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The 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. Transportation planning is an important aspect of meeting these goals.
Transportation planners address air quality issues on the regional scale and project scale. Regional-scale analyses estimate how regional transportation plan and transportation improvement program implementation affect region-wide emissions. During the transportation conformity process, regional-scale emissions are compared to allowable levels, or "budgets." Project-scale analyses involve "hot spot" assessments focused on whether pollutant concentrations near roads exceed standards or how projects affect emissions.
Climate Change Mitigation/Adaptation covers two complex, and distinct sub-topics: Energy/Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Infrastructure Resilience.
Consideration of energy and greenhouse gas emissions is an important part of the transportation planning process. Planning processes can help transportation decision-makers determine approaches to reduce transportation energy use, decrease emissions, and achieve related benefits.
Transportation planning plays a key role in addressing potential impacts from extreme events and changing climate conditions and building resilience into the transportation system.
Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary, holistic approach to the development of transportation projects. It involves careful consideration of community values, environmental features, land use, transportation function and available budget. CSS can be incorporated into all phases of program delivery including long range planning.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and environmental justice principles apply to all U.S. DOT activities. Transportation agencies must ensure that State Transportation Improvement Program findings of statewide planning compliance and NEPA activities satisfy Title VI requirements and environmental justice principles, ensure the meaningful participation of minority and low-income populations, and create systems and projects that can improve the environment for low-income and minority communities.
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 ensure environmental considerations are taken into account during transportation planning.
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.
Use of GIS is one of several tools to show past, current, or predicted future conditions of the natural and built environment during transportation planning phases. GIS is used to enhance the transportation planning by providing a tool to share information in an easily understood format to better inform decision making.
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. Early identification of resources in planning can expedite project delivery and provide opportunities for context sensitive solutions.
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. The long-range planning process helps identify the future system to be evaluated for cumulative impacts in the NEPA process.
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 planned, designed and constructed.
The first stage of the NEPA process—development of project purpose and need—builds upon the transportation needs identified during planning and will be the basis for the final selection of a project alternative. A project also must be included in a conforming plan and TIP before it can be advanced. Agencies can benefit by incorporating environmental and community values into transportation decisions early in planning and carrying these considerations through project development and delivery.
FHWA requires consideration of mitigation for highway traffic noise in the planning and design of Federally aided highways.
Streamlined project delivery can be achieved through efforts to link transportation planning and the NEPA process. Agencies can benefit by incorporating environmental and community values into transportation decisions early in planning and carrying these considerations through project development and delivery.
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. 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.
Sustainability refers to taking into account social, environmental and economic considerations in transportation. These principles are important in all aspects of transportation, including long-range planning. The principles can then be carried through to short-range planning and program/project development.
Transportation activities, from project planning and development through operations and maintenance, are affected by a variety of requirements and initiatives related to the management, disposal, and recycling of wastes. Transportation is also an important aspect in redevelopment of brownfield properties.
Protecting water quality is an ongoing environmental concern for transportation agencies, including requirements for stormwater runoff and mitigation of impacts to wetlands and water resources. Potential impacts to water quality, including advance mitigation and stormwater management, can be addressed during the planning process.
Planning considerations are important in addressing potential impacts of transportation to wildlife and ecosystems. Efforts such as FHWA’s Planning and Environment Linkages offer an ecosystem-based approach to infrastructure planning. Practices to address impacts to wildlife include crossing structures, reestablishing habitat connectivity through land use, and programmatic agreements for species protection.
The Federal Highway Administration has added 17 case studies to its collection related to community connections. The case studies are part of FHWA’s Community Connections initiative, which is a priority focus area under the fourth round of its Every Day Counts initiative. The program supports communities that have been divided by past transportation investments and are currently experiencing gaps in existing transportation infrastructure and services. The program includes analytical tools, public involvement strategies, project development and design techniques, and operational improvements and programs. The case studies are categorized by four types – invest, renew, restore, and repair – and are intended to demonstrate approaches in many different contexts. For more information, link to the Community Connections Case Studies. (6-12-19) >>See Related AASHTO CEE Resources: Active Transportation Case Studies, Context Sensitive Solutions Topic, Transportation and Health Peer Exchange
The National Association of City Transportation Officials has issued a new guide on designing city intersections to be safer for people bicycling. The guide, Don’t Give Up at the Intersection: Designing All Ages and Abilities Bicycle Crossings, expands upon elements presented in NACTO’s Urban Bikeway Design Guide and presents several tiers of intersection facilities, ranging from most to least protected and outlining the design elements that city planners can use to implement each. The guide includes such things as the placement of bikeway setbacks and corner islands, determining clear sight distances, designing curb radii to encourage slower vehicle turning speeds, and the design and color of pavement markings. The guide also discusses the modification of traffic signal timing to create safer vehicle and bike interactions. For more information, link to Don’t Give Up at the Intersection. (5-29-19)
The Federal Transit Administration has announced grants to 37 projects aimed at improving and expanding access to health care services. The funds, totaling approximately $9.6 million, are part of the FTA’s Access and Mobility Partnership Grants. The program focuses on transportation and technology solutions to help people reach medical appointments, access healthy food, and receive better paratransit services. Grant recipients will use the funds to develop mobile applications and improve on-demand transportation services, offer microtransit and purchase vehicles, and create or expand partnerships with nonprofit organizations or transportation network companies. For more information, link to the announcement. (5-22-19)
