foundation, technical design, financial resources and intergovernmental alignment. The report examines the first wave of city adaptation, the emerging infrastructure of information for urban resiliency and the role that philanthropic investment plays in infrastructure development. The report also highlights the importance of voluntary action, the sending of market and price signals and mandating behaviors in city plans. The report indicates that the number of cities with sophisticated plans is still low and few cities have moved from adaption planning to implementation. For more information, link to the report. (March 2017)

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Recent Developments: Vulnerability Assessment of Greater Rochester Region Issued

A final report on the assessment concerning vulnerabilities of regional transportation infrastructure to natural and human-caused hazards within the Greater Rochester region in New York has been released by the Federal Highway Administration. The project was conducted by the Genesee Transportation Council (GTC), the region’s metropolitan planning organization, in accordance with the FHWA’s Climate Change and Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Framework. The report describes GTC’s efforts to analyze the vulnerabilities of regional transportation assets. The assessment involved the development of hazard profiles to understand various hazards, see where the hazard is known to occur and provide hazard mitigation strategies. For more information, link to the assessment. (5-1-17)

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Recent Developments: Case Study Describes Weather Resiliency Efforts in Louisiana

Resiliency efforts made by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD) during extreme rainfall events in 2016 are addressed in a new case study issued by the Federal Highway Administration. LADOTD received $2 million under FHWA’s Emergency Relief (ER) Program to repair bridges, roadway pipes and damaged slopes along roadways in a manner that prevents damage from future weather events. FHWA encourages agencies to improve resiliency during routine rehabilitation cycles. The case study addresses repairs made to a metal culvert pipe under Highway 437, which provided a longer design life and resulted in improved performance during flooding. The case study also highlights the installation of sheet pile walls at Highway 77 to protect the road during storms. For more information, link to the case study. (4-25-17)

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Recent Developments: Oregon DOT Report Describes Climate Resiliency Efforts in Tillamook County

Efforts to build climate resilience in Tillamook County, Ore., are addressed in a report by the Oregon Department of Transportation. The report focuses on the county’s ability to adapt to flooding on major highways and local roads, landslides and sinkholes that occurred in 2015, and adapting to new climate conditions. The report highlights the importance of communication, building community capacity, and maintaining infrastructure for successful storm response. It also highlights the importance of supporting staff members during long hours to effectively manage weather disasters. The report indicates that agencies and communities struggled to manage events when emergency protocols weren’t clear. For more information, link to the report. (4-13-17)

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Recent Developments: UTC Newsletter Describes Role of Rail Transit in Evacuations

The role that rail transit plays in moving large numbers of people to safety during extreme weather events is the focus of the University Transportation Centers Program monthly UTC Spotlight newsletter. The issue focuses on whether access to evacuation centers differs for various population sectors in New York City. The study, conducted by New York University’s Wagner School, indicates that distance to evacuation centers is widely related to the built environment. The study also suggests that groups with high percentages of African Americans tend to be further from evacuation centers while the opposite was observed for Hispanic populations. The study provides the basis to develop a transit evacuation vulnerability index. For more information, link to the newsletter. (4-7-17)

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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: Report Highlights Regional Climate Change Collaboratives

The Georgetown Climate Center has released a report on climate change resilience within local governments. The report focuses on the creation of regional climate collaboratives to make recommendations about how local decision makers can increase resilience through planning, policy, and investment powers. The report highlights case studies from collaboratives in King County, Wash.; Los Angeles; counties around the Sacramento metropolitan area; San Diego; the Sierra Nevada-Southern Cascade region in California; and Southeast Florida. The report addresses the formation and early stages of a collaborative, key roles played, organizational structure, and benefits of the collaborative model for generating and sustaining climate action. For more information, link to the report. (1-19-17)

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Recent Developments: Report Highlights Atlanta Regional Commission Climate Peer Exchange

The Federal Highway Administration has released a report concerning the climate resilience peer exchange held by the FHWA and the Atlanta Regional Commission. The exchange brought together stakeholders to discuss adaptation options, risk assessment and project prioritization for climate resilience. The report highlights presentations on climate change impacts in the Atlanta region and how it effects human health. The report also provides peer presentations that highlight extreme weather adaptation to planning and sustainability in the North Central Texas region and surface transportation resilience planning in Florida. Several resources were suggested to meet resilience requirements under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, such as performance measures to consider climate change in project prioritization process, a menu of adaptation and resiliency strategies and assistance in conducting a cost-benefit analysis. For more information, link to the report. (1-24-17)

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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: 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: National Park Service Releases Coastal Adaptation Strategies Handbook

The National Park Service has released the Coastal Adaptation Strategies Handbook for 2016. The handbook provides guidance for NPS managers, partners and other practitioners in exploring and implementing climate change adaptation strategies in estuarine and coastal areas. The handbook addresses policy, planning, natural resources, cultural resources, facility management, communication and education, the costs and impacts of protecting infrastructure, and lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy. For more information, link to the handbook. (10-31-16)

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Recent Developments: White House Highlights Opportunities for Climate Resiliency

The U.S. Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience has issued a report on opportunities to increase the nation’s resilience to climate change. The report helps federal agencies support science and research on climate change impacts; ensure that federal operations and facilities are resilient to climate change; protect critical infrastructure and other public goods; and facilitate community-based resilience efforts. The report includes 17 opportunities in three themes, providing examples of each. The report was released in conjunction with the Resilience Dialogues tool that helps stakeholders collaborate on climate challenges. For more information, link to the report fact sheet. (10-31-16)

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Recent Developments: Study Focuses on Transit Agency Experience with Extreme Weather

A study on U.S. public transit agency experience in responding to extreme weather events has been conducted by the University of Florida, Center for Urban Transportation Research, The report includes findings from a June 2016 survey of data from 352 transit professionals in 197 transit agencies. The responses address recent experiences; perception of weather and climatic risks; assessment of organizational priority, capacity and challenges of managing extreme weather; and organizational responses and adaptation measures. The study found that extreme snow storms have caused the most severe impacts while flooding has the second greatest impact on transit agencies. The most common consequence was a significant delays in transit service, followed by temporary shutdowns and damage to vehicles or equipment. More than half of the respondents indicated that their agencies had used re-routing or partial closures of some routes due to extreme weather. For more information, link to the report. (10-15-16)

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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: ASLA Issues Guide for Resilient Landscape Planning

The American Society of Landscape Architects has released a guide to resilient design to help communities protect themselves from natural disasters. Resilient landscape planning retrofits communities to recover quickly from extreme events and allows them to work with nature and instead of against it. The guide includes numerous case studies demonstrating solutions for biodiversity loss, drought, extreme heat, fire, flooding and landslides. The guide facilitates the use of adaptive techniques to provide communities with a cost-effective means to maintain vital functions in the face of rising sea levels and rising global temperatures. For more information, link to the guide. (9-20-16)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Case Study Highlights NEPA Climate Change Analysis in Florida

The Federal Highway Administration has released a case study regarding the inclusion of climate change considerations in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process for the Florida Department of Transportation’s First Coast Expressway Project. The case study discusses how FDOT evaluated the project, which includes a new bridge, for climate change impacts related to sea level rise and storm surges. FDOT and the FHWA combined historical sea level data with projected global sea level rise projections, global hurricane projections, and localized storm surge modeling to assess whether each proposed alternative could be affected by future coastal flooding. For more information, link to the case study. (9-30-16)

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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 Studies Highlight NEPA Climate Change Analysis in Two States

The Federal Highway Administration has released two case studies regarding the inclusion of climate change considerations in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process. The Massachusetts case study examined how MassDOT evaluated climate change considerations for the South Cost Rail Project, intended to restore commuter rail service between Boston the Massachusetts South Coast. The environmental impact statement included climate analysis for sea level rise impacts on track, stations and layover facilities, as well as cumulative impact analysis of climate on salt marshes, fisheries and vernal pools. The New York case study examined the NEPA analysis for the reconstructed Tappan Zee Bridge. The study gives an overview of how NYSDOT evaluated the projected sea level rise and its conclusions that the new bridge is not vulnerable to current or future flooding. For more information, link to the case studies for Massachusetts and New York. (9-27-16)

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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: Minnesota - MnDOT Strengthens Climate Resilience Using FHWA Vulnerability Assessment Framework

Transportation officials in Minnesota will be better able to assess vulnerability of transportation assets to flooding and select appropriate adaptation options for damaged and at-risk infrastructure following a pilot study conducted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. “The potential for more frequent extreme precipitation is a major risk facing our state’s aging transportation system,” said Philip Schaffner, Director of Minnesota DOT’s (MnDOT) Flash Flood Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment Pilot Project.

The project is one of 19 Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)-funded climate vulnerability pilot studies that were carried out between 2013 and 2015. Each of the studies drew from guidance contained in FHWA's Climate Change and Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Framework (FHWA Framework).

Minnesota DOT's climate vulnerability assessment is helping the agency address threats such as this flooded culvert in District 6. Photo: Minnesota DOT

The timing for the project could not have been better, Schaffner said.

In 2012, he explained, MnDOT had just identified climate-related flooding as a major risk to the system in the state transportation plan when Duluth experienced the worst flooding it had seen in centuries. It resulted in more than $100 million in damage to roads and other infrastructure. Other parts of the state also had recently experienced significant flooding. The state’s transportation system assets had not been originally designed to handle such extremely high levels of precipitation.

As it happened, Schaffner continued, at that same point in time, FHWA issued its second-round call for proposals to carry out pilot projects examining the effects of climate hazards on transportation systems. Unlike the broader first round of 2010-2011 pilots that primarily involved coastal locations, projects located inland were especially welcome.

MnDOT’s study had four goals:

  • Better understand the vulnerability of the state’s trunk highway system to flash flooding;
  • Increase system resiliency by developing a methodology to identify cost-effective design solutions;
  • Support the agency’s asset management planning work; and
  • Provide feedback on the FHWA Framework.

One of the first steps taken was to create two technical committees to support the core project team. The first was composed of hydrologists, hydraulic engineers and planners. The other was staffed with climatologists and other state agencies that helped the core team understand and appropriately use climate model outputs. Much of the funding went to hire an external expert who worked closely with the in-house team.

Overall Vulnerability Assessment

For Phase 1 of the study, the team carried out a system-wide flash flood vulnerability assessment of the truck highway system in two of its eight districts: District 1 in the northeastern part of the state, and District 6 in the southeastern part of the state. Both districts had experienced high levels of flooding in recent years.

The assessment focused on the vulnerability of four types of assets: bridges, large culverts, pipes, and roads parallel to streams. A total of 1,819 assets were given vulnerability scores. Dozens of metrics were developed to quantify each asset’s vulnerability. Assessment scoring was based on the FHWA Framework’s definition of vulnerability, which includes three elements: exposure to a climate stressor; sensitivity to climate stressors; and to what extent the transportation system as a whole can adapt if a particular asset is taken out of service. Findings provided a detailed snapshot of the two Districts’ assets’ vulnerability.

Assessment of Individual Assets’ Adaptation Options

For Phase 2 of the study, one high-risk culvert in each district was selected to examine in more detail in order to identify robust, cost-effective adaptation measures.

In District 1, the culvert was located along a stretch of the highway system that borders Lake Superior and already was on a list of assets to be improved. In District 6, the culvert lay beneath a road over a creek in a small town, and no improvements had been scheduled. The study teams examined vulnerability for both culverts under low, medium, and high climate change scenarios.

Adaptation options differed somewhat for each culvert. They included actions such as increasing the size of the culvert, replacing the culvert with a simple span bridge to improve fish passage, and enhancing the floodplain upstream of the culvert.

Next, a cost-effectiveness analysis for each option was carried out. The analysis considered both direct costs to MnDOT as well as social costs such as travel time costs to motorists taking detours. For one of the culverts, a clear adaptation choice emerged -- add cells to the existing culvert design. For the other culvert, the conclusion was more nuanced, depending upon whether or not the analysis included social costs.

Uniqueness, Challenges, Advice

One of the unique features of their pilot project, Schaffner said, is their use of proxy variables. For example, the team used an estimate of the percentage of the drainage area that was forested as a proxy for potential woody debris that could clog a pipe, culvert or bridge opening in the event of a flood.

As is the case for any pilot project, he said, there were challenges along the way. For instance, it was difficult to compile consistent and accurate data for more than 1,800 assets. And upon reflection, there were several factors that would receive greater attention and refinement should MnDOT decide to carry out a new group of assessments.

First, more time would be devoted to discussing how to most accurately weigh each variable. Second, adaptive capacity would be extended beyond traffic volume and detours, which were the primary considerations in the pilot study. In addition, the team would look to more advanced techniques of downscaling data from global climate models.

Schaffner said the FHWA Framework was valuable in providing a “high level” foundation for the project. However, although the team was able to turn to earlier projects for some guidance, it was left to them to develop a detailed methodology. In feedback to FHWA on its Framework, he and his team highlighted the need for greater detail and specificity in terms of metrics.

For other DOTs interested in carrying out a similar assessment, Schaffner advised that they start small geographically and to take their time to calibrate their vulnerability metrics. It also is important to involve your maintenance team and other regional staff, he said. So far as the ability to carry out the project without external consultancy/funding goes, it would depend upon the agency’s in-house skill level and access to data.

Findings from the study are being used to inform MnDOT’s long-range transportation planning and asset management efforts. At this point, though no decisions have been made, the agency is exploring carrying out similar assessments in several of its other districts as well as evaluating other types of vulnerabilities such as slope failure.

Schaffner’s view is that additional assessments likely could be done at much less cost given that the basic methodology already is in place.

”One of the important findings of our pilot project was that adaptation doesn’t always require large, complex projects. In fact, small changes over time can make a big difference in the resilience of the system,” he said.

For more information, contact Philip Schaffner, Policy Planning Director, Minnesota Department of Transportation at philip.schaffner@state.mn.us, or link to the MnDOT pilot project website.

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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: Report Urges Performance-based Geometric Design Process for Highways

A performance-based approach for highway geometric design is proposed in a report produced under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. The report, A Performance-Based Highway Geometric Design Process (NCHRP Report 839), includes a brief history of highway design in the U.S., including recent advances, and recommends that multimodal solutions be addressed in the geometric design process. The report includes principles for an effective highway design process, such as including quantitative measures of transportation performance in design solutions. It also provides potential approaches to updating the AASHTO geometric design guidance (the Green Book). For more information, link to the report. (4-14-17)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Webinar to Discuss Use of EJ, Context Sensitive Solutions to Enhance Livability

The use of context sensitive solutions (CSS) and environmental justice (EJ) to enhance livability will be addressed in an April 12 webinar sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration. The webinar will include discussion of strategies such as stakeholder engagement, identification of adverse impacts and implementation of CSS to improve livability in disadvantaged communities. The webinar also will include discussion of how CSS and EJ principles can be incorporated into the transportation decisionmaking process. For more information, link to the registration page. (3-27-17)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Develops Primer on Performance-Based Practical Design

A primer to assist state and local agencies with developing performance-based practical design (PBPD) programs is now available from the Federal Highway Administration. According to the guide, PBPD is the next step in the evolution of project development and design decision-making. The approach encompasses initiatives such as practical design, context sensitive solutions, and value engineering. It provides a renewed focus on project scoping to address purpose and need and reduce the cost of projects. The guide offers steps for starting a PBPD program, including learning, marketing, rollout and execution. It also provides lessons learned from existing programs and additional resources. For more information, link to the guide. (3-16-17)

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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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Recent Developments: FHWA Issues Primer for Performance-Based Practical Design, Complete Streets

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a report concerning the application of performance-based practical design (PBPD) with transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) for complete streets projects. PBPD comprises analysis tools for evaluating performance impacts and design decisions to successfully implement TSMO, which include multimodal and intermodal systems and services. The report includes case studies that address implementation of road diets in both low and moderately higher traffic volume areas. The case studies focus on the installation of bike lanes, congestion relief and the addition of green space to improve the livability of streets for residents. The report says that combining PBPD and TSMO strategies increases project efficiency by ruling out design options early on and successfully developing safety and mobility objectives. For more information, link to the report. (12-14-16)

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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: Colorado DOT - I-70 Mountain Corridor Project CSS Process

A collaborative process to ensure broad stakeholder involvement and consideration of environmental as well as community concerns has proven to be a key element in advancing a suite of multi-modal solutions for the Interstate 70 Mountain Corridor in Colorado.

On March 11, 2011, the Colorado Department of Transportation announced completion of the final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for a range of improvements to the 144-mile I-70 Corridor, a vital east-west interstate connection west of Denver and across the Rocky Mountains. This was the agency’s second attempt at a solution for the corridor, after a previous draft environmental document generated public opposition.

The PEIS is a Tier 1 NEPA document that looks at a variety of solutions for the corridor. The preferred alternative – which was developed through wide-ranging stakeholder collaboration – includes a menu of short-term and long-term multi-modal highway and transit solutions to improve transportation through the corridor, while incorporating numerous agreements for consideration of natural resources, wildlife habitat, historic resources, and community concerns.

The preferred alternative identified in the document includes three main elements: non-infrastructure components that can begin in advance of major improvements; an advanced guideway system (AGS) element that is dependent on further study and funding; and a range of highway improvements. The alternative is to be implemented in stages, ranging from a minimum program of local transportation improvements that can be addressed in the shorter term, to a maximum program of improvements – including potential for AGS – to meet projected capacity needs through 2050.

Stakeholder Collaboration

The preferred alternative is the product of years of collaboration among multiple stakeholders working alongside CDOT to identify transportation solutions to address growing congestion and projected future demand for travel along the corridor. It was developed by a group known as the “Collaborative Effort” – including representatives from local governments; highway users; and transit, environmental, business and recreation interests; as well as state and federal agencies.

Governor Signs the Collaborative Agreement

Colorado Governor Signs Collaborative Agreement. Photo: Colorado DOT

The Collaborative Effort team worked in conjunction with another group of stakeholders who were focused on incorporating CDOT’s commitment to context sensitive solutions as part of the corridor project. As part of that effort, CDOT worked in cooperation with seven counties; 27 towns; two National Forests; one ski corporation; six ski resorts; and thousands of residents, business owners, truckers, and commuters. The group developed a Context Sensitive Solutions Guidance that was used in developing the PEIS and will be followed for all future (Tier 2) projects in the corridor.

The CSS Guidance includes a commitment to form collaborative “Project Leadership Teams” on all corridor projects. For the Corridor PEIS, the Project Leadership Team formed task forces to address cultural resources issues, environmental issues, and community value issues. The task forces developed potential mitigation strategies for impacts to resources for incorporation into the PEIS.

Several memoranda of understanding and agreements were adopted outlining commitments, including:

  • A Landscape Level Inventory of Valued Ecosystem Components (ALIVE);
  • Stream and Wetland Ecological Enhancement Program (SWEEP); and
  • Section 106 Programmatic Agreement for consideration of historic resources.

