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Design

View Handout: At the Intersection of Design and the Environment

by Environmental Topic

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Tooltip= Why this environmental topic is important to Design


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Active Transportation

Active Transportation 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.

Active Transportation
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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)
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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
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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
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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
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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

 

Active Transportation

Recent Developments: Case Study Documents Seattle Experience with Dockless Bikeshare

The Federal Highway Administration has released a new livability case study focused on the implementation of dockless bikeshare programs in Seattle, Wash. The case study summarizes the city’s pilot program and subsequent plans to expand dockless bikeshare as a mobility option. For more information, link to the case study. (11-26-18)

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Recent Developments: Report Supports Adopting Complete Streets, Bicycle and Pedestrian Plans

An introduction to complete streets policies and bicycle and pedestrian plans has been issued by the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. The report outlines key information about processes and benefits of active transportation. It focuses on why complete streets policies and bike and walking plans are important for healthy communities, how these instruments work, and ways to get them adopted in local communities. The report also includes case studies of successful implementation. For more information, link to the report. (11-7-18)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Provides Strategies to Expedite Multimodal Projects

Strategies for accelerating multimodal transportation projects are provided in a workbook issued by the Federal Highway Administration. The document provides 13 key strategies, such as prioritization, improved public involvement, use of categorical exclusions, and communicating project benefits. The strategies are organized by project development phase, including planning and project scoping, environmental review, design, and funding. The document also outlines which strategies can address key challenges, such as limited funding and lengthy environmental reviews, and provides case study examples. For more information, link to the workbook. (11-8-18)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Issues Handbook to Help Build Community Connections

A handbook detailing approaches to better connect communities through multimodal improvements and revitalization efforts has been issued by the Federal Highway Administration. The Community Connections Innovations Handbook is intended to help transportation planning and project development practitioners integrate innovative approaches that include community outreach, assessing the needs of all users, building partnerships, and embracing innovation. The handbook provides a series of guiding principles as well as tools, strategies, and 16 case studies. For more information, link to the handbook. (10-30-18)

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Recent Developments: Groups Issue Guidance to Engage Communities in Mobility, Bikeshare Initiatives

Strategies to help cities effectively engage with communities on mobility initiatives, with a particular focus on bikeshare, are outlined in a guidance document issued by the National Association of City Transportation Officials and the Better Bike Share Partnership. The guidance focuses on three broad goals: increasing mobility access, getting more people on bikes, and increasing bike share awareness and support. It outlines strategies, tools, and examples that can help ensure that bike share is useful to all users, including communities that have been historically underserved by transportation services. For more information, link to the guidance. (9-26-18)

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Recent Developments: FTA Reports on Transit-Oriented Development Assistance

Federal Transit Administration has issued its second summary report of the Transit-Oriented Development Technical Assistance Initiative. Launched in 2015, the program provides technical assistance to improve access to public transportation, new economic opportunities, pathways to employment, and support for transit-oriented development (TOD). The report discusses onsite work with five communities during the second year of the program, located in Albuquerque; Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C.; Omaha; and Tacoma, Wash. The report discusses strategies and methods for making the most of public transit investments, making strategic decisions, fostering leadership, and improving buy-in from the private sector. For more information, link to the report. (8-14-18)

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Recent Developments: National Parks Guidance Highlights Improved Non-Motorized Access

The National Park Service has released a guidebook on improving active transportation to and within national parks. The guide includes an overview of NPS policies that support biking and walking projects and of state and regional transportation planning. The guide also includes strategies for improving multimodal activity and visitor programming for guided tours and specials events as well as the benefits of non-motorized, ‘car-free’ opportunities in national parks. In addition, the guide includes case studies on bicycle sharing and rental systems and highlights active transportation opportunities for employees. For more information, link to the guide. (7-24-18)

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Recent Developments: NACTO Issues Guide for Managing Shared Active Transportation

The National Association of City Transportation Officials has released guidelines to help cities and public entities manage dockless bike share and scooter share companies. The guidance addresses zoning regulations, the regulation of how small vehicles are parked, and municipalities with existing contracts with vendors to run bike share systems. The guidance highlights the pros and cons of several parking options and provides an overview of discount and engagement programs. Current practices in cities such as Austin, Boulder, and Los Angeles also are included regarding fleet sizes, implemented fees, and parking policies. For more information, link to the guide. (7-11-18)

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Recent Developments: Report Provides Framework for Expanded Functional Classification

A report describing an expanded functional classification system (FCS) has been issued under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. The report (NCHRP Research Report 855) serves as guidance for developing a classification system for highways and streets that would be a more flexible framework and would replace the existing scheme. The expanded FCS system would include enhanced sidewalks and connectivity for pedestrians, narrower traffic lanes for speed control, physical separation of bicycles and motorized traffic, and target speeds to reduce driver injuries. The report also proposes functional classes for bicycles to confer structure and priority for bicycle networks. The report includes case studies from Kentucky on the implementation of the expanded FCS to display the benefits in high density and mixed commercial areas and at school bus stops. For more information, link to the report. (6-29-18)

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Recent Developments: MassDOT Receives Funding for Light Rail Extension

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has received a $225 million grant from Department of Transportation to begin the development of the Green Line Extension light rail project. The funding is the second installment under an agreement signed in 2015 with the Federal Transit Administration to extend the Green Line by 4.7 miles from Cambridge to Medford. Seven new stations and a storage and maintenance facility will be constructed along with platform canopies, community paths, and additional elevators at station stops. Construction is set for this fall, with service projected for 2021. For more information, link to the announcements from the Transportation Department and MassDOT. (6-25-18)

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Recent Developments: Scorecard Displays State Support for Active Transportation

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has issued a report card regarding state support for biking, walking, and physical activity for children and adults as of 2018. States were ranked based on their adoption of complete streets and active transportation policies, safe routes to school funding, active neighborhoods and schools, and state physical activity planning support. The report suggests that states are taking important steps but they need encouragement to make deeper commitments. Mid-Atlantic states showed the highest overall scores, while the Midwest, South, and Mountain West scored the lowest. For more information, link to the report card. (6-20-18)

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Recent Developments: ITF Report Urges Cities to Manage Curbs for Shared Uses

A report from the International Transport Forum looks at ways to manage growing competition for access to curbs in cities. The study evaluates a shift from parking vehicles on the street to use of pickup and drop-off zones, both for passengers and for freight. The report finds the need for a strategic approach to allocating public space in cities, including at the curb. It includes a series of recommendations, including developing a system of designating streets according to their primary purpose, making room for ride services, and managing curb space dynamically. For more information, link to the report. (6-8-18)

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Recent Developments: FTA Finalizes New Private Investment Project Procedures

The Federal Transit Administration has issued new private investment project procedures (PIPP) under a final rule intended to help spur private participation in transit project planning, development, construction, maintenance, and operations. The PIPP system will allow funding recipients to request modification or waiver of FTA requirements that would discourage the use of public-private partnerships. The PIPP system will not be used to waive requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act. For more information, link to the announcement. (5-30-18)

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Recent Developments: Report Examines Gender Equity in Transportation Sector

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy has released a new paper as part of its “Access for All” series. The paper addresses the diverse mobility patterns and needs in transportation systems based on gender. The paper examines how women experience modes of transport differently than men and the gender gap in the transport sector. The paper examines how climate change is disrupting transportation systems, in cities especially. The paper recommends that women’s rights and women themselves be incorporated into planning processes, and that streets be safe for all users and all modes. The paper also recommends that communities have integrated land use and transportation, and that systems meet varied trip patterns. For more information, link to the Access for All: Access and Gender. (5-21-18)

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Recent Developments: ITE, Streetsmart to Develop Evidence-Based Transportation Tool

The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Streetsmart to develop a tool to make data on public health and transportation engineering more accessible. The development of an evidenced-based transportation tool will help incorporate environmental and livability concerns into engineering and planning practice. ITE will help review and translate research results, manage pilot projects, facilitate funding opportunities, and educate professionals on the benefits of the tool. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-26-18)

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Recent Developments: Report Analyzes Spatial Allocation of Bikeshare Systems

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has issued a report for identifying how bikeshare stations could be spatially allocated to serve low-income households and people of color. The study uses a spatial index to test the hypothesis that existing bikeshare systems in larger urban areas are designed to target certain riders. The report analyzes systems in 34 U.S. cities and finds that such systems tend to be located in areas with an affluent and white population. The report also indicates that locating stations near underserved communities has the potential to increase household access. For more information, link to the report. (March 2018)

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Recent Developments: International Transport Forum Report Analyzes Safety of Cyclists

The International Transport Forum has released a report regarding a January 2018 roundtable held in Paris for improving the safety of cyclists. The report indicates that despite the net health benefits of cycling, which are larger for senior citizens, cycling continues to be unpopular in many countries and that a fear of crashes is often cited as a deterrent from cycling. The report also finds that the safest areas tend to be where cycling infrastructure is most developed. The report has a number of recommendations, including providing more bicycle infrastructure, requiring motor vehicles to reduce speeds, setting ambitious targets for collecting injury data and reducing fatalities, and the regulating electric bikes to ensure safety and ergonomics. For more information, link to the report. (5-17-18)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Provides Measures for Implementing Multimodal Networks

The Federal Highway Administration has released a guidebook for implementing multimodal network connectivity measures into state, metropolitan, and location transportation planning processes. The guide highlights five components for implementing such measures that include identifying the planning context, defining the analysis methods and measures, gathering data, computing metrics, and packaging the results. The guide also includes factsheets on connectivity analysis methods such as network completeness, network density, and route directness, as well as related case studies. The guidebook supplements the 2016, Guidebook for Developing Pedestrian and Bicycle Performance Measures. For more information, link to the guide. (5-9-18)

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Recent Developments: FTA Announces $84.45 Million Available under Low-No Bus Program

The Federal Transit Administration has announced the availability of $84.45 million in grants through the Low or No Emission Bus Program. The program assists local transit agencies in the purchase and operation of advanced technology buses that use battery electric power and hydrogen fuel cells. Projects will be evaluated on demonstration of need, project benefits and implementation strategy, and capacity for implementing the project. Applications for fiscal year 2018 are due June 18, 2018. For more information, link to the announcement and the Federal Register notice. (4-23-18)

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Recent Developments: NACTO Report Analyzes Daily Experience of Bus Riders

A set of performance measures that reflect the daily experience of people riding the bus are provided in a new report by the National Association of City Transportation Officials. The report provides performance measures to address the movement of people, reliable travel, walking and biking access, safety, vibrant public space, and economic vitality. The number of people using the street, travel time range, excess wait time, and bicycling networks were analyzed in Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle. The report found that improved reliability, even without changes to travel time, is important to riders. The report also found that delays during peak hours have a much greater impact than those during off-peak hours. For more information, link to the report. (April 2018)

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Recent Developments: Bike Share, Transit Could Be More Integrated, Study Says

Bike share and transit systems have the potential to be complementary modes of travel, but more can be done to further integrate them, according to a synthesis report issued under the Transit Cooperative Research Program. The report, TCRP Synthesis 132: Public Transit and Bikesharing, said that there are still significant barriers to making bike share and transit more integrated. These include locating bike share docks near transit stops, integrated branding, having single payments for both transit and bikes, and combining operations and maintenance. However, bike share systems have helped expand transit catchment areas, increase first-mile and last-mile connections, and alleviate transit capacity concerns. Further research is needed on technology compatibility, economic impacts, and impacts on ridership. For more information, link to the report. (4-10-18)

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Recent Developments: TR News Highlights Issues from 2017 State Partnership Visits

A featured article from the Jan.-Feb. 2018 issue of TR News provides highlights of the Transportation Research Board’s 2017 State Partnership Visits Program. Issues the TRB discussed with state departments of transportation during the visits include ways in which state agencies should prepare for automated and connected vehicle technologies, the collection and maintenance of high-quality transportation data, and the efficient movement of freight. Other issues discussed include public transportation and the effects of transportation network companies, state experiences with assuming responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act, the use of recycled materials in highway construction, and highway maintenance and operations. For more information, link to the TRB article. (3-7-18)

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Recent Developments: Report, Tools Support Transit Agency Sustainability

A report issued under the Transportation Research Board’s Transit Cooperative Research Program describes the process of creating two original tools for sustainability managers at transit agencies. The project is documented in a pre-publication version of TCRP Research Report 197: Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency. The first tool, the Sustainability Routemap, is an interactive PDF, similar in feel to a website, which guides the user to improve a transit agency’s sustainability program through application of change management principles, best practice examples, and references to online tools. The second tool, the S+ROI Calculator, is an excel workbook that quantitatively evaluates potential sustainability projects in terms of financial, social, and environmental return. The tools are available from TRB for download. The creation of the tools was part of TCRP Project H-53. For more information, link to the report. (2-27-18)

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Recent Developments: NACTO Issues Bike Facility Criteria for All Ages and Abilities

The National Association of County Transportation Officials has released guidance for establishing bicycle facilities suitable for all ages and abilities. The guidance recommends that facility planners consider seniors, children, women, low-income riders, and people riding bike share when selecting a bikeway design. The guidance analyzes five types of bikeway used for most bike network needs that include low-speed share streets, protected bicycle lanes, and shared-use and bicycle paths. In addition, strategies to reduce sources of stress—such as intersections, large vehicles, and curbside activity—are provided. The guidance supplements the Urban Bikeway Design Guide. For more information, link to the guidance. (December 2017)

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Recent Developments: Tool Promotes Walkability in Urban Environments

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy has released a tool to help decision-makers and city planners understand and measure features that promote walkability in urban environments. Pedestrians First: Tools for a Walkable City provides a framework for measuring various infrastructure features, including, crosswalks, visually active frontage, physical permeable frontage, and small blocks within metropolitan urban areas, neighborhoods, and street blocks. The tool includes best practices to understand walkability in specific contexts. It also provides policy recommendations for adopting parking maximums, building code changes, and implementing dense grids of streets. For more information, link to the announcement. (2-7-18)

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Recent Developments: Report Illustrates Ride-Share Usage in Five Major Cities

The Transit Cooperative Research Program has released a report to address how app-based transportation network companies (TNC) such as Lyft and Uber are affecting the use of public transit and personal automobiles. The report, Broadening Understanding of the Interplay between Public Transit, Shared Mobility, and Personal Automobiles (TCRP Report 195), builds on previous research and analyzes TNC trip origin-destination data in Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, Seattle, and Washington, DC, including a survey of several transit and shared mobility users. The report finds that the heaviest use of TNC is during evening hours and on weekends and that such trips are mostly short and concentrated in downtown neighborhoods. The report also shows that TNC usage occurs among all income levels and is associated with a decrease in vehicle ownership. For more information, link to the report. (1-25-18)

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Recent Developments: New Podcast Series Focuses on Transit-Oriented Development

Smart Growth America has launched a monthly podcast series, Building Better Communities with Transit, to address the benefits of transit-oriented development. The podcast is part of an initiative of the Federal Transit Administration and will include experts from different communities to discuss how they facilitate development around transit stations and along corridors. Developing local policies, stakeholder engagement, and obtaining funding also will be discussed. The first episode, focused on Pittsburgh, is available for download. For more information, link to the announcement (1-5-18)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Highlights Recent Bicycle and Pedestrian Resources

The Federal Highway Administration’s recent activities related to pedestrian and bicycle research and program efforts are outlined in a summary document. The summary indicates that states increased their commitment in federal-aid highway program funds to $970 million in fiscal year 2017, and it highlights a long list of resources related to the four strategic goals of the U.S. DOT: safety, infrastructure, innovation, and accountability. Examples include a pedestrian and bicycle safety information search tool, a guide on small town and rural multimodal networks, a pooled fund study on fostering innovation in pedestrian and bicycle transportation, and a traffic monitoring guide. For more information, link to the report. (1-8-18)

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Recent Developments: Investing in Walking, Biking Yields Economic and Health Benefits

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has released a report to make the case for investing in walking and biking within communities. The report says that developing sidewalks, street lighting, bike lanes, and crosswalks can reduce deaths, injuries, and associated medical costs. The report also says that studies indicate that the benefits of better air quality and more physical activity would be $8 billion per year if only half of short trips in the summer in Midwestern cities were taken by bike instead of car. In addition, examples from California, Colorado, and Tennessee are provided in which models and reports were created to calculate the economic and health benefits of active transportation. For more information, link to the report. (December 2017)