A 3,700-mile coast-to-coast multiuse trail that will be entirely off-street and separated from vehicle traffic is being planned by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. The Great American Rail-Trail’s preferred route would span 12 states and the District of Columbia and touch upon 16 historic highlights along the way. The group has issued the Great American Rail-Trail Route Assessment Report that outlines the recommendation for the route, developed in close partnership with states and local trail planners and managers. The route includes more than 1,900 miles of existing trails but also and more than 1,700 miles of “trail gaps,” sections of trail in need of development to complete one contiguous route. For more information, link to the announcement. (5-8-19)
A practitioner-ready communications guidebook with tools and resources to help federal and state transportation agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, and local transportation professionals achieve successful outcomes through effective collaboration with health stakeholders has been issued under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP 25-25/Task 105). The guidebook has methods to help understand the context of transportation and public health, find who to connect with and how, establish the foundation for effective communication, select the right techniques, seek support from other organizations, and find supporting data. For more information, link to the report. (April 2019)
A review of partnerships between transit agencies and transportation network companies has been issued under the Transit Cooperative Research Program. TCRP Research Report 204 reviews both active and inactive partnership arrangements and finds that the most common partnership arrangement involves the transit agency directly subsidizing ride-hailing trips. The report also finds that transit agencies seek partnerships with transportation network companies to provide a specific type of service, to respond to a specific challenge, or to demonstrate innovation. The most common target audiences are users of paratransit or who have difficulty with the first mile/last mile connections to transit. The findings are intended to assist transit agencies in making partnership decisions. For more information, link to the report. (4-9-19)
The environmental impacts of various modality choices and the frequency of ride-hailing use among drivers are explored in a report from the National Center for Sustainable Transportation. The report focuses on vehicle miles traveled, energy consumption, and the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation of various groups of travelers. It identifies four classes based on survey respondents’ reported use of various travel modes: drivers, active travelers, transit riders, and car passengers. The report also reviews the frequency with which travelers use ride-hailing services, also called transportation network companies, finding that the total environmental impacts account for a relatively small percentage of total GHG from transportation. For more information, link to the report. (January 2019)
The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy has issued a report discussing the challenges cities face by transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft worldwide. The report presents a framework for regulating TNCs to maximize benefits such as adding connectivity to transit as well as reducing the need for car ownership while also mitigating potential problems with use of TNCs. The report says that cities should consider the role TNCs fill in their areas and establish ways to measure the impacts on congestion, safety, emissions, and equitable access. The report includes four case studies and a companion webinar recording. For more information, link to the announcement. (3-21-19)
A study of commercial arterials across the U.S. recommends actions and practices to make corridors safer and promote healthy communities. The study, Blind Spots: How Unhealthy Corridors Harm Communities and How to Fix Them, by the Urban Land Institute and Smart Growth America, included an audit of 6,925 urban and suburban commercial arterials from 100 of the most populous U.S. metropolitan areas. Using a range of indicators, the study found many primary arterials tend to be dangerous, have high instances of traffic deaths, and cost communities in terms of safety, economic productivity, and transportation efficiency. The study recommends a range of land use and transportation policies and practices to improve the health of the nation’s corridors. For more information, link to the report. (2-20-19)
The League of American Bicyclists has issued the 2018 edition of the Bicycling and Walking in the United States Benchmarking Report. The report says that bicycling to work is increasing but that 10 cities contributed about 44 percent of new bicycle commuters. The report also says that states with a low rate of active transportation also have a high rate of chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. In addition, the report says that the number of trips on foot is increasing overall but that some states are showing a decrease. Finally, the report says that the number of states and communities with a Complete Streets policy has continued to increase since 2007, and that cities are moving more aggressively than states to plan for bicyclists and pedestrians. The report is the continuation of the benchmarking project started in 2007 by the Alliance for Biking and Walking. For a copy of the report, link to the announcement.
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has issued an explanation of its review of how state departments of transportation are getting Transportation Alternatives Program money out the door. The group, which issues quarterly analyses of funding for active transportation, explains the components of its evaluation, including TAP funding available per state; amounts each state has transferred to fund non-TAP programs; amounts that states have let lapse; percentages of TAP funds transferred or lapsed; total amounts and percentages obligated; and funds at risk. The group explains that low rates of funding put toward awarded TAP projects means fewer active transportation projects are built, and a higher risk that the funds will need to be returned to the federal government. For more information, link to the article and the Dec. 2018 quarterly report. (2-8-19)
The Upper Great Plains Institute at North Dakota State University has issued a report outlining the results of the National Community Livability Survey. The survey of 25,000 adults in all 50 states indicated that transportation conditions influence community livability. It suggested that residents are looking for improvements to road conditions and public transportation, reducing congestion in metro areas, and making overall walkability and accessibility better. The report also said that improved livability would include improving the availability of jobs, affordable housing, affordable transportation options, access to quality healthcare in non-metro areas, and reducing crime in metro areas. Furthermore, a majority of respondents from both metro and non-metro communities agree that it is important for public transit to be available in their community. For more information, link the report. (2-7-19)
The Federal Transit Administration has issued a report to Congress on its Pilot Program for Innovative Coordinated Access and Mobility Grants. The pilot program is intended to find and test promising, replicable public transportation solutions that increase access to health care, improve health outcomes; and reduce health care costs. For more information, link to the report. (December 2018)
AASHTO’s Council on Active Transportation will hold a webinar Jan. 29 on recent innovations in bicycle and pedestrian projects and planning in Massachusetts and North Dakota. The webinar will include discussion of MassDOT’s newly released statewide bicycle and pedestrian plans and guidance documents, as well as North Dakota DOT’s statewide plan for active and public transportation and related demonstration projects. Register for the webinar by clicking here.