Comprehensive CSS Guidance Website

The CSS Guidance for the corridor is housed on a comprehensive, interactive website. The site includes a context statement and core values developed by the CSS team, outlines the collaborative decision-making process to be used, and includes background information, maps, plans and legal commitments, as well as additional tools to implement CSS throughout the corridor.

The CSS Guidance also provides design guidelines, including overarching principles as well as more targeted engineering design criteria, areas of special attention, as well as aesthetic guidance to ensure a consistent vision for the corridor projects.

For more information on the CSS process for the corridor, link to the I-70 Mountain Corridor CSS website, and to the PEIS Appendix A, Context Sensitive Solutions. The entire PEIS – including technical reports and appendices – can be downloaded at http://www.coloradodot.info/projects/i-70mountaincorridor/final-peis/final-peis-file-download.html. For additional information on the project, contact CDOT’s I-70 Mountain Corridor Environmental Manager Wendy Wallach at wendy.wallach@dot.state.co.us.

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Case Studies: Florida DOT - Florida DOT Develops Traditional Neighborhood Development Handbook to Integrate Design Flexibility and Context Sensitivity

The Florida Department of Transportation has used the Traditional Neighborhood Development approach to help communities integrate land use and transportation to achieve increased livability when compared to Conventional Suburban Development, or “business as usual.”

For state DOTs, the challenge to transition from Conventional Suburban Development to Traditional Neighborhood Development often arises when the roadway standards engineers are required to meet for state roads do not provide the flexibility needed to design context sensitive solutions.

Traditional Neighborhood Development typically includes a range of housing types, a network of well-connected streets, public spaces, and a variety of amenities within easy reach of housing.

In 2001, recognizing the need for greater flexibility in design and engineering standards to pursue Traditional Neighborhood Development solutions for communities, Florida revised its “Manual of Uniform Minimum Standards for Design, Construction, and Maintenance for Streets and Highways” (last rev. 2013), commonly known as the “Florida Greenbook.”

The addition of Chapter 19, Traditional Neighborhood Development, in 2011 to the Florida Greenbook formalized the state’s endorsement of context sensitive approaches to transportation and land use as standard practice. Chapter 19 focuses on network functionality and design standards that support communities. To supplement Chapter 19 and describe the why and how of Traditional Neighborhood Development, Florida DOT published the “Traditional Neighborhood Development Handbook” (2011) providing best practices and facilitating proper design for communities.

Though Florida DOT maintains Chapter 19 and the Traditional Neighborhood Development Handbook, implementation is at the local level. The Florida Greenbook was produced through committees made up of local representatives (e.g., public works directors, consultants, and engineers) while the Traditional Neighborhood Development Handbook was developed over time by experts. The two documents work together to implement the approach.

Lessons Learned

FDOT officials have identified the following key lessons learned from their Traditional Neighborhood Development efforts:

  • Balance: It is not easy to balance building state DOT roadways with the needs of the places those roads runs through. Having an established program that supports Traditional Neighborhood Development allows state DOTs to build roads and provide transportation, while simultaneously supporting communities to survive and thrive along roadways.
  • Justification: Standards like Chapter 19 and guidance like the Traditional Neighborhood Development Handbook help provide justification and backup for decision-making, such as when an engineer or lawyer needs clear direction on what is supposed to be done and can be done in a given situation. It is important to have roadway standards that match Traditional Neighborhood Development for successful implementation.
  • Economic Development: Realizing the potential for streets as economic development. Traditional Neighborhood Development is how you build roads that make money for your community, not just roads that move money through your community.
  • Barriers: Without Chapter 19 or the Handbook, many attempts at Traditional Neighborhood Development were running afoul of existing standards. It can be onerous for an engineer to have to apply for design exceptions every step of the way. With Traditional Neighborhood Development in the Florida Greenbook, the pathway is smoother.
  • Context: Providing Chapter 19 and the Traditional Neighborhood Development Handbook is one way a state DOT can show it understands the issue of context and encourage communities to consider the issue of matching streets to land use to create complete streets.

There is a common belief that roadway engineering standards are entirely based on safety (e.g., “a 12-foot lane is safer than 10-foot lane”) and apply to all conditions, and that deviations are unsafe. As a result, the flexibility that Chapter 19 and the Traditional Neighborhood Development Handbook provides may be initially received with skepticism by engineers and other community stakeholders.

To help stakeholders learn about the benefits of this flexibility, DOTs and local communities benefit from continued dialogue and discussion to understand the advantages of Traditional Neighborhood Development and to gain support and buy-in at all levels. Working through the changes together with emergency response, public works, and other local government stakeholders builds trust. The collaboration informs state DOTs about where locals are coming from and demonstrates that the state DOT is looking out for their interests.

“The Traditional Neighborhood Development Chapter and Handbook let folks build safe, complete, walkable streets that are normally difficult to do under conventional standards,” said DeWayne Carver, Florida DOT’s Chapter 19 technical expert. “If you want to encourage and permit traditional neighborhood development (new or old), then you need thoroughfare standards to match. The TND standards can help us save the great urban places we have in our state by putting the right roadway design in the right place.”

Current Efforts and Next Steps

Like Florida, other state DOTs are also embracing Traditional Neighborhood Development. North Carolina DOT has TND Street Design Guidelines and Massachusetts DOT completely rewrote their guidance for their entire department and highlights Traditional Neighborhood Development case studies in an online toolbox. Others, like Mississippi DOT and Vermont DOT, are implementing complete streets policies and moving towards similar programs.

At Florida DOT, officials have met with internal and external partners to determine what needs to be done differently to implement a complete streets policy. This will likely include a change in state standards to more closely align with Chapter 19 and the Traditional Neighborhood Development Handbook for locations that can use the approach.

The Florida DOT recognizes that Chapter 19 and the Traditional Neighborhood Development documents will soon be ready for revisiting, especially once Florida state standards are updated with complete streets policy. Committees that include local representatives will again be involved early to discuss and implement any needed updates to the Handbook.

For more information on Florida DOT’s Chapter 19 and Traditional Neighborhood Development Handbook, contact DeWayne Carver, State Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator, Roadway Design Office/Florida DOT at dewayne.carver@dot.state.fl.us.

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Case Studies: Washington State DOT - WSDOT Looks to Practical Solutions for Flexible, Sustainable Projects

A new, more practical approach to transportation project design is helping the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) complete one of the largest capital improvement programs in its history.

“We are transforming our approach to focus on finding practical transportation solutions,” explained Nancy Boyd, WSDOT’s Director of Engineering Policy and Innovation. “Our goal is to fix more problems, system-wide. The approach is similar to FHWA’s Performance Based Practical Design (PBPD), but broader in scope, encompassing asset management and operations in addition to planning and design.”

Practical roundabout solution: Photo: WSDOT

Practical Solutions entails focusing first and foremost on the need for the project, rather than simply existing standards and how to meet them. Agency staff members are being empowered to think both pragmatically and creatively to come up with smart solutions using the growing body of data and technology tools available to them.

Boyd said the focus on PBPD, which her agency calls Practical Solutions, began in 2013 as part of a broader reform process instituted by the state’s transportation secretary.

For her agency, Practical Solutions is a two-part strategy that includes both least cost planning and practical design. The focus on project purpose and need is sustained throughout all phases of project development: planning, program management, environmental analysis, design, construction, and operations. The ultimate goal is to enable more flexible and sustainable transportation investment decisions.

While cost-effectiveness is a cornerstone of the approach, so is community engagement and interdisciplinary, collaborative decision-making. Local stakeholders are being engaged at the earliest stages of defining the project scope to ensure their input is included. Project design is based on the larger context – both land use and transportation requirements. The approach does not mean compromising safety, environmental compliance, or standards.

“Expanding our focus to also include planning and asset management offers especially promising opportunities,” Boyd said.

To build transparency and accountability into the process, WSDOT is required to report annually on the results of its Practical Solutions approach, including cost savings. Under the terms of the legislation, these cost savings will be put into an account that then can then be reinvested on a new set of needs, starting in 2024.

Boyd cited numerous Practical Solutions benefits besides the cost-savings. First of all, she said, engineers can be more creative when the project focus is on coming up with smart solutions. In addition, early engagement with the public helps make customer needs an early foundation of the process. And the emphasis on least cost planning helps to avoid overbuilding. It also opens up possibilities for more, smaller projects that allow for recent advances in technology to be harnessed as they unfold.

For instance, the agency reconfigured an interchange to improve connectivity and accommodate the size of vehicles using it. Annual maintenance costs were reduced by $12,500 by eliminating stop lights, and the final roundabout design avoided costs of up to $24 million compared to other alternatives.

In another instance, to cut down on accidents from speeding along a winding two-lane highway, wider pavement striping was installed to provide the appearance of a narrow road (which slows speeds} and additional reflective centerline raised pavement markings were added. The change in approach reduced the need to change the roadway prism and saved an estimated $50,000.

Ongoing Process

To help the Practical Solutions approach become ingrained, the agency’s Design Manual is undergoing major changes. Greater emphasis is being placed on multimodal solutions, demand management planning methods, operational changes rather than new construction, and off-system strategies that offer alternatives to automatically rebuilding. In addition, planners are turning more often to incremental solutions rather than always designing “all-in-one” projects. And context-sensitive solutions are becoming institutionalized even more than before.

In September 2015, the agency created a Practical Solutions Committee. It serves as a forum for learning and sharing how to deliver at the lowest costs as well as encouraging innovation and creativity in design. The committee is composed of WSDOT leadership team members as well as members of program offices, modes, and regions. It also includes representation from the Federal Highway Administration.

One of the committee’s primary responsibilities is to carry out a multidisciplinary review of its Connecting Washington funding package to identify every opportunity to embed a Practical Solutions approach. Connecting Washington funding goes to finishing projects in key corridors to preserve infrastructure and reduce congestion; improve freight mobility; support multimodal transportation options; and address critical needs for bridges.

Meanwhile, FHWA continues to do its part to advance PBPD. It has issued a final rule to reduce the number of “controlling design criteria” on highways designed for speeds of less than 50 miles per hour (mph) from the current 13 down to 2. For roads with “design speeds” greater than 50 mph, the number of criteria has been reduced to 10. It also has issued a final rule to update design standards applicable to National Highway System projects. And it has updated its guidance on bicycle and pedestrian facilities to provide greater opportunity for including these options in project design.

Handling Possible Risks, Other Insights

WSDOT is not the only state DOT that is turning to a PBPD-type approach: the practice is alive and well in Missouri, Kentucky, and Kansas, and approximately 30 additional states are implementing or planning to implement it in some form.

And yet, implementation is not without risk, including the risk of tort lawsuits arising from crashes alleged to be associated with a roadway design; and the risk of the solution not performing as expected in terms of safety and operations. To address potential risks, WSDOT consulted with agency risk management and attorney general staff and were reassured that exercising good engineering judgement is preferable and more defensible that blind application of “standards.”

Implementation of a Practical Solutions approach also presents some challenges. One has been a lack of sufficient funding for training. In addition, the agency has had to keep close watch on evolving environmental considerations, the political process, emerging tools for design and safety analysis, and the constant push for regulatory reform, any of which could affect the approach.

WSDOT has learned some lessons along the way that may be useful to other state DOTs, according to Boyd. First, the cookie cutter approach to project design is obsolete. Second, collaboration improves the quality of project’s effect on the multimodal transportation system; learning together and sharing information builds trust. Third, gaining political support for practical solutions to transportation infrastructure is essential. And finally, small fixes can make big differences.

Looking Ahead

Besides updating the Design Manual, the agency will be giving greater priority to training planning and design staff in the months ahead. Subject areas will include practical solutions/project development process training, multimodal design training, and Highway Safety Manual implementation. Further down the road, least-cost planning and cost estimating for alternatives analysis will be added.

Boyd said that her agency recently received $16 billion in new funding for additional capital improvement projects over 16 years, and implementing Practical Solutions will be an essential component of that work.

“Using the creativity and innovation of Practical Solutions, we are developing a safer and better transportation system while making our funding go further and accomplish more,” she said.

For more information about WSDOT’s Practical Solutions approach, contact Nancy Boyd, Director, Engineering Policy and Innovation, WSDOT, at BoydN@wsdot.wa.gov, or go to the Practical Solutions website.

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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

Case Studies: Links to Additional AASHTO Case Studies

AASHTO/FHWA Peer Exchange: Context Sensitive Solutions. Documents and presentations from the September 2006 peer exchange on context sensitive solutions are posted on AASHTO’s Center for Environmental Excellence Website. The peer exchange, held in Baltimore, Md., was sponsored by the AASHTO Center for Environmental Excellence in conjunction with the AASHTO CSS Task Force and the Federal Highway Administration. Over 260 participants from 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Nova Scotia participated in peer exchanges, discussing the issues and challenges to implementation. During concurrent breakout sessions sixteen projects were presented to highlight the success of CSS. Participants had the opportunities to meet with other state representatives to initiate state action plans to further implement CSS within their state and agency. Project links are listed below:

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Case Studies: Links to Additional AASHTO Case Studies - Urban Projects

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Case Studies: Links to Additional AASHTO Case Studies - Small Urban Projects

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Case Studies: Links to Additional AASHTO Case Studies - Rural Projects

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Case Studies: Links to Additional AASHTO Case Studies - Design-Build Projects

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Case Studies: Links to Additional Case Study Compilations

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Environmental Justice

Recent Developments: FHWA Webinar to Discuss Use of EJ, Context Sensitive Solutions to Enhance Livability

The use of context sensitive solutions (CSS) and environmental justice (EJ) to enhance livability will be addressed in an April 12 webinar sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration. The webinar will include discussion of strategies such as stakeholder engagement, identification of adverse impacts and implementation of CSS to improve livability in disadvantaged communities. The webinar also will include discussion of how CSS and EJ principles can be incorporated into the transportation decisionmaking process. For more information, link to the registration page. (3-27-17)

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Recent Developments: Report Highlights Importance of Climate Adaptation and Equity

The Georgetown Climate Center has released a report concerning an April 2016 workshop on equity and climate adaptation. The workshop addressed city-level actions to combat unequal risks; an increase in diversity, community participation, and leadership in adaptation planning; and ensuring that climate change preparation efforts are benefiting and not negatively affecting those most at risk of impacts. The workshop also focused on examples of community-driven planning in New York and Michigan and highlighted the challenges facing city governance in addressing equity. The report highlights the importance of an inclusive process to set adaptation priorities and policies within communities; relationship-building that is not project-specific; identification of ways that cities reinforce inequities; and directing resources to groups that are facing the greatest risk. For more information, link to the report. (2-14-17)

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Recent Developments: Guide Released on Measuring Equity, Opportunity in Transportation

The Governors’ Institute on Community Design has issued a resource on the data, tools and methodologies needed for transportations officials to measure access to opportunity in their planning efforts. The guide defines “access to opportunity” as how well transportation systems link people to economic opportunity, resources and essential services. The guide addresses the changing priorities in transportation performance management and how some transportation agencies are already incorporating measures of access into their programs. The guide also details the data and tools available to measure transportation equity. For more information, link to The How and Why of Measuring Access to Opportunity: A Guide to Performance Management. (1-1-17)

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Recent Developments: Report Details Environmental Justice Strategies for Rural, Small Communities

The Federal Highway Administration has released a report to help transportation agencies develop effective, replicable strategies for public involvement in planning and programming in small communities and rural areas. The report specifically focuses on engaging environmental justice (EJ) communities to co-create strategies to mitigate or avoid prospective EJ issues. The report found that effective practices required as diverse a set of strategies in smaller metropolitan areas as in those with larger populations, but that smaller areas’ planning agencies have correspondingly smaller staffs and must be selective. For more information, link to the report. (1-5-17)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Addresses EJ Considerations for Tolling and Automated Vehicles

The Federal Highway Administration has released two facts sheets exploring environmental justice (EJ) considerations with regard to tolling, managed lanes, and connected and automated vehicles. The fact sheet on tolling describes different planning- and project-level scenarios and their potential impacts on EJ populations. The fact sheet also provides considerations for understanding the socio-economic impacts of tolls. The fact sheet on connected and automated vehicles includes a description of those technologies, what they might mean for EJ populations, and what the FHWA is doing to address the issue. Both fact sheets link to resources. For more information, link to the fact sheets on tolling and connected and automated vehicles. (12-22-16)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Releases Report on EJ and Regional Models of Cooperation

The Federal Highway Administration has released a report on a peer exchange workshop held in Ohio concerning the incorporation of environmental justice considerations in transportation planning. The peer exchange focused on regional models of cooperation, a program of the FHWA’s Everyday Counts Initiative that provides enhanced cooperation between state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations and other stakeholders to support common goals in transportation. The workshop discussed methods of effectively incorporating environmental justice and civil rights concerns in transportation projects that cross jurisdictional boundaries. For more information, link to the report. (10-3-16)

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Recent Developments: Walking Collaborative Releases Social Justice Toolkit

The Every Body Walk! Collaborative has launched a social justice toolkit providing resources to help achieve objectives related to equity, fairness and justice within communities. The toolkit also fosters conversations around social justice and equitable communities and demonstrates how efforts to promote walkable communities can be used to foster equity. For more information, link to the toolkit. (9-13-16)

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Case Studies: Ohio DOT - Ohio DOT Provides Step-by-Step Guidance for Environmental Justice Analysis

As environmental justice in infrastructure planning and construction continues to be promoted at the federal level, state transportation agencies are finding ways to make the process more defined for staff and consultants.

At the Ohio Department of Transportation, recent revisions to the agency’s environmental justice guidelines update the agency’s procedures with a focus on clarifying the extent of analysis needed for projects and environmental reviews in the state.

Public outreach is an important aspect of environmental justice compliance. This public meeting was held during the planning phase for the Opportunity Corridor project in Cleveland. Photo: Ohio DOT

The ODOT Environmental Justice Guidance uses a step-by-step format to explain what practitioners must do to comply with state and federal environmental justice requirements.

The steps include identifying environmental justice populations within the study area using a mapping tool, answering a series of questions to determine whether a full-scale environmental justice analysis report is required, and if required, conducting the analysis and report as outlined in the guidance.

EJ Process in Ohio

Environmental justice has been a part of the conversation with regard to transportation projects for at least two decades.

Environmental justice populations—specifically minority and low-income groups—can be disproportionately impacted by transportation projects, and these impacts can vary depending on a project’s scale, scope and location, according to Erica Schneider, Assistant Administrator with ODOT’s Office of Environmental Services.

Like all state transportation agencies, ODOT developed its environmental justice program in response to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, Presidential Executive Order 12898, Department of Transportation Order 5610.2, and FHWA Order 6640.23A.