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Recent Developments: Transit IDEA Program Report Highlights Research Projects

The Transit Cooperative Research Program has issued its annual report of the Transit Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) Program. The report provides a summary of progress on investigations into new concepts for technologies, processes, and methods. Projects include the development of a tool for evaluating and optimizing bus stop locations, a model for planning and designing transit terminals, the development of regional mobility management centers, advanced wayside energy storage systems for rail transit, carpooling to transit stations, and various projects dealing with smart fare systems and automated vehicle location. For more information, link to the annual report. (12-29-17)

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Recent Developments: Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Tool Measures Community Connectivity

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has developed BikeAble, a tool to evaluate community connectivity. BikeAble displays bike route options from any origin to any destination that avoid high-stress highways. The tool can be used by communities to learn whether areas with poor health outcomes have low-stress access to stores selling healthy foods, trails for low-cost exercise, and health care facilities, or whether certain communities lack access to government offices. The tool was used in Milwaukee to illustrate connectivity to employment and schools. For more information, link to the tool. (12-12-17)

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Recent Developments: Report Highlights Health Equity in Complete Streets Development

The National Complete Streets Coalition has released a report concerning the incorporation of health equity into complete streets development, using Greater New Orleans as a case study. The report includes a list of performance measures for the City of New Orleans and Jefferson Parish to enhance transportation planning processes, develop new complete streets projects, facilitate change in travel behavior, and change long-term health trends. The report recommends offering street design training to all transportation staff and to record who participates in such training. The report also recommends issuing surveys to better understand barriers to active transportation and improving collaboration between the city and parish to better connect their bicycle and pedestrian networks. For more information, link to the report. (12-20-17)

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Recent Developments: NACTO Issues Guidance for Improving Biking for All Ages and Abilities

The National Association of City Transportation Officials has released guidance to help designers and planners develop bicycle infrastructure for riders of all ages and abilities. The guidance provides information on design tools aimed at improving safety and increasing bicycle ridership. The guidance specifies that on higher-volume streets with vehicle speeds above 20 mph, certain methods such as painted lanes can be insufficient for more vulnerable riders. The guidance also addresses how to mitigate factors, such as bicycle left turns in traffic and cars that cross into bikeways, that can discourage biking. The guidance serves a companion to the Urban Bikeway Design Guide. For more information, link to the guidance. (12-6-17)

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Recent Developments: New Guidance Provides Grading Framework for Complete Streets Policies

Smart Growth America has released a policy grading framework and scoring methodology to provide guidance on areas for improvement in complete streets policies. The report includes several point structures for addressing a policy’s vision and intent, how well a policy benefits all users, design, jurisdiction, and project selection and criteria. The report serves as an update to the coalition’s 2017 revision to the Complete Streets policy framework to meet the needs of vulnerable users. For more information, link to the report. (11-30-17)

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Recent Developments: List of Bike-Friendly Communities Announced

The League of American Bicyclists has announced 65 new and renewing bicycle-friendly communities under the Bicycle Friendly Community Program. Portland, Oregon has renewed its platinum status for bike commuter benefits, and Battle Creek, Michigan moved to a silver status for requiring all new police hires to become bike-certified. Bellingham, Washington, which has renewed its silver status, developed a Bicycle Master Plan that created a 170-mile primary bicycle network. Boca Raton, Florida, also renewing its bronze status, offered a three week bicycle education program that includes off-bike and on-bike components. For more information, link to the announcement. (11-30-17)

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Recent Developments: MassDOT Issues Guide for Making Communities More Walkable

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has issued a guide to help local jurisdictions improve walkability and active transportation in their communities. The Municipal Resources Guide for Walkability includes a discussion of the various elements of walkable communities, including community design, walkway design and placement, crossing design and placement, and lighting and other safety features. The guide also addresses safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, accessibility for older walkers or disabled citizens, access to transit, and maintenance and repair issues. The guide is intended for use by municipal staff, elected officials, volunteers, residents, and advocates to further the goals of MassDOT’s vision for a statewide multimodal transportation system. A copy of the guide is available from the MassDOT website. (September 2017)

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Recent Developments: TRB Research Record Addresses Travel Behavior and Values

The Transportation Research Board has released a series of papers concerning travel behavior and values in Volume 2664 of its Transportation Research Record journal. The issue addresses measuring stability of mode choice behavior, activity duration analysis, and car ownership amongst the millennial generation. The record also addresses monetary valuations of travel time and quality of travel, week-long work episode scheduling models, evaluation of time use and goods consumption, and short-distance trips. For more information, link to the report. (10-2-17)

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Recent Developments: Peer Exchange Report Explores Transportation, Land Use Themes

The Federal Highway Administration has released a report on the Transportation Planning Capacity Building “Happy, Healthy, Smart Cities Symposium” peer exchange. The exchange, held earlier this year by the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization and the East Tennessee Community Design Center, included a series of documentaries concerning transportation and health outcomes, the link between land use and transportation, and the future of smart cities technology. Exchange participants emphasized the need for communicating complex policy, making public involvement more interesting, and the need for accelerating project development. The peer exchange indicated the importance of increasing the number of transportation options for people to choose from and the importance of small changes in street design. For more information, link to the report. (September 2017)

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Recent Developments: Report Describes Accommodation of Pedestrians with Visual Disabilities

Effective practices and considerations for accommodating pedestrians with vision disabilities on shared streets are described in a report issued by the Federal Highway Administration. The guide discusses strategies people with vision disabilities use to navigate in the public right of way, and challenges with shared streets used by pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicles. It provides an overview of U.S. guidance, a toolbox of strategies for designing shared streets, and ideas on how accessibility for pedestrians with vision disabilities can be addressed in the planning and design process. For more information, link to the report. (10-27-17)

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Recent Developments: U.S. Gets Low Grades on the Availability of Walkable Communities

The National Physical Activity Plan Alliance has issued a report card that evaluates the state of walking and walkable communities in the United States. The report assigns grades based on percentages of people who engage in a category of walking activity and the percentage of states that meet a specified standard. The report gives the U.S. a grade of F for overall pedestrian infrastructure because less than 30 percent of states met the standard of $5.26 per capita for biking and walking project funding. The U.S. also received an F for public transportation because less than 30 percent of states have a transit commute share greater than the 6 percent benchmark, with only seven states meeting the standard. For more information, link to the report card. (10-16-17)

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Recent Developments: NCHRP Report on Laws, Policies for Automated Transit Operations Published

A report presenting an overview of the challenges and opportunities for governments to enable automated transit systems has been published under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. The report, Impacts of Laws and Regulations on CV and AV Technology Introduction in Transit Operations (NCHRP Web-Only Document 239), analyzes the state of technology and various deployment scenarios for fully automated transit. The report also discusses the impacts of the technology on public safety, workforce development, and operating agency planning. In addition, the report discusses possible necessary changes to laws and regulations that govern public transportation to ensure continued financial and regulatory support and remove barriers to industry. The report was prepared under NCHRP Project 20-102. For more information, link to the report. (10-9-17)

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Case Studies: Connecticut - Connecticut DOT Helps Towns Accommodate Walking and Bicycling through Road Safety Audits

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An effective way to address obstacles to bicycle and pedestrian accommodation is to go out and look for them. That was the lesson the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) learned in implementing its Community Connectivity Program.

The Community Connectivity Program helped towns such as Portland, Ct., identify needed improvements. Photo: CTDOT

The program was developed as part of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s Let’sGoCT! transportation initiative. Launched in 2015, the initiative set forth an ambitious 30-year vision for the state, calling for “a best-in-class transportation system” to be achieved by supporting statewide, corridor, and local projects across all transportation modes.

A key element of the initiative was to support sustainable communities, including a program to promote pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly urban centers. CTDOT officials decided to take the concept one step further, incorporating rural areas as well.

The initiative supports streamlined project delivery by helping to identify and build community support for needed intermodal connections. The aim of the Community Connectivity program was to improve conditions for walking and bicycling in community centers – defined as places where community members meet for social, educational, employment, or recreational activities. It was intended to support intermodal connections with a focus on bicycle and pedestrian safety, including transit “last mile” connectivity and better, safer access to employers, business districts, and residential areas.

Colleen Kissane, Transportation Assistant Planning Director in CTDOT’s Bureau of Policy and Planning, leads the Community Connectivity Program. Kissane said officials decided to follow the lead of a successful pilot road safety audit funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 2015. CTDOT would lead by example, working with towns and cities to conduct their own road safety audits at important bicycle and pedestrian corridors and intersections across the state.

CTDOT reached out to all 169 municipalities, offering to conduct one road safety audit for each town. Criteria were established based on a similar effort conducted in Massachusetts, Kissane said.

The agency received 80 responses and moved forward to conduct all 80 audits within an 18-month period, ending in the spring of 2017. In all, the program brought together over 500 participants from towns and municipalities and evaluated 117 miles of roadway and 583 intersections. The audit program covered all geographic areas of the state, including downtown areas and town centers as well as urban, suburban, and rural areas. Each of the 80 audits resulted in a formal report, all of which are posted online.

Elements of a Road Safety Audit

A road safety audit is a formal assessment of the existing conditions of walking and biking routes. Following FHWA’s road safety audit guidelines, a team including experts in traffic, pedestrian and bicycle operations and design focuses on a particular route. The team – which also includes local officials and other stakeholders – works together to evaluate the safety of a particular location through on-site visits. The team looks at accommodations for all road users, ways to improve access, and ways to reduce the potential for crash risk. The audit team then comes up with options for addressing the concerns – including low-cost actions that can be implemented in the short term and higher-cost, longer-term recommendations.

What did they find?

Patrick Zapatka, who managed the road safety audit program for CTDOT, said the audits identified important safety concerns including:

  • inconsistency in sidewalk and crosswalk network, materials, size, and condition;
  • lack of maintenance;
  • lack of Americans with Disabilities (ADA) accommodations;
  • old signage, pavement markings, and signals;
  • vehicle conflicts (speed, volume, trucks, parking);
  • wide travel lanes for traffic; and
  • lack of or incomplete pedestrian connections.

Identifying the problems was just the first step. Each team also came up with long-term, medium-term, and short-term recommendations for addressing the issues.

Conducting Road Safety Audits

Under the Community Connectivity Program, each road safety audit team was unique, depending on the needs and challenges of the individual location. Typical team members included CTDOT staff, municipal officials and staff, law enforcement officials, consultant experts, and community leaders.

The teams gathered pertinent information about the chosen location, including maps, crash and traffic data, and pedestrian counts. Each audit, which lasted a single day, included a pre-audit meeting to discuss objectives and review available data as well as a field audit, during which the team visited the location.

For each location, teams evaluated a range of factors that could promote or obstruct safe walking and bicycling routes, including:

  • shoulder width;
  • sidewalk width and condition;
  • pavement markings;
  • traffic volume;
  • on-road parking locations;
  • presence of bicycle lanes;
  • traffic signalization;
  • topography;
  • drainage; and
  • sightlines.

Following the field audit, the teams conducted post-audit meetings to identify potential short-term and long-term recommendations.

Proposed solutions included infrastructure improvements – such as maintaining sidewalks, signage, sightlines, and crosswalks; upgrading signal equipment and pavement markings; and narrowing vehicular travel lanes to allow for wider shoulders.

In addition, improving communications was a key theme. The audits showcased ways for communities to develop consensus around proposed plans and improvements and helped to improve relationships between municipalities and state agencies.

Taking Action to Improve Conditions

After each town identified needed improvements and solutions, the next step was for CTDOT to provide funding to help towns implement the recommendations. In 2017, the agency launched a $10 million Community Connectivity Grant Program to provide funding for municipalities to perform smaller scale capital improvements. CTDOT again reached out to towns and municipalities with a solicitation and received 80 applications for funding. Although many of the projects proposed for funding stemmed from the road safety audits, applicants were not required to address only those projects. The grants ranged between $75,000 and $400,000 and most of the applicants requested amounts ranging from $200,000 to $300,000.

CTDOT reviewed the applications and made its project selections. In July 2018 CTDOT announced that the State Bond Commission approved its request to fund the program. All municipalities that submitted applications for grants will be notified about specific funding decisions.

In the meantime, the towns “got a free document they can use to go to their local officials to advance some of these needed improvements,” Kissane said. And many towns are moving forward without the grant funding.

For example, the town of New London is targeting available funds to address bicycle and pedestrian challenges identified in its road safety audit. The Williams Street Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements project includes the construction of a sidewalk, a raised crosswalk, a raised intersection, and shared-road markings for bicyclists. It will be funded with 80 percent federal dollars and a 20 percent match from the town.

CTDOT also has stepped in to address “low-hanging fruit” identified by the various audit teams. CTDOT maintenance staff were invited to participate in the audits and have been able to help towns with tasks such as tree trimming and pavement striping – relatively easy maintenance activities that provide significant safety improvements, according to Kissane.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

Kissane said the audits were a learning process, developing relationships and gathering knowledge from local officials and members of the community.

CTDOT’s initial pilot audit brought in a range of stakeholders who “knew the road” – including public works directors, fire fighters, the police chief, and even the mail carrier, in addition to community members and neighborhood groups. In the process, CTDOT learned that taking two days of people’s time was too much, and for the statewide program it reduced the audits to a single day.

Kissane said she would highly recommend this type of program to other state DOTs. The most beneficial aspect was the one-on-one interactions with the towns during the audit process.

“That’s not something we do in our normal course of business, and we’ve developed better relationships with the towns because of it,” she said.

By reaching out to communities across the state, Kissane said, “it was extraordinary what we learned and what we shared.”

For example, Kissane said one audit revealed disconnects between the local officials and the state DOT. “They had misinformation about what we do,” she said. Now that new relationships have been forged, local officials have a face and a name at the state agency that they can call and ask questions. “That has been a huge benefit,” she said.

As a result of the audits, CTDOT and the 80 towns now have identified issues that need to be addressed and specific ways to streamline needed improvements for bicycle and pedestrian safety and access across Connecticut.

CTDOT officials are hopeful the grant program will continue on an annual basis as a way to continue improving bicycle and pedestrian connections throughout the state.

For more information on the Community Connectivity program, link to the program website or contact Colleen Kissane by email at CTDOT.CCGP@ct.gov.

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Case Studies: Hawaii

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

A 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: Pennsylvania - PennDOT Seeks Local Input to Build Better Connections for Communities

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The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is reaching out to communities and partner agencies to ensure that all new road projects address a broad range of needs, ranging from bicycle and pedestrian accommodation to safety and environmental stewardship.

The PennDOT Connects initiative, launched by Transportation Secretary Leslie S. Richards in December 2016, establishes a formal process to consider and document community needs for each project in the planning phase, prior to developing project scopes and cost estimates. It requires coordination with local and regional partners on all new projects, starting with those added to the 2017 transportation improvement program.

The South Street Bridge Reconstruction in Philadelphia included wider bike lines and sidewalks. Photo: PennDOT

“Our policy’s bottom line is to improve transportation through local government collaboration,” said Richards. “PennDOT Connects places a greater focus on teaming with municipal and rural planning organizations to address local community transportation needs, such as bicycle, pedestrian, and stormwater issues.” Such collaboration also can reduce costly changes later in the project development process, Richards said.

The Federal Highway Administration’s Pennsylvania Division has emphasized the benefits of the initiative.

Contextual Issue Evaluation
PennDOT Connects provides issues to consider
during the outreach process:
  • Safety Issues/concerns
  • Stormwater management
  • Transportation operation considerations
  • Consistency with the long-range transportation plan
  • Regional planning studies
  • Right-of-way considerations
  • Environmental justice
  • Bicycle/Pedestrian accommodation
  • Pedestrian Accessibility
  • Impacts from freight
  • Emergency services accommodation
  • Consistency with community plans
  • Other infrastructure improvements
  • Anticipated public opinions
  • Maintenance agreement requirements
  • Transit/multimodal considerations
  • Utility issues
  • Planned development
  • Consistency with zoning
  • Impacts on natural, cultural, social environment
  • Community or cultural events in project area
  • Other specific regional/local topics

“The PennDOT Connects initiative is a collaborative effort to provide local communities the opportunity to meet with PennDOT to identify and discuss transportation project details unique to their goals, according to Moises Marrero, FHWA’s Assistant Division Administrator for Pennsylvania.