The Federal Highway Administration has announced the selection of six communities to receive technical assistance under the agency’s Framework for Better Integrating Health into Transportation Corridor Planning. The FHWA will provide training and technical assistance at the state and local levels in Arkansas, California, Illinois, Maryland, Texas, and Utah. The local transportation agencies will use the decision making framework as a way to incorporate multimodal access into planning and project development, improve health outcomes, and enhance community considerations into corridor planning. For more information, link to the announcement. (1-23-19)
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has issued a new guide on ways to for create a local safe routes to school program. The guide provides an overview of how the programs work and why they matter. It also provides insight on the stages of establishing a system and the essential components—including action plans and policies—for creating a sustainable program. The guide is accompanied by several sample documents that can be used to establish a program. For more information, link to the guide. (1-8-19)
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has issued a report that provides an overview of the key role active transportation financing can play in developing healthy communities. The report explains active transportation financing—which can include bonds, fees, fines, taxes, and other funding mechanisms—and how it works to support infrastructure for bicycles, walkers, and other non-motorized transportation. The report also sets out the benefits to local government of increased active transportation financing, examines different approaches, and explores important considerations regarding policy goals and campaign directions. For more information, link to the report, a fact sheet, and a brief on securing funding. (1-11-19)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Equity and safety related to the use of dockless scooters and bike share systems are the goals of a new pilot program in Detroit. The City of Detroit, in partnership with the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and SharedStreets, a developer of data systems, will be gathering data to give cities a universal way to collect and aggregate critical information on the operation of scooters and bikes—including trip origins and destinations, neighborhood availability, travel times, and usage, while protecting privacy. The resulting data standards will allow urban areas to make better planning and investment decisions. For more information, link to the announcement. (10-29-18)
The Federal Transit Administration has issued a report that examines the feasibility of transferring 13 automated systems technologies currently developed for light-duty and commercial vehicles to diesel transit buses. The report evaluates the potential of connected and automated vehicle systems as they relate to transit vehicles by scoring them on a scale of green/yellow/red. The report says that while sensors could be adapted to buses relatively easily, other automation systems will require modifications to brakes, steering, and powertrains. The report says that heavy-duty vehicle steering solutions that enable automation may not require extensive changes, but implementation of automatic bus brakes appears to be a major challenge. Automated applications may require a new communication system architecture and buses will require new human-machine interfaces. For more information, link to FTA Report No. 0125. (September 2018)
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)
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)
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)
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)
The incorporation of transportation network companies (TNC) into the mix of transportation options is addressed in Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Report 195. TNCs, also known as ride-hailing apps, include companies such as Lyft and Uber. The report indicates that TNC use is heaviest during the evening hours and weekends and that such trips are often short and concentrated in downtown areas. The report also finds that TNCs are used occasionally and not as a main form of transportation, and that there is no clear connection between TNC use and changes in transit ridership. However, TNC use is associated with decreases in single-occupant vehicle trips. The report uses data from TNC trips, a shared mobility survey, and transit rider surveys from Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Jersey, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. For more information, link to the report. (7-7-18)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
The Federal Highway Administration has announced the availability of technical assistance for developing multimodal corridors. FHWA will provide training to five communities at the state and local transportation agency level that will use the Multimodal Corridor Planning Framework to establish partnerships with key stakeholders; gather data and analysis; ask questions to consider; highlight case study examples; and develop resources. Participants will receive support from research teams to facilitate partnerships with health leaders and to provide analysis tools. The agency plans to have corridors to test the framework between August 2018 and July 2020. Letters of interest are due June 29, 2018. For more information, link to the fact sheet. (5-30-18)
The Federal Transit Administration has announced the availability of $25.8 million in grants under the Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development Planning. The program supports the integration of land use and transportation planning efforts to facilitate transit ridership, multimodal connectivity, and mixed-use development near transit stations. Applicants must be either a project sponsor of a transit project or an entity with land use planning authority in an eligible transit capital project corridor. The program was established under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. Applications are due July 23, 2018. For more information, link to the announcement. (5-24-18)
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)
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)
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)
The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has issued a nationwide assessment of the state of the bike share industry. The report says that 35 million bike share trips were taken in 2017, a 25 percent increase from 2016. The number of suppliers of bike share equipment has increased from three major companies to 10, including five major dockless bike share systems. Bike share has increased in cities nationwide, but four systems—in Boston, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C.—make up 74 percent of all rides. Dockless bike systems make up 44 percent of the number of bicycles but only 4 percent of the rides. Almost one-third of systems now have an income-based discount program. For more information, link to the report. (5-1-18)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