ODOT’s environmental justice procedures resulted from many months of work with the Federal Highway Administration’s Ohio Division, Schneider said. “It was a collaborative process that took several months of discussions and a fair amount of compromise,” Schneider said. Once the division office was comfortable with it, ODOT worked with FHWA headquarters and Resource Center, she added.

Identifying EJ Populations

ODOT’s guidance uses a tiered method to evaluate environmental justice considerations. The first step relies on the Environmental Protection Agency’s EJScreen web-based tool, which places U.S. Census population data on a map at the block and block group levels. Block groups are clusters of blocks within the same census tract, generally defined to contain between 600 and 3,000 people, used to present statistical data and control block numbering.

According to the guidance, the individual performing the analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) uses EJView to locate the project or study area and, using the data filters, identifies the percent of minority or low income residents.

“Project [area] limits are identified by earlier studies (traffic, safety, etc.) that define the purpose of the project,” Schneider said. “Those limits in turn help identify the block groups that could be impacted by a project and by the activities associated with the project.”

The key threshold for environmental justice populations is 40 percent, according to the guidance. “If all of the block groups within your proposed project area indicate Environmental Justice populations below 40%, then no additional Environmental Justice analysis or coordination is required,” the guidance said.

However, if either the minority or the low-income populations are at 40 percent or above, the practitioner is required to answer a set of questions to determine potential impacts.

Determining Potential Impacts

The questions in the guidance make a decision tree that leads the practitioner to draw conclusions about whether the project will have a disproportionately high and adverse effect on the target populations.

“Our guidance is, in many ways, a screening tool to screen out projects with little to no potential to impact EJ communities,” Schneider said.

“The questions in the guidance are specifically geared toward identifying potential impacts,” Schneider said.

For example, the questions address the following issues:

  • Are there any relocations?
  • Will there be any changes to access?
  • Were any environmental justice issues that could result in a disproportionately high and adverse effect raised during public involvement?
  • Are there any other unique factors of the proposed project that could pose a disproportionately high and adverse impact on an environmental justice population?

Depending on the resulting answers, a full Environmental Justice Analysis Report may be required.

Conducting Full Analysis, Report

When a full analysis is required, a report is prepared “to determine whether or not your project will have a disproportionately high and adverse impact to an Environmental Justice population and to document any avoidance and mitigation measures,” the guidance said.

The guidance provides a general outline of what information should be included in the report. The seven basic elements include:

  1. Project description;
  2. Summary of purpose and need statement;
  3. Discussion of environmental justice populations;
  4. Discussion of impacts to environmental justice populations;
  5. Public involvement summary;
  6. Discussion of avoidance, minimization and mitigation measures; and
  7. A summary, including justification for the determination.

For projects that require in-depth analyses, the guidance urges users to work with ODOT’s Office of Environmental Services, Policy and Cultural Resources Section for more direction and project-specific assistance on determining how to address potential impacts.

Guidance Applies to NEPA Process

The ODOT guidance must be followed for all environmental assessments, environmental impact statements, and most categorical exclusion levels under ODOT’s 2015 Programmatic Categorical Exclusion Agreement.

Although the guidance is built into ODOT’s Online Categorical Exclusion System, the environmental justice process is essentially the same for more complex environmental documents, according to Schneider, except that “the documentation part is a little different.”

Projects requiring an environmental assessment or environmental impacts statement “often have a higher potential for impacts, but not necessarily,” Schneider added.

Schneider said that less than 1 percent of projects per year require a full Environmental Justice Analysis Report. But for those projects that may impact environmental justice populations, the guidance encourages staff to coordinate with ODOT’s Office of Environmental Services “as early as possible.”

Lessons Learned

Schneider noted several lessons learned in developing the process.

“We strongly emphasize a common sense approach to looking at projects,” Schneider said. “If it makes sense to look farther out [from the project boundaries], we would do so.” Regarding the decision to rely on the EJView tool, it was the result of a lot of work with FHWA division staff and EPA staff, according to Schneider. “We didn’t find a better tool to use,” Schneider said. She recommends use of EJView to other departments of transportation, unless and until something better is developed.

Additionally, Schneider emphasized the importance of making sure the analysis is meaningful.

“We constantly remind our staff and consultants that you can’t just go through the motions,” Schneider said. “Simply having less than 40 percent EJ populations or answering ‘no’ to all of the questions doesn’t mean consideration of EJ populations ends there. We still expect practitioners to use common sense. If there are EJ populations that may require specific public outreach efforts, then that needs to be done. If EJ issues are raised during public involvement activities or there are other project-related circumstances that could cause an impact to EJ populations, those need to be taken into account and addressed.”

Schneider said the guidance has been well received both by consultants and ODOT staff. “It has streamlined our processes by helping screen out projects that don't require further work,” and to “target what we need to focus on,” she said.

For more information, link to ODOT’s Environmental Justice Guidance and ODOT's environmental justice program or contact ODOT’s Erica Schneider at Erica.Schneider@dot.state.oh.us.

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Case Studies: Pennsylvania DOT - Pennsylvania DOT Develops Separate EJ Guidance for Planning, Project Levels

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is successfully integrating input from minority and low-income populations (environmental justice [EJ] populations) and consistently documenting its EJ analyses and findings through use of planning- and project-level guidance developed by the agency.

Executive Order 12898 (1994), Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, directs federal actions to avoid, minimize, or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects, including socioeconomic, on EJ populations. However, Executive Order 12898 did not provide guidance on how to identify EJ populations, or how to determine if impacts are disproportionately high and adverse.

EJ Guidance at PennDOT

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) approach to implementing Executive Order 12898 (1994)—as well as subsequent Memorandum of Understanding on EJ signed by heads of federal agencies (2011) and DOT’s Final EJ Order 5610.2(a) (2012)—uses guidance documents that are distributed to districts for implementation. In addition to guidance it developed for regional planning-level EJ analyses, PennDOT, also has developed project-level guidance to promote consistency in EJ analyses conducted for relatively minor-impact projects across the state.

Two notable factors influencing PennDOT’s EJ approach include: 1) the agency is decentralized, with projects held at the district-level, and 2) around 99 percent of current PennDOT projects are Categorical Exclusions (CEs) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Pennsylvania develops planning level guidance, Every Voice Counts. Photo: PennDOT

Planning-Level Guidance

Initially, PennDOT developed an EJ guidance for statewide planning and programming processes, Every Voice Counts (2004, updated 2012). PennDOT drew from best practices and existing resources proven to work in practice to develop its EJ guidance. Every Voice Counts describes PennDOT’s regional planning-level EJ responsibilities as: 1) identifying EJ population presence within planning areas; 2) engaging EJ populations in public involvement and subsequent documentation of that engagement; 3) assessing the effects of transportation policies, investments, and programs on EJ populations; and 4) avoiding, minimizing, or mitigating, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse effects.

According to PennDOT’s Transportation Planning Manager Brian Wall, despite the initial Every Voice Counts guidance there were dramatic differences in how EJ efforts were being conducted and documented throughout the state due to the agency’s decentralized operational structure and the number of metropolitan and rural planning organizations and the various staffing levels at those organizations. Therefore, in 2012, as a result of a strengths/weaknesses assessment, PennDOT expanded its EJ guidance and provided clear examples of how to conduct an EJ analysis at the planning level.

Project-Level Guidance

After implementing its planning-level EJ guidance for nearly a decade, PennDOT developed its Project Level Environmental Justice Guidance in 2013. The guidance provides a step-by-step EJ analysis framework to ensure requirements of Executive Order 12898 are appropriately identified, considered, and documented at the project level. Because PennDOT is decentralized, the project-level guidance provides consistency across DOT districts in their approach to EJ analyses.

Additionally, with nearly all PennDOT projects falling under CEs with minimal impacts, PennDOT Environmental Planning Manager Drew Ames said that it can be tough to document EJ efforts. The project-level guidance addresses the issue of determining the presence of EJ populations, appropriate level of documentation, and determining disproportionate adverse impacts. The guidance explains what needs to be done after a project is on the Transportation Improvement Program and preliminary engineering begins, and includes criteria that would qualify a project as exempt from a detailed EJ analysis.

PennDOT provides and documents consideration of potential impacts to EJ populations for categorically excluded projects in the on-line Categorical Exclusion Expert System. For CEs falling under 23 CFR 771.117(d), that are not otherwise covered by a programmatic agreement, the system prompts preparers to answer a series of questions regarding EJ that are based on the analysis described in the guidance document.

In addition, the project-level guidance includes several real-world case studies that describe how project teams reached out to and engaged EJ populations, what data were gathered and analyzed to determine if EJ populations are located in the study area, and what project impacts and benefits were evaluated to determine if the project caused disproportionate and adverse impacts to EJ populations. Moreover, the case studies include helpful “lessons learned” so that other EJ analyses are informed by past experiences. Examples of lessons cited in the guidance include the following:

  • While review of demographic data helps to identify the presence of EJ populations, field views and discussions with local stakeholders can provide valuable insights that cannot be drawn from review of demographic data alone.
  • Enlisting EJ community representatives on community advisory committees can help gain the EJ community’s trust and support for a project.
  • The study area size and shape may require information to be collected from a variety of census data geographies, and may impact the level of effort and resources needed for data collection.
  • Project teams should always check their assumptions about adverse impacts by discussing impacts with EJ populations. What might be considered an adverse impact by project engineers and planners may or may not be interpreted as adverse by the community.

Key Takeaways

PennDOT has realized the following key points and lessons learned in implementing the agency’s planning- and project-level EJ guidance:

  • Documentation: Regardless of a project’s size, it is important to state clearly what types of information or data were considered to identify the presence of EJ populations (e.g. Census data), how EJ populations were engaged in project scoping and the development of project alternatives and any mitigation measures, and how project design may have changed as a result of input from EJ populations.
  • Balance: An EJ analysis is never a “one size fits all” analysis. It is location, community and context-driven, based on the project’s direct, indirect and cumulative impacts and how those impacts are experienced by EJ populations, both positively and negatively.
  • Process efficiencies: Providing a unified guidance for application across jurisdictions helps streamline the state’s EJ analyses and documentation. For example, the process outlined in Every Voice Counts has led to better “benefits and burdens” analysis in long range transportation planning, particularly through the use of GIS.
  • Consolidation: The guidance is intended to consolidate the wealth of information into a document that is easy to access and use for replication across the state—and for other state DOTs.
  • Context: Familiarity with a project area and its residents is irreplaceable. Taking the extra step—such as proactively speaking directly with a community—creates opportunity for more meaningful engagement, a better informed EJ analysis and proactive issue resolution promoting a more collaborative decision-making process.

Overall, PennDOT’s implementation of both its planning-level and project-level EJ guidance documents has enhanced the agency’s ability to integrate meaningful input from EJ populations into its plans, programs, and projects, and has allowed the agency to consistently document its EJ analyses and findings.

For more information on PennDOT’s planning-level EJ guidance, contact Planning-Level EJ Guidance Brian Wall, PennDOT Transportation Planning Manager at bwall@pa.gov. For information on the project-level guidance, contact Drew Ames, PennDOT Environmental Planning Manager, at johname@pa.gov.

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Case Studies: Compilations

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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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Case Studies: Compilations of Case Studies - FHWA

GIS in Transportation – This website is maintained by FHWA’s Office of Planning, Environment and Realty to highlight noteworthy practices and innovative uses of GIS applications in transportation planning by state and local transportation agencies. This site includes examples of GIS applications listed by State.

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Case Studies: Compilations of Case Studies - AASHTO

GIS for Transportation Symposium – This website includes proceedings for AASHTO’s GIS-T Symposium, including a variety of effective practices. Copies of the actual presentations made at each topic session are available on-line.

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Health & Human Environment

Recent Developments: Alabama Case Study on Improved Transportation Alternatives Issued

Prioritizing livability and connectivity through transportation improvements in Foley, Ala., is addressed in a new case study issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The city worked with stakeholders to connect walking and biking facilities that were separated by State Route 59 to create its 2011 Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan. The city of Foley received a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to implement several projects within the plan, including the addition of a pedestrian bridge and shared use paths to facilitate active transportation and increase economic activity. A new one mile shared use path to connect networks for walking and bicycling will also be funded. For more information, link to the case study. (5-19-17)

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Recent Developments: Best Practices for Rural Regional Transit Outlined in NCHRP Report

An evaluation of state and regional best practices with regard to public transportation in rural areas has been issued by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP Project 20-65 (56)). The report identifies several types of rural transportation services that do not involve private vehicles. These include intercity bus service for long-distance travel, local public transit for regularly-scheduled service in a defined area, and on-demand single-passenger transportation. However, the report recognizes a need for agencies to support an additional distinct type—called rural regional mobility—which would be open to the general public and would address the kinds of trips than can be made in a day, rather than overnight, while also considering possibilities for meeting intercity needs. The report includes an overview of state policies, multiple case studies, a collection of lessons learned, and a checklist for developing a rural regional mobility program. For more information, link to the report. (5-15-17)

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Recent Developments: Transportation Alternatives Annual Report Issued

The annual report documenting the Transportation Alternatives (TA) projects and funding for fiscal year 2016 has been posted by the Federal Highway Administration. The report shows that the vast majority of TA projects, more than 77 percent, were related to pedestrian and bicycle facilities. Other eligible categories that received funding included recreational facilities, turnouts and viewing areas, historic preservation, environmental and wildlife, safe routes to school, and other. The FHWA received 4,179 applications and selected 2,088 projects for funding. The total cost for the selected projects was $595.5 million. For more information, link to the report. (5-11-17)

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Recent Developments: CDC Task Force Reviews Strategies to Increase Physical Activity

The Community Preventive Services Task Force of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a report reviewing studies of land use and transportation strategies that will increase physical activity. The task force recommends that built environment approaches should combine features such as street connectivity and bicycle infrastructure with access to parks or mixed land uses to increase physical activity. Replacing findings from 2004, the report is based on a review of 90 studies that address diverse designs, different combinations of options, and long-term changes for transportation and recreational physical activity. The report highlights studies of construction projects, evaluations of the impact of sprawl, comparisons of neighborhood types and differences in the amount of time engaged in physical activity. For more information, link to the report. (5-5-17)

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Recent Developments: Several Cities Designated as Walk Friendly Communities

The Walk Friendly Communities Program, in sponsorship with FedEx, has designated cities such as New York, Eugene, Ore., Fayetteville, Ark., and Fort Lauderdale for improved sidewalk connectivity and the promotion of walking to work or school. The Walk Friendly Designation includes seven new cities and renewed designation for three recipients for their efforts in expanding opportunities for walking and improving pedestrian safety. The program is supported by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center and awards designations from bronze to platinum. Applications to join the walk friendly communities are due June 15, 2017. For more information, link to the announcement. (5-5-17)

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Recent Developments: 2016 Benchmarking Report on Biking and Walking is Issued

The Institute of Transportation Engineers has announced the Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2016 Benchmarking Report. The report, in partnership with the American Public Health Association and League of American Bicyclists, is presented as a website to provide users with tools to analyze collected data on bicycling and walking in all 50 states, the 50 largest U.S. cities, and a few mid-sized cities. The report is intended to allow exploration of the intersections between transportation, health and equity, and support the shift toward active transportation modes. The report also can be purchased in hard copy. For more information, link to the announcement and the report. (4-25-17)

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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: New Transportation Center Focuses on Emissions, Health Impacts

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute has established a new university transportation center to study the health effects of transportation emissions. The Center for Advancing Research in Transportation Emissions, Energy and Health (CAR-TEEH), a consortium of four partners, will study the entire tailpipe-to-lungs spectrum, bringing together experts in the areas of transportation emissions and public health. For more information, link to the announcement. (3-1-17)

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Recent Developments: Report Describes Regional Active Transportation Planning

Transportation for America has a released a report concerning how regional transportation planning agencies are promoting active transportation. The report focuses on communities that are developing and prioritizing projects to encourage physical activity by making walking and biking more accessible. The report provides case studies concerning funding for competitive bicycling and walking projects and encouraging safe routes to school projects and the directing of funds to support compact, walkable communities. The report also includes performance measures to assess project benefits, planning policies that promote regional goals and best practices for improving data collection. For more information, link to the report. (2-22-17)

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Recent Developments: TRB Releases Journals Addressing Bicycles, Transit

The Transportation Research Board has published a compilation of papers exploring issues related to bicycles and motorcycles in Volume 2587 of its Transportation Research Record journal. The journal address topics such as estimating current and potential bicycle use for statewide planning, bike sharing, cyclists’ comfort level using crowdsourced data, and network connectivity for low-stress bicycling. The TRB also published papers concerning urban traffic systems in Volume 2543 of its Transportation Research Record journal. The journal addresses topics such as scenario and modeling analysis to support transit development, complete street policies and public transit, and methods for estimating statewide transit needs. The journal also addresses demand-responsive pricing for parking and incentive-based intervention during peak period traffic scenarios. For more information, link to the Volume 2587 and Volume 2543. (2-23-17)

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Recent Developments: America Walks Establishes Transit-Walkability Collaborative

America Walks has created the Transit-Walkability Collaborative to improve public health, safety and transportation equity. The coalition includes nine organizations such as the Center for Transportation Excellence, American Public Transportation Association, National Association of Public Transportation Advocates and Victoria Transport Policy Institute to help low-income citizens complete daily activities while owning fewer vehicles and driving less. The association has adopted a 2017 action plan and intends to complete an environmental scan to expand walkability and transit advocacy groups. A coalition fact sheet will be published in March in conjunction with a webinar and online survey. For more information, link to the announcement. (2-22-17)

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Recent Developments: Report Describes use of Transit-Oriented Development to Combat Inequality

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy has released its Winter Issue of Sustainable Transport, highlighting the issue of inequality. The report describes how some cities are not made for certain populations such as women, older people, the urban poor and people with disabilities. The report focuses on the issue of segregation and the creation of gated communities that facilitate divisions within society and communities that can’t be formed in shared, public space. Transit-oriented development is referenced as a solution to promote inclusivity goals and planning policies that do not displace existing settlements but recognize the multiple identities that form cities. For more information, link to the report. (2-14-17)

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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: Report Compares Accessibility to Jobs by Transit in U.S. Cities

The University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies has released a report to provide a comparison of accessibility to jobs by public transportation and walking in 49 U.S. metropolitan areas. The report includes data calculated using travel times from transit schedules and pedestrian networks, and accounts for variations in service frequency. The report ranks the top 10 cities with the greatest accessibility to jobs using transit or walking. The report also provides data and maps specifying patterns of accessibility in individual metropolitan areas. The report also addresses land-use based approaches and how density plays an important role in increasing the value of more accessible locations. The report indicates that areas with greater accessibility to jobs by transit include those with fast heavy rail systems that connect urban and suburban areas within a highly employment-dense core. For more information, link to the report. (1-8-17)