“This extraordinary level of collaboration at the early stages of a project ensures the effective use of taxpayer dollars by advancing safety and innovative practices, maximizing project investment, and improving the overall project delivery process,” Marrero said.

To implement the initiative, the agency has launched a new system to document local government outreach for each project on a screening form. The form requires coordination on a wide range of local planning objectives and community mobility needs such as:

  • bicycle and pedestrian accommodations,
  • transit access,
  • freight,
  • utilities,
  • community health,
  • stormwater management, and
  • green infrastructure.

For example, for pedestrian access, the project initiation form states that dedicated pedestrian facilities should be evaluated for all highway projects. It provides a checklist allowing the user to identify the type of facility that will be accommodated, including:

  • shared roadway/walkable shoulder,
  • sidewalks,
  • multiuse trail, or
  • additional element.

If none of these apply, the form prompts the user to choose from a selection of potential reasons why pedestrian facilities will not be accommodated on the project, such as unique site constraints.

South Street Bridge Project Sets Groundwork

When PennDOT Connects was first launched, Secretary Richards pointed to Philadelphia’s South Street Bridge reconstruction project as an example of the PennDOT Connects principles, with features that incorporate “balanced elements of urban mobility.”

The original bridge replacement project was geared toward improved vehicular access. But as the community evolved over the years, there was an increased call to accommodate the significant mix of pedestrian, vehicular, and bicycle traffic, according to Chuck Davies, PennDOT Assistant District Executive for Design.

The project was changed late in the process to meet needs identified through community outreach, including meetings with neighborhood groups, city officials, and other stakeholders.

Ultimately, the project incorporated many of the features desired by the community and provided lessons that were incorporated into the PennDOT Connects approach.

“Car lanes were reduced from five to four, and speed limits were dropped from 30 mph to 25 mph. We also made the bridge more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly with wider bike lanes and sidewalks, bike boxes to give cyclists a head start on drivers, and signal priority for walkers,” Secretary Richards said.

Projects Benefit from Early Outreach

Results of the increased outreach spurred by PennDOT Connects are visible across the state.

As of July 2018, PennDOT had collaborated with municipal officials on more than 2,000 projects, including more than 800 face-to-face meetings. These have ranged from multi-million dollar maintenance projects to a $100 million highway or bridge project.

PennDOT’s District 11 Executive Cheryl Moon-Sirianni, said PennDOT Connects “shifted our thinking—we formalized our existing coordination efforts with county and city officials and are pursuing earlier local involvement with greater collaboration.”

Community input helps PennDOT ensure connectivity of bicycle and pedestrian trails on the US 422 West Shore Bypass project. Image: PennDOT

For example, the PennDOT Connects process for the US 422 West Shore Bypass project – a five-mile highway widening and reconstruction effort in Reading (Berks County, District 5) -- included a series of workshops, open houses, and meetings as well as a 21-member stakeholder workgroup to provide a collaborative voice for the community. The workgroup – which was established by the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance and the Berks County Commissioners – focused on maintaining connectivity for businesses and the community, providing effective trail access, and improving bike/pedestrian safety, according to PennDOT District 5 officials.

“We have received positive feedback from the stakeholders for soliciting their input early in the project and not just listening to their concerns, but making conscious efforts to address their concerns,” said District 5 Consultant Project Manager Earl Armitage.

At the same time, he said, balancing the differing needs of various stakeholders was the most challenging aspect of the process.

“For example, a pedestrian bridge was added to the project over Lancaster Avenue to provide grade-separated crossings for bicycles and pedestrians where an at-grade crossing was originally proposed,” he said. “This proposal is a direct result of feedback from the stakeholders.”

The stakeholders also expressed concerns with the uncontrolled pedestrian crossings at the existing cloverleaf interchange ramps at 422 and Penn Street/Penn Avenue. PennDOT is proposing an innovative diverging diamond interchange at this location, which is designed to simplify vehicular and pedestrian movements and provide signalized pedestrian crossings with “hand/man” pedestrian signal heads and countdown timers to improve pedestrian accommodations. The diverging diamond also allows for shorter pedestrian crossing distances at the signalized intersections compared to other interchange options. For the ramp(s) that will not be controlled by a traffic signal, rapid rectangular flashing beacons are proposed to notify vehicles when a pedestrian is planning on crossing the ramp.

As another example, officials pointed to the Cementon Bridge replacement project in Lehigh County.

In addition to carrying vehicular traffic over the Lehigh River, the bridge has served as a vital connection for bicycle and pedestrian uses. It is the only connection linking the Delaware and Lehigh Trail on either side of the river. For residents of Cementon, the bridge has served as the sole means for pedestrians to access the Northampton Borough business district.

PennDOT Connects offered a process for neighborhoods and agencies to discuss the importance of the bridge to the community and to find ways to maintain the links it has provided. As a result, PennDOT is proposing to add a 10-foot multipurpose trail on the new bridge with a ramp to connect to the Delaware and Lehigh Trail on both sides, maintaining bicycle and pedestrian connections for the community.

This solution is being supported by many stakeholders in the region.

Successes, Challenges, and Lessons Learned

PennDOT’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator, Roy Gothie, said PennDOT Connects “is exactly how business ought to be done.”

“PennDOT can leverage our high-level data and funding to support local knowledge and expertise as we scope, plan, design, construct and maintain a more cost-effective and safer transportation network,” Gothie said.

According to Gothie, managing the PennDOT Connects meetings adds a significant amount of work for district staff, but the meetings are well received. Staff report “a big benefit from the local knowledge and relationship building – social capital that helps things get done, even things not directly related to the ‘project-at-hand’.”

The effort also has increased interest in bicycle and pedestrian issues, including requests from metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and rural planning organizations (RPOs) to fund bicycle/pedestrian counters and provide data from bicycle/pedestrian tracking applications, such as Strava, Gothie said.

In addition, PennDOT has been working with the State’s health and environmental agencies to support walkable communities planning and policies – leading to more informed local planning units, stronger grant applications, and improved project scopes.

A key lesson learned: “PennDOT Connects is bigger than just the meetings with the locals and MPO/RPOs if you can leverage other departments and programs to push for a larger goal of healthy communities: economic, social, health, access, and environmental well-being,” Gothie said.

Gothie stressed that the program aimed to “develop better projects that more appropriately addressed locally identified needs in the planning and pre-scoping process so that once funded for design and construction, we’d have better cost estimates, more accurate schedules for construction, and finished projects that truly worked to support the communities.”

PennDOT expects the initiative will lead to greater process efficiencies.

“We anticipate that the identification of issues in planning – and hopefully resolving them in planning – will result in better predictability in the process,” said Brian Hare, Chief of PennDOT’s Planning and Contract Management Division.

Next Steps: Training and Outreach

Gothie said the need to provide training on the initiative for PennDOT staff, planning partners, and local governments has been a challenge, but those efforts are ongoing.

To help in that regard, PennDOT has developed the “PennDOT Connects Support Hub,” an interactive online help desk that includes guidance, a newsletter, and an online form where municipalities can sign up for technical assistance. The Hub also provides access to a series of municipal outreach sessions scheduled in each of the 12 districts across the state.

PennDOT Connects also will be integrated throughout the agency’s programs and projects as it is incorporated into applicable manuals and processes.

“By being proactive and initiating the conversations about local needs as part of our work, PennDOT can show the value in developing the local plans for cyclists and pedestrians. That planning work can help support the purpose and need statements for our projects and encourage local discussions about integrating all modes of transportation, about health outcomes of a better active transportation system, and eventually issues of equity,” Gothie said

The effort also is supporting goals set forth as the state updates its 2007 Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan: encouraging local planning, evaluating health and equity issues at a state level, and providing access for those who walk and bike out of necessity rather than by choice.

For more information on the initiative, link to the PennDOT Connects Support Hub or contact Brian Hare, Chief of PennDOT’s Planning and Contract Management Division, at bhare@pa.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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Air Quality

Recent Developments: FHWA Newsletter Highlights Transportation Resilience, Alternative Fuels

Transportation resilience and alternative fuel corridor designations are featured in the latest Air Quality and Sustainability Highlights newsletter from the Federal Highway Administration. The Transportation Resilience Innovations Summit and Exchange (RISE), held in October, is highlighted, as well as a new report that documents a coastal resilience projects in Maine and New Hampshire. The newsletter also provides information on the latest round of alternative fuel corridor nominations, and upcoming air quality and sustainability meetings, conferences, and technical assistance. For more information, link to the September/October 2018 issue. (11-13-18)

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Recent Developments: TRB Videos Discuss National Alternative Fuels Corridor Program

The Transportation Research Board has released a series of recordings that examine the Alternative Fuels Corridor Program established under the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. This series discusses the background of the program, including the nomination process for alternative fuels corridors, the facility types along which the corridors can be designated, the criteria associated with the designation of a corridor, the signage for the corridors, and possible funding sources. Presenters from FHWA, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and the Georgetown Climate Center also describe several states’ experiences with the designation process and development of the corridor. The TRB Standing Committee on Transportation and Air Quality organized the series. (10-19-18)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Opens Nominations for New Alternative Fuel Corridor Designations

The Federal Highway Administration has announced a third round of nominations for Alternative Fuel Corridor designations. The 2018 Request for Nominations (RFN) seeks to add to the 58 designated Interstate corridors or corridor segments, plus 43 U.S. and state highways, in 44 states (including Hawaii) under the first two rounds of the program. This round of corridor designations may provide an opportunity to nominate additional corridors, extend currently designated corridors, or nominate different fuels along an already designated corridor. Nominations are due on Jan. 31, 2019. For more information, link to the announcement. (10-5-18)

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Recent Developments: Quick Guide Issued On Project-Level Air Quality Analyses

Air quality analysts have help locating the necessary traffic data to perform project-level analysis with a new quick reference guide issued under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. The quick guide is intended to bridge the gap between the fields of traffic analysis and air quality analysis to ensure that the right traffic inputs are prepared and provided to support the air quality analysis. The guide is organized by air pollutant—carbon monoxide, particulate matter, mobile source air toxics, and greenhouse gases. The guide also provides an overview of traffic data requirements, traffic model advanced methods, reevaluations under NEPA, traffic mitigation measures, and litigation risk management. The quick guide is a supplement to NCHRP Report 765 and was prepared under NCHRP Project 25-25, Task 96. For more information, link to the quick guide. (7-19-18)

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Recent Developments: Grants Available for Deployment of Advanced Transportation Technologies

The Federal Highway Administration has announced the availability of $60 million in grants under the Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment Program. Eligible applicants include state and local transit agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, and academic institutions. Funds may be used for the development of deployment sites for large scale installation and operation of technologies such as advanced traveler information systems, electronic pricing and payment systems, and integration of intelligent transportation systems with the Smart Grid. Applications are due June 18. For more information, link to the announcement. (6-5-18)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Announces Advanced Transportation Technology Development Funds

The Federal Highway Administration has announced the availability of $60 million in grants to fund new transportation technologies. The grants are issued under the Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment Program, which provides funding for the development of model deployment sites for the operation of advanced technologies. The agency is looking for eligible projects that focus on integrated corridor management, real-time traveler information, and traffic data collection and dissemination. The program provided $100 million to 13 states in 2016 and 2017. Applications are due June 18, 2018. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-18-18)

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Recent Developments: TRB Research Report Addresses Clean Truck Freight Strategies

The Transportation Research Board has released Research Report 862 to assist in potential deployment of fuel-efficient and low-emission truck freight strategies. The report addresses diversity in the trucking industry and several clean truck strategies. The report also provides an overview of alternative fuels and technologies that target fuel efficiency such as technologies for tractor trailers, tires, and idle-reduction. In addition, operational strategies to reduce travel, idling, and inefficient engine operations are provided and clean truck corridor infrastructure is highlighted. Finally, federal and state agency efforts are illustrated to show best practices. For more information, link to the report. (11-29-17)

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Recent Developments: FDOT Will Use Award for Advanced Congestion Management Technologies in Orlando

The Florida Department of Transportation, along with partners MetroPlan Orlando and the University of Central Florida, will be implementing projects funded by the Federal Highway Administration’s Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment program. FDOT and Orlando will use the nearly $12 million grant to implement and evaluate four intelligent transportation technologies to help reduce congestion and improve safety. GreenWay will use sensors and new traffic signal technology to help the transportation system quickly adapt to real-time traffic conditions. PedSafe will digitally connect vehicles, people, and traffic lights to develop pedestrian and bicycle collision avoidance. SmartCommunity will combine information from many different transportation options into a one-stop shop for trip planning. SunStore will be the FDOT’s integrated central data storage for system management and operations. For more information, link to the announcement. (10-16-17)

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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: National Climate Assessment Calls for Mitigation, Adaptation Efforts

The U.S. Global Change Research Program has released its 2018 assessment of U.S. climate change impacts, including effects on communities, the economy, ecosystems, infrastructure, and other sectors. The report calls for mitigation and adaptation efforts to avoid major economic losses and to avoid impacts on U.S. infrastructure and property. The report also warns of “cascading impacts” that may occur to interconnected natural, built, and social systems. For more information, link to the Fourth National Climate Assessment web page. (11-23-18)

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Recent Developments: Report Highlights Transportation, Climate Sessions in Northeast, Mid-Atlantic

The Transportation and Climate Initiative, a regional collaboration of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia, has issued a summary report on a series of listening sessions held this year. The six regional listening sessions were to invite input on potential policy approaches to bring about a cleaner and more resilient transportation future in the region. In all, roughly 500 stakeholders, including over 100 government officials, participated in facilitated conversations about their priorities, goals, and policy ideas for a low-carbon transportation future. The report summarizes the ideas, suggestions, and perspectives offered during the sessions. For more information, link to the summary report. (11-14-18)

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Recent Developments: Seven Cities Added to Winners of American Cities Climate Challenge

Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced that Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and St. Louis have been included as winners of the American Cities Climate Challenge. These cities join 10 other cities announced previously. Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the challenge for cities to advance their efforts to address climate change. The initiative will provide $70 million for 20 “leadership cities” to implement solutions that are addressed in the Paris Agreement, reduce emissions in the building and transportation sectors, foster local and regional collaboration, and share best practices. Bloomberg Philanthropies will provide technical assistance to help city officials including implementation coaching, networking and peer-to-peer opportunities, and data and innovation resources. For more information, link to the announcement. (10-21-18)

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Recent Developments: Four Cities Added to Winners of American Cities Climate Challenge

Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced that Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. have been included as winners of the American Cities Climate Challenge. These cities join Atlanta, Los Angeles, Portland, San Diego, San Jose and Seattle announced previously. Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the challenge for cities to advance their efforts to address climate change. The initiative will provide $70 million for 20 “leadership cities” to implement solutions that are addressed in the Paris Agreement, reduce emissions in the building and transportation sectors, foster local and regional collaboration, and share best practices. Bloomberg Philanthropies will provide technical assistance to help city officials including implementation coaching, networking and peer-to-peer opportunities, and data and innovation resources. For more information, link to the announcement. (10-21-18)

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Recent Developments: Landscape Architects Issue Climate Mitigation Design Guide

A new guide on the connection between climate change and community design has been released by the American Society of Landscape Architects. The guide provides discussion of and resources for planning and designing more dense, walkable communities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and sprawl. The guide says that the use of carbon-sequestering landscapes such as forests, wetlands, and grasslands will help to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide. The guide includes resources and solutions regarding materials and construction, green infrastructure, and natural systems applicable to both regional and urban scales. For more information, link to the guide. (9-6-18)

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Recent Developments: Updated Electric Vehicle Corridor Tool Expands Scope

The Georgetown Climate Center has updated the electric vehicle (EV) corridor analysis tool for EV charging infrastructure planning. The tool includes a map of fast charging infrastructure in Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and an spreadsheet-based tool for identifying highway exits as candidates for additional infrastructure. The tool has been updated to include 9,000 miles of roadways, adds the state of Virginia, and enhances usability. The tool is part of the Transportation and Climate Initiative to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. For more information, link to the announcement and the tool. (7-30-18)

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Recent Developments: Alternative Fueling Station Locator Includes U.S., Canada Data

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has updated the Energy Department’s alternative fueling station locator. The tool supports those driving electric vehicles and vehicles running on ethanol, propane, natural gas, and hydrogen in finding fueling stations. The map is colored coded to display each fuel and includes the station address, directions, and phone number. The updated tool combines data from the U.S. and Canada to allow fleets to easily transport good between both countries. The tool was developed as part of a partnership between NREL and Natural Resources Canada. For more information, link to the announcement and station locator. (7-31-18)