The Shared-Use Mobility Center is seeking proposals for technical assistance under the On-Ramp Program for the development of mobility-on-demand (MOD) projects. The program is being implemented in partnership with the Federal Transit Administration to exchange MOD best practices and help integrate mobility tools for bike-sharing and car-sharing. Transportation providers will receive assistance to conduct workshops to determine mobility needs; participate with peer agencies; use research and analysis from the center; and develop a MOD business plan. A webinar is scheduled for Feb. 21, 2018. Proposals are due March 21, 2018. For more information, link to the announcement. (2-6-18)
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)
Per capita transit trips have been declining in the six counties that comprise the Southern California Association of Governments, according to a new report by the group. The report indicates that feeling unsafe on transit vehicles, the decrease in fuel prices, and the rise of transportation network companies such as Lyft and Uber could be contributing factors to the fall in ridership. The report also suggests that an increase in private vehicle access and the replacement of transit users with people more likely to drive also may be causes for such a decline. In contrast, service quantity and reliability are not considered to play a part in transit decline because ridership was falling even on routes with excellent on-time records, according to the report. The report recommends that transit agencies seek to convince those who rarely use transit to begin riding occasionally. The study examined transit in Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties. For more information, link to the report. (2-2-18)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
The National Cooperative Highway Research Program has issued two reports regarding the development of the software tool TFGuide, for travel forecasting. TFGuide aids in the selection of methods and techniques based on application needs, resource constraints, available data, and existing model structure. NCHRP Report 852 provides an overview of how to use the tool and a case study to demonstrate how a metropolitan planning organization used the software to perform a transit corridor study. The report also addresses the role of the travel forecaster, transportation planner, and decision maker. The NCHRP also issued a companion document that addresses the current state of practice in travel demand models, the software design and functionality of TFGuide, pilot tests conducted using the tool, and a history of travel forecasting legislation. For more information, link to the web-only document and the research report. (10-20-17)
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)
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)
The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy has issued a guide for planning bus rapid transit (BRT) systems. BRT systems provide high capacity and speed at low costs and combines segregated bus lanes and other quality-of-service elements. The guide addresses the initiation of a project and the preparations and calculations, such as demand analysis and service planning, needed for creating a BRT project. The guide also addresses stakeholder engagement, how to educate customers on using the system, and the necessary infrastructure required. In addition, financial modeling, fare policies, and businesses structures are highlighted for ensuring a financially stable project. For more information, link to the announcement. (10-13-17)
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)
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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 email@example.com.
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:
“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:
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:
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.
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.
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
Level 2 – Ascend
Level 3 – Peak
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)|
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transportation Enhancement Program case studies and examples are tracked by the National Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange (formerly the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse) website.
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.
The Federal Highway Administration has posted several new resources as part of its Alternative Fuel Toolkit. Recently posted items include tools for alternative fuel corridor planning as well as information related to convenings on the South Central, Southeast, and Midwest Alternative Fuel Corridors. For more information, link to the Alternative Fuel Toolkit. (6-13-19) >>See Related AASHTO CEE Resources: AASHTO Air Quality Community of Practice
A guide for improving the modeling of commercial truck activity for estimating vehicle emissions from transportation projects is part of a set of resources issued under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. The guide, NCHRP Research Report 909: Guide to Truck Activity Data for Emissions Modeling, provides a detailed discussion of the methods, procedures, and sources of data that can be used to enhance the truck-specific emissions estimates from the EPA’s Motor Vehicle Emissions Simulator (MOVES2014) model. The project also includes a web-only set of case studies and a collection of MS Excel files that contain data described in the case studies. For more information, link to the NCHRP Research Report 909. (6-12-19) >>See Related AASHTO CEE Resources: AASHTO Air Quality Community of Practice
The Environmental Protection Agency has announced awards totaling over $9.3 million to 43 states or territories to purchase hundreds of cleaner school buses. The grants under the EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) funding will allow state, regional, or tribal governments and organizations to purchase buses that use newer, lower emission diesel buses to reduce pollution and improve public health. The EPA also has announced $3.8 million in DERA grants awarded to various groups in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest for the purchase of hybrid electric or cleaner diesel generators, construction equipment, transit buses, short-haul freight trucks, and school buses. For more information, link to the Region 10 and national announcements. (5-2-19)
Recent developments concerning air quality and climate impacts are presented in the recent issue of the Air Quality and Climate Change Highlights newsletter from the Federal Highway Administration. Topics covered include CMAQ computation guidance, alternative fuel corridor nominations, and renewable energy in rights-of-way. The newsletter also spotlights various meetings, conferences, symposia, workshops, and training opportunities. For more information, read the January/February 2019 issue. (4-4-19)
The World Resources Institute has created a Costs and Emissions Appraisal Tool for Transit Buses. The Excel-based tool allows users to compare the costs and emissions reductions of two bus fleets, each composed of up to three bus types. Bus types can differ in terms of fuel type, the technology used to achieve different emissions standards, and bus length. Users can input fuel and vehicle unit cost data for a city or country and the tool calculates the costs and emissions of each bus type and the total costs and emissions of each fleet. To access the tool and a related discussion paper, link here. (March 2019)