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Recent Developments: MnDOT Report Assesses the Impacts, Benefits of Bicycling

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has released a report concerning the economic impact and health effects of bicycling. The report assesses impacts from the bicycling industry and events, bicycling infrastructure use and bicycling within the Twin Cities metropolitan area, which account for about 70 percent of the total number of bicycle miles traveled in the state. The report indicates that bicycling events provided a total of $14.3 million to the economy in 2014 and commuting by bike reduces the odds of obesity by 32 percent. The report also reveals that the bicycling industry produced a total of $779.9 million for the economy in 2014. For more information, link to the report. (12-30-16)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Report on Bicycle, Pedestrian Counts Pilot Provides Lessons for MPOs

A report issued recently by the Federal Highway Administration finds that bicycle and pedestrian counting systems can provide metropolitan areas with useful information to make the case for multimodal project development. The report documents the best practices and lessons learned from a 2015 pilot project involving 10 metropolitan planning organizations from across the country. The project was intended to research and identify the needs of MPOs regarding the documentation of bicycles and pedestrians, develop resources for addressing these needs, and transfer lessons learned to other urban areas. The MPOs experimented with a variety of counter technologies, including passive infrared counters, pneumatic tube counters, radar sensors, video detection, counters that used manual or automatic data retrieval, and portable or fixed systems. For more information, link to the report. (12-23-16)

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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: USDOT Releases Report on Every Place Counts Design Challenge

The Department of Transportation has released a final report concerning the Ladders of Opportunity Every Place Counts Design Challenge. The challenge encourages the rehabilitation of communities and empowerment of residents to have a voice in transportation decisions by enhancing mobility, access and equity for local neighborhoods. The report details workshops that were conducted in four cities adjacent to planned or existing transportation infrastructure projects to develop and understand design and policy options. The report indicates that stakeholder engagement, follow-up workshops, technical study deployment, use of pilot projects, understanding of funding opportunities, and solutions for placemaking and economic development are applicable to any community when undertaking infrastructure projects. For more information, link to the report. (12-20-16)

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Recent Developments: TRB Releases Journal That Explores Public Transportation

The Transportation Research Board has published a compilation of 16 papers that explore various issues surrounding public transportation in, Volume No. 2544 of its Transportation Research Record journal. The papers address rail transit ridership, reducing subway crowding, nonadditive public transit fare pricing under congestion and the impact of a loan-based public transport fare system on fare evasion. The papers also address evaluating off-peak pricing strategies in public transportation with an activity-based approach, inferring public transport access distance from smart cards, the potential benefits of visualizing transit data, and the social and distributional effects of public transport fares and subsidy policies. For more information, link to the journal. (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: EPA Selects 25 Communities for Sustainability Program

The Environmental Protection Agency has selected 25 communities from 19 states for the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program. The awardees will receive technical assistance to pursue development strategies that advance clean air, clean water, economic development and other local goals. EPA staff and national experts will conduct workshops in 2017 to help these community address development-oriented issues. The EPA is also offering five assistance tools in the program: green and complete streets, equitable development, planning for infill development, sustainable strategies for small cities and rural areas, and flood resilient for riverine and coastal communities. For more information, link to news release. (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 Announces Selection of ‘Rides to Wellness’ Program Awardees

The Federal Transit Administration has announced the selection of 19 projects under the Rides to Wellness Demonstration and Innovative Coordinated Access and Mobility Program (R2W Program). The program has received $7.2 million in funding under the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act for states and designated or direct recipients to test replicable public transportation health care access solutions that support increased access to care, improved health outcomes and reduced healthcare costs. For more information, link to the notice. (11-10-16)

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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: APA Issues Health Impact Assessment Report and Toolkit

The American Planning Association (APA) has released a report that analyzes the context of health impact assessments (HIAs) within the planning practice. HIAs aid in evaluating how proposed plans, policies, and projects can shape the public’s health. The report examines 27 HIAs conducted from 2004 to 2014 and highlights how planning HIAs have catalyzed cross-sector collaboration and advanced connections between health and planning. The report includes five case studies from across the country indicating that HIAs have helped define the potential for planning to serve as an upstream health intervention. The APA also has issued a toolkit that includes important steps to performing an HIA, recommendations for conducting an effective assessment, and alternatives to performing an HIA. For more information, link to the report and toolkit. (10-27-16)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Issues Annual Recreational Trails Program Report

The Federal Highway Administration has released its annual report on the Recreational Trails Program (RTP). The program has provided funding of nearly $1.1 billion between 1993 and 2015 to help states provide and maintain recreational trails for both motorized and nonmotorized trail use. The report highlights project examples from 14 states that address the use of trail assessments, construction of recreational trails, trail acquisition, environmental education and various other RTP permissible uses. The report also highlights program benefits and includes the annual achievement award winners for outstanding trail projects. For more information, link to the report. (10-14-16)

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Recent Developments: Benchmarking Report Provides Snapshot of Biking and Walking Trends

The Alliance for Biking and Walking has released its 2016 benchmarking report to provide a snapshot of biking and walking in the U.S. The report provides data from the American Community Survey for all 50 states and 50 of the most populous cities. The report identifies trends and focuses on the connection between healthy lifestyles and bicycling and walking. The report also identifies remaining challenges to improving data availability. The report is intended to provide communities with resources to understand the range of benefits from alternative modes of transportation. For more information, link to the report. (10-3-16)

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Recent Developments: TRB Report Focuses on Improving Livability in Transit Corridors

The Transportation Research Board has released a Transit Cooperative Research Program report for improving livability in transit corridors. The handbook, TCRP Report 187, highlights methods to improve quality of life on a corridor basis through increased transit ridership, incentives for active transportation, affordable housing opportunities, and increased participation in the planning process. The handbook includes a five-step, best practices visioning process based on quantitative analysis of over 350 U.S. transit corridors and 17 case studies. The report is intended as a tool for stakeholders to plan and build support for corridor improvements, screen alternatives for environmental review and supplement established travel demand, transit quality of service or traffic operations tools. For more information, link to the report. (9-19-16)

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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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Recent Developments: Report Outlines How Transit Agencies Can Work with Uber and Bikeshares

TransitCenter has released a report outlining how government agencies can improve services by working with on-demand services like Uber or bikeshares. The report recommends that agencies build a more robust transportation network by partnering to reinforce transit’s strengths, leveraging agency-controlled assets, planning for a streamlined user experience, and being open to new ways of providing useful transit. The report also recommends steps for agencies that want to go further, suggesting subsidizing customer trips, more efficiently allocating street space to high-volume transportation options, and experiments with on-demand transit service. For more information, link to the report. (9-8-16)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Releases Strategic Agenda for Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation

The Federal Highway Administration has released a Strategic Agenda for Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation. The agenda is a framework to guide FHWA’s pedestrian and bicycle initiatives and investments during federal fiscal year 2016-2017 through fiscal year 2020-2021. The agenda also establishes a strategic, collaborative approach for making walking and bicycling viable transportation options for people of all ages and abilities. For more information, link to the strategic agenda. (9-12-16)

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Recent Developments: Bureau of Transportation Statistics Releases First National Transit Map

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in partnership with the Federal Transit Administration and the Transportation Department’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, has released the nation’s first National Transit Map. The map includes information from 270 transit agencies across the country regarding transit systems stops, routes and schedules and represents data on 84 percent of the top 25 urban transit agencies with fixed route service, 74 percent of the top 50 agencies and one-third of all urban transit agencies. The map supports the U.S. DOT’s Ladders Opportunity initiative to promote the use of existing transportation networks for mobility needs. For more information, link to the press release. (9-1-16)

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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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Case Studies: Utah - Utah DOT Program Provides Support, Recognition for Community Bicycle Programs

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is building support for bicycling programs across the state through a grass-roots program to help communities with bicycle planning and promoting active transportation.

The Road Respect Community program provides local governments with guidance in planning and developing their bicycle programs and infrastructure. The program also provides recognition, allowing localities to earn the “Road Respect Community” title for their efforts to encourage active transportation.

The program is an offshoot of the Road Respect bike safety education campaign, launched in 2011 by UDOT in collaboration with the Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS), Zero Fatalities and Bike Utah. The goal of the campaign is to educate both cyclists and drivers about state safety laws and encourage mutual respect on the road.

UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras Speaks at Road Respect Event (Photo: UDOT)

The centerpiece of the Road Respect campaign has been an annual, statewide cycling tour to teach cyclists proper road etiquette and educate drivers on sharing the road. The Road Respect Tour – which is led by representatives from UDOT, DPS, health agencies, law enforcement and cycling advocates – also holds community events along the route to promote safe cycling.

The ongoing success and popularity of the campaign led UDOT to develop the Road Respect Community program to work directly with communities to help them improve their active transportation options.

"The Road Respect Community Program is a big asset to UDOT because it offers Utah's cities and towns opportunities to expand their bicycle and active transportation programs based on the needs and desires of the community,” according to UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras. “Because the program reaches people on the grassroots level, it encourages communities to 'own' their planning process, while opening avenues of communication between UDOT, local municipalities, and active transportation advocates across the state," he said.

“What we found as we went from community to community on the tour is they were very interested in promoting bicycling and growing their bicycling programs, but they needed a little bit of guidance on doing that,” said Evelyn Tuddenham, Bike-Pedestrian Coordinator at UDOT.

Comprehensive Approach

UDOT sought to design a comprehensive program to help communities advance their bicycle planning programs. To do so, the department developed a set of criteria based on League of American Bicyclists requirements for Bicycle Friendly Communities and other bicycle planning criteria. These criteria were used to develop checklists of actions communities can take to earn the title, “Road Respect Community,” Tuddenham said.

The program features three Road Respect Community Levels – Activate, Ascend and Peak – with corresponding requirements leading up to applying for League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Community status. Requirements include:

Level 1 – Activate

  • Identify a community champion for bicycle planning efforts
  • Identify the health, community and economic benefits of a bicycle plan and set up initial evaluation criteria including health impact assessment guidelines
  • Start an inventory of bike infrastructure and identify connectivity gaps
  • Develop a kid’s bicycle safety program
  • Collaborate with local law enforcement to incorporate bike safety and enforcement

Level 2 – Ascend

  • Involve bike advocacy groups/individuals in planning efforts
  • Initiate “share the road” dialogue between drivers and cyclists
  • Develop the bicycle plan by identifying potential solutions
  • Roll out a local law enforcement bicycle safety and enforcement program
  • Evaluate the plan under development with the criteria identified in Level 1 and including health impact assessment

Level 3 – Peak

  • Adopt the bicycle plan and begin its implementation
  • Work with businesses to determine and promote the economic benefits of bicycling and plan for bicycle amenities
  • Develop and conduct bicycle safety campaign promoting respect between drivers and bicyclists on the road
  • Evaluate the bicycle plan
  • Apply for League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Community Status

As of May 2015, 12 cities or counties around the state had been designated as Road Respect Communities. Eight more cities and counties are slated to join in 2015, and at least seven more are in line to come onboard in 2016.

Kids and adults ride out together for a family ride, part of a Road Respect Event marking Logan, Utah's induction as a Road Respect Community. (Photo: UDOT)

Consultation and Recognition

After a community has applied, UDOT conducts a forum to address local issues and generate potential solutions. The forum brings together representatives from UDOT, planning and law enforcement agencies, cycling advocates and other stakeholders to discuss the needs of the roadway and how they can work together to improve conditions for bicyclists. The forums have been very successful in getting issues out on the table and coming up with preliminary plans for communities to move forward, Tuddenham said.

For example, UDOT conducted a forum to help the city of Moab find bicycle-friendly solutions for its Main Street, a heavily used corridor serving business, trucking and travel. The community and cycling groups were looking for ways to help cyclists safely use Main Street to access the trails at the nearby Arches and Canyonlands national parks. The forum helped educate local stakeholders about their options on the multi-use corridor, and together with UDOT they came up with a plan for mapping and signs. Moab has since earned recognition as a Level 2 Road Respect Community.

The Road Respect Community program also offers promotional opportunities to highlight communities’ commitment to developing active transportation solutions. UDOT produces a Road Respect Community newsletter with resources including information about grants and funding, Tuddenham said. UDOT also has developed an interactive map on its website highlighting the Road Respect communities, including links to local information on bicycling and tourism.

Communities that participate in the program also are encouraged to apply for League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Community recognition. When they complete all the Road Respect requirements “they are perfectly positioned to do that,” according to Tuddenham.

Springdale, Utah, a gateway community to Zion National Park, becomes a Road Respect Community. (Photo: UDOT)

Collaborative Approach

The program offers a model of a collaborative approach to building an integrated transportation system, according to Tuddenham.

The program has been very successful in bringing together state agencies that may not be involved in infrastructure but are involved in promoting active transportation, Tuddenham said. For instance, UDOT has worked closely with the Utah Department of Health. The health agency has offered $3,000 grants under its Cancer Control Program to help prospective Road Respect communities get started with their bicycle planning.

The program also improves communication between communities and UDOT regarding active transportation, Tuddenham said. When working with a Road Respect Community, members of UDOT and its regional offices “know they are dealing with a community that has an understanding of what it takes to install infrastructure and what it takes to work with UDOT as an agency,” Tuddenham said.

In addition, the program has helped channel the enthusiasm of cycling advocates, Tuddenham said. In 2015, the League of American Bicyclists ranked Utah fifth among the states in bicycle friendliness, the state’s highest ranking ever.

“In a short period of time we’ve made some really impressive and very strategic advances [for bicycling] in Utah, and I think a lot of that has been because of the collaborative approach that’s come about through this program,” Tuddenham said.

Transferability and Lessons Learned

The program is very transferable to other state DOTs, according to Tuddenham. However, she emphasized that in the beginning “you have to have a hook, you have to have something that really sparks people’s imagination to get them to come on board,” Tuddenham said. For Utah it was the Road Respect Tour, but for other states it might be something different, she said.

Tuddenham also stressed the role of agency leadership. “It’s a very grass-roots program, and that’s the strength of it…people want to be involved because they see it make a difference on their level,” she said. It is important that those at the top of the organization understand and are supportive of what’s going on at the community level, she said.

In Utah, the program has benefited from the support of UDOT Executive Director Braceras, an avid cyclist himself who has participated in numerous Road Respect events. Braceras has been a big supporter of the agency’s commitment to active transportation.

For more information, link to the UDOT Road Respect webpage, or contact Evelyn Tuddenham, UDOT Bicycle-Pedestrian Coordinator at etuddenham@utah.gov.

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Case Studies: National Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange

Transportation Enhancement Program case studies and examples are tracked by the National Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange (formerly the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse) website.

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Case Studies: Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center

PBIC Case Study Compendium - The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center has a compendium of case studies of pedestrian and bicycle projects and programs implemented by communities in the United States and abroad. The collection of brief case studies are categorized by the main activity involved in the community initiative: engineering, education, enforcement, encouragement, planning, health promotion, and comprehensive safety initiatives.

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Historic Preservation/Cultural Resources

Recent Developments: FHWA Newsletter Addresses Compliance with Section 106 of the NHPA

The January 2017 edition of the Federal Highway Administration’s Successes in Stewardship newsletter addresses the four basic steps an agency may take to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The process ensures that agencies comply with Section 106 regulations from a project’s outset and helps to avoid time and cost overruns. The steps are initiating the Section 106 process, identifying historic properties, assessing adverse effects, and resolving adverse effects. For more information, link to the newsletter. (1-26-17)

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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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Recent Developments: FHWA Highlights Louisiana’s Efforts to Identify, Preserve Historic Bridges

The Federal Highway Administration has published the November edition of the Successes in Stewardship Newsletter, which highlights the efforts of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to identify, preserve and manage historically significant bridges built before 1971. The LADOTD, along with the Louisiana State Historic Preservation Office and the FHWA, signed a programmatic agreement and completed a statewide management plan which shortened the project delivery process for historic bridge projects. Historic bridges are no longer processed individually for review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and bridge designers know in advance which bridges are committed for long-term preservation. For more information, link to the newsletter. (11-20-16)

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Recent Developments: National Trust Announces 2016 List of America's Most Endangered Places

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has released its annual list of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places, which seeks to highlight architectural, cultural, and historic sites that are at risk of being damaged or lost. This year's list of 11 historic places includes the San Francisco Embarcadero, which is threatened by sea level rise; downtown Flemington, N.J., a large historic district with 19th-century architecture; and the Sunshine Mile, a two-mile commercial corridor on Tucson, Ariz. that is threatened by a proposed boulevard widening project. For more information, link to the press release. (10-5-16)

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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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Case Studies: Pennsylvania - Pennsylvania DOT Uses ‘Story Map’ to Document History, Mitigate Impacts

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is using an innovative “Story Map” to share important historical information about an area impacted by a road improvement project on Route 322 in Centre County.

The online interactive map provides locations and details about historically significant sites, people, and events within the area of the Potters Mills Gap Transportation Project. Users can learn about the history of the project area and its inhabitants, including the town’s namesake James Potter, Native American settlements, log structures and historic homes inhabited by early settlers, early roads, farms, industry, cemeteries and other features. This effort to document the area’s history is part of an innovative effort to mitigate project impacts on historic resources in the project area.

The road improvement project along a section of Route 322 required mitigation for adverse impacts on several wooded tracts, historic buildings, and historic farmland areas within the Penns/Brush Valley rural historic district. The district was determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places based on its agricultural patterns, associated landscape features and Vernacular-style architecture established during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The Story Map, titled A Journey to Potters Mills, is the first of its kind to be used by PennDOT to help mitigate adverse impacts to historical resources.

Screenshot of Journey to Potters Mills Story Map. Courtesy: PennDOT

“The intent of the Story Map is to provide the public with insight into how the development of transportation within the Potters Mills Gap has, over time, impacted the Historic District,” said Karen Michael, PennDOT District 2 Executive.

According to a PennDOT summary, the Story Map provides visitors with a visual and geographic history of an important crossroads in the Seven Mountains region of the Commonwealth. The map “allows visitors to change scale and navigate between important historic places along the highway corridor and understand the roles that transportation, natural resources, agriculture and early industries played in the development of modern Centre County.”

The Story Map website provides an interactive map of the area with 33 separate image icons that link users to important locations – along with photos, historic maps and documents and a brief description of each. Together, the map allows users to explore the history of the region, from the time of the Native Americans and earliest settlers through various important historic events and locations.

The team sought images which spanned the development of the area, and included diverse subjects and formats including photos, historic maps, portraits, documents, and other records. Information was uncovered through research at a number of repositories, including local historical societies, universities, libraries, state agencies, and from private individuals.