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Recent Developments: Midwest States Discuss Alternative Fuel Corridor Expansion

The Midwest Alternative Fuel Corridor Convening held its first meeting to discuss challenges and opportunities to expanding alternative fuel corridors. The meeting included an analysis of designated corridors and infrastructure and an overview of Midwest corridor initiatives. Enhancement of multi-state collaboration, improving visibility, and revisions to the Alternative Fuels Data Center Station Locator Redesign and Corridor Tool were also addressed. The meeting, hosted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, was the first in a series of convenings sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration. For more information, link to the announcement. (7-16-18)

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Recent Developments: Coalition Scorecard Ranks States Based on Electric Vehicle Adoption

The Electrification Coalition has released a scorecard regarding the impact of state policies for electric vehicle adoption. The scorecard includes data from several states that signed a memorandum of understanding in 2013 on zero emissions vehicles (ZEV). The states were analyzed and placed into three tiers, and were assessed based on their incentives provided to customers, availability of refueling infrastructure, and outreach campaigns. Stakeholders can track state decisions and determine which strategy is best for them. California, Connecticut, and Maryland placed in the top tier. The coalition plans to update the scorecard annually. For more information, link to the scorecard report. (June 2018)

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Recent Developments: NOAA Report Shows Continued Increase in Greenhouse Gases

The Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI) increased to 1.41 in 2017, up slightly from 2016 levels, according to a report issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The AGGI is a single number that displays how much extra heat the atmosphere is able to trap every year. Chlorofluorocarbons were relatively smaller contributors to the direct warming influence over time and carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide were found to be the only greenhouse gases (GHGs) to continue to increase at regular rates over decades. The AGGI registered 1.40 in 2016, reflecting a 40 percent increase in the climate-warming influence of GHGs in the atmosphere since 1990, the baseline year. The AGGI began in 2006 to help decision makers understand GHG levels over time. It is updated each spring. For more information, link to the report. (5-30-18)

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Recent Developments: GAO Finds Climate Change Funding Has Increased

The Government Accountability Office has issued a report on how much the federal government spends on climate change programs. According to the report, federal climate change funding increased by $4.4 billion from 2010 to 2017, and 94 percent of reported funding within six agencies went to programs that touch on, but aren’t dedicated to climate change. The report recommends that the Office of Management Budget (OMB) reports should include information on climate related financial risks. The report also recommends that the OMB provide analysis on federal climate change programs it considers to be fragmented, overlapping, or duplicative. For more information, link to the report. (5-30-18)

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Recent Developments: Peer Exchange Addresses DOT Renewable Energy Development

The Federal Highway Administration has released a report on a peer exchange concerning the implementation of renewable energy technologies in highway rights-of-way and on other state department of transportation properties. The peer exchange, held in March 2018 in Salt Lake City, included site visits to several solar installations including rooftop, parking lot canopies, and ground-mounted solar panels. The Utah Solar Energy Association provided information on the state’s solar industry and host agency Utah DOT shared their efforts to install electric vehicle charging stations and to upgrade LED lights at the state DOT offices to reduce electricity bills. The exchange also highlighted Hawaii DOT’s installation of solar-powered radar sensors, signs, and pavement markers. Participants indicated that factsheets on solar benefits and other shared information would be helpful to advance highway renewable energy projects. For more information, link to the report. (5-30-18)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Summarizes Renewable Energy Peer Exchange in Report

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a summary report on the Renewable Energy in Highway Rights of Way Peer Exchange, held in February 2018. The report summarizes transportation agencies’ presentations from Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, and host state Missouri as well as federal agencies and academic institutions. The peer exchange brought together practitioners to discuss issues related to and approaches for accommodating renewable energy technologies in highway rights-of-way and other state DOT properties. For more information, link to the report. (5-1-18)

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Recent Developments: Energy Department Tool Estimates Need for Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has developed the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Projection Lite (EVI-Pro Lite) tool to help states account for EV demand. The tool, a simplified version of EVI-Pro, identifies existing public EV infrastructure and projects future consumer demand by state or city/urban area based on anticipated numbers of plug-in electric vehicles. The tool uses data on travel patterns, EV attributes, and charging station characteristics to facilitate support of regional EV adoption. The tool was developed in collaboration with the California Energy Commission and supported by the Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office. A webinar for tool demonstration is scheduled for May 21, 2018. For more information, link to the announcement. (5-16-18)

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Recent Developments: Report Indicates Ride-Hailing Services Increase Travel, GHG Emissions

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has issued a report that analyzes the impacts of ride hailing services on travel and greenhouse gas emissions. The report uses survey data from 2017 on populations, ride hailing users, and ride hailing driver and passenger activity from Austin, Texas and San Francisco. The report indicates that ride-hailing will tend to produce modest reductions in auto ownership. The report also finds that ride-hailing in U.S. cities is contributing to a net increase in vehicle miles traveled and associated emissions, but the total magnitude of that increase is uncertain. It is recommended that policymakers look at restrictions on such services, implementation of distance-based pricing rules to minimize empty vehicle travel, and increased support of public transit. For more information, link to the report. (4-18-18)

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Recent Developments: Communications Initiative Developed to Help Respond to Climate Change

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has established a Climate Communications Initiative (CCI). The CCI will address public questions concerning climate change, provide easy-to-understand evidence-based information, facilitate communication efforts, and develop innovative approaches to climate change. An advisory committee also has been created to develop a strategic plan for the CCI to identify near- and longer-term activities and monitor the impact of products of the initiative. The initiative is intended to help citizens and decision-makers respond to climate change. A committee meeting is scheduled for March 6-7, 2018. For more information, link to the announcement. (1-23-18)

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Recent Developments: Research Symposium Highlights Decarbonizing Transport

The Transportation Research Board has issued a report on a May 2017 international symposium, Decarbonizing Transport for a Sustainable Future: Mitigating Impacts of the Changing Climate. The event was the fifth annual transportation research symposium sponsored by the European Commission and the United States. The symposium included discussion of partnership development with co-benefits, policy impact on climate mitigation strategies, approaches in megaregions, and freight transport. The report includes a potential portfolio of research for U.S. and European Union collaboration developed as a result of the symposium and suggests opportunities for trans-Atlantic information sharing. For more information, link to the report. (1-8-18)

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Recent Developments: Quick Guide Issued for Renewable Energy Projects on Highway Right-of-Way

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a guide to help FHWA division offices and state departments of transportation understand requirements for installing renewable energy generation along highway rights-of-way. The guide serves as a condensed version of the agency’s Guidance on Utilization of Highway-Right-of-Way by providing answers to questions concerning which federal regulations to use when building a renewable energy project that was purchased with federal aid highway funds. The guide also addresses the National Environmental Policy Act process and provides help with state utility accommodation policies. In addition, links to project examples and utility accommodations are provided. For more information, link to the guide. (12-21-17)

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Recent Developments: National Assessment Shows Causes, Effects of Climate Change

The U.S. Global Change Research Program has released its 4th National Climate Assessment to highlight recent findings concerning climate change. The assessment indicates that it is extremely likely that human activities are the dominant cause of warming since the mid-20th century. The assessment also illustrates the significant probability of unanticipated effects occurring, such as multiple extreme weather events occurring simultaneously. The assessment addresses climate models and scenarios, physical drivers of climate change, and changes in precipitation nationwide. The likelihood of droughts, floods, and wildfires as well as extreme storms and sea level rise are also highlighted. For more information, link to the assessment. (11-3-17)

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Recent Developments: TRB Research Record Addresses Energy and Environment

The Transportation Research Board has released a compilation of papers concerning environment and energy in Volume 2628 of its Transportation Research Record journal. The issue addresses life-cycle benefits of recycled material in highway construction, obtaining thermoelectric energy from asphalt pavements, and highway noise analyses and policies. The issue also provides a comparison of projections for corporate average fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards and an analysis of electric vehicle purchaser satisfaction. In addition, it addresses the use of statewide models as tools for zero-emission vehicle deployment. For more information, link to the report. (10-2-17)

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Recent Developments: Report Analyzes Use of Zero-Emission Heavy-Duty Vehicle Technology

The International Council on Clean Transportation has issued a report concerning the use of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicle technology to decarbonize the freight sector. The report provides an overview of heavy-duty vehicle policies in Canada, China, Japan, and the U.S., and includes a list of zero-emission truck projects for medium-duty, heavy-duty, in-road, and hydrogen fuel cell trucks. A technology analysis is provided to account for costs associated with vehicle use, efficiency, and cost of ownership, as well as an analysis of the emissions impacts of various tractor-trailer technologies. The report indicates that electric vehicles that are dynamically charged could play an important role in creating more market options for electric trucks. The report also illustrates that promotion of drayage, bus, and urban delivery truck applications are important in encouraging the development of electric-drive trucks. For more information, link to the report. (September 2017)

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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: Climate Tool Rates Cities on Risk and Readiness

The University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative has created the Urban Adaptation Assessment online tool that provides information on climate change impacts to cities. The tool includes data from over 270 cities within the United States, including all 50 states and Puerto Rico, whose populations are above 100,000. The tool ranks cities on risk and readiness and provides estimates of the likelihood of experiencing a particular hazard and the costs associated with that outcome. The tool provides risk scores for every city based on established risk indicators and readiness scores based on economic, social, and governmental indicators. For more information, link to the tool. (Oct. 2018)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Offers Guidance on Evaluation of Repeatedly Damaged Roadways

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a question and answer document regarding the requirement for state transportation agencies to evaluate roads, highways, and bridges subject to repeated damage from storms and other events. The guidance covers the basic elements of the evaluation process, what types of facilities to include, and key deadlines that DOTs must be aware of. The Q&A document was developed in response to questions received from state DOTs regarding how the evaluation should be used in support of development of a state’s transportation asset management plan (TAMP). For more information, link to the document. (11-26-18)

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Recent Developments: AASHTO Announces Transportation Resilience Webinar Series

A series of webinars on transportation resilience is being sponsored by AASHTO’s Resilient and Sustainable Transportation Systems technical assistance program. The series includes five webinars on topics including seismic resilience (Dec. 3), organizational resilience (Dec. 5), lessons learned from Hurricane Florence (Dec. 10), cyber resilience (Dec. 12), and a recap of the recent Transportation Resilience Innovations Summit and Exchange (RISE) (Dec. 17). For more information and registration, link here. (11-9-18)

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Recent Developments: Report Highlights Nature-Based Resilience Projects in Maine, New Hampshire

Experiences of two northeast states in use of green infrastructure solutions to enhance coastal highway resilience are highlighted in a report posted by the Federal Highway Administration. The report describes potential use of a range of green infrastructure techniques to protect two highways – one in Maine and one in New Hampshire – from coastal flooding. The study looked at ecological and financial costs and benefits and provided options for each state to consider going forward. It is one of five pilot projects FHWA sponsored to assess the potential for natural infrastructure to protect coastal roads and bridges. For more information, link to the report. (10-4-18)

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Recent Developments: Case Study Provides Lessons From Hurricane Sandy

The Georgetown Climate Center has issued a case study of the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts and lessons that can be applied to the Gulf Coast. The report, Building Gulf Coast Resiliency - Lessons from the Hurricane Sandy Recovery, discusses the federal coordinating teams that facilitated the efforts of multiple agencies and state and local recovery fund recipients. It describes how coordinating teams were used to improve the early planning, design, and permitting phases of recovery projects and provides recommendations that can be applied to other large-scale ecosystem-based restoration projects. The report also discusses the expedited environmental review and permitting of innovative recovery projects. The case study is part of a broader effort to document lessons that can inform Gulf Coast states’ resiliency efforts. For more information, link to the case study. (August 2018)

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Recent Developments: National Planning Awards Now Include Resilience Category

The American Planning Association has announced a new resilience award category for its 2019 National Planning Awards, in addition to the environmental and transportation planning categories. The new category is to recognize examples of excellence or achievement in planning that allows communities to better withstand and recover from events resulting from natural disasters, human-caused disasters, climate change, and other stressors. This award is presented in coordination with The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative. The nomination period ends Sept. 10. For more information, link to the National Planning Awards page. (8-13-18)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Issues Summary of Peer Exchanges on Nature-Based Solutions

Key examples of nature-based solutions for coastal highway resilience are provided in a synthesis document issued by the Federal Highway Administration. The report describes a series of regional peer exchanges, held in the spring of 2018, in which participants discussed challenges and recommendations identified across the country. Issues included uncertainty around performance of nature-based solutions; understanding the costs, benefits, and funding available for such solutions; lengthy permitting processes; and the need for broad coordination. FHWA will use the findings from the peer exchanges to develop an implementation guide on use of nature-based solutions, expected in the summer of 2019. For more information, link to the report. (8-9-18)

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Recent Developments: N.J. Pilot Assesses Natural Solutions to Mitigate Road Flooding

A report assessing the use of natural infrastructure solutions to mitigate roadway flooding and maintain health of marshes along a coastal roadway in New Jersey has been issued by the Federal Highway Administration. The study looked at use of a thin layer of sediment to raise the marsh elevation in vulnerable locations, as well as oyster beds and native plants placed along the marsh edge to reduce wave energy. The project is one of five FHWA pilots assessing the use of such natural infrastructure solutions. For more information, link to the report. (7-30-18)

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Recent Developments: Newsletter Highlights Multimodal Design, Green Infrastructure Case Studies

Recently published case studies regarding the co-benefits of multimodal networks and green infrastructure are highlighted in the July 2018 issue of the Federal Highway Administration’s Successes in Stewardship newsletter. The case studies are designed to provide information for agencies interested in improvements to their pedestrian and bicycle networks that incorporate green infrastructure and resiliency benefits. The issue highlights 14 projects from a report issued by the FHWA earlier this year. For more information, link to the newsletter and the report. (8-2-18)

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Recent Developments: Rhode Island Strategy Prepares State for Future Climate

Rhode Island is taking steps to combat climate change through the development of its initiative, “Resilient Rhody”. The strategy was developed to prioritize investments, leverage planning, identify actions and competencies, provide resources and tools, and equitably reduce the impacts of climate change. The plan addresses the state’s current climate, stormwater infrastructure, energy security, transportation and transit infrastructure, and impacts on coastal wetlands and beaches. The plan also addresses the state’s evacuation zones and emergency routes and social determinants of climate vulnerability. For more information, link to the strategy. (7-13-18)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Report Addresses Coastal Green Infrastructure in Delaware

The Federal Highway Administration has released a report regarding the joint pilot project with the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) to develop coastal green infrastructure in two locations along State Route 1. The project proposed the incorporation of nature-based elements in areas vulnerable to coastal and urban runoff. DelDOT plans to add at one location a sand dune levee, create a tidal marsh, retrofit a rock sill, add an oyster reef and oyster bag stabilization, and replace an existing storm drain outfall with a larger culvert and tide gate. DelDOT also proposes to add sediment forebays and level spreaders at the other location. For more information, link to the report. (7-11-18)

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Recent Developments: NOAA Announces National Coastal Resilience Funding

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) have announced the availability of $30 million in funding to increase the resiliency of coastal communities. The funding is issued under the National Coastal Resilience Fund to reduce impacts from changing sea levels, storm surge, tsunamis, increased shallow coastal and riverine flooding, and erosion. Funding will first be given to projects that are design-ready, position communities for future implementation, and enhance resilience via natural infrastructure. A webinar is scheduled for July 11, 2018. Project proposals are due Aug. 7, 2018. The NFWF is an independent nonprofit organization governed by a board of directors approved by the Interior Secretary. For more information, link to the announcement and full RFP. (6-29-18)

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Recent Developments: ASLA Report Recommends Core Principles for Resilient Cities

The American Society of Landscape Architects has issued a report that identifies four principles for creating climate-smart and resilient communities. The report addresses design and planning solutions as well as policy recommendations for natural systems, transportation, agriculture, and vulnerable communities. The principles were developed by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resilience and call for policies that are incentive-based, promote holistic planning with multiple benefits, address environmental justice, engage communities, are reviewed for possible consequences, and address broad regional goals. For more information, link to the report. (6-19-18)

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Recent Developments: Boston Adopts Smart City, Resilient Development Policy