A review of transportation-related air pollution across the globe has been issued by the International Council on Clean Transportation. The transportation sector produces multiple pollutants such as dust and other airborne particles, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide from vehicle exhaust, vapor from fuels, and dust from unpaved roads, tire wear, and brake wear. The analysis provides updated estimates of the impacts of transportation sector emissions and their health impacts in 2010 and 2015 by linking state-of-the-art models on vehicle emissions, air pollution, and epidemiological analysis to determine the impact on air quality and public health. The report found that 84 percent of global transportation-attributable deaths occurred in G20 countries, and 70 percent occurred in the four largest vehicle markets: China, India, the European Union, and the United States. For more information, link to the report. (3-11-19)
The Environmental Protection Agency has extended the deadline to apply for competitive grant funding through its Diesel Emissions Reductions Act Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program. The program is soliciting applications for projects that achieve significant reductions in diesel emissions in terms of tons of pollution produced and exposure, particularly from fleets operating in areas designated as having poor air quality. Applications are due March 26. For more information, link to the extension notice. (2-21-19)
Guidance on calculating the total emissions reduction measure to assess on-road mobile source emissions under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) program has been issued by the Federal Highway Administration. The measure is the 2-year and 4-year cumulative reported emission reductions, for all projects funded by CMAQ funds, by applicable criteria pollutant and precursors for which the area is designated nonattainment or maintenance. The guidance provides a calculation formula as well as frequently asked questions. For more information, link to the guidance. (December 2018)
The Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has announced a new online version of a tool to compare alternative fuel and vehicle technologies. Alternative Fuel Life-Cycle Environmental and Economic Transportation (AFLEET) is a free, publicly available spreadsheet-based tool to help fleet managers optimize their purchasing decisions to reduce their environmental impacts and save money. AFLEET was originally launched in 2013 and is now issued as a web-based option. For more information, link to the AFLEET tool. (2-1-19)
The Federal Highway Administration has released a new module of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Emissions Calculator Toolkit. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements module is one of a series of spreadsheet-based tools that can be used to facilitate the calculation of representative air quality benefit data, for CMAQ project justification, as well as the annual reporting requirements. The update includes a user guide and supplemental documentation. The toolkit is a resource to help with the implementation of the CMAQ program, which supports surface transportation projects and related efforts that contribute to improved air quality and reduce congestion. To access this and other modules, link to the toolkit. (1-24-19)
The Federal Highway Administration has released a new module of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Emissions Calculator Toolkit. The Diesel Idle Reduction Technologies tool is one of a series of spreadsheet-based tools that can be used to facilitate the calculation of representative air quality benefit data, for CMAQ project justification, as well as the annual reporting requirements. The toolkit is a resource to help with the implementation of the CMAQ program, which supports surface transportation projects and related efforts that contribute to improved air quality and reduce congestion. Additional toolkit modules are released as they become available. For more information, link to the toolkit. (1-3-19)
The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has issued a research study on the development of a method for combining high-resolution vehicle activity data with the EPA’s Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES) model to assess the environmental impacts of transportation design and operation strategies. Using traffic simulation model outputs and smartphone GPS data, the researchers developed the MOVES-Matrix system that can be used to perform emissions modeling in a fraction of the time it takes to perform even one MOVES run. The MOVES-Matrix approach involves running the MOVES model iteratively across all potential input variable combinations, and using the resulting matrix of pre-run MOVES outputs in emissions modeling. The resulting emission rate matrices allow users to link emission rates to assess big data projects and to support near-real-time evaluations of changes in emissions for large, dynamic transportation systems. For more information, link to the report. (October 2018)
The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has issued a research study of the potential for using intelligent transportation system (ITS) technologies that take into account the presence of trucks in the traffic flow in order to reduce fuel consumption and pollution levels in areas of high truck volume. According to the study, the sizes and movement dynamics of trucks create traffic disturbances that affect other vehicles and cause increased fuel consumption and pollution. The study proposes an integrated variable speed limit, ramp metering, and lane change controller using feedback linearization. The integrated controller keeps the bottleneck flow at the maximum level and homogenizes the density and speed of the traffic flow along the highway sections. Results show improvements in fuel economy and emissions under different levels of perturbation and noise. For more information, link to the report. (2018)
The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has issued a study to demonstrate a model framework for evaluating the effectiveness of truck-only lanes in reducing traffic congestion. The study combines a microscopic traffic simulation with emissions and microscale dispersion models to quantify the potential impacts of truck-only lanes on fuel consumption, emissions, and near-road pollutant concentrations. As a case study, the framework was used to evaluate a proposed $2 billion project to construct 40-miles of truck-only lanes on Interstate 75 between Atlanta and Macon, Ga. The findings of this study suggest that truck-only lanes could significantly improve the traffic flow, and reduce energy consumption, emissions, and pollutant concentrations. For more information, link to the study. (November 2018)
The Environmental Protection Agency has posted guidance on how to address transportation conformity requirements in ozone nonattainment and maintenance areas affected by the South Coast Air Quality Management District v. EPA decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The guidance describes how transportation conformity applies in areas that were nonattainment or maintenance for the 1997 ozone national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) (at the time that standard was revoked) as well as designated attainment for the 2008 ozone NAAQS. For more information, link to the guidance. (11-29-18)