Origins of Story Map Concept

The Story Map concept was proposed to PennDOT by its project consultant as a possible mitigation measure for adverse impacts identified for the project under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

“The idea actually came from one of the consultant team members who saw a social media post that combined a map, text and images, but lacked the GIS-based interactivity of what became the Story Map,” according to PennDOT’s Steve Fantechi, who managed the project through preliminary design.

The Story Map was one of a number of mitigation measures that included roadside interpretive signage, context-sensitive design measures, the preparation of a “Best Practices” document, and avoidance and protection of some resources. The NEPA document for the project was an Environmental Assessment that concluded with a Finding of No Significant Impact.

According to Fantechi, the Section 106 consultation process involved a great deal of consultation and interaction with local historical societies and local governments. “That collaboration contributed substantially to Story Map’s popularity with local residents, the regional press, teachers, and citizens and engendered a substantial amount of local and regional pride in local heritage,” he said. “In our view that’s what a successful Section 106 outcome looks like.”

In addition, he said, the GIS-based Story Map approach also creates an obvious link between landscape, transportation networks, and economic history, which in turn promotes a better understanding of and context for historic events, trends and places.

To the best of PennDOT’s knowledge, this is the first mitigation product of its type used for an American transportation project.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

According to PennDOT District 2 staff, the biggest challenge in developing the Story Map was probably too much of a good thing.

Background research and interaction with the consulting parties produced an enormous number of images and a substantial amount of local history and documents. Paring that down to a relevant and manageable record of local and regional history was a challenge.

Once that work was done, the actual GIS programming required to produce an interactive and useable online product had its own set of challenges, as the product went through a number of iterations leading to the final version.

Another challenge came from requests by some of the consulting partners to add additional information to the Story Map for future projects. Since PennDOT used a consultant to develop the Story Map, its ability to revise the map was limited to the duration and funding of the consultant’s contract. PennDOT doesn’t have the resources to revise the Story Map in-house, so future revisions, which could involve different consultants, could be more difficult, according to PennDOT Project Manager Craig Sattesahn.

Regarding lessons learned, Sattesahn said it would have been useful to establish procedures and parameters up front to facilitate revisions and additional requests.

Advice for Other DOTs

According to PennDOT staff, close and meaningful consultation with local consulting parties and residents is key to local support for the product and can help obtain a great deal of important local input – such as family images, diaries, etc. – that would be impossible to get anywhere else.

It’s also important to balance high-tech and low-tech mitigation measures. Older residents are less technologically savvy than younger ones, and there are still many remote locations where high speed internet conductivity is spotty.

Since the Story Map is a technology-based product, the rapid change and evolution of technology requires attention. Although no funding is available to carry the Potters Mills Gap Story Map further, it’s likely that the next iteration of a Story Map on a different project would probably be a mobile application.

As a final consideration, PennDOT staff said a central online state repository for Story Maps from multiple projects is probably worthwhile and would not be a very expensive effort. Such a site would allow visitors to start a search at the state map level and zoom in to a number of specific project areas that have Story Maps.

The first of three construction sections of the Potters Mills Gap Transportation Project was completed in 2015. A second section began construction in August 2016, and the last section is scheduled to start construction in early 2018. More information about the PMG Transportation Project is available on the project web page.

A Journey to Potters Mills Story Map can be found on PennDOT’s PA Project Path website.

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Indirect Effects/Cumulative Impacts

Case Studies: Montana

Case Studies: Montana - Montana DOT Develops Guidance for Indirect Effects Analyses

A guidance document developed for the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) will provide needed consistency and efficient procedures for determining the indirect land use and environmental effects of transportation projects in the state.

Issued in the summer of 2013, MDT's Indirect Effects Desk Reference provides an overview of regulatory requirements related to indirect effects, a step-by-step screening process to determine what level of analysis is warranted and a framework for conducting detailed analyses, where needed.

View from Montana Highway 200. (Photo: Montana DOT)

MDT developed the guidance to help agency staff and consultants determine the potential for induced growth effects from road projects, taking into account the state's unique rural setting, according to Heidy Bruner, Environmental Services Engineering Section Supervisor at MDT. MDT plans to incorporate the guidance into its Environmental Manual this summer for use on upcoming projects, Bruner said.

The guidance will help ensure compliance with requirements for analyzing projects' potential indirect effects under the National Environmental Policy Act and Montana Environmental Policy Act.

Screening Process Developed

The screening process considers information that is readily available early in the project development process regarding the characteristics and location of the project.

A five-part screening process provides a list of questions for staff to consider. These include:

  • whether the project is exempt, such as highway maintenance and rehabilitation on the same alignment with no increase in capacity;
  • whether the project has an economic development purpose included as part of the purpose and need;
  • whether the project will substantially improve accessibility based on indicators such as travel time to key destinations;
  • whether developable land is available in the areas served by the project;
  • and whether the project region is experiencing population and/or employment growth.

Using this initial screening process, the vast majority of MDT's projects will not require detailed analysis.

Detailed Analyses

The Desk Reference provides a framework with the following steps for conducting a detailed analysis, where needed:

  • determine study goals and methodology;
  • define study area boundaries and time horizon;
  • assess existing and future no build land use patterns;
  • assess future build condition land use conditions and indirect land use effects;
  • assess the potential for indirect impacts on sensitive resources;
  • develop potential mitigation measures; and
  • document the process and results.

For the actual indirect effects analysis, the guidance recommends a combination of "collaborative judgment," which determines the "no build" vs. "build" incremental change in land use, and "allocation models," which determine the allocation of growth predicted through collaborative judgment to specific sub areas. "Collaborative judgment incorporates input from other people knowledgeable of the study area (local experts) to inform conclusions about future land use conditions, whether through informal interviews or more formally through a Delphi panel. Allocation models can allow the analyst to distribute a defined amount of indirect land use change at a disaggregate level (such as allocating growth in county to individual municipalities or allocating growth in a city to census tracts or traffic analysis zones," the summary said.

Research Informed Development of Guidance

The guidance document was based on the results of research on MDT's existing practice, including a review of environmental documents developed for projects, interviews of MDT staff, and a survey of resource agency staff. The research also included a review of relevant case law to determine how courts have interpreted when indirect effects analyses are adequate.

Researchers determined that indirect land use effects assessments in Montana had been conducted in an "ad hoc" manner. While some environmental documents provided well-thought out explanations of the relationship between the project and potential future land development, none of the documents followed a clearly defined assessment process.

Process Offers Needed Consistency

Bruner said the research showed that there was not a large deficiency in the agency's process for conducting indirect effects analyses. Nevertheless, the new procedures offer needed consistency and structure that has been well received.

MDT has conducted training to ensure that staff and consultants have an efficient process for meeting requirements for indirect effects analyses under NEPA and MEPA. The process will be updated going forward, as needed, and will be coordinated with future updates to the MDT Environmental Manual. Bruner said the process is flexible and could be transferable to other state DOTs, but it would need to be tailored to the unique communities of each state.

According to Leo Tidd, a member of MDT's consultant team with The Louis Berger Group, the Desk Reference incorporates concepts and best practices that could be adopted by other states. "The basics of right-sizing the level of analysis to the project issues, documenting the rationale for decisions, avoiding inconsistencies within the environmental document (such as stating the purpose includes economic development, but then failing to analyze the environmental impact of that development) apply everywhere," Tidd said.

The process used to review the state of the practice at MDT could be applied by other states to assess how they are doing on this issue, he added. In addition, the screening process could easily be adapted for use in other states to improve NEPA document timeliness and defensibility, he said. "The questions themselves are not specific to Montana and deal with drivers of land use change that are universal," Tidd said.

For more information, including a final research report, summary report, and training presentation, link to Assessing the Extent and Determinates of Induced Growth on the MDT website at http://www.mdt.mt.gov/research/projects/planning/growth.shtml or contact Heidy Bruner at hbruner@mt.gov.

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Invasive Species/Vegetation Management

Recent Developments: MnDOT Examines Partnerships for Promoting Pollinator Habitats

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has released a report examining the experiences of other state departments of transportation and agencies in maintaining pollinator landscapes on highway rights-of-way through partnerships with individuals, groups and local agencies. The report examines how these programs are developed, managed and funded and how these efforts relate to existing roadside maintenance programs. The report also provides next steps for MnDOT to consider, including expanding the selection of native seed mixes available on its online PlantSelector tool and developing partnerships with corn and soybean growers and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. For more information, link to the report. (7-15-16)

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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: Minnesota - Six State DOTs Join Forces to Build ‘Monarch Highway’

A coalition of six state transportation agencies are working together to help monarch butterflies on their migratory journeys by establishing a continuous “Monarch Highway” stretching north-south along Interstate 35.

Departments of Transportation in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas are working to improve habitat along the corridor in each state. The state agencies along with the Federal Highway Administration signed a Memorandum of Understanding in the spring of 2016 in which they pledged to collaboratively implement pollinator habitat best practices and promote public awareness of the need to conserve pollinators. The agencies have agreed to develop educational materials together and assist each other as they “inventory, protect, plant and manage pollinator habitats and develop strategies for pollinator-friendly seed mixes.”

Actions to preserve monarch butterflies are becoming more vital. The species has declined by 80 percent over the past two decades due to factors such as habitat fragmentation and herbicide decimation of milkweed plants, which are its larvae’s only food source. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must determine by June 2019 if the monarch butterfly should be listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. If the species is listed, its presence throughout the I-35 corridor would trigger additional requirements for federally-funded projects.

Monarch butterfly on milkweed. Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

“We all are already carrying out practices that benefit pollinators such as reduced mowing, targeted herbicide use, and planting native vegetation seed mixes,” said Tina Markeson, the Monarch Highway Project Chair and Roadside Vegetation Management Supervisor at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). “But having a multi-state effort brings added benefits.”

One of the key benefits, she said, is the ability to apply for grants as a group, which is attractive to funders looking for broad impact. Also, each state is better positioned for individual grants due to the inherent credibility that comes from participation in a collaborative project. Yet another benefit is the opportunity to discuss what works and what doesn’t. The single message focus also gives added clout and enables common educational materials to be developed at less cost.

Stepping Up Existing Efforts

Individual states have not received specific funding for their Monarch Highway work, nor is there external financial support to administer the initiative, said Markeson. However, participants will be tweaking or stepping up what they already are doing. Her agency, for example, has been planting native seed mixes for about 25 years. Though more expensive than non-native mixes, native plants offer multiple advantages, such as strong root systems for erosion control and water filtration, strong stalks that act as snow fences, and reduced long-term maintenance costs.

To create a baseline and determine what is needed next, each state is carrying out an internal analysis of its own current practices along I-35. Potential actions by states may include:

  • adding or increasing milkweed in seed mixes;
  • cutting back mowing;
  • increasing plantings in targeted areas to reduce habitat fragmentation; and
  • carrying out prescribed burns as a vegetation maintenance tool.

Geographic differences also will affect individual state approaches. In Minnesota, for example, the I-35 corridor includes deciduous and coniferous forest as well as prairie. One component of its approach will be to assess its current stock of flowering trees and shrubs and make pollinator-friendly adjustments as needed. And some of its educational materials will include a reminder that other types of vegetation, not just wildflowers, are part of the solution.

The six-state group plans to step up its collaborative efforts to include regular teleconference calls and annual face-to-face meetings. The Monarch Highway Project Chair position likely will change every two years and by-laws will be developed. Rest areas likely will be the initial focus, with demonstration plots and educational materials made available in all six states. A mock-up of a logo is being circulated for comment, and funding opportunities are being actively explored.

To magnify their work, all six states are working in partnership with other state agencies as well as nonprofit groups. For example, Markeson said her agency is working with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Board of Water and Soil Resources to coordinate requests for the 30 different types of seed mixes it uses across the diverse biomes found throughout the state. And in Texas, which is responsible for almost double the number of I-35 miles found in the other states, TxDOT will draw on existing resources such as the Texas Monarch and Native Pollinator Conservation Plan.

History of Initiative

Multiple government actions have provided strong justification for the initiative. In 2014, President Obama issued a memorandum calling for increased federal agency efforts to preserve declining pollinators. The following year, the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators was released. Both documents call out the I-35 corridor as a key focal point.

In addition, in 2015 the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and U.S. DOT partnered to sponsor a summit of state transportation leaders to advance pollinator habitat. And the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act contains provisions for the U.S. DOT, in conjunction with willing state DOTs, to encourage habitat development for monarch butterflies and other pollinators. In addition to these national measures, state-specific directives call for reversing pollinator decline, such as Executive Order 16-07 issued by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton in August 2016.

While these recent actions have helped to create a strong framework, the roots of the Monarch Highway project actually date back several decades to another I-35 initiative. In 1993, the FHWA provided funding to the same six DOTs to create the Prairie Passage Program, with I-35 as its backbone.

Overcoming Challenges

Despite the pluses, Markeson said, Monarch Highway participants likely will face several challenges as they pick up the pace in 2017. First, while they already are carrying out pollinator-friendly practices, factors such as additional staff time and a greater proportion of native seed mix investments could add to costs at a time when some state DOT budgets are shrinking.

An additional obstacle may be that of ensuring continued commitment to maintaining the good work once it is in place. As Markeson explained, “It tends to be easier to find funding for planting than it is for maintenance. We have to make sure that what we are doing will be sustained.”

Yet another challenge may be to fully account for the effects of altering current practices, especially in terms of agricultural interests. For example, some farmers who use roadside mowings for cattle feed have raised concerns about including milkweed in the seed mix.

Advice for other DOTs

To maximize chances for success in a multi-state initiative such as the Monarch Highway, Markeson offered four tips:

  • Find an internal agency champion if possible; in this case, MnDOT Commissioner Charles Zelle has been an outspoken proponent;
  • If there is a related initiative from the past that can help provide a foundation, draw upon it;
  • Continue to exchange information with the other states to build on successes and lessons learned; and
  • Develop and maintain close communication with materials providers, in this case native seed mix producers, so that they have the incentive to develop such mixes and have them available when needed.

What’s Down the Road for the ‘Monarch Highway’?

The ultimate goal is a cost-effective, thriving transportation corridor that serves the needs of both its human and its pollinator species travelers. But ultimate success for pollinators will depend upon a much larger realm of supporters than just these six agencies.

“Many others need to be involved as well,” Markeson said. “We will be doing our part, but dedicated efforts should be underway across the country as well as up into Canada and down into Mexico. The rewards on many levels are indisputable.”

For more information, contact MnDOT’s Tina Markeson at Tina.Markeson@state.mn.us or access the Monarch Highway memorandum of understanding. Information on additional transportation-related efforts to protect pollinators are detailed on the FHWA’s Pollinator web page.

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Case Studies: Virginia - VDOT Program Aids Pollinators While Supporting Transportation Goals

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is implementing a Pollinator Habitat Program along the state’s highway system that provides much-needed waystations for monarch butterflies and other dwindling pollinator species. Moreover, according to agency officials, the program is entirely consistent with the department’s transportation priorities.

“Our savings on mowing costs alone will be significant,” said Diane Beyer, State Vegetation Management Planner for VDOT’s Maintenance Division. “Currently, each roadside mowing cycle costs approximately $12 million. Under the program, our goal is to reduce mowing frequency from three times a year to once a year.”

Volunteers plant natives at I-95 meadow restoration. Photo: VDOT

Under the program, Beyer explained, stretches along the state’s highways and at rest areas are being planted with native vegetation that provides food and habitat for pollinators. The multi-colored vegetation includes species such as milkweed for monarch butterflies, asters for bees, and goldenrod for birds, bees, and butterflies.

Beyer said the program will bring multiple transportation and environmental benefits. First, the program supports VDOT’s vision of safety while providing increased habitat areas. For example, attractive roadsides have been shown to reduce driver fatigue and improve mood; and wildflower perennials and grasses are not favored by deer, a potential driver hazard. In addition, mowing only the shoulder (and allowing wildflowers to continue to bloom) still maintains line of sight and space for motorists to pull off, and it prevents encroachment of shrubs and trees.

In addition, roadside maintenance time and costs are reduced through planting of self-sustaining, native vegetation. The vegetation stabilizes slopes and reduces erosion; increases storm water and nutrients retention due to deep roots; and reduces other vegetation maintenance costs such as invasive species control and herbicide applications. It also provides a smooth transition to adjacent properties.

The program also contributes to the agency’s broader Integrated Vegetation/Pest Management system through reduced use of herbicides; increased erosion, sediment and stormwater runoff control; and reduction in the presence of invasive species. An additional benefit is the increase in visual aesthetics.

Besides supporting VDOT’s transportation goals, Beyer said, VDOT’s Pollinator Habitat Program also supports the Department’s MS4 program, a critical element of Virginia's stormwater management program. On a national level, it supports FHWA’s Every Day Counts initiative though what Beyer calls its “low-tech, back to basics” approach to innovation and its focus on safety. In addition, the program aligns well with the Presidential Memorandum issued in 2014 on creating a federal strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators.

Genesis and Development

“As it happened, the inception of our program preceded the Presidential Memorandum by several months,” said Beyer. “The timing was very helpful to us in terms building internal support for what was viewed as a very new approach to maintenance.”

The pilot program began in the fall of 2014. Four plots were planted with plant plugs in northern Virginia, each 900 square feet and containing 13 different species. These initial plantings provided Beyer and her team with a useful means of learning what works and what doesn’t. The plantings also provided a foundation for beginning to educate agency staff and the public about the program and the reasons behind it.

In September 2015, a 15,000 square foot meadow area was planted at a rest area on Interstate 95 (a migratory flyway), also in northern Virginia. Three smaller plantings simultaneously were installed near the rest area building. The latter plantings serve as educational stations with interpretive signage for visitors. A total of 8,000 nectar and pollinator plants from 23 species were planted.

Also during the fall, three areas in southwestern Virginia were planted with seeds (not plants); one of the goals was to analyze which seed mixtures and types of seed planting methods work best. In this case, the areas were medians and roadsides. And at the end of 2015, the program moved into the western part of the state for the first time.

Plants such as this aster attract pollinators on Virginia roadsides. Photo: VDOT

Plans call for the program to be implemented statewide. In 2016, while results from the seed-planting location are gathered, the focus will be to continue to create naturalized gardens and meadows with mature plants at state rest areas. In the meantime, interpretive signage continues to be developed and installed at existing areas. Beyer said the team will integrate solutions to challenges they faced in the early months, such as ensuring continued maintenance of the plots until the vegetation is well established.

Funding and Partners

Currently, the program primarily is funded through the purchase of the “wildflower” license plate, which will continue to be offered to drivers and is supported by the Virginia Garden Clubs. Beyer said, the newly minted “pollinator” license plate currently does not financially support the program, but a bill is being introduced in the 2016 Legislative session to remedy that and direct funds to VDOT in support of the Pollinator Habitat program.