Boston has announced further steps to create a more resilient city. The city’s two-year pilot program will encourage adoption of five utility technologies to prepare infrastructure for climate change and to reduce traffic congestion and roadway construction. The “Smart Utilities Policy” will address, among other things, the installation of green infrastructure in projects over 100,000 square feet, smart street lights that will allow the installation of vehicle to infrastructure communication, and adaptive signal technology to make multi-modal travel more efficient. The policy is the first of its kind in the U.S., according to the city, and follows the adoption of Climate Ready Boston, an initiative to enhance near- and long-term climate change preparedness and resiliency. For more information, link to the announcement. (6-19-18)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Newsletter Addresses NEPA Reviews During Emergencies

Environmental compliance and the use of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews during emergencies is addressed in the Federal Highway Administration’s new issue of its Successes in Stewardship newsletter. The newsletter highlights how the NEPA process is different when conducted under emergency conditions and includes a list of other environmental laws that states must comply with during an emergency. The FHWA and Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) offer programs to help fund unusually heavy expenses associated with declared emergencies. These programs can provide funding for hazard mitigation and resilience features if projects are in compliance with the NEPA process, according to the newsletter. For more information, link to the newsletter. (6-19-18)

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Recent Developments: User Guide Issued for Long-Term Pavement Performance Climate Tool

The Federal Highway Administration has released a user guide for the Long-Term Pavement Performance (LTPP) online Climate Tool. The tool provides convenient access to worldwide climate data from NASA’s Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications database. The data address temperature, precipitation, humidity, and solar attributes that are available in hourly, daily, monthly, and annual increments. The user guide provides an overview of the data available using the LTPP Climate Tool and details of the data elements. For more information, link to the guide. (6-18-18)

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Recent Developments: Incorporation of Resilience across DOT/MPO Functions Described in NCHRP Report

A report documenting how resilience efforts are being incorporated within transportation agencies’ functions and services has been issued under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. Resilience in Transportation Planning, Engineering, Management, Policy, and Administration (NCHRP Synthesis 527), describes agencies motivations and approaches for integrating resilience into planning, engineering, construction, maintenance, operations, and administration. It includes five case study examples from Arizona DOT, Colorado DOT, and Delaware DOT, as well as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Genesee Transportation Council. For more information, link to the prepublication version of the report. (6-11-18)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Provides Fact Sheet on Nature-Based Features for Coasts

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a fact sheet describing resources and technical assistance the agency has provided on the use of natural infrastructure to protect coastal roads and bridges. The fact sheet provides background on natural infrastructure and green infrastructure, how it differs from conventional engineered coastal protection, and cost considerations. The fact sheet describes resources available on FHWA’s website and provides examples of successful projects in Delaware, Florida, Oregon, and Virginia. For more information, link to the fact sheet. (6-4-18)

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Recent Developments: Austin Identifies Climate Change Hazards in New Action Plan

The City of Austin, Texas, has released a climate resilience action plan for protecting city operations and assets, including community facilities and utility and transportation infrastructure. The plan addresses four key climate hazards—extreme heat, drought, flooding, and wildfire—that pose the most critical threat to short and long-term planning for the city. The plan recommends strengthening emergency response plans to address climate impacts; expanding staff safety plans to incorporate climate risks; upgrading existing facilities to make them more resilient; and incorporating climate considerations into future infrastructure and capital improvements. For more information, link to the plan. (4-20-18)

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Recent Developments: American Cities Climate Challenge to Fund 20 Leadership Cities

The American Cities Climate Challenge has been launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies for cities to advance their efforts to address climate change. The initiative will provide $70 million for 20 “leadership cities” to implement solutions that are addressed in the Paris Agreement, reduce emissions in the building and transportation sectors, foster local and regional collaboration, and share best practices. Bloomberg Philanthropies will provide technical assistance to help city officials including implementation coaching, networking and peer-to-peer opportunities, and data and innovation resources. The 100 most populous cities in America are eligible. Applications are available June 19 and due July 18, with winners announced in the fall. For more information, link to the announcement. (6-1-18)

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Recent Developments: California Releases Indicators of Climate Change Report

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has issued a list of 36 indicators of climate change within the state. The indicators encompass human-influenced drivers, including greenhouse gases (GHG); changes in the state’s climate; impacts on oceans, lakes, and snowpack; and impacts on humans, vegetation, and wildlife. The indicators reveal that climate change is occurring in California and is having significant impacts. The report also indicates that the state’s GHG emissions are declining, with emissions per capita and per dollar of its gross domestic product declining since 1990. The report shows that average air temperatures have increased throughout the state. For more information, link to the report. (5-9-18)

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Recent Developments: Sea Level, Storm Surge Estimated for National Parks

The National Park Service has released a report regarding storm surge and sea level rise projections for 118 coastal-area national parks. The projections are developed from United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) data and storm surge scenarios from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) models. The report indicates that the National Capital Region, including Washington, D.C., could experience the highest average rate of sea level change by 2100 and the coastline adjacent to the Outer Banks Group of parks in North Carolina is projected to experience the highest sea level rise by 2100. The report also finds that the Southeast Region may experience the highest storm surges. For more information, link to the report. (5-24-18)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Announces 11 Extreme Weather/Resilience Pilot Projects

The Federal Highway Administration has announced its latest round of extreme weather and vulnerability assessment pilot projects. The newly announced pilots will address integration of resilience into agency practices; use of available tools and resources to assess vulnerability and risk; and deploying resilience solutions and monitoring performance. The pilots will be conducted by the following agencies: Atlanta Regional Commission, Bi-State Regional Commission, California Department of Transportation (DOT), Corpus Christi Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Hillsborough MPO, Houston-Galveston Area Council, Massachusetts DOT, Mid-America Regional Council; the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pennsylvania DOT, and Utah DOT. For more information and project descriptions, link to the announcement. (4-20-18)

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Recent Developments: AASHTO Issues Resiliency Case Study Report

A report describing lessons transportation agencies have learned from extreme weather events over a six-year period has been issued by AASHTO’s Resilient and Sustainable Transportation Systems program. The report, Resiliency Case Studies: State DOT Lessons Learned, describes how transportation agencies can become more resilient in anticipating and responding to future events. Case studies describe lessons learned from the following extreme events: Tropical Storm Irene in Vermont (2011); 500- and 1,000-year flooding events in Louisiana (2016); Flooding and Rock Falls in Colorado (2013 and 2016); Hurricane Matthew in North Carolina (2016); an ice storm in Atlanta, Ga. (2014); the Moore tornado in Oklahoma (2013); coastal landslides in California (2017); and hurricanes Hermine and Matthew in Florida (2016). Interview findings from these eight state DOTs and the cross-cutting lessons learned are categorized into three subject areas: planning and design, policies and regulations, and emergency response. For more information, link to the report. (5-10-18)

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Recent Developments: Urban Land Institute to Evaluate Miami Beach Stormwater Management

The Urban Land Institute (ULI) will evaluate the effectiveness of the city of Miami Beach’s stormwater management plan to mitigate the impacts of sea-level rise. ULI, as part of its Advisory Services Program, will assess the $600 million stormwater management program by conducting workshops, site tours, and listening sessions to provide a set of recommendations. Specifically, the organization will evaluate the effectiveness of elevated roads and the city’s modernized drainage system in addition to how recent regulatory changes have incorporated climate adaptation into land use and development codes. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-18-18)

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Recent Developments: Mississippi Pilot Project Explores Green Infrastructure to Endure Hurricanes

The Mississippi Department of Transportation is weighing use of green infrastructure to better protect a bridge along the Gulf Coast that was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The pilot project, Henderson Point Connector (US HWY 90): Green Infrastructure Techniques for Coastal Highway Resilience, evaluated the use of conventional gray infrastructure as well as vegetated berms on either side of a segment of the Henderson Point connector on U.S. 90. The bridge spans were directly damaged by Hurricane Katrina when high water eroded the approach embankment and displaced the westbound span. The berms are designed to mitigate water flow velocities near the bridge abutment by redirecting flood flows. The report said that MDOT learned that the damage may be the first known example of a bridge that failed due to the drag forces of strong water current. For more information, link to the report. (4-5-18)

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Recent Developments: Tests of NGA’s Resilience Assessment Tool Announced

The National Governors Association, supported by Department of Energy’s Infrastructure Security and Energy Restoration Division, has announced test projects for the State Resilience Assessment and Planning (SRAP) Tool. The SRAP Tool is a self-assessment to help governors to understand their states’ resilience by identifying gaps in planning and preparedness. The NGA will work with Idaho, Maryland, and Oregon on the test projects and to identify best practices in adapting to, withstanding, and recovering from disasters. Based on the results of this round of tests, the NGA will host policy retreats. Governors increasingly face human and natural disasters that can negatively impact the viability of energy, water, transportation, and other critical infrastructure. In 2017 alone, there were 16 weather- and climate-related disasters with losses including a total estimated cost of more than $300 billion and 362 deaths. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-11-18)

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Recent Developments: Report Quantifies Reliability of California Transportation System

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has released a report on methods to quantify the reliability of highway transportation networks in California. The report includes results using the UCINET simulation tool to estimate reliability and identify critical paths in the state’s highway transportation network. The report analyzes the transportation network in northern and southern California to illustrate results in 47 cities. The report demonstrates ways to identify how the failure of certain paths reduces the reliability of the network, and how a focus on routes that serve as critical paths can avoid serious impacts. For more information, link to the report. (January 2018)

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Recent Developments: California County Evaluates Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise

The County of San Mateo, California, has issued a sea level rise vulnerability assessment. The report says that the highly vulnerable county has over $1 billion worth of buildings and infrastructure at risk to near-term flooding. Long-term exposure to erosion and flooding could affect real estate worth $39.1 billion, including 30,000 residential and 3,000 commercial properties. The report also addresses the indirect risk to critical systems and services, such as hospitals, wastewater treatment plants, airports, highways and transit, and recreational facilities on both the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay sides of the county. The report will be used to inform the county’s response efforts, including mapping vulnerable assets, preparing asset-level vulnerability assessments, developing solutions, building awareness, and facilitating collaboration. For more information, link to the report. (March 2018)

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Recent Developments: Principles Provide Framework For Resilient Cities

The Urban Land Institute has issued 10 principles to serve as a framework for cities to be more resilient to climate change and other threats. The report provides several resilience resources and recommends that decision makers understand their vulnerability to immediate shocks and long-term stresses to better plan for recovery from future events. The report recommends that resilience efforts strengthen job and housing opportunities and enhance equity. The report also addresses the importance of leveraging existing assets, identifying the best place to invest, pricing the cost of inaction, and maximizing co-benefits. The principles were developed from a 2017 workshop on resiliency findings from 10 science advisory panels. For more information, link to the report. (3-23-18)

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Recent Developments: Report Cards Forecast Changes in Sea Level Along U.S. Coastline

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) has launched 32 web-based report cards to monitor and forecast changes in sea level along the U.S. coastline from Maine to Alaska. Relative sea level is increasing in Virginia and other East and Gulf coast areas due to both rising water and sinking land. The report cards incorporate evidence from recent acceleration in the rate of sea-level change measured by tide-gauge stations and project sea-level height to the year 2050. They also include recent trends in the rates of sea-level change, and an explanation of processes affecting sea level at each locality. VIMS plans to update the report cards annually. For more information, link to the announcement and description. (3-26-18)

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Recent Developments: AASHTO Meeting to Discuss Resilience in Transportation Systems

The American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials is hosting the Transportation Resilience Innovations Summit and Exchange to discuss best practices for including resilience in transportation systems. The meeting will include discussion of stakeholder engagement approaches and cooperation initiatives from states such as California and Louisiana and perspectives from the Federal Highway Administration related to resiliency policies and guidance. The meeting also will address risk-based approaches to incorporating resilience at the project level and into asset management. The meeting is scheduled for Oct. 9-10, 2018, in Denver. For more information link to the announcement and meeting agenda.

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Recent Developments: Listening Sessions to Address Resilient Transportation in Northeast, Mid-Atlantic Region

The Transportation and Climate Initiative has announced a series of listening sessions regarding policy approaches to creating a resilient transportation future in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. The first event, hosted by the state of New York, will include discussion of how and why residents and businesses make certain transportation choices; how to improve environmental quality and public health benefits while increasing mobility; and what an innovative, low-carbon transportation future might look like. The first session is scheduled for April 9, 2018, in Albany. For more information, link to the announcement.

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Recent Developments: FHWA Provides Overview of Nature-Based Features for Coastal Resilience

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a white paper on the current state of practice for nature-based solutions for coastal highway resiliency. Nature-based infrastructure—solutions that mimic characteristics of natural features—can be used alone or in combination with conventional engineering to protect coastal highways. The white paper gives an overview of the concepts and examples of successful application in Delaware and Virginia. The white paper also provides information on lessons learned, performance and reliability, and key knowledge gaps. For more information, link to the paper. (3-1-18)

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Recent Developments: California Plan Illustrates Current Climate Change Actions

The California Natural Resources Agency has issued the Safeguarding California Plan to illustrate how the state is taking action against climate change. The report provides an overview of state-sponsored climate change research and current policies and initiatives such as the development of the fourth climate change assessment and the global climate action summit scheduled for September. Several principles, including the prioritization of natural infrastructure solutions and identification of funding sources, are provided to display how the state can adapt to climate change. The state plans to track progress of changing climate conditions and enhancement of resiliency based on a certain metrics. For more information, link to the report. (2-20-18)

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Recent Developments: TRB Webinar Focuses on Resilience for Transit Agencies

The Transportation Research Board will hold a webinar March 12 regarding resilience in transit systems. The webinar will feature research published by the Transit Cooperative Research Program, Improving the Resilience of Transit Systems Threatened by Natural Disasters (TCRP Web-Only Document 70). The research provides "how to" steps to help transit agencies and others improve their resilience. The webinar will include presentations by transit agencies in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Southeast Pennsylvania and describe lessons learned as they implemented resilience strategies and projects. For more information, register for the free webinar.