The Environmental Protection Agency has announced a new push to reduce pollution from on-highway heavy-duty trucks and engines. The “Cleaner Trucks Initiative” will target reductions of smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions from big rigs and their engines. The initiative will include a future rulemaking that will update the existing NOx standard while also streamlining compliance and certification requirements. It will be the first attempt to update the EPA’s NOx standards for heavy-duty trucks in nearly two decades. For more information, link to the announcement. (11-13-18)
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)
The Federal Highway Administration has issued an updated question and answer document regarding the FAST Act Section 1413 Alternative Fuel Corridor Designations. The document covers general questions, questions specific to the three different rounds of designations, fuel-specific questions, questions about signage, coordination with the Energy Department, and resources such as FHWA contacts and information about the Alternative Fuel Corridor Convenings. The FAQ has been updated in connection with the request for nominations for the third round of nominations. For more information, link the FAQ. (11-8-18)
A study from the Environmental Defense Fund suggests that mobile air pollution measurement combined with statistical modeling can be used to develop an accurate, high-resolution picture of local urban air quality. The study found that models trained with data from about 30 percent of streets randomly sampled at a minimum of four times was sufficient to predict the key patterns of how air pollution varied across the city. Air quality can vary locally due to traffic patterns, atmospheric conditions, and industry operations. For more information, link to the published study and the EDF’s announcement. (10-24-18)
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)
A white paper describing the use of in-vehicle information systems to modify driver behavior in order to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions has been issued by the National Center for Sustainable Transportation. “Eco-driving”—suites of behavior a driver can engage in to improve fuel economy—is often promoted using such feedback methods as dash or instrument cluster displays, after-market devices, or apps on personal mobile devices. The white paper analyzes a variety of studies of feedback methods to learn what types are most effective for creating better eco-driving. For more information, link to the white paper. (September 2018)
The Environmental Protection Agency has announced the recipients of the 2018 SmartWay Excellence Awards. The SmartWay Transport Partnership recognizes shipping and logistics companies for improving freight efficiency and contributing to cleaner air within their supply chains. Awardees were chosen based on their effective collaboration, advanced technology and operational practices, system to validate and report their SmartWay data, and communications and public outreach efforts. Fourteen companies will receive the awards on Oct. 29 in Austin, Texas. For more information, link to the SmartWay Excellence Awards. (10-1-18)
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)
A report issued by the Congressional Research Service provides an overview of the current status of the Environmental Protection Agency’s and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Phase 2 greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency rules in relation to new truck chassis installed with remanufactured engines, known as “glider vehicles.” The report explains how glider vehicles are made, their potential impacts on reginal air quality, and how they are regulated under NHTSA safety standards. The report also discusses the proposed repeal of the glider vehicle requirements and actions in Congress both in favor and in opposition to the repeal. For more information, link to the report. (9-10-18)
The Environmental Protection Agency has issued the latest version of its Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES2014b). The new release does not significantly change the onroad criteria pollutant emissions results of MOVES2014 and is not considered a new model for State Implementation Plan (SIP) and transportation conformity purposes. The agency has issued new question-and-answer guidance, technical guidance, installation instructions, and an update to the MOVES2014 User Interface Reference Manual. State and local agencies use the model to estimate volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and other emissions from cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, and most categories of nonroad equipment. For more information, link to the EPA’s MOVES page. (8-28-18)
The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a replacement for rules that would control carbon emissions from electric utility generating units. The Affordable Clean Energy Rule would replace the rule known as the Clean Power Plan and create narrower requirements with more modest emissions limits at individual power plants. The EPA proposes guidelines for states to develop plans based on heat rate, or efficiency, and improvements that can be achieved at an individual facility. It would no longer create incentives to switch from coal to natural gas and renewable energy sources. The rule may still allow emissions trading, where power plants that produce fewer emissions than allowed can sell credits to those that emit more. For more information, link to the EPA’s announcement. (8-21-18)
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)
The Federal Highway Administration has released a guidebook to help metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) develop a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) performance plan. Key components of the performance plan are highlighted and include descriptions of conditions and performance, targets established by MPOs, project descriptions, and an assessment of how the listed projects contribute to the established targets. The guide addresses data sources that MPOs must use to calculate condition performance for traffic congestion and on-road mobile source emissions measures, and the submission of the biennial reports. In addition, a timeline for reporting requirements is provided along with additional resources for related rules and training. For more information, link to the guide. (7-11-18)
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)
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)
The Federal Highway Administration has announced the second round of designations for Alternative Fuel Corridors. For 2016 and 2017 combined, FHWA has received 58 nominations and designated segments or entire lengths of 71 Interstate corridors (including Hawaii) under the program. So far, 44 states (plus the District of Columbia) have facilities designated as corridor-ready or corridor-pending for one or more alternative fuel types (electric, hydrogen, propane, compressed natural gas, and liquid natural gas). Corridor-ready designees have sufficient fueling facilities on the corridor to warrant highway signage, whereas corridor-pending designees need additional facilities to warrant signage. For more information, link to the Alternative Fuel Corridors website. (3-9-18)