Partners have been essential to the program’s growth, she continued. They include Virginia Dominion Power/Dominion Trust; Valley Land; White House Office of Science & Technology; Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy; Virginia Native Plant Society; and PBS Films. These groups continue to provide needed funding, labor and materials.

Advice for Other DOTs

Beyer said other state DOTs either are planning or beginning to carry out similar programs. Examples included a corridor restoration project from Texas to Minnesota, as well as programs in Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, and Vermont. Part of the challenge for interstate initiatives, she pointed out, is that DOTs have varying organizational structures, which can make obtaining a multiple-state green light, as well as ongoing cross-state coordination, challenging.

Her advice to other state DOTs contemplating a similar initiative centered on two themes: education and partnering. Educating the public is important, Beyer said, but perhaps even more critical is internal agency education, especially for two groups: upper management and the maintenance team tasked with actually carrying out the work. As partnering goes, securing early collaboration from groups such as native plants societies, Extension Services, garden clubs and wildlife organizations is key to success. They will all help with the outreach and education of the program as well.

Finally, she urged agencies not to overlook the corporate sector: it definitely needs to be included on agencies’ teams to bring key expertise, networks, and financial support to the table. Partnerships also give others a sense of stewardship in promoting and furthering the program.

“Our organizational structure is such that safety rest areas are managed centrally, making it easier to create a consistent program face. Consistency is important in that it brands the program and makes it more comprehensible and recognizable to the public and staff. Rest areas are also an excellent way for us to educate the public about the new program and the new mowing practices and gardens,” she said.

“Education, both internally and externally is a paramount necessity in a program such as this. You want to make sure everyone comprehends the 'whys' so that support comes forth from a place of knowledge and understanding," said Beyer.

She suggested that education and outreach be an integral part of a similar program, as new techniques and ideas are not always well received when staff and the public are not included in the “whys” and allowed to ask questions.

For more information, link to Virginia DOT’s Pollinator Habitat Program website or contact Diane Beyer, State Vegetation Management Planner, VDOT Maintenance Division, at Diane.Beyer@vdot.virginia.gov.

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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: FDOT Receives National Environmental Policy Act Responsibilities

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has announced a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Highway Administration to allow the state to assume responsibilities for environmental review of infrastructure projects. The assignment of responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act is expected to save an estimated 25 percent of the processing time and $22 million per year. Florida joins California, Ohio and Texas in assuming NEPA authority. For more information, link to the press release. (12-14-16)

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Recent Developments: Caltrans Requests Renewed Participation in NEPA Assignment Program

The Federal Highway Administration has announced the receipt of a renewal package from the California Department of Transportation requesting renewed participation in the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program and an associated proposed memorandum of understanding for assignment of National Environmental Policy Act review authority. The FHWA has determined that the renewal package is complete and has developed a draft renewal memorandum of understanding with Caltrans outlining how the state will implement the program with FHWA oversight. For more information, link to the Federal Register notice. (11-16-16)

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Recent Developments: Utah DOT Seeks to Assume FHWA NEPA Review Authority

The Federal Highway Administration has announced the receipt of an application from the Utah Department of Transportation requesting participation in the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program and an associated proposed memorandum of understanding that outlines how the state will implement the program with oversight from the FHWA. The FHWA specifies that if approved, the state will assume environmental review responsibilities, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, for federally funded highway projects in the state. For more information, link to the Federal Register notice. (11-16-16)

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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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Case Studies: Ohio - Ohio DOT Launches Expanded Online Environmental Documentation System

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has launched an expanded and renamed version of its online environmental documentation system and is steadily adding time-saving bells and whistles. The system, formerly known as CE Online, has been rebranded ENVIRONET to reflect the comprehensive capabilities of the system and to allow for future planned enhancements.

ENVIRONET facilitates the electronic processing of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents. Categorical exclusions (CEs) can be fully completed online because the forms are built into the system. The associated electronic project file houses supporting documentation. While Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impact Statement (EISs) still need to be completed outside the system, both the environmental document and its associated documentation are uploaded to the electronic project file set up for the project.

The electronic project file is a very important part of the system since it allows real-time access to draft and final supporting documents. Subject matter reviewers can check out draft technical reports, make comments, and check them back in. Once the technical report is approved, it can be finalized in the system. This capability allows for version control and the system also tracks when documents were uploaded, when they were modified, and by whom.

EnviroNet System Screenshot, Courtesy Ohio DOT

The system also provides a standardized process for uploading reports, technical studies, agency coordination, and decision-making documents. It allows the user to select appropriate drop-down options to consistently name documentation. The process is capped off with an electronic review and approval function, meaning no printing, signing, scanning and uploading is required. Users have access to particular sections of the system based on their respective roles.

“Rebranding is a reminder that our system offers more than just streamlining CE preparations,” said ODOT Assistant Environmental Administrator Erica Schneider. “One of EnviroNet’s greatest benefits is that it provides all sorts of real-time information to our project team. There’s no longer a need for mailing or e-mailing information back and forth.”

ODOT has continued to save approximately $100,000 per year since its CE Online went live in 2012, Schneider said. Even better, savings could double as additional enhancements are added.

NEPA Assignment a Motivator

In December 2015, ODOT assumed federal authority for NEPA reviews from the Federal Highway Administration, giving the state agency added responsibilities for ensuring environmental compliance. These new responsibilities provided additional motivation to add new capabilities to the system, explained Kevin Davis, Environmental Supervisor with ODOT. For example, the system now includes a Project Details Tab that allows ODOT users to enter dates for specific environmental milestones related to the project, whether it’s a CE (the vast majority), EA, or an EIS.

“We now are required to closely track time savings,” he explained. “Using the project file, we can access completion dates for each stage of a project from start to finish. With these details in hand, we can identify exactly where we are saving time or, in some cases, exactly where we need to find ways to work more efficiently.”

Another recent addition is the FHWA Auditing Tool. During annual audits under the NEPA assignment program, auditors can log in at the home page, select the date range they are seeking, and view all of the documents approved during that time period.

Lessons Learned, Advice to Other DOTs

In planning and developing enhancements to ENVIRONET, ODOT has gathered suggestions from inside the agency and also used information from similar online systems in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Texas. Virginia DOT, for example, has integrated a GIS component into its system, an enhancement ODOT now is considering.

Schneider said developing an effective system that can be built to grow and adapt requires funding, patience, and time. The original system cost about $600,000 to develop and it took just over a year.

She offered the following advice to other DOTs contemplating building similar systems:

  • Gain and maintain strong support from upper management.
  • Develop a front-end detailed communications plan. Processes, roles, and protocols should be clearly spelled out to avoid duplication and misunderstandings.
  • Plan on dedicating a lot of time to working with programmers and subject matter experts as the system is developed.
  • Involve everyday users of the system at the beginning of development. Learn about their needs and solicit their ideas. Before deployment, carry out user acceptance testing and make changes where needed.
  • Provide comprehensive training to all users. Go beyond “train-the-trainer.” Conduct classroom training. Develop a website that provides guidance on tasks such as how to check out a document for review.

Looking Ahead

As of October 2016, more than 6,600 projects were housed in ENVIRONET including approved documents, those in process, and those submitted for review and/or approval. More than 600 people had been granted access to the system, including ODOT staff, regulatory agencies, and consultants. The eventual goal, Schneider said, is for all involved resource agencies to carry out their reviews using ENVIRONET and to make all approved environmental documents available to the public online.

Another planned enhancement will facilitate the completion and coordination of Ecological Survey Reports. Under the current system, regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service receive as many as 60-70 such reports a month. They are uploaded to an internal local drive and sent out in batches via an extranet site at the end of the month. The new feature, which would incorporate the report into the CE form, is scheduled for incorporation in 2017.

For more information, contact Kevin E. Davis at Kevin.Davis@dot.ohio.gov or Erica Schneider at Erica.Schneider@dot.state.oh.us of the Office of Environmental Services at ODOT or visit the Office of Environmental Services Environmental Documentation web page.

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Noise

Recent Developments: FHWA Provides Noise-Related Fact Sheets on Programmatic Agreements, Streamlining

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has posted four noise-related resources, including fact sheets on opportunities for use of programmatic agreements and ways to streamline the noise study process. The resources also address several methods for determining and placing nonresidential receptors and case study examples using the single point, frontage-based, lost-sized based and grid-based methodologies. Another fact sheet describes use of sound level descriptors. For more information, link to the resources. (5-31-17)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Issues Draft Traffic Noise Model 3.0 For Six-Month Evaluation

An updated draft version of the Federal Highway Administration’s traffic noise model (TNM 3.0) has been released for a six-month evaluation and public comment, ending Sept. 14, 2017. TNM 3.0 includes acoustical improvements to support more accurate noise analyses and a new enhanced user interface that incorporates geographic information systems capability. FHWA held a series of webinars in March explaining implementation options for the model. More information, including webinar recordings, requests to download the software, and a form for providing comments, link to the TNM Support Website. (4-20-17)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Announces Final Draft of Updated Traffic Noise Model

The Federal Highway Administration has announced that it will soon be releasing an updated version of its Traffic Noise Model. TNM 3.0 is the first major update since the previous version, incorporating new technology and research and accounting for input received users over the past 12 years. New features include improved user interface, the separation of the user interface from the acoustical formulas for simplification of future updates, and updates and improvements to calculations. TNM 3.0 is interoperable with ArcGIS, AutoCAD and Microstation. The final draft will be available later in January and the FHWA will be accepting comments for six months. For more information, link to the fact sheet. (1-3-17)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Announces Plans to Issue Traffic Noise Model Version 3.0

The Federal Highway Administration has announced the planned release of version 3.0 of its traffic noise model (TNM 3.0). The new model features a map-based graphical user interface for data entry and analysis, new algorithms and revised interoperability to provide users with improved flexibility and accuracy. The model also contains better visual representations of data for highway traffic noise studies. The new version is expected to be available for download in early 2017. For more information, link to the press release. (11-8-16)

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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: U.S. DOT Seeks Identification of Unnecessary Regulations

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has issued a notice requesting the identification of nonstatutory requirements that should be removed or revised from agency regulations. The USDOT is requesting comments on requirements in regulations, policy statements or guidance documents that unnecessarily delay or prevent completion of surface, maritime, and aviation transportation infrastructure projects. The public may also submit legislative solutions if nonstatutory changes are insufficient. The notice is issued in response to Executive Order 13777, instructing agencies to create a Regulatory Reform Task Force to alleviate regulatory burdens. For more information, link to the announcement. (6-9-17)

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Recent Developments: FHWA 'Successes in Stewardship' Monthly Newsletter

Recent Developments: AASHTO Policy Resolution Calls for Robust Infrastructure Package

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has released a policy resolution supporting a robust infrastructure package for transportation. The resolution highlights the importance of federal funding for transportation infrastructure and the need for statutory commitments to long-term and sustainable revenues for highways, airports, marine ports and rail. The resolution also calls on the Trump administration to honor its commitment to infrastructure as a part of its policy agenda. In addition, the resolution states AASHTO’s support for the current system of funding transportation programs. For more information, link to resolution PR-1-17. (5-25-17)

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Recent Developments: FDOT Receives National Environmental Policy Act Responsibilities

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has announced a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Highway Administration to allow the state to assume responsibilities for environmental review of infrastructure projects. The assignment of responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act is expected to save an estimated 25 percent of the processing time and $22 million per year. Florida joins California, Ohio and Texas in assuming NEPA authority. For more information, link to the press release. (12-14-16)

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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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Case Studies: Oregon - Oregon DOT Makes Headway in Streamlining ESA Section 7 Consultations

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have significantly reduced review time and cost for conducting endangered species consultations for their projects through implementation of a unique statewide programmatic consultation that streamlines procedures while ensuring conservation of potentially affected species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

ODOT’s John Raasch explains that “prior to the Federal-Aid Highway Program (FAHP) ESA programmatic consultation process, ODOT was spending six to nine months preparing a Biological Assessment and awaiting the Biological Opinion. It was expensive and time consuming. With the FAHP [programmatic ESA consultation], that consultation time is now one to two weeks. Due to the process being so efficient, ODOT can submit documents later in the project planning phase when more specific details regarding project design are available, resulting in fewer revisions and shorter review timelines.”

Oregon DOT's ESA Programmatic Consultation helps streamline projects such as this innovative culvert design. Photo: ODOT

Background

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, numerous west coast salmonid species (Chinook, Chum, Coho, steelhead, Sockeye and Bull Trout) were listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). ODOT, whose road and bridge projects border and cross a high number of salmon-supporting streams, began hiring more biologists and consultants to prepare the numerous and lengthy Biological Assessments (BAs) that were now required and to manage the ESA Section 7 consultation process.

After many years of preparing separate BAs evaluating predictable impacts and implementing similar mitigation measures, and completing separate Section 7 consultations which took on average six to nine months, ODOT and FHWA approached the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) about a programmatic approach to ESA Section 7 consultations for these species. Taking advantage of the collaborative and problem-solving spirit built between ODOT, FHWA, USFWS and NMFS staff biologists over the preceding years, the agencies agreed on a set of procedures and tools for implementing the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) statewide programmatic Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7 consultation and Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA) consultation with NMFS and USFWS.

The FAHP programmatic consultation for Highway Projects resulted in two biological opinions (BO), one from USFWS and one from NMFS, which provide ESA coverage for the majority of highway construction projects funded by the FAHP and administered by ODOT. To qualify for the FAHP programmatic consultation, the project must:

  • Result in an ESA determination of “may affect” (likely or not likely to adversely affect) for one or more of the specified federally-listed species or designated critical habitat (CH). The FAHP programmatic authorizes “take” for species most likely to be directly impacted by highway projects including all ESA-listed fish species and associated CH in Oregon.
  • Result in a determination of “may affect” fisheries resources governed by the MSA.
  • Result in a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) classification of categorical exclusion or environmental assessment.
  • Not involve specific excluded activities.

Outcome-focused design standards that were agreed upon by ODOT, FHWA, NMFS and USFWS, and that provide benefits to species and their habitats, are a key to the success of the FAHP programmatic. Some examples of these outcome-focused design standards are shown in Table 1.

There are four main phases of project implementation under the FAHP programmatic: early coordination, notification, construction, and post-construction. The details of project implementation are described in the FAHP Programmatic User’s Guide. As the lead agency, FHWA administers the FAHP programmatic, which includes local and state projects within the scope of the program. Projects that require U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) permits can use the FAHP programmatic to meet USACE ESA requirements. The FAHP action area includes all geographic areas in Oregon where transportation projects directly or indirectly affect ESA-listed species covered by the FAHP programmatic.

ODOT has found that conservation, consistency and efficiency are the benefits of the FAHP programmatic:

  • Conservation: the FAHP focuses on the outcome for covered species and their habitat.
  • Consistency: the FAHP provides predictable costs, design standards, outcomes for covered ESA-listed species, and agency review timelines.
  • Efficiency: in addition to predicable FAHP permitting components, an online form consisting of check boxes, drop downs and a few short text fields replaces the 200+ page BAs previously common at ODOT.

The FAHP programmatic consultation would not be possible without the trust built between participating agencies over time. As a result of its success, NMFS and USFWS were able to defer approval responsibility to FHWA for a large portion of projects.

According to ODOT, as of late 2015, 134 projects had been completed under the programmatic since its inception, with 77 completed or in construction. About half of those projects were local agency projects, and just over half of the projects required only FHWA approval with NMFS notification.

Implementation Tools for ESA Consultations

Several tools were developed to meet the reporting requirements of the FAHP programmatic and assist with information sharing and management. These include:

  • Initiation, Notification, Construction Inspection and Completion forms.
  • Webmap – The location and status of all projects implemented using the FAHP are available for stakeholders to track via ODOT’s FAHP Projects Map. Each project is symbolized by its current status and includes a link to the project files. These contain more detailed information ranging from plan sheets to notification forms to construction monitoring reports.
  • Project Tracking – All projects that use the FAHP are documented and tracked in a centralized data management system and coordinated by ODOT. Project impacts, enhancements, and take are all tracked, and quarterly status reports are available to stakeholders.
  • User’s Guide – The FAHP user’s guide is a comprehensive review of the processes used to implement the FAHP. The user’s guide provides design standards, and detailed instructions for how to coordinate, notify, and monitor projects.

For agencies struggling with long and unpredictable ESA consultation processes, ODOT has the following advice if considering a programmatic ESA consultation:

  1. Consult with other states on successful programmatic ESA consultations that have been implemented. Look into the tools they created and data tracking they provide. See if anything can be built upon to meet your needs.
  2. Continue to build relationships with FHWA, NMFS and USFW. Without strong relationships between ODOT, FHWA, NMFS and USFW, this consultation would have been very difficult, if not impossible to obtain.
  3. Be realistic on your time frame for obtaining the programmatic ESA consultation. Ensure that you take the time to collaborate internally and externally to ensure success.

For more information on ODOT’s FAHP programmatic, contact Cash Chesselet, ODOT FAHP Coordinator, at Cash.chesselet@odot.state.or.us, or Cindy L. Callahan, Environmental Specialist/Biologist, FHWA Oregon and Washington Divisions/Resource Center, at Cindy.Callahan@dot.gov.

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Section 4(f)/Section 6(f)

Recent Developments: FHWA Newsletter Features Resources to Assist with Section 4(f) Compliance

The June 2013 Successes in Stewardship newsletter, published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), provides information on Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. Included in the newsletter are recent Section 4(f) updates and a description of the FHWA’s Interactive Section 4(f) Tutorial, which expands on a previously released training tool. The newsletter also offers examples of Section 4(f) projects. A FHWA-National Highway Institute collaboration on a planned Section 4(f) training course is also highlighted. For more information, link to Interactive Online Tutorial Educates Users about Section 4(f). (6-3-13)

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Case Studies: Ohio - Ohio DOT Programmatic Agreement Streamlines LWCF Section 6(f) Requirements

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is cutting down its paperwork and ramping up its collaboration thanks to a unique Programmatic Agreement (PA) signed last year for compliance with Section 6(f) of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act (LWCF). So, too, are its partners, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and the National Park Service (NPS).

The PA lays out a carefully coordinated interagency process for fulfilling requirements when ODOT projects involve land protected under the LWCF. Under Section 6(f) of the law, any property that has received LWCF funding cannot be converted to non-recreational use without replacement of that land, which must be approved by NPS. Converted land must be replaced with land of equal or greater value, location, and usefulness.

Ohio DOT's Section 6(f) programmatic helps streamline requirements for LWCF properties such as Leetonia Trailhead. Photo: Ohio DOT

“We were having a lot of trouble getting projects through the 6(f) process,” explains Erica Schneider, Assistant Environmental Administrator at ODOT. “It hadn’t been much of an issue in the past because we didn’t have many projects with 6(f) impacts. But in recent years, the number definitely started to go up. The process was taking months, even years, to finish. We knew we had to do something.”