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Recent Developments: Updated Vulnerability Assessment Framework Published by FHWA

The Federal Highway Administration has released the new edition of its framework for assessing the vulnerability of transportation infrastructure to climate change and extreme weather impacts. The Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Framework, Third Edition, provides more detail on the various steps in the framework, an expanded section on analyzing adaptation options, and more information on incorporating results into decision making. Overall, the basic structure is the same as the prior version. Under the framework, transportation agencies are encouraged to set objectives and define scope, compile data, assess vulnerability, analyze adaptation options, and incorporate the results into decision making. The new edition was announced previously in a Dec. 14 FHWA webinar. Link to the revised edition of the framework. (1-24-18)

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Recent Developments: Report Finds Gaps in FHWA Guidance on Resilience Improvements

The Federal Highway Administration lacks guidance and a process for incorporating resilience into emergency relief projects, according to a new report issued by the Department of Transportation, Office of the Inspector General. The report assesses the FHWA’s Emergency Relief Fund Program guidance and processes for incorporating resilience to rebuild damaged highway infrastructure and found that the guidance does not define resilience improvement, inform states how to include resilience improvements, or share related best practices. The report also found that there is no process for tracking state efforts in resilience. Revisions to the Emergency Relief Manual are planned. For more information, link to the report. (1-10-18)

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Recent Developments: TRB Research Record Illustrates Climate Change Resilience

Sixteen research papers concerning systems resilience and climate change are included in the Transportation Research Record Journal, Volume No. 2604. The journal addresses risk and resilience analysis for highway assets, sociotechnical approaches, and security resiliency. The journal also concerns community-based planning, use of rapid damage and response strategies, impact of group walking patterns on pedestrian evacuation, post-flooding roadway operations, and the effects of tsunami damage on passenger and forestry transportation. For more information, link to the report. (1-3-18)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Announces Extreme Weather Resilience Pilot Program

The Federal Highway Administration has launched a new round of extreme weather resilience pilot projects and is seeking applications from state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, federal lands management agencies, and tribes to participate in the program. The pilot will address integration of resilience and durability into agency practices; use of tools to assess vulnerability and risks; and deployment of solutions that achieve resilience and monitor performance. Letters of interest are due Feb. 9, 2018, and a webinar is scheduled for Jan. 4, 2018. For more information, link to the announcement. (12-19-17)

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Recent Developments: California Issues Climate Resiliency Guidance for State Agencies

A set of resiliency decision-making principles for state agencies in California is provided under a guidance released by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. The report addresses how to plan differently for resiliency and analyzes the state’s changing climate conditions. The report also provides a four-step process to guide agencies through a risk management process, which includes identifying how climate change could affect a project, conducting an analysis of climate risks, making informed decisions, and monitoring progress. In addition, the report addresses the importance of integration of climate change into infrastructure investments and provides a list of ongoing processes between several agencies. For more information, link to the report. (11-15-17)

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Recent Developments: GAO Issues Report on Reducing Economic Effects of Climate Change

The Government Accountability Office has released a report on how to reduce fiscal exposure to climate change. According to the President’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal, the United States has incurred more than $350 billion in direct costs due to extreme weather events. The report addresses the methods used to estimate economic effects and highlights additional efforts made by other federal agencies. The report indicates that current information on the economic effects of climate change is still evolving but is helpful in understanding what sectors are most vulnerable. The report also indicates that climate change effects could be unevenly distributed across sectors and regions. The agency recommends that the White House establish a strategy to identify and prioritize investments to increase resiliency. For more information, link to the report. (11-21-17)

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Recent Developments: AASHTO Hosts Resiliency Peer Exchange on Extreme Weather and Climate Change

Materials from the Center for Environmental Excellence by AASHTO's November peer exchange on climate resilience are now available. The event assembled key DOT stakeholders for an important dialogue on resiliency. State-level professionals discussed both strategies and challenges for building more resilient transportation systems. For more information and materials from the event, link here. (11-28-17)

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Recent Developments: Webinar Will Address Sea Level Rise Monitoring at Local, Regional Scale

UC Davis will hold a webinar on Nov. 29 to discuss methods for measuring and recording shoreline change over large areas at a fine resolution. UC Davis is working with local and regional agencies in California’s Bay Area and coastal islands in Georgia to pilot the use of time-lapse, ground-based cameras that capture fine-resolution images and satellite imagery of changing shoreline conditions for storm events, seasons, and across multiple years. The Nov. 29 webinar will discuss the results and lessons learned from two shoreline studies and next steps. For more information, link to the webinar summary. (11/29/17)

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Recent Developments: TRB Issues Circular on Resilient Transportation Systems

The Transportation Research Board has released Transportation Research Circular E-226, including articles related to resilient transportation systems. The issue includes articles on a whole-system approach to resilience, advances in weather forecasting, and an integrated approach to cyber-physical security for transportation. It also includes articles discussing resilient road infrastructure research from Europe, training and recruiting employees to assist during adverse events, and research on improving resilience of transit systems. For more information, link to the report. (November 2017)

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Recent Developments: Report Evaluates Adequacy of Tools for Climate Adaptation Planning

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has released a report to evaluate best practices and the adequacy of technical tools for climate resiliency and adaptation planning that were illustrated in a 2015 climate adaptation planning survey. The report provides an overview of the survey which included the identification of state and local agencies that are actively preparing for climate change and addressed the need for planners and transportation officials for climate education. The survey indicated a high percentage of agencies undertaking procedural and infrastructure adaptations. The survey also indicated that staff time is a barrier to efforts and that local agencies are lacking necessary tools and resources. The report is a companion to the Network Requirements for Assessing Criticality for Climate Adaptation Planning. For more information, link to the report. (October 2017)

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Recent Developments: TxDOT Uses AquaDam Technology to Hold Back Flood Water

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) used a new technique to taper off flood water on roadways due to Hurricane Harvey. The equipment, called AquaDam, is a mobile dam that is filled using existing floodwater to act as a barrier for up to 30 inches of water. The technology can be applied to rising water or already flooded roads and takes four to eight hours for installation. AquaDam has been used in three locations in Houston and in the Beaumont area on Interstate 10. For information, link to the announcement. (10-11-17)

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Recent Developments: Oregon DOT Pilot Explores Natural Protection for Coastal Highway

The Oregon Department of Transportation evaluated nature-based infrastructure to protect against storm surge and sea level rise along three stretches of coastal highway under a pilot project funded by the Federal Highway Administration. The pilot is documented in a report, Green Infrastructure Techniques for Resilience of the Oregon Coast Highway. ODOT learned that the segment in most critical need of reinforcement may not be the right place to apply nature-based options such as cobble beaches, and that traditional “hard” engineering may still have benefits in some situations depending on the characteristics of the location. ODOT's designs showed promise for other locations with less wave energy and slower erosion. For more information, link to the report. (9-26-17)

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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: FHWA Newsletter Highlights Context Sensitive Solutions, Design Approach

An overview of technical assistance the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has provided to state transportation agencies on context sensitive solutions and design (CSS/D), as well as highlights of a project that integrated CSS/D principles, are provided in the September 2018 issue of FHWA’s Successes in Stewardship Newsletter. The issue describes CSS/D principles and describes the Watford City bypass project in North Dakota as an example of the benefits of integrating CSS/D principles into the transportation planning and project delivery process. Summary reports on assistance provided by the FHWA are available on the FHWA CSS/D web page. For more information, link to the newsletter. (9-18-18)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Issues State of Practice Report on Context Sensitive Solutions, Design

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a state of the practice assessment and a report on the agency’s technical assistance program regarding context sensitive solutions and design (CSS/D). The assessment is intended to demonstrate how the CSS/D process helps design better projects and accelerate project delivery. The assessment includes CSS/D best practices, case studies, and results from interviews with 12 state DOTs. The second report describes technical assistance FHWA has provided to six states as well as four virtual peer exchanges. This report documents how the six states were selected; the purpose, schedule, and format of each session; key takeaways and lessons learned; and recommendations for future technical assistance and peer exchanges. For more information, link to the assessment and the summary report. (8-20-18)

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Recent Developments: ITE Issues Multimodal Design Guidance for Suburbs, Small Towns

Design guidance on creating multimodal thoroughfares as part of a context sensitive design and development project has been issued by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE). The manual provides principles and approaches for designing streets that are safe for all users. It is intended specifically for use in suburban communities and small towns and complements other design guidance documents issued by ITE, AASHTO, Federal Highway Administration, and the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). In addition to planning and design considerations, the manual describes pedestrian accommodations and vehicle speed management, and it provides a series of case studies and a literature review. For more information, link to the manual. (5-11-18)

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Recent Developments: Group Recognizes Twelve Communities for Complete Streets Efforts

Smart Growth America’s National Complete Streets Coalition has issued a report recognizing a dozen communities for their exemplary efforts to promote active transportation and social equity through the planning and building of better and safer bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. The Best Complete Streets Initiatives of 2017 highlights 12 communities that are examples of the best efforts to make complete streets a reality. The communities in the report are recognized for their high levels of engaging the community, embedding complete streets into the transportation planning processes, and implementing innovative projects. The efforts range from statewide design guides to local planning and community engagement. For more information, link to the report. (3-21-18)

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Recent Developments: Context Sensitive Solutions Webinar Recording Available

The Federal Highway Administration has made available a recording of a Feb. 21 webinar that gave a state of the practice assessment of context sensitive solutions. The webinar addressed results from a national assessment concerning how context sensitive solutions and design principles are integrated in transportation decision making. Representatives from consulting firms and federal and state agencies discussed strategies for state departments of transportation to incorporate CSS principles in project development. For more information, link to the recording. (3-1-18)

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Recent Developments: UN Reports Encourage Development of Better Cities

The United Nations Environmental Program has released two reports that provide recommendations on development of better cities. The Weight of Cities: Resource Requirements of Future Urbanization recommends the transition to low-carbon and resource efficient cities via compact growth, resource monitoring, better connections by affordable transit, and establishing a new model for city governance to support new policies. The second report, Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Transitions in the ASEAN Region: A Resource Perspective, analyzes future urbanization in Southeast Asia. The report encourages the development of compact, mixed-use cities; land-use planning that prevents slum formation; construction of resilient buildings and electricity grids; and profitable exchanges of waste energy and materials. For more information, link to the announcement. (2-9-18)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Report Details CSS Technical Assistance in North Dakota

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a case study describing the use of context sensitive solutions principles by the North Dakota Department of Transportation for the U.S. 85 Watford City Bypass project. The report found that NDDOT has strong relationships with other federal and state agencies and with tribal governments. NDDOT also has a high degree of coordination within the agency and emphasizes in-person outreach to the public. Additionally, the report found that the CSS approach and flexible design concepts used on the bypass project helped to minimize impacts to both the human and natural environment and helped earn the project an award. For more information, link to the report. (11-29-17)

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Recent Developments: Case Studies on CSS in Florida, North Dakota Posted by FHWA

Two case studies of context sensitive solutions technical assistance meetings hosted by the Federal Highway Administration have been added to the agency’s database of CSS case studies. The two case studies focus on separate meetings conducted in Florida and in North Dakota. Florida’s meeting focused on implementation of its complete streets approach in the state. North Dakota Department of Transportation focused its technical assistance on the U.S. Highway 85 Watford City Bypass, which incorporated CSS principles. For more information, link to the Florida and North Dakota case studies or to the FHWA case studies database. (11-1-17)

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Recent Developments: Case Studies on Context Sensitive Solutions Issued by FHWA

The Federal Highway Administration has released four case studies that illustrate the application of a Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) framework to the process of addressing transportation challenges and integrating resiliency strategies into the operations of state departments of transportation. Based on technical assistance provided to state DOTs, the case studies show how the principles of CSS can be applied to state and local resiliency planning, incorporated into a practical design checklist, used to inform design flexibility, and used to improve project design and performance metrics. For more information, link to case studies for Delaware, Idaho, Minnesota and Washington. (8-9-17)

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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 - Use of EJ and Context Sensitive Solutions to Enhance Livability

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) hosted a webinar to discuss the use of context sensitive solutions (CSS) and environmental justice (EJ) to enhance livability on April 12, 2017. The webinar was sponsored by FHWA's Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty and included a discussion of stakeholder engagement strategies, identification of adverse impacts and implementation of CSS to improve livability in disadvantaged communities. The webinar also included a discussion of how CSS and EJ principles can be better incorporated into the transportation decisionmaking process. The link to the webinar recording is available here.

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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: NAACP Releases Toolkit on Environmental, Climate Equity

The Environmental and Climate Justice Program of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has issued a toolkit to help state, regional, and local officials address climate and environmental equity in the face of disasters. The toolkit is designed to assist people who are directly affected by adverse impacts, known as “frontline communities.” The toolkit provides resources for building equity into the four phases of emergency management: prevention and mitigation, preparedness and resilience building, response and relief, and recovery and redevelopment. The toolkit includes steps for taking action, risk assessment methods, advice for engaging government agencies, and checklists for planning. For more information, link to the toolkit. (Sept. 2018)

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Recent Developments: Webinar Describes Disproportionate EJ Impacts in Planning, Project Development

The AASHTO Environmental Justice Community of Practice (CoP) has posted a webinar on disproportionate environmental justice impacts in planning and project development. The webinar, held on March 15, 2018, included an overview of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and two case studies. The first case study described Wisconsin DOT’s nine-step environmental justice analysis process and its application to the U.S. 151 (Verona Road) Project. The second case study described an environmental justice legal challenge related to providing bus service in Beavercreek, Ohio. For more information, link to the webinar recording, presentation, and EJ CoP website. (3-16-18)

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Recent Developments: EPA Updates EJSCREEN Tool with New Features

The Environmental Protection Agency has updated its EJSCREEN tool with new features and functionality. The tool helps users identify areas that may have higher environmental burdens and vulnerable populations. The latest version includes a revised water indicator to screen for potential surface water pollution, ability to look at municipalities as identified areas, and new map layers including schools, public housing, and prisons. The new features were described in a series of webinars in August and September 2017. For more information, link to the EJSCREEN website and to the Sept. 7 webinar presentation. (9-7-17)

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Recent Developments: Metro Washington Council Issues Environmental Justice Toolkit

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has released an environmental justice (EJ) toolkit to help stakeholders include equity in local air quality, energy, and climate planning and policy decisions. The toolkit includes nine approaches that cover such EJ topics as identifying vulnerable populations, providing meaningful engagement, and mainstreaming EJ into public planning. The toolkit is based upon broadly accepted EJ core principles and provides documentation and links to resource materials for each of the nine approaches, federal agency EJ websites including the U.S. Department of Transportation, guides for states, the history and context of EJ, and primary enabling legislation. For more information, link to the toolkit. (July 2017)

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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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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: FAQ Document Addresses Transportation Performance Management

The Federal Highway Administration has released a resource document regarding the transportation performance management program. The document addresses in a question-and-answer format key dates of the performance periods, elements of the bridge condition performance measures, and how to calculate good and poor bridge conditions. The document also addresses when transportation agencies should start collecting pavement data to meet new requirements, and travel time reliability and freight movement measures. In addition, the document discusses elements of the onroad mobile source emissions and traffic congestion measures under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program. For more information, link to the document. (10-5-17)

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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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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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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: Georgia - Georgia DOT Mitigates Impacts to Historic Neighborhood as Part of I-75 Improvements

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When rock-and-roll legend Little Richard was growing up in Macon, Georgia, his Pleasant Hill neighborhood was an African-American community of modest houses and vibrant local life. But the construction of Interstate 75 in the 1960s divided the neighborhood. Later, when the Georgia Department of Transportation (Georgia DOT) needed to make improvements to the I-16/I-75 Interchange, they saw an opportunity to work with communities to address impacts to their neighborhood.

The childhood home of legendary rock and roll singer “Little Richard” was moved to a new location. Photo: GDOT

While moving forward with the improvements to this interchange, Georgia DOT devoted time and effort to mitigating project impacts, including moving historic homes, building parks, adding pedestrian walkways, and documenting the local history. Traffic impacts have long demonstrated the need to improve this interchange. Beginning in 2000, Georgia DOT began meeting with Pleasant Hill residents to gather their input as the project developed.

The construction of I-75 predates the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), enacted in 1970, the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), enacted 1966 and Executive Order 12898 (Environmental Justice). As a result, project planning and development of I-75 did not consider environmental and historic preservation issues. The current improvements to I-75 and I-16 come at a time when project development is guided by these environmental laws; thus operational safety along with community concerns are part of the equation.

The I-75/I-16 interchange improvement project has several serious constraints, including its location at important cultural sites. This became the genesis for Georgia DOT’s work with federal, local and state partners to address the potential impacts to the Pleasant Hill neighborhood, a historic African-American district listed on the National Register of Historic Places with housing dating from the 1870s.

Neighborhood Cut in Two

Prior to the interstate construction which began in 1965, Pleasant Hill was a self-sustaining, vibrant community where many African American professionals called home and raised their families. Pleasant Hill, developed in the late 19th century, is the first neighborhood in Macon planned, constructed and inhabited by a rising black middle class. It was home to accomplished musicians, such as Richard Penniman, best known as Little Richard, as well as doctors, legislators, and teachers, which helped the community thrive.

Recognizing the importance of this community, Georgia DOT has consistently worked to ensure that the history and culture of this community are preserved.

Georgia DOT engaged with the community early on, setting up a multi-year series of public meetings and citizen advisory groups in an effort to ensure residents had the opportunity to learn about the project, voice concerns, and participate in the solutions, including mitigation strategies.

Georgia DOT gained the trust of residents by being present and listening, according to Peter Givens, President of the Pleasant Hill Neighborhood Improvement Group (PHNIG), in a video posted to the GDOT’s YouTube site. The fact that the agency was willing to do that was impressive, Givens said, recalling that the citizens’ group wanted “to talk about how we can work together to make things better.”

In May 2011, the project team and the community developed a comprehensive mitigation plan, detailing the work to be done and the anticipated schedules and timelines to implement the commitments. Two agreements emerged from this plan. Section 106 of the NHPA requires the mitigation of adverse effects to historic properties; the implementing agency and the SHPO traditionally sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). Unique to this project the Georgia DOT entered into a second MOA with the community, signed by the president of the Pleasant Hill Neighborhood Improvement Group (PHNIG). A first for Georgia DOT, this agreement exemplified their commitment to the community and the mitigation plan.