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has released a report concerning the estimation of traffic volumes from mobile devices. MnDOT and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute used StreetLight Data to analyze the accuracy of average annual daily traffic volume estimates and annual hourly volume estimates using actual volume counts from traffic monitoring sites. The report indicates that lower volume roadways had the highest errors. In addition, results from 12 nonpublic monitoring sites showed higher error compared to the public permanent sites, according to the report. The report recommends enhancements to improve accuracy and granularity of estimated traffic volumes. The I-95 Corridor Coalition is currently conducting similar research. For more information, link to the report. (December 2017)
The Federal Highway Administration has issued a report on the findings from a series of Regional Congestion Pricing Workshops held between March 2016 and May 2017. The three workshops were for sharing information on planning and implementing pricing programs in their regions. The workshops addressed congestion pricing concepts and strategies; policy barriers to planning, design, and operations and maintenance; operational and implementation case studies; and outreach and marketing. The report indicates that many newer price-managed lane projects include multiple access points that integrate them with activity centers. Workshops addressed equity concerns and provided strategies for strengthening political support for pricing programs and enhancing stakeholder awareness of the value. For more information, link to the report. (November 2017)
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)
The Transportation Research Board has issued a guide for determining air emissions from airport-related ground access vehicles. The Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Research Report 180, Guidebook for Quantifying Airport Ground Access Vehicle Activity for Emissions Modeling, provides a set of identified best practices for obtaining emission values for various computer models such as the EPA’s MOVES. The guidebook presents a three-tiered approach for making decisions about the data needed for the analysis and for collaborating on data collection. For more information, link to the guide. (11-28-17)
The Federal Highway Administration has published a list of state departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) that are required to establish targets and report progress for the performance measures related to the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ). Forty-two DOTs and 119 MPOs must establish targets for the On-road Source Emissions measure. Thirty-two DOTs and 44 MPOs must establish targets for the Traffic Congestion Measures. The FHWA is phasing in the requirements to implement CMAQ traffic congestion measures starting with areas with more than 1 million people, then expanding in 2022 to areas with over 200,000 residents. For more information, link to the applicability determination. (11-14-17)
The Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Center for Advancing Research in Transportation Emissions, Energy, and Health, will host a seminar on methodologies identified in environmental epidemiologic studies and the health effects of traffic-related pollution. Methodologies to be discussed include geographic information systems, modeling, and personal and remote sensing. The seminar also will review policy impacts and solutions to mitigate traffic-related pollution at the urban scale. The seminar is scheduled for Dec. 5, 2017 in College Station and via webinar. For more information, link to the announcement.
The National Cooperative Highway Research Program has issued two reports regarding the development of the software tool TFGuide, for travel forecasting. TFGuide aids in the selection of methods and techniques based on application needs, resource constraints, available data, and existing model structure. NCHRP Report 852 provides an overview of how to use the tool and a case study to demonstrate how a metropolitan planning organization used the software to perform a transit corridor study. The report also addresses the role of the travel forecaster, transportation planner, and decision maker. The NCHRP also issued a companion document that addresses the current state of practice in travel demand models, the software design and functionality of TFGuide, pilot tests conducted using the tool, and a history of travel forecasting legislation. For more information, link to the web-only document and the research report. (10-20-17)
The Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has issued a report on the potential for using electric vehicles for government, commercial, and industrial purposes. The report focuses on highway vehicles that are not personal transport; non-highway modes such as rail, watercraft, and airport support; and non-road equipment used directly or in support of other uses. The report finds that electric vehicles are poorly suited for long-haul trucking but have potential for other vehicles where savings on fuel costs could be significant, such as transit buses, school buses, regional and local delivery trucks, utility service vehicles, and refuse trucks. The report also finds that low supply and low demand is hampering the development of options for commercial fleets, and that successful development will be a long process involving research and development, manufacturing, purchasing, and new regulations. For more information, link to the report. (10-20-17)
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)
The Federal Highway Administration has awarded $53.6 million to 10 states under the Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment program. The projects will address advanced real-time traveler information for drivers; public transit riders and freight shippers; vehicle-to-infrastructure communications to increase safety and support autonomous vehicles; and congestion-relieving traffic management systems. Recipients such as the County of Greenville, S.C. will set up a system of automated taxi-shuttles to improve transportation access for underserved populations. In addition, the Florida DOT plans to advance intelligent transportation technologies and the Texas DOT will deploy connected vehicle technologies in over 1,000 trucks and agency fleet vehicles. For more information, link to the announcement. (10-4-17)
The Federal Highway Administration has announced the 2017 request for nominations for designation of alternative fuel corridors. Alternative fuel corridors provide infrastructure for electric vehicle charging, hydrogen, propane, and natural gas fueling. States and local officials wishing to provide nominations must submit information concerning the name of the entity presiding over the proposed corridor; the type of fuel to be used; the type, number, and distance between existing alternative fuel facilities; and the estimated/projected cost of the planned facilities. The FHWA also has issued a frequently asked questions document to address the designation process. A webinar on the nomination process is scheduled for Oct. 16, 2017. For more information, link to the announcement.