The jointly-developed document contains a number of provisions that reduce required paperwork and eliminate unnecessary agency involvement for any project that triggers Section 6(f) compliance while still ensuring that the resource is protected. Projects involving Section 6(f) properties continue to be broken out into three levels: maintenance, temporary non-conforming use, and conversions. But under the PA, the compliance process for each level has been streamlined. For maintenance-type projects, ODOT doesn’t have to coordinate with ODNR or NPS, which saves the agency at least 30 days of review time. Moreover, impacts that constitute a temporary non-conforming use of a Section 6(f) property can be approved by ODNR, and NPS only has to be copied on the decision, again saving at least 30 days of review time.

“As for conversions, they still take considerable time in that they still have to go through ODNR and NPS,” says Schneider. “But, overall, we’re in a much better position.”

For instance, each agency now has a 30-day deadline for review, and it now is acceptable to use ODOT’s (FHWA’s) real estate appraisal process for replacement land rather than that of NPS. In addition, reviews can be conducted concurrently by ODNR and NPS if the project schedule is expedited. And purchase of the replacement property can occur after National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) approval (it must be completed prior to final acceptance of the construction project by the engineer).

Furthermore, NPS now accepts FHWA’s documentation for Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act in order to satisfy their NEPA obligations for Section 6(f), which opens the door to one of the biggest time-savers: a standardized single form the partners developed for Section 6(f) as well as Section 4(f). Having a single form means that information doesn’t have to be duplicated, and the new format makes it easier for district staff and consultants to follow and for agency staff to fill out. Also, since Section 4(f) analysis must be approved prior to Section 6(f) approval, ODOT can have all of the information readily available, conduct the Section 4(f) determination and simultaneously be working on the Section 6(f) evaluation.

“Saving time is saving money,” says Schneider. “Streamlining saves us time in the environmental process and also translates through into cost savings during construction due to factors such as inflation and project delays.”

Genesis of the PA

Schneider says that when she and her co-workers at ODOT realized something had to be done about the Section 6(f) process, they first went to their FHWA Division Office. Together, they decided that the next step was to approach NPS and ODNR, the state agency that administers Land and Water Conservation Funds in Ohio. The goal was to suggest jointly developing a process that everyone would benefit from, a process during which participants would collectively identify and integrate streamlining measures.

FHWA, as the counterpart federal agency, initially took the lead in broaching the subject with NPS. Shortly thereafter, ODOT came together with FHWA, NPS, and ODNR for initial discussions. The concept received a universal green light, after which it took about a year to get through the entire process. Initially the discussion focused on what was required by law. Then the focus shifted to how the process could be streamlined. A draft agreement was created, increasingly refined, then finalized and signed in April of 2014. Schneider describes the process as “an excellent team-building exercise,” one that improved participating agencies’ relationships with each other.

Since signing the 6(f) agreement, ODOT has used -- or is in the process of using -- the PA for five maintenance-type projects and six projects that constitute a non-conforming use. Currently, six conversion type projects are in progress. Five of them are small conversions and the sixth is a full conversion. For the latter, replacement property still is being sought.

Schneider says that ODOT has applied to take on FHWA’s environmental review authority under NEPA, but that ODOT’s new role will not affect the PA. ODOT likely will include a cover letter explaining that under NEPA assignment, ODOT will be responsible for all of FHWA’s actions and responsibilities under the Section 6(f) agreement.

Possibility for Other State DOTs

“To my knowledge, we are the first and only state with a Section 6(f) PA in place,” says Schneider. From her perspective, the concept is one that could be adopted by other state DOTs provided they have a good working relationship with their state agency responsible for administering the LWCF, and that both agencies work well with their federal counterparts, FHWA and NPS.

“NPS was great to work with throughout the process,” she continues. “They were willing to look for streamlining measures wherever the law allowed it. Unfortunately, the law is quite strict in a number of areas so our opportunities were somewhat limited.”

On September 31, 2015, the LWCF expired and Congress has yet to reauthorize it. If the law is not reauthorized, no new Section 6(f) properties can be added. But lack of reauthorization would not eliminate Section 6(f) requirements.

“Lack of reauthorization only means that for the time being, there will not be any new Section 6(f) properties,” Schneider explains. “Despite no new additions, the LWCF protections will remain in effect on all existing properties into perpetuity. So while we may not have new properties in that category to worry about, we will always have the existing group. ODNR estimates that approximately 1,430 properties across the state fall into this category. ”

Additional flexibility like the de minimis impact option developed for Section 4(f) compliance, would be helpful, according to Schneider. Such changes could offer improvements to the process as well as opportunities for enhancement of the resources involved.

“The good news,” she concludes, “is that for all those existing properties, we have our PA in place.”

For more information, go to ODOT’s Office of Environmental Services or contact Erica Schneider, ODOT’s Assistant Environmental Administrator at Erica.Schneider@dot.ohio.gov.

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Sustainability

Recent Developments: Best Complete Streets Policies of 2016 Released

The National Complete Streets Coalition has released the 2016 version of its Best Complete Streets Policies report. The report highlights policies from 13 communities, with cities in Massachusetts, Montana, and Washington state receiving top scores of 100 percent for their policies. Overall, the report found that 222 new policies were adopted in 2016 and a total of 1,200 jurisdictions now have passed such policies. The report also looked at the income and racial demographics of the communities that passed policies in 2016. For more information, link to the report. (6-7-17)

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Recent Developments: NACTO Launches 'Green Light for Green Streets' Initiative

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has launched its Green Light for Green Streets initiative. The project identifies factors that slow implementation of transportation projects in cities in the U.S. NACTO, with support from several partners, will collaborate with pilot cities throughout the year to improve the effectiveness of applying street designs and transportation improvements. Cities will be able to align resources with goals by addressing structural challenges that impede project and program delivery. For more information, link to the announcement. (6-6-17)

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Recent Developments: Report Looks at Electrification, Automation, Shared Mobility ‘Revolutions’

A report on the costs and benefits of three “revolutions” in transportation – vehicle electrification, automation, and shared mobility – has been issued by the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies. The report finds that vehicle electrification and automation could significantly increase congestion and urban sprawl, while also increasing the likelihood of missing climate change targets, unless they are combined with a shift toward shared mobility and greater use of transit and active transportation. This shift could be achieved through policies that support compact, mixed use development. Such efforts could save cities an estimated $5 trillion annually by 2050 while improving livability and helping to address climate change. For more information, link to the report. (5-15-17)

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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: Report Highlights Energy Needs of Changing Transportation Sector

The Department of Energy has issued a report concerning the changing transportation sector and its impact on energy consumption. The report focuses on the rise of the shared economy, increased urbanization, and pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and how these trends affect the need for energy-efficient, low carbon technologies for transportation. The report discusses incremental policy change, the prevalence of personal vehicle ownership and shared mobility vehicles in the future. The report also discusses the adoption of zero-emission vehicles; an increase in urban sprawl; increase in higher-occupancy vehicle trips; and a predominance of low-occupancy ridership. For more information, link to the report. (2-24-17)

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Recent Developments: APTA Recognizes Transit Authorities for Sustainability Accomplishments

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has recognized the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority and the Foothill Transit Authority, in West Covina, Calif., for their achievements in sustainability. The Cleveland RTA reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 24 percent due to investments in alternatively fueled vehicles and is currently at the Silver status in APTA’s Sustainability Commitment program. Foothill Transit has reached Platinum Level in the program due to cutting water consumption by almost 30 percent and by pioneering the adoption of bus fleet electrification. For more information, link to the announcements addressing Cleveland and Foothill Transit. (1-27-17)

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Recent Developments: Report Evaluates Effectiveness of Value Pricing Pilot Program

The Federal Highway Administration has published a report addressing the effectiveness of the Value Pricing Pilot Program through April 2016. The program, established in 1991, was designed to demonstrate the technical feasibility of reducing roadway congestion through the application of demand-based pricing strategies, or congestion pricing. The program has funded more than 135 congestion pricing projects and studies across 19 states and the District of Columbia and has helped spark the adoption of managed lanes and other related demand management programs in metropolitan areas nationwide. For more information, link to the report. (1-31-17)

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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: TRB Releases Journal Addressing Intelligent Transportation Systems

The Transportation Research Board has published a compilation of 15 papers exploring intelligent transportation systems and connected and automated vehicles in Volume 2559 of its Transportation Research Record journal. The journal address topics such as autonomous vehicle driving in complex urban environments, the readiness of automated driving systems for public operation, and the optimal connectivity-based deployment of roadside units for vehicular networks in urban areas. The journal also addresses forward collision warning based on vehicle-to-vehicle communications and operational concepts for truck maneuvers with cooperative adaptive cruise control. For more information, link to the journal. (12-19-16)

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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: 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 Report Highlights Integrated Corridor Management, Smart Cities

The Federal Highway Administration has released a report concerning the synthesis of integrated corridor management (ICM) and smart city initiatives. The report highlights examples of smart city operations both domestically and in Europe that indicate various opportunities for ICM resulting in coordinated traffic management, incident response and proactive responses to severe weather and natural disasters. The report also addresses the benefits and challenges for institutional, operational and technical integration. For more information, link to the report. (12-12-16)

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Recent Developments: USDOT Proposed Rule Advances Connected Vehicle Technology

The Department of Transportation has released a proposed rule that would advance the deployment of connected vehicle technologies throughout the U.S. light vehicle fleet. The rule requires automakers to include vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technologies in all new light-duty vehicles and requires V2V devices to speak the same language through standardized messaging developed within the industry. The V2V devices would use dedicated short range communications to transmit data to nearby vehicles, helping V2V equipped vehicles to identify ricks and provide warnings to drivers to avoid imminent crashes. For more information, link to press release and the proposed rule. (12-13-16)

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Recent Developments: Report Examines Effect Housing Has on Vehicle Miles Traveled

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has released a report that examines how current affordable housing policies, programs and strategies are enabling low income households to access jobs and transit-rich communities. The report, “The Effect That State and Federal Housing Policies Have on Vehicle Miles of Travel,” examines the trade-offs of rescaling housing voucher thresholds and found that affordable housing near rail does not show signs of being systematically more expensive that other projects. The report also showed that policy factors may be more pronounced in driving affordable housing costs upwards. For more information, link to the report. (11-10-16)

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Recent Developments: USDOT Seeks ‘Beyond Traffic’ Innovation Centers Applicants

The U.S. Department of Transportation is soliciting applicants to be designated as U.S. DOT Beyond Traffic Innovation Centers. The designated centers will help to drive solutions to the challenges identified in the DOT’s “Beyond Traffic 2045” report issued in 2015, including 45 percent more freight on the roads and 70 million more people living in the U.S. by 2045. The centers will meet these challenges through research, curriculum, outreach and other activities. Applications are due Dec. 21, 2016. For more information, link to the press release. (12-7-16)

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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: FHWA Announces Round 3 of INVEST Funding

The Federal Highway Administration has announced a new round of funding for pilot projects that use the Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool (INVEST). The INVEST tool is a collection of voluntary best practices designed to help transportation agencies conduct self-assessments. The Round 3 solicitation is open to state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations and federal land management agencies. Interested agencies should send a five to ten page letter of interest by Jan. 5, 2017. A webinar is scheduled for Dec. 1, 2016, at 2:30 p.m. EST to inform interested parties about the Round 3 solicitation. For more information, link to the solicitation announcement. (11-17-16)

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Recent Developments: Groups Release Global Street Design Guide

The National Association of City Transportation Officials and the Global Designing Cities Initiative have released the Global Street Design Guide, the first-ever worldwide standard for redesigning city streets to prioritize safety, pedestrians, transit and sustainable mobility. The guide shifts the parameters of designing urban streets from the typical point of view of automobile movement and safety to include access, safety and mobility for all users; environmental quality; economic benefit; enhancement of place; public health; and overall quality of life. For more information, link to the announcement. (10-13-16)

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Recent Developments: Summary Describes Benefits of Road Diets, Provides Examples

The Federal Highway Administration has released a summary describing policy benefits of road diets. Road diets reallocate travel lanes to utilize space for alternative travel modes. The most common type involves a reduction in the number of through lanes from four to two, with a center two-way left-turn lane. The document describes numerous safety, operational, and multimodal benefits and agency examples from states including Florida, Maine, Michigan and Missouri. The document also highlights the incorporation of road diets into resurfacing and existing agency plans, including highway safety plans. For more information, link to the document. (10-13-16)

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Recent Developments: White House Announces New Funding to Expand Smart Cities Initiative

The Obama Administration has announced over $80 million in new federal investments intended to double participation in the Smart Cities Initiative. These new investments and related programs are intended to address energy and climate challenges; urban transportation; public safety, resilience and disaster response; and the transformation of city services. The Smart Cities Initiative was launched in September 2015 to help cities, federal agencies, universities and the private sector to collaborate on new technologies that can make cities more livable, cleaner and more equitable. For more information, link to the fact sheet. (9-26-16)

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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: California - Caltrans Works to Advance 'Smart Mobility' Approach

Since 2010, the California Department of Transportation has been working to implement a new vision for integrating transportation and land use decisions that promises to combine a range of familiar solutions taking hold across the nation: smart growth, livability, context sensitive design, transit-oriented development, complete streets, and sustainability.

Caltrans’ “Smart Mobility 2010” framework was developed to ensure that the state’s transportation investments achieve balanced outcomes for mobility, environmental protection, social equity, and economic growth – all backed by specific performance measures.

Caltrans describes the concept as follows: “Smart Mobility moves people and freight while enhancing California’s economic, environmental, and human resources by emphasizing: convenient and safe multi-modal travel, speed suitability, accessibility, management of the circulation network, and efficient use of land.”

Developed using a smart growth program grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, the framework establishes six Smart Mobility principles to be applied based on specified place-types, each with its own set of performance measures.

The six principles are:

  • location efficiency,
  • reliable mobility,
  • health and safety,
  • environmental stewardship,
  • social equity, and
  • robust economy.

Under the Smart Mobility approach, transportation planning and design would be conducted based on seven newly established place-types: urban centers, close-in compact communities, compact communities, suburban areas, rural and agricultural lands, protected lands, and special use areas.

For each place type, performance measures would be targeted to align with the principles. Types of performance measures include the following:

  • support for sustainable growth;
  • transit mode share;
  • accessibility and connectivity;
  • multi-modal travel mobility, reliability, service quality, safety;
  • design and speed suitability;
  • pedestrian and bicycle mode share;
  • climate and energy conservation;
  • emissions reduction;
  • equitable distribution of impacts;
  • equitable distribution of access and mobility;
  • congestion effects on productivity;
  • efficient use of system resources;
  • network performance optimization; and
  • return on investment.
Increasing pedestrian mode share in San Francisco. Photo: Caltrans

Interregional Blueprint Process

The plan also calls for a “transformed state transportation planning process” developed through a multimodal “Interregional Blueprint” process, incorporating transportation and land use planning efforts underway by regional and metropolitan planning organizations in the state.

California is subject to some of the nation’s most ambitious environmental and sustainability goals, including the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), under which the state must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

In addition, Senate Bill 375, enacted in 2008, requires regional targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles. SB 375 – which has been touted as a possible national model for transportation planning – establishes a process and incentives for the creation of integrated regional land use, housing and transportation plans called “sustainable communities strategies.” Building on these regional efforts, SB 391 passed in October of 2009, requires that the California Transportation Plan prepared by Caltrans identify the statewide multimodal transportation system that will achieve the state’s climate change goals.

The California Interregional Blueprint, a statewide land use-transportation plan will integrate the state’s various modal plans and incorporate individual blueprints developed by regions across the state. Caltrans currently administers the California Regional Blueprint Planning Program for regional transportation planning agencies to conduct comprehensive scenario planning, bringing together a range of stakeholders to develop preferred long-range growth scenarios.

The Interregional Blueprint will incorporate the Smart Mobility principles and improve modeling and data gathering, serving as the foundation for the next update of the California Transportation Plan. The Interregional Blueprint planning process is underway.

Next Steps

A number of short-term actions will be undertaken between 2012 and 2014 to develop and test approaches to implement the Smart Mobility principles and performance measures. These include applying the framework in separate planning efforts in the northern and southern portions of the state. The agency plans to document these efforts and develop a “how-to” guide for implementation.

The vision for using the framework is described by Caltrans as follows:

  • find your place type;
  • forecast transportation needs;
  • apply Smart Mobility principles;
  • assess Smart Mobility Performance;
  • prioritize transportation investments;
  • achieve Smart Mobility.

Additional Efforts

Other efforts include a Caltrans-funded study, Improved Data and Tools for Integrated Land Use-Transportation Planning in California, which was completed in October 2012. Over a three-year period, the project team collected and analyzed data on land use-travel relationships at more than 200,000 locations in most of California. The project provided a final report as well as analytical tools for use in “sketch”-planning tools, which local and regional agencies use to assist in developing scenarios, and travel demand forecasting models, which are commonly used to analyze resulting scenarios. These products will be helpful to regional agencies in their Blueprint and sustainable community strategies and regional transportation planning, and to local governments for their planning efforts. Another significant Caltrans effort has been implementation of its complete streets directive.

Caltrans also has completed a survey, “Smart Mobility: A Survey of Current Practice and Related Research,” that looks at federal, state and regional activities to assess the current state of the practice of sustainability-oriented planning and performance measurement

For additional information on the framework, link to the Smart Mobility page on the Caltrans website or contact Chris Ratekin, senior transportation planner with Caltrans, at Chris_Ratekin@dot.ca.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: District of Columbia - D.C. DOT Initiatives Turn City Roads into 'Great Streets'

The District of Columbia Department of Transportation is emerging as a leader in sustainable approaches to transportation, instituting a collection of environmental process improvements and interagency partnerships to integrate land use, transportation, environmental stewardship, and community needs. There are a wide range of initiatives underway to help build sustainable communities across the city.

One initiative, dubbed “Great Streets,” focuses on improving major road corridors in the city. The program is intended to make road improvements that promote local businesses while also enhancing communities with better pedestrian, bicycle, and transit options for “sustainable mobility,” according to a summary.

The Great Streets initiative follows five basic principles:

  • Change the public and market perceptions of the corridors through streetscape and transportation improvements, and reposition them as one of the best places to live and work, consequently expanding the city's tax base;
  • Transform roadways and intersections into environmentally friendly and usable community open spaces;
  • Change the existing "corridors" function from major vehicular arterials into streets that sustain healthy pedestrian and transit based activities, and consequently support the city's air quality and transportation agendas;
  • Transform each corridor into a place that is memorable, compelling, and desirable to visit again and again;
  • Reposition the street as a vital neighborhood asset, and thus increase the community's stake in its design, upkeep, and stewardship.