Mitigation efforts include the creation of a traveling exhibit; oral and video history of the community; a virtual tour through GIS; an update of the National Register of Historic Places Nomination for Pleasant Hill with any new information acquired during this effort. In addition to the recordation of the community’s history, mitigation efforts also include leaving an imprint other than the interstate on this community. These efforts include the rehabilitation of the Little Richard house according to the Secretary of Interior Standards; a pedestrian path combined with a neighborhood heritage tour with information kiosks and noise walls along I-75 in a linear park that will incorporate specific designs to celebrate accomplishments of the community. A blighted and crime ridden area existed adjacent to the interstate. At the urging of the community, the project acquired additional homes to accommodate this linear park. Additional improvements include replacing the David Lucas pedestrian bridge, transforming an existing open drainage ditch into a grass-covered culvert, and streetscaping (resurfacing and sidewalk rehabilitation) throughout the community.

Relocating and Rebuilding

According to the mitigation plan, 24 structures located within the historic district would be displaced by the interchange project. Owners were offered a number of options, including moving their house to a new lot within the neighborhood, having their house torn down and a new one built in a new location, or selling their property.

To further cement the involvement of and benefit to the community, Georgia DOT worked with the PHNIG and Macon-Bibb County Community Enhancement Authority (CEA) – a local community entity that promotes community enhancement and economic development throughout Macon-Bibb County – to facilitate optimal mitigation success. This effort focused on providing training to members of the community in building and relocating homes and ensured economic development was a by-product of the projects. The Macon Bibb CEA selected seven vacant lots and residential structures for relocation and rehabilitation in Pleasant Hill. In addition, CEA agreed to build 17 new residential structures throughout the community with the goal of ensuring that a total of 24 homes were relocated, rehabilitated or newly built. These houses will be compatible with the context of the historic community and will ensure that the cultural heritage of Pleasant Hill is preserved. Georgia DOT also will relocate and rehabilitate the Little Richard House. Relocations began in early 2017.

Little Richard’s House

As part of the overall mitigation efforts, GDOT arranged for the relocation of the Penniman House, also known as the “Little Richard House.” Little Richard, who was born in 1932, spent part of his childhood in the house and in Pleasant Hill. Acquired by GDOT in 2013 and moved to its new location next to Jefferson Long Park on the west side of I-75 on April 25, 2017, the house will be renovated and preserved as a neighborhood resource center and will be owned and operated by the City of Macon.

Lessons Learned

The unique nature of this project offers the opportunity for many lessons learned. One of the primary lessons is the importance of engaging and including the community in decisions, often and early. Georgia DOT invited the community to be signatories on the MOA – demonstrating a willingness to allow their voices to be heard; allowing their involvement in decisions about the future of their community, and ensuring the preservation of the historic value and culture of Pleasant Hill.

Another critical lesson for DOTs across the nation interested in participating in such mitigation plans, the need to have very clearly defined expectations and responsibilities. Departments of transportation must ensure that cost estimates for mitigation plans are clearly defined, carefully considered and vetted and that schedules are tied to those mitigation activities.

A third lesson learned is that a commitment based on cost estimates is time sensitive as the proposal to relocate historic homes. An estimate prepared by a house mover in 2010 indicated that the houses could be moved and rehabilitated for approximately $70,000 each. A 2015 bid to move and rehabilitate four homes resulted in an average cost of $600,000 per house. A close review of this bid suggested that the cost could be reduced to around $400,000 per home, still considerably higher that the initial estimate. The community and agencies reevaluated this commitment and agreed to a combination of new and rehabilitated housing.

GDOT’s Community Focus

GDOT is committed to working closely with communities affected by their projects. This commitment is clearly reflected in the Department’s mission: “Georgia DOT provides a safe, connected and environmentally sensitive transportation system that enhances Georgia’s economic competitiveness by working efficiently and communicating effectively to create strong partnerships.”

The Georgia DOT is very proud of the mitigation work done on this project. The collaborative efforts and the beneficial dialogue have ensured the community’s needs are respected and preserved. The Department also made a pledge to keep the community informed and engaged as we move through the construction phase and that has been an ongoing effort.

More information is available from GDOT's I-16/I-75 Interchange Project website and from the story map of Pleasant Hill produced for the project.

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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: FHWA Report Evaluates Use of Roadside Revegetation Guide

A report evaluating the usefulness of the Federal Highway Administration’s roadside revegetation guide found positive results from the guide, but also recommended renewed focus on its findings through training and other outreach efforts. Promoting Roadside Revegetation: An Integrated Approach, was published in 2007. The evaluation report surveyed users and gathered input on how the guide has been used and whether it has been effective in promoting effective practices. For more information, link to the report. (12-20-17)

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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

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 Guidance Addresses Noise Measurement Efforts

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a resource to assist transportation agencies in planning for and executing field noise measurements related to highway projects. The guide includes checklists for determining existing noise levels, for validating the FHWA Traffic Noise Model, and for including other noise sources, such as railroads and aircraft. The guide also addresses steps for evaluating indoor noise levels from exterior sources, vibration measurements, noise and vibration from construction equipment, the evaluation of noise barrier effectiveness, and vehicle noise emission levels. Additionally, there are chapters on determining the influence of ground surfaces and pavement types on tire-pavement noise, highway vehicle noise, highway traffic noise, and sound propagation, and measuring the effect of road surfaces on vehicle interior noise. For more information, link to the field guide. (7-20-18)

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Recent Developments: Kansas DOT Report Analyzes Traffic Noise Level Reduction

The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) has issued a report regarding the use of high friction surface (HFS) and multi-layer polymer overlay material to reduce traffic noise levels. KDOT used the statistical pass-by method to measure sound levels along a test strip placed on US Highway 24. The report indicates that the use of HFS does create a quieter sound but it is a smaller decrease in exterior road noise than the goal of a five decibel reduction. For more information link to the report summary. (5-17-18)

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Recent Developments: Use of Photovoltaic Noise Barriers Highlighted in FHWA Report

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a report concerning the use of solar noise barriers along highway rights-of-way. Such noise barriers would incorporate photovoltaic (PV) systems to reduce noise and produce renewable energy simultaneously. The report provides a review of solar efficiency, safety performance, and economic feasibility of PV noise barriers. Case studies from Australia, the Netherlands, and Switzerland are included to highlight required policies for deployment, barriers to implementation, and maintenance costs. In addition, the report focuses on projects in the U.S., such as the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Lexington Solar Retrofit Pilot Program and the state of Georgia’s testing ground, The Ray, set to be the first net zero highway. For more information, link to the report. (August 2017).

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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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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

Recent Developments: FHWA Report Evaluates Eco-Logical Program

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a study evaluating its efforts to promote and implement the Eco-Logical approach for infrastructure planning. Eco-Logical is an interagency landscape-level approach to integrating infrastructure development and ecosystem conservation. The evaluation describes a range of actions FHWA has conducted, including publishing the 2006 primary resource document, two rounds of funding, 31 webinars, eight peer exchanges, multiple case studies and reports, reaching 94 agencies in at least two-thirds of the states. The report encouraged the agency to continue efforts to promote the initiative, and called for more resources on the later steps of the framework focused on project delivery. For more information, link to the report. (3-21-18)

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

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

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

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

Diverse Users

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

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

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

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

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

uPEL Report

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

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

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

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

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

Continuous Improvement

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

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

Code Available to Other States

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

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

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

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

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Project Delivery/Streamlining

Recent Developments: FHWA 'Successes in Stewardship' Newsletter

View the most recent issues of FHWA's Successes in Stewardship Newsletter highlighting current environmental streamlining practices from around the country:

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Recent Developments: Performance Goals Initiated for Federal Infrastructure Permitting, Reviews

The White House Office of Management and Budget has issued a memorandum, in coordination with the Council on Environmental Quality and the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, to provide guidance to federal agencies regarding a performance accountability system for tracking environmental reviews and the decision process for major infrastructure projects. The guidance, intended to further implement Executive Order 13807, requires all agencies that have a role in environmental reviews and permitting for infrastructure to track compliance with the “one federal decision” directive and to have measurable performance goals. Agencies must submit tracking information to the OMB and the Federal Agency Portal of the Permitting Dashboard. For more information, link to the announcement and the memo. (9-26-18)

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Recent Developments: FTA Announces Expedited Project Delivery Pilot Program

The Federal Transit Administration is receiving expressions of interest in participating in a pilot program for expedited project delivery. The eight projects will be for new fixed guideway capital projects, small starts projects, or core capacity improvement projects. Project sponsors that demonstrate successful past performance will receive, if selected, expedited technical capacity review. The projects must use public-private partnerships, have a federal share not exceeding 25 percent, and be operated and maintained by employees of an existing transit provider. Letters of interest are due Nov. 13. For more information, link to the announcement and the Federal Register notice. (9-12-18)

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Recent Developments: BUILD Transportation Grants to Replace TIGER Grants

The Department of Transportation has announced the availability of $1.5 billion in funding under the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grants program. BUILD grants will support surface transportation infrastructure and replace the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. BUILD projects will be evaluated based on safety, economic competitiveness, quality of life, environmental protection, state of good repair, innovation, partnership, and amount of non-federal revenue. The program requires at least 30 percent of the funding go to development in rural areas. A series of webinars are scheduled, beginning May 24. Applications for fiscal year 2018 are due July 19, 2018. For more information, link to the announcement and the Federal Register notice. (4-27-18)

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Recent Developments: Newsletter Provides Look-Back at Best Practices in Project Delivery from 2017

Key takeaways from 2017 on accelerating transportation project delivery and improving environmental outcomes are included in the December 2017 issue of the Federal Highway Administration’s Successes in Stewardship newsletter. The issue pulls together examples reported in each issues of the monthly newsletter in 2017, including quarterly “Back to Basics” issues focused on environmental review process efficiencies. In 2017 those issues focused on Section 106, improving the quality of environmental documentation, bridge permitting, and ESA Section 7 consultations. The December issue also highlights various tools and mechanisms to increase project delivery efficiencies, including integrating NEPA and permitting, using programmatic approaches, and emphasizing resiliency. The issue also highlights projects that were honored with FHWA’s 2017 Environmental Excellence Awards. For more information, link to the newsletter. (12-18-17)

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Recent Developments: Pennsylvania Transportation Innovation Council Awarded for Innovation

The Pennsylvania Transportation Innovation Council has received an award for excellence in innovation by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Innovation Initiative and the Federal Highway Administration's Center of Accelerating Innovation. The council has been recognized for its efforts in advancing adaptive signal control technology, high-friction surface treatment, and accelerated bridge construction methods. The council also conducted demonstrations concerning new road technologies and products and launched a campaign to understand the most pressing transportation issues for local governments. For more information link to the announcement. (11-13-17)

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Recent Developments: Memo Provides ‘Refresher’ on Accommodation of Utilities, Other ROW Uses

A Federal Highway Administration memo offers a “refresher” on existing regulations that govern utility accommodation and uses of highway right-of-way (ROW). The memo addresses the recent increase in demand for use of highway ROW, including accommodation of wireless infrastructure and communication technology. The memo states that FHWA has determined use of highway ROW to be in the public interest, and it describes requirements agencies must meet to preserve operational safety and aesthetic quality of highway facilities. Any non-highway use of ROW requires a ROW use agreement and approval by FHWA. For more information, link to the memo. (10-26-17)

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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: National Academies Report Addresses Future of Interstate System

A report issued by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine makes recommendations for the future of the nation’s Interstate Highway System. The report, Renewing the National Commitment to the Interstate Highway System: A Foundation for the Future – proposes a 20-year roadmap for upgrading the interstate system. The plan would be focused on reconstructing deteriorated pavements and their foundations; rebuilding bridge infrastructure; adding physical capacity where needed; and increasing the system’s resilience to impacts from weather events and climate change. The report recommends an annual investment of $57 billion in the interstate system, an increase in federal fuel taxes indexed to inflation and accounting improvements in vehicle fuel mileage, plus a change to tolling and fees on vehicle miles traveled to generate future highway funding. For more information, link to the announcement. (12-6-18)

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Recent Developments: Study Looks At Sustainability Implications of On-Demand Ride Services

A study from the National Center for Sustainable Transportation evaluates how on-demand ride services could improve sustainability and mobility outcomes. The study gathered information from stakeholders within California regarding actions that could enable on-demand services to provide more sustainable and accessible transportation systems. Actions might include incentives for trips with multiple passengers, improving intermodal connections, and improving access to underserved populations. For more information and study findings, link to the report. (September 2018)

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Recent Developments: Landscape Architects Issue Guide on Sustainable Transportation

A new guide on designing sustainable transportation infrastructure has been released by the American Society of Landscape Architects. The guide provides discussion of and resources for planning and designing more sustainable regional, urban, neighborhood, and street transportation systems. The guide says that well-designed transportation infrastructure is multimodal, efficient, flexible, and affordable. The guide is intended to reverse the negative trends that conventional, car-centric approaches to transportation have created for people and the environment. For more information, link to the guide. (8-20-18)

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Recent Developments: APTA Recognizes Transit Organizations for Sustainability Efforts

The American Public Transportation Association has honored six member organizations for their achievements in sustainability. Capital Metro of Austin, Texas, Valley Metro of Phoenix, and Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART), received gold, silver, and bronze level recognition, respectively. Capital Metro was recognized for reducing energy use by over 13 percent by using more efficient air conditioning and updating outdoor lighting. Valley Metro reduced its air emissions by installing solar panels and employing alternative fuels bus fleets. HART was recognized for building the first large-scale driverless rail system in the U.S. Earlier this year, APTA recognized three transit agencies in California and Georgia for achieving silver level status. For more information, link to the announcement. (8-1-18)

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Recent Developments: Nominations Open for FHWA’s 2019 Environmental Excellence Awards

The Federal Highway Administration is accepting applications for its 2019 Environmental Excellence Awards. The awards recognize outstanding transportation projects, processes, and partners that use FHWA funding sources to go beyond “business as usual” to achieve environmental excellence. The 2019 EEA Program represents a joint effort among three FHWA offices: the Office of Project Development and Environmental Review, Office of Natural Environment, and Office of Human Environment. The Program features a range of categories designed to highlight best practices occurring across the U.S. Applications are due through Sept. 14, 2018. For more information, visit the FHWA EEA website or email the EEA program at EEAwardsNomination@dot.gov. (8-1-18)

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Recent Developments: Report Addresses Incorporation of Green Infrastructure, Public Health

The Willamette Partnership and the Oregon Public Health Institute have released a report regarding the use of green infrastructure to promote health equity in urban and rural places. The report highlights how green infrastructure such as street trees, bioswales in rights-of-way and parking lots, and adding to the tree canopy can also improve physical activity, mental health, and social cohesion. The report also addresses community engagement to promote health benefits, siting and design of infrastructure, and how to measure health improvements. The report recommends that the use of funding sources that are compatible for multiple sectors should be prioritized. The report also includes strategies for avoiding gentrification and displacement as well as educational and technical resources for planners. For more information, link to the guide or join the July 27 webinar. (7-10-18)

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Recent Developments: Roadmap for Clean and Modern Transportation Issued by NRDC

A report presenting a strategy for a sustainable, more accessible, and more equitable transportation system has been issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The report proposes several “building blocks” for modern transportation, such as pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets, cleaner and more efficient vehicles, better land use planning, improved public transit, smarter investments, and more equitable community design. The report also discusses the anticipated benefits for rural, suburban, and urban communities. The roadmap’s recommendations are specific to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions and includes real-world examples. For more information, link to the report. (7-19-18)

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Recent Developments: Ohio DOT Uses INVEST for Bridge Replacement Project

The Ohio Department of Transportation used the Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool (INVEST) to help the agency consider sustainability when evaluating a new bridge over the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. ODOT incorporated the INVEST scoring system and evaluation criteria to select a contractor and to track sustainability goals over the course of the project. During the project, the agency improved peregrine falcon habitat, reduced energy consumption, and recycled 100 percent of materials used. ODOT plans to use the tool for two other projects to meet the silver sustainability rating. For more information, link to the FHWA article. (7-9-18)

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Recent Developments: Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool Updated

The Federal Highway Administration has announced the Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool (INVEST) Version 1.3. This update to the INVEST tool includes minor editorial corrections and clarifies criteria related to the tracking environmental commitments, integrated planning, travel demand management, and energy efficiency. The FHWA has issued a table of modifications and a guide to translating evaluations to the new version. INVEST is a web-based self-evaluation tool that allows users to assess sustainability in system planning, project planning, design, and construction. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-23-18)

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Recent Developments: FHWA National Dialogue to Focus on Automated Vehicles

The Federal Highway Administration has announced a workshop to promote a national dialogue regarding the deployment of autonomous vehicles. The dialogue will focus on automation planning and policy; digital infrastructure and data; multimodal safety and infrastructure design; operations; and truck platooning. The dialogue will convene various stakeholders throughout the United States such as equipment manufacturers, technology suppliers, transportation network companies, associations, and public-sector partners. A preliminary webinar is scheduled for May 8 and the workshop is scheduled for June 7, 2018, in Detroit. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-20-18)

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Recent Developments: Report Issued on Volpe’s National Transportation Symposium

The Volpe National Transportation Systems Center has released a final report on a thought leadership series held from September to December 2017. The Ongoing Transformation of the Global Transportation System addressed future challenges and opportunities affecting multimodal transportation systems in safety, infrastructure, innovation, and accountability. The report highlights several topics, including cyber security for connected vehicles, car speed and travel time, and transportation inequities. The report also provides new data on the performance of the nation’s highways. For more information, link to the report. (2-27-18)

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Recent Developments: Report Shows Economic Benefits of Reduced Vehicle Miles Traveled

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has released a report on the local economic benefits of efforts to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT). The report addresses residential benefits of reducing VMT and indicates that home prices are higher in neighborhoods with good pedestrian characteristics. The report also indicates that businesses in locations where streets were closed or where traffic lanes were reduced saw a positive impact on their retail sales. The report recommends a “systems view” of metropolitan transportation that has a hierarchy of networks, from high-throughput metropolitan arteries to local, multi-modal, neighborhood planning with connections between the different levels of the system. For more information, link to the report. (November 2017)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Newsletter Highlights California Coastal Program

California’s North Coast Corridor (NCC) Program is addressed in the Federal Highway Administration’s new issue of its Successes in Stewardship newsletter. The 40-year program was created to promote economic growth and enhance the coastal environment along a 27-mile stretch of Interstate 5 that connects nine coastal cities in Southern California. The newsletter highlights the joint development of the Public Works Plan and the Transportation Resource and Enhancement Program that provides a blueprint for implementing the NCC program. The newsletter also discusses the planned expansion of multimodal projects including 30 miles of bicycle and pedestrian paths, more than 30 overpasses, and four rail under-crossings. The installation of sound walls along the NCC project area and the construction of new bridges to improve coastal environments are also part of the project. For more information, link to the newsletter. (November 2017)

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Recent Developments: Boston Landing Station Awarded Sustainable Infrastructure Award

The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure has awarded the Envision Silver Sustainable Infrastructure Award to a commuter rail station in Boston. The Boston Landing Station was completed as part of a public-private partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to provide rail access to the Allston-Brighton neighborhood. The station connects pedestrian walkways, bike paths, bus routes, and roads and provides bike storage areas. The station also is equipped with LED lighting and was constructed with over 50 percent of recycled content and 95 percent of locally sourced materials. In addition, commuter times are expected to reduce by 20 minutes or more for those traveling to downtown Boston. For more information, link to the announcement. (11-7-17)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Report Outlines Strategies for Sustainable Highway Rest Areas

Strategies for sustainable design and operation of highway rest areas are outlined in a report issued by the Federal Highway Administration. Sustainable strategies include green building design elements, such as daylighting, passive heating and cooling techniques, and choosing sustainable materials. Operations strategies also can reduce energy and water usage, cut waste, and minimize environmental impacts, the report said. These include on-site renewable energy systems that use solar, wind, and geothermal resources. The report also includes case studies from state transportation agencies in Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Georgia, and Vermont. For more information, link to the report. (10-30-17)

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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: Virginia DOT Evaluates Porous Asphalt to Mitigate Stormwater Runoff

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has released a report concerning the use of porous pavement to reduce stormwater runoff at park and ride facilities. The report indicates that the permeability for the porous asphalt decreased over the four-year monitoring period. The report also says that the porous asphalt at the pilot project location will continue to be effective as a stormwater best management practice (BMP) for 12 years, with $1,500 per year in maintenance costs. The report recommends that VDOT’s Location and Design Division continue to consider porous asphalt as a stormwater BMP option for park and ride facilities when deciding on the most cost-effective option based on site specific conditions. For more information, link to the report. (7-30-18)

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Recent Developments: Recording Available: AASHTO Webinar on Innovative Stormwater BMPs

A recording and related materials from AASHTO’s May 2018 webinar on innovative best management practices (BMPs) for state DOT stormwater programs are now available. The webinar, developed by the AASHTO Stormwater Community of Practice, covered innovative linear BMPs that fit well in transportation corridors, the importance of infiltration and current research to support use of roadway embankments as a BMP, winter storm management BMPs and technologies, measuring winter storm BMP performance, and addressing total maximum daily load and regulatory issues. The webinar also addressed open graded friction course as a BMP. The recording and materials are available on the AASHTO Stormwater Community of Practice website. (6-27-18)

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Recent Developments: Study Finds Permeable Asphalt, Concrete Help Mitigate Stormwater Runoff

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has released a report regarding the use of full permeable concrete and asphalt pavements to mitigate stormwater runoff. The pavements were tested in a parking lot and found to work well in allowing water to soak in and to recharge the groundwater reserves. The study also found that the pavements had no water overflow and are cost-effective, requiring very little maintenance and eliminating the need for side drainage. The report recommends that proper construction processes be followed to avoid distresses of the pavement. The report also recommends pavement maintenance for reliable performance. For more information, link to the report. (March 2018)

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Recent Developments: Revised Philadelphia Green Infrastructure Design Book Issued

The city of Philadelphia has issued an updated green infrastructure guidebook. Version 3.0 of the Philadelphia Water Department’s Green Stormwater Infrastructure Landscape Design Guidebook includes updated plant lists and recommended plant sizes, redefined hydrologic zones, new information about local plant nurseries, and new case studies, as well as updated formatting and images. The guidebook is intended as a resource for urban landscape planners and designers and includes suggestions and stormwater management practices using green infrastructure suitable for the mid-Atlantic climate, based on the city’s six years of experience. For more information, link to the updated guidebook. (4-26-18)

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Recent Developments: Compendium of Stormwater Resources Available from AASHTO CoP

A list of resources related to stormwater management for state DOTs has been posted on the AASHTO Stormwater Community of Practice web page. The compendium includes practitioner field guides, a practitioner's handbook, state of the practice reports, and AASHTO's stormwater research road map. It also lists relevant low-cost, short term research projects under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (under project 25-25), as well as full NCHRP reports related to stormwater management issues. To access the report, link here. (10-19-17)

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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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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: International Conference on Ecology and Transportation Set for Sept. 2019

The International Conference on Ecology & Transportation will be held from Sept. 22-16, 2019, in Sacramento. The tenth biennial event will be hosted by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), with support from the Federal Highway Administration. The ICOET program includes podium presentations, posters, field trips, and exhibits on topics of interest to researchers, biologists, engineers, planners, project managers, administrators, and policy makers. The conference is organized by the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) Road Ecology Center (lead), the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies, and the National Center for Sustainable Transportation at UC Davis. For more information, link to the event website. (10-18-18)

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Recent Developments: Report, Web Tool Analyze 2017 Wildlife-Vehicle Conflicts in California

The Road Ecology Center at UC Davis has issued its annual report on wildlife-vehicle conflict (WVC) hot spots in California. The center estimates the 2017 total annual cost of WVC in the state to be at least $307 million, up 11 percent from 2016. The estimated cost could be as high as $600 million if accidents that are claimed to insurance companies (but unreported to police) were included. The report provides an overview of WVC hotspots between 2015 and 2017, based on a combination of traffic incidents involving wildlife that were recorded by the California Highway Patrol and observations reported to the California Roadkill Observation System. The report includes several recommendations for reducing WVC, including data sharing and collection and analysis of WVC data for road projects before they are approved. It also introduces a unique web tool to visualize WVC incidents in CA. For more information, link to the report. (9-15-18)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Newsletter Focuses on Conservation for Northern Long-Eared, Indiana Bats

The revised conservation strategy for the Indiana bat and northern long-eared bat is addressed in the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) new issue of its Successes in Stewardship newsletter. The revised biological opinion is based on feedback from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the FHWA to address user needs and clarify the scope of the programmatic consultation process as it affects transportation project delivery. Updates to the Information for Planning and Consultation Assisted Determination Key online consultation tool are also included. In addition, a rangewide In-Lieu Fee Program Instrument was established as a compensatory mitigation option for projects that are likely to adversely affect Indiana bats. For more information, link to the newsletter. (March 2018)

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Recent Developments: Study Evaluates Legal Requirements for DOT Participation in Conservation Plans

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program has issued a legal digest report describing legal requirements for state transportation agencies’ participation in conservation plans. The report describes habitat conservation plans (HCPs) and their relation to wetland mitigation banking, regional planning, and the National Environmental Policy Act. The digest covers mechanisms used in several states to set up, monitor, and maintain HCPs on private or public property through endowment funds and the use of conservation easements. It also includes recent updates to related federal regulations and policies. For more information, link to the digest. (10-2-17)

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Recent Developments: NYSDOT Installs Critter Shelf For Safe Wildlife Passage

The New York State Department of Transportation and the Nature Conservancy have installed an under-road platform for wildlife in the Black River Valley to facilitate safe passage for animals to and from the forests of the Adirondacks. The 138 foot “critter shelf,” attached to one side of a corrugated steel culvert with brackets and cables, was placed above the water to provide dry passage for bobcats or other wildlife to cross under a busy road. The shelf is a low cost alternative to creating a wildlife overpass and was developed and successfully tested in Montana, helping to prevent populations from being isolated by highways. For more information, link to the announcement. (9-21-17)

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Recent Developments: Arizona DOT Assesses Need for Wildlife Crossings on State Route 260

The Arizona Department of Transportation has issued a report on an assessment of the need for elk and deer crossings along a rural highway east of Phoenix. The report, Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Mitigation on State Route 260: Mogollon Rim to Show Low, provides details on the information collected and evaluated to determine ways in which ADOT could reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions. The report is a joint research project conducted by ADOT and the Arizona Game and Fish Department. For more information link to the report. (August 2017)

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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: Iowa - Iowa DOT Undertakes Massive Move for Mississippi River Mussels

A multi-agency effort including the Iowa Department of Transportation successfully relocated tens of thousands of freshwater mussels in the Mississippi River—including three federally endangered species—to protect them from bridge construction in what is possibly the largest single-project mussel relocation in the country.

I-74 Bridge over the Mississippi River. Photo: Iowa DOT

The mussel relocation, part of the project to construct a new bridge to carry I-74 over the river between Moline, Illinois, and Bettendorf, Iowa, was a joint effort of several state and federal agencies that planned and accomplished the task under an unusually tight timeframe, according to Mary Kay Solberg, Environmental Specialist Senior with the Iowa DOT and a key participant in the project.

More than 150,000 mussels were relocated between August and October 2016 to prepare for the start of construction. In doing so, direct impacts to 32 species of mussels, including threatened and endangered species, were minimized or avoided altogether.

“To my knowledge, that was the largest single-project relocation in the U.S.,” Solberg said. Mussels play an important role in the ecosystem because they filter the water and help to improve water quality.

Project Background

The I-74 bridge project has been in development for about 20 years, according to Solberg. The current two spans for I-74 were built in 1935 and 1959.

When the environmental impact statement and record of decision were completed, the numbers and diversity of mussels were unclear. Native mussel populations were presumed to be minimal in the project area due to the presence of invasive zebra mussels, which can outcompete native species. Also, the selected bridge alignment was expected to avoid impacts to what was at the time the only mussel listed under the Endangered Species Act inhabiting the project area, the Higgins eye pearlymussel. The transportation agencies planned an official mussel survey closer to the construction date.

Mussels from the I-74 Project. Photo: Iowa DOT

The survey was revealing. “Turns out, there were over a million mussels underneath the footprint of the new bridge,” Solberg said, including three federally endangered species: the Higgins eye pearlymussel, and the more recently-listed sheepnose and spectaclecase. Species on state lists of endangered or threatened species also inhabited these beds.

Thus began a three-year process to figure out what to do about these mussels, a partnership that included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Federal Highway Administration, the Iowa DOT, the Illinois DOT, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Developing a Solution

Iowa DOT initiated formal consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service who then began preparation of a biological opinion. Because the project—including the required elements under the National Environmental Policy Act—was so far along at this point, the tasks were accomplished unusually quickly. “Pretty much record time—it was amazing,” Solberg said.

There were benefits to doing the mussel survey late in the process, according to Solberg. “We were able to get a much more accurate, up-to-date picture of the mussel population in the project area and could come up with a much better plan to minimize impacts,” she said. “The density and diversity of mussels surprised nearly everyone.”

The partners set about developing a relocation plan for the native, endangered freshwater mussels. While relocations are not uncommon, ones of this scale are rare. As part of this process, the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to allow the relocation to focus on the actual places in the river where the shafts of the bridge piers would be drilled as opposed to the entire footprint, Solberg said. This reduced the number of mussels needing to be moved to around 150,000.

Iowa DOT contracted with divers to conduct the relocation work. The bridge alignment was laid out based on the design concept, and the areas where the piers would be drilled were delineated so the divers knew exactly where to remove the mussels, Solberg said.

The divers scooped mussels out of the river bottom mud and put them in mesh bags that were brought to the surface. “Originally we thought they were going to have to work around the clock, to stay on schedule and to finish before the water temperature became too cold to work,” Solberg said. In the end, they worked long days, five to six days a week for three months.

On the surface, workers removed any zebra mussels, sorted by species, and collected data regarding age, size, and gender, Solberg said. All of the federally endangered mussels had their shells marked and were given a number for future identification. Iowa DOT found new beds for the mussels, took a boat to the location, and released them over the edge “to their new home,” Solberg said. Initial monitoring has indicated that all relocations were viable.

Benefits and Next Steps

The mussel relocation was not as controversial as it might have been, according to Solberg. “We were very open, up front, about impacting a mussel resource, [and] what we’re going to do about it,” Solberg said, and she believed there was very little negative response as a result.

Iowa DOT is doing a number of things—in addition to the physical relocation of the mussels—as part of the mitigation.

One is a virtual reality (VR) program developed in partnership with Iowa State University and funded as part of the project mitigation. The program—aimed at helping the public understand the project—has views of the old bridge, the new bridge, and an underwater view that allows users to handle and learn about the mussels. The VR program is publicly available at the construction office in Davenport, Iowa, and eventually will be in the project office in Bettendorf, Iowa.

Other things funded as part of the mitigation include:

  • an intern position at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for educational programs for schools and other groups,
  • an interactive installation at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport that ran all summer,
  • updating existing mussel information on display at the Putnam Museum and Science Center in Davenport,
  • stocking the river with host fish for mussel larvae, and
  • ongoing monitoring of the effects of relocation.

The mussel relocation project won a 2017 Environmental Excellence Award for environmental research from the FHWA.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

“Even the best-intentioned project schedules need to be revisited from time to time,” Solberg said. The mussel survey and relocation was supposed to be in 2016 and expected to be uncomplicated. Had Iowa DOT gone with the original plan, it would have been unable to keep the timetable for the 2017 bridge construction bidding. They moved the survey two years earlier to allow time to learn what was there and to plan the mitigation.

Also, when dealing with different agencies, it is important to address competing interests as early as possible. There were times when the parties did not all agree on what was going to happen, but eventually an understanding was reached and the project moved forward.

As an example, Solberg explained that because there were both the federal and state endangered species, Iowa DOT potentially would have had to go through two separate processes with the federal and state agencies. Instead, she said, the federal and state resource agencies signed an Intergovernmental Agreement that allowed for development of a comprehensive conservation strategy, agreed upon by all agencies, to address all state and federal listed species. This saved time and effort.

Transportation agencies and resource agencies have different focus areas, and state DOTs should build and maintain good interagency relationships, Solberg said. Iowa DOT approaches projects by asking themselves “what do we need to do as a transportation agency to build this project and do it in an environmentally responsible way,” Solberg said.

“We’re all going to have to make some compromises to make this work,” Solberg said.

The official bridge groundbreaking was held in June 2017.

For more information, link to the I-74 Bridge Project website or contact Mary Kay Solberg, Environmental Specialist Senior with the Iowa DOT’s Office of Location and Environment, MaryKay.Solberg@iowadot.us.

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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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