To achieve these goals, DDOT plans to spend more than $100 million over 4 years to improve public spaces in six target corridors. Partner agencies in the city include the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, the Office of Planning, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), and Neighborhood Service Coordinators.

DDOT also is a key partner in several multi-agency initiatives and projects to spur economic development, social equity, and mobility in the city. Key among them is the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, a multi-agency effort to revitalize the areas around the waterfront of the Anacostia River. Goals of the initiative are to achieve environmentally responsible development; to unify diverse waterfront areas into commercial, residential, recreational, and open-space uses; to develop and conserve park areas; and to provide greater access to the waterfront, communities, and business corridors. Construction already has begun on a new 1.5-mile streetcar line in Anacostia, the first installment of a planned city-wide streetcar network. A series of open houses on the proposed streetcar network will be held in late October and early November.

These and many other DDOT initiatives are among a long list of actions included on the “Green D.C. Agenda,” a sustainability initiative launched by D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty on Earth Day 2009. Topping the list are the city’s pioneering efforts to promote bicycling. On Oct. 2, D.C. officials cut the ribbon on a state-of-the-art bicycle station. The facility offers bicycle parking, rentals, repairs and accessories at the west end of Union Station and holds approximately 133 bicycles. The $4 million project was funded by the Federal Highway Administration and DDOT. The city also is home to a first-of-its-kind bicycle sharing program. Launched in 2008, the program currently offers 10 kiosks housing 100 bikes. DDOT has plans to add another 50 stations to the network.

Within DDOT, plans for achieving sustainable transportation will be implemented through a range of process improvements, including a comprehensive environmental management system. Detailed information on environmental compliance and stewardship for DDOT projects is spelled out in the new Environmental Process and Policy Manual. Early consideration of stakeholder concerns allowed DDOT to streamline the review process for the 11th Street Bridges project and earned the agency top honors for environmental streamlining in FHWA’s 2009 Environmental Excellence Awards.

For more information, link to DDOT web pages on the Great Streets Initiative, the Anacostia Initiative, Bike Sharing, Bike Station, Environmental Management System, Environmental Policy and Process Manual, and Context Sensitive Solutions Guidelines. Additional information may be accessed by linking to the Green D.C. Agenda and transit and mobility action items page.

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Case Studies: Hawaii - Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan

The Legislature created the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Task Force. This is a group of 25 citizens with a diverse range of experience in planning, community, business, the environment, and government. They were charged with developing the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan, the State’s first long-range plan in 30 years. The plan contains a definition for sustainable development, strategic goals, planning principles, actions, and a broad range of indicators. For more information, link to Hawaii 2050 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: North Carolina - NCDOT's Accountability Framework: A Blueprint for Sustainability

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has been working to integrate the concepts of sustainability into its decision-making and make the link between mobility and how it can better support communities and regions across the state. The effort has resulted in the articulation of eight principles with corresponding outcomes, objectives, and performance measures. The eight principles focus on: moving people and goods; choices; connectivity; resource protection; prosperity; accountability; healthy communities; and organizational responsibility.

The initiative began with an extensive review of sustainability plans across state departments of transportation. The purpose of the review was to identify and synthesize the best practices in integrating the concept of sustainability into transportation decision-making, with a specific emphasis on state DOTs that have developed documented plans and performance measures. Following this review, an internal NCDOT survey was conducted to identify existing sustainable practices and better understand how the department views the concept of "sustainability."

Focus groups with agency staff and interviews with external stakeholders -- including other state agencies, metropolitan planning organizations/regional planning organizations, councils of government, transit service providers, and private industry partners -- were used to present and discuss the concept of sustainability, identify additional practices and initiatives that align with those concepts, and shape the subsequent principles and objectives that were the foundation of the framework. The department then identified metrics that would be used to assess consistency and progress in meeting outcomes associated with each of the principles.

Expanded Mission Statement

Integration of the concepts of sustainability are reflected in NCDOT's newly expanded mission statement: “Connecting people and places safely and efficiently, with accountability and environmental sensitivity, to enhance the economy, health and well-being of North Carolina.” The Department's mission was expanded and refined to recognize broadened responsibilities and aspirations, and now emphasizes a "triple bottom line" of enhancing economic development, human health and well-being, and environmental resource stewardship.

The principles have also been integrated into NCDOT's statewide transportation plan (2040 Plan) and its draft 5-year and 10-year transportation improvement program (“Policy to Projects”). Efforts are also underway to evaluate project prioritization criteria and consider ways to integrate sustainability concepts in the project prioritization process.

The effort has culminated in the development of an “Accountability Framework” that links sustainability-related principles to key overarching plans and policies, strategies, and performance measures to monitor implementation progress and effectiveness over time. Further integration of these concepts into initiatives and decision-making is key to implementation. Other critical implementation elements include a communications plan, monitoring, and continuous improvement.

“Our goal from the start was to develop a viable framework for our department, and also document the methodology for its development, the mid-course adjustments, and lessons learned,” said Julie Hunkins, Manager of the Quality Enhancement Unit with NCDOT.

Sustainability at Work in North Carolina

A recent example of sustainability at work in NCDOT is the project to replace a 69-year-old bridge, which carries US 17 over the New River. As part of the project, NCDOT demolished the old bridge and donated nearly 8,000 tons of rubble, concrete, and metal to an effort by multiple state and local partners to build a new artificial reef in the New River near Jacksonville.

“This is a great way for NCDOT to live out its mission, which includes environmental sensitivity,” said NCDOT Assistant Resident Engineer Jimmy Zepeda, who is overseeing the bridge replacement project. “By reusing this material instead of putting it in a landfill, we helped form a vibrant habitat where aquatic life now lives and grows.” Recycling and reusing the material also saved the department as much as $590,000 in costs to dispose of the debris in a landfill.

More information on the NCDOT’s sustainability efforts and the Accountability Framework is available from Julie Hunkins at NCDOT, e-mail jhunkins@ncdot.gov. (Photo courtesy NCDOT)

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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: Puget Sound Regional Council - Puget Sound's 2010 'Transportation 2040' Plan Sets 30-Year Vision for Sustainable Transportation

With a projected growth of approximately 1.5 million people in the next 30 years, the Puget Sound area in Washington State faces increased demand on the region’s transportation system.

The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), which is the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for the four-county Seattle-Tacoma-Everett region, has crafted an ambitious long-range strategy to plan for and shape the area’s transportation needs. The Transportation 2040 plan, adopted in 2010, lays out a 30-year vision for funding and building sustainable transportation programs and projects in the coming decades.

The plan – which received an award in 2010 from the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations – translates the PSRC’s broad commitment to transportation sustainability into tangible actions. The Plan is built around three equal and interrelated strategies that together define what “sustainable transportation” means for the region and are designed to influence overall transportation investment decisions. These three strategies address the following:

  • Congestion Relief and Better Mobility - To improve system efficiency, the plan recommends creating “smart corridors” with advanced technology, better information, advanced tolling approaches, and strategic capacity improvements. As an example, one project underway in the Puget Sound region is the deployment by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) of an Active Traffic Management System, including the use of high-tech overhead signs displaying variable speed limits, lane status, and real-time traffic information so drivers know what is happening on the road ahead. The first signs were installed on northbound Interstate 5, a major highway traversing Seattle. Since then, WSDOT has implemented similar systems on SR 520, completed in November 2010, and I-90, completed in June 2011. Active traffic management aims to improve safety, reduce congestion, and benefit the environment. Although more collision data will be needed for a statistical analysis of collision frequency, WSDOT officials expect to see a measurable and statistically significant reduction in collisions. Congestion relief also has economic benefits, with reduced fuel consumption as vehicles spend less time stuck in traffic jams.
  • Environmental Protection - A key focus of the PSRC’s long-range plan is to protect and improve the region’s environmental health. This includes ensuring that the region has healthy air, planning transportation projects that are better equipped to handle stormwater runoff, and addressing transportation’s role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change.
  • New Approach to Funding - The Transportation 2040 financial strategy relies on traditional funding sources in the early years but later transitions to add funding from new user fees. Such fees could come from high occupancy toll lanes, facility and bridge tolling, vehicle miles traveled charges, and other pricing approaches that replace the gas tax and help manage the transportation system usage.

Detailed recommendations for program changes and major new projects in three major focus areas help transform Transportation 2040’s vision for sustainable transportation into reality. These include the following:

  • Maintain, Preserve and Operate - The plan’s highest priority is to maintain, preserve, and operate the region’s existing transportation system, and represents the largest program cost;
  • Increase System Efficiency – Use transportation system management strategies like Active Traffic Management and variable tolling to improve efficiency of the existing transportation system; and
  • Strategically Expand Capacity - Implement strategic capacity investments in all modes of transportation including a 100 percent increase in peak hour local transit service, bicycle and pedestrian improvements in regional growth centers, and completion of a network of roadway projects. These investments would rely on users of the new highway capacity to pay for improvements through highway tolling.

In addition, Transportation 2040 supports the goals of Vision 2040, PSRC’s umbrella strategic plan, by focusing transportation investments in designated urban growth areas, increasing the availability and efficiency of transit and rail services, and focusing development in major travel corridors and regional growth centers.

As required under federal law, PSRC is in the process of updating the plan, anticipating completing the revision in 2014. The update will incorporate a method for the better prioritization of projects, include revised revenue estimates based on existing law, and address the level of investment for maintenance and preservation of the existing system.

PSRC has been developing the new prioritizing process over the past two years. The framework will assess projects using nine evaluation measures:

  • air quality,
  • freight,
  • jobs,
  • multi-modal,
  • Puget Sound land and water,
  • safety and system security,
  • social equity and access to opportunity,
  • support for growth centers, and
  • travel.

The prioritization framework will be used to evaluate over 800 projects, with the results being used to support decisions on transportation investments. When finalized, the framework will be integrated into the Transportation 2040 plan.

The update also addresses refinements to the transit-oriented development plans and the active traffic management plans to further address the level of demand on the transportation system. Under consideration are ways to encourage alternative, environmentally sensitive transportation choices; the development of land use policies that support bicycles, transit, and ridesharing; and the incorporation of complete streets principles.

In addition, the update will include a new rural transportation strategy and address other statutory requirements and issues identified by the PSRC boards.

PSRC is working to interpret new mandates from Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), and will incorporate new requirements into the plan update as appropriate, according to Robin Mayhew, a transportation program manager with PSRC. This may include collaboration at the state and national levels to shape the implementation of MAP-21 in advancing regional goals as identified in the plan.

PSRC will have opportunities in the coming year for public involvement in the plan update process.

A wide range of information is available on the PSRC’s Transportation 2040 website, http://www.psrc.org/transportation/t2040. Additional information is available by contacting Charlie Howard by e-mail at choward@psrc.org or Robin Mayhew at rmayhew@psrc.org.

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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: 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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Water Quality/Wetlands

Recent Developments: Webinar Series Describes SELDM Model for Highway Stormwater Projects

Use of the Stochastic Empirical Loading and Dilution Model (SELDM) for highway stormwater projects was described in a series of three webinars sponsored by the Water Environment and Reuse Foundation. The webinars included: International Stormwater BMP Database: What’s In It for DOTs?; Overview of Stochastic Empirical Loading and Dilution Model (SELDM) and Linkage with Stormwater BMP Database; and Application of SELDM in Transportation and Highway Stormwater Projects. SELDM was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, to help analyze the potential effects of runoff on receiving waters. It facilitates the environmental decision making process by providing results of data mining and analysis efforts for precipitation, receiving-water stormflows, and receiving-water quality by ecoregion. For more information and links to the three webinar recordings and presentations, link here. (6-23-17)

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Recent Developments: NACTO Announces New Urban Street Stormwater Guide

The National Association of City Transportation Officials has announced the development of the Urban Street Stormwater Guide. The guide will address the use of streets as ecosystems by integrating green infrastructure alongside safe places for walking and biking. The document also will highlight the development of sustainable stormwater networks with active transportation networks and includes a green stormwater infrastructure toolbox with specific design elements. The importance of policies, programs and partnerships for long-term success also will be highlighted. The guide will be issued in June 2017. For more information, link to the guide overview. (5-9-17

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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: Florida - Florida DOT’s Programmatic Approach to Wetlands Mitigation

More effective mitigation for unavoidable wetland losses from transportation projects in Florida is being achieved through a unique programmatic mitigation approach developed by the Florida Department of Transportation.

The state’s "Revised Mitigation Statute," in combination with Florida’s Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method and a new General Permit for FDOT issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, have provided a framework for the programmatic mitigation approach.

Background

Given Florida's geology, FDOT construction projects often required the unavoidable loss of wetlands. In 1996, the Florida Legislature passed a law (the Mitigation Statute) to standardize and expedite situations where mitigation was required to compensate for the unavoidable loss of wetlands from FDOT’s projects. The 1996 statute required FDOT to pay the appropriate Water Management District (WMD) a fee established by the statute per acre affected by the FDOT project. With the WMDs tasked with protecting and managing their water resources, funding from the mitigation budget of an FDOT project would allow the WMDs to achieve their water resource protection and management effort, thereby mitigating the loss of wetlands from the roadway construction.

The law was forward thinking for its time. However, important portions of the law became outdated, and in 2014, the Florida Legislature passed revised language designed to give FDOT more flexibility to obtain full value for their wetlands mitigation expenditures (Title XXVIII, Chapter 373, Section 373.4137), commonly referred to as the "Revised Mitigation Statute."

Florida DOT's programmatic approach for wetlands benefits species such as the wood stork. Photo: FDOT

Benefits/Features

The "Revised Mitigation Statute,” passed in 2014, has a number of innovative elements.

  • The Revised Mitigation Statute requires FDOT to consider all mitigation options that meet federal and state requirements, thereby complying with the 2008 mitigation rule issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency. While working with the WMDs remains an option, FDOT may also consider the use of private mitigation banks providing FDOT with the ability to seek the most cost-effective option. FDOT has substantially reduced its mitigation costs and receives greater value for each wetland mitigation dollar.
  • WMD deliverables and responsibilities when using FDOT funds are now more explicit, improving accountability. Now, when WMD's receive mitigation funds from FDOT, they must prepare detailed plans for project-specific wetland mitigation areas enabling identification of specific wetland mitigation funded through each project's environmental mitigation budget.
  • The Revised Mitigation Statute enables advance mitigation. FDOT forecasts the wetland impacts associated with their three-year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) in an "impact inventory." FDOT may then purchase wetland mitigation credits, based on the forecast in the impact inventory, in advance of more detailed project development. If there is no mitigation bank in the area, the WMD may receive FDOT funds to plan and develop a mitigation bank to accommodate the mitigation requirements of future FDOT projects. The amount of mitigation provided by the WMD is then deducted from FDOT's future mitigation requirement. This program encourages WMD's to think of FDOT as a customer and shape their water resource plan to coordinate with the development of the state highway system in the area. Additionally, the FDOT forecasts of wetlands loss help the wetland banking industry plan for future demand.

Wetland Functions Considered

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (FDEP) continued development of Florida's Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method (UMAM) and its inclusion by FDOT in the Revised Mitigation Statute helped further accountability and accuracy. This process provides a scientific basis for adjusting the gross acreage of wetlands impacted by the specific functions provided by the affected wetlands. UMAM was adopted by all state agencies and the Corps.

With the UMAM analysis substantiating the existing functions of the wetlands affected by roadway construction, FDOT is able to coordinate with the Corps and FDEP on appropriate mitigation quantity, and thereby paying for only what is needed to mitigate the loss of wetland function.

Collaborative Effort Provides Ongoing Dividends

The "Revised Mitigation Statute" resulted from a fortunate confluence of knowledgeable stakeholders and a state legislature focused on efficiency, expedited project delivery, and an approach to mitigation that best serves the people of Florida. The effort was led by Marjorie Kirby and Xavier Pagan in FDOT State Environmental Management Office and Kathleen Toolan of the FDOT Office of the General Counsel with FDOT leadership support.

The rewrite of the Mitigation Statute involved intense negotiations involving FDOT, representatives of the mitigation banking community and FDEP and WMDs. With stakeholder unity, the revised statute sailed through the legislature because it respected the interests of all stakeholders.

The trust that was developed among stakeholders through the passage of the Revised Mitigation Statute has continued to benefit Florida as the various stakeholders continue to work directly to improve approaches to roadway project development and permitting. For example, seeing the opportunity to improve the efficiency of the permit process, stakeholders collaborated to develop a Regional General Permit from the Corps of Engineers for FDOT projects. The General Permit was issued April 8, 2015, and was designed to include the Revised Mitigation Statute. It also incorporates such features as:

  • Integration of NEPA and Clean Water Act Section 404 requirements; and
  • Addressing projects with five or less acres of fresh water wetland impact per linear mile, , excluding tidal wetlands, up to a limit of 10 miles of roadway (this category of project includes a large proportion of FDOT construction); and

Future Activities

FDOT continues to push ahead with proactive, programmatic approaches to wetlands as well as biological impacts. For example:

  • New uses for UMAM are being developed, in coordination with FDEP and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to enable its use for species and habitat mitigation.
  • New programmatic agreements are being developed, leveraging the collaboration developed among FDOT and the resource managers and FDOT has a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff member working exclusively on programmatic agreements. The first species to be addressed are freshwater mussels.
  • Technical specifications are being updated to include standard environmental minimization and mitigation measures. Presently documents enumerate environmental mitigation measures, but having standard environmental construction conditions for contractors will help ensure a uniform approach to activities across the state.

Florida is now benefiting on several fronts from the collaborative approaches that have been and are being developed to address the unavoidable wetlands and biological impacts of road construction, according to the state DOT officials. This is the result of a successful public-private partnership that has helped build trust and communication pathways to clarify, simplify and focus, laws, coordination and procedures to develop better outcomes for the environment and the users of the transportation system.

For more information on FDOT’s wetland mitigation approach, contact Marjorie Kirby, FDOT Environmental Programs Administrator at Marjorie.Kirby@dot.state.fl.us, or Xavier Pagán, FDOT Natural & Community Resources Administrator, at Pagan, Xavier.Pagan@dot.state.fl.us, State Environmental Management Office, Tallahassee, Fla.

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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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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: AASHTO Issues Handbook to Address Species Consultation

AASHTO has issued a new practitioner's handbook providing an overview of Section 7 consultation under the Endangered Species Act for transportation projects. The handbook, Complying with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act for Transportation Projects (Practitioner's Handbook 17), is the latest in the practitioner’s handbook series. The handbook includes an overview of the regulatory framework, issues to consider, and practical tips. A webinar by the Center for Environmental Excellence by AASHTO will be scheduled soon to discuss the handbook. Practitioner's Handbook 17. For more information, link to the handbook. (12-2-16)

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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: 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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Case Studies: FHWA Compilations

Case Studies: CEE by AASHTO Stewardship Competition

Case Studies: Forest Service Compilation

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