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.
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.
A key piece to attracting new participants is the incentive program for clean commuters which is funded with CMAQ funds, these incentives include:
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.
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.
Examples of analyses, procedures, and strategies for meeting transportation conformity requirements are available from the Federal Highway Administration. The agency’s conformity practices website is intended to provide an easily searchable repository of examples of transportation conformity documents and processes that could be replicated in other areas of the country. For more information, link to FHWA's conformity practices web page.
A report describing federal and state policies on vehicle electrification has been issued by the Congressional Research Service. The report provides an overview of federal incentives, such as tax credits for vehicles and fueling infrastructure as well as investments in research and development. Other federal efforts include the Energy Department’s Clean Cities Program, and the Transportation Department’s Alternative Fuel Corridors program. On the state level, 45 states and the District of Columbia offer incentives such as income tax credits for electric vehicle and charger purchases, reduced registration fees, and permitting solo drivers of electric vehicles to use carpool lanes. California’s Zero Emission Vehicle program also is spurring vehicle sales. For more information, link to the report. (6-3-19)
The National Association of City Transportation Officials has announced a partnership to provide technical assistance to five cities to help them develop and build high-quality bike or transit corridors designed to attract riders and reduce reliance on single-occupancy vehicles. The cities, Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia, will be using NACTO’s Program Accelerator model, which helps users create a vision, then refine and build internal consensus for bike and transit projects. The participating cities will be able to learn from NACTO’s data on similar efforts in other cities. NACTO will be partnering with the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge and the Natural Resources Defense Council. For more information, link to the announcement. (5-15-19)
A joint research agreement between ExxonMobil and the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and National Energy Technology Laboratory will invest $10 million per year for 10 years toward research and development to explore ways to bring biofuels and carbon capture and storage to commercial scale across several economic sectors including transportation, power generation, and manufacturing. Over time, the research ultimately will seek to introduce innovative, economical, and lower-emission technologies to the market. For more information, link to the announcement. (5-8-19)
The White House Council on Environmental Quality has issued instructions to federal agencies on how to meet performance standards under the May 17, 2018, Executive Order 13834, “Efficient Federal Operations.” The order requires agencies to reduce building energy use, implement energy efficiency measures that reduce costs, and meet other sustainability criteria. The order also addresses statutory requirements concerning the consumption of renewable energy and electricity. The instructions provide details on how agencies are to track and report data regarding, among other things, energy management, greenhouse gas emissions, and sustainable buildings, fleets, and supply chains. For more information, link to the Federal Register notice. (5-3-19)
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has issued an assessment of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Maryland. The report evaluates Maryland’s current situation and makes recommendations regarding the expansion required for the state to be capable of supporting 300,000 zero emission vehicles by 2025. The analysis makes assumptions regarding travel patterns and includes discussion of variations in the ZEV fleet, evolving consumer preferences, and the availability of residential charging. For more information, link to the report. (February 2019)
The Environmental Protection Agency has released an annual report that provides information about new light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, fuel economy, technology data, and automobile manufacturers' performance in meeting emissions standards. The Automotive Trends Report finds that the aggregate fuel economy of the model year 2017 U.S. fleet continues to demonstrate improvement, and that such improvement has been seen in 11 of the last 13 model years. The report also shows that all manufacturers are in compliance with the national GHG emission standards. In addition, the U.S. experienced a record high fuel economy and record low GHG emissions in 2017. For more information, link to the report. (3-6-19)
Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced that Albuquerque, Austin, Denver, Orlando, and San Antonio have been included as winners of the American Cities Climate Challenge. Bloomberg Philanthropies recently announced that it would expand the challenge, which is for cities to advance their efforts to address climate change, to include a total of 25 cities. The initiative will provide $70 million help cities 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. For more information, link to the announcement. (1-11-19)
The Federal Highway Administration has updated its “Quick Guide” on requirements for energy projects in highway rights-of-way. Presented in a question-and-answer format, the guide is intended to point state DOTs and FHWA division offices to relevant FHWA requirements and needed approvals. FHWA also has made available reports from recent related peer exchanges that brought together multiple state DOTs. The events were held in Maryland, Utah, Missouri, and Massachusetts. FHWA also has highlighted the topic in the Winter 2019 issue of Public Road magazine. For more information, link to FHWA’s Renewable Energy Projects in Highway ROW web page. (1-25-19)
Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced that St. Petersburg, Fla., has been included as a winner of the American Cities Climate Challenge. St. Petersburg is the 20th city to receive the recognition. Bloomberg Philanthropies also has announced that it will expand the challenge, which is for cities to advance their efforts to address climate change, to include a total of 25 cities. The initiative will provide $70 million help cities 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. For more information, link to the announcement. (1-3-19)
The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has announced research on the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction potential of the U.S. transportation sector and energy optimization model. The research analyzed a range of potential scenarios for transitioning toward low-carbon transportation, exploring how policies and technology assumptions impact fuel infrastructure, vehicle, and resource requirements and costs. The analysis shows how a system model can be used to analyze the role of vehicle technologies and fuels within a national energy system. The models could be useful for analyzing policies such as carbon caps that affect all economic sectors and energy issues such as competition and synergies with regard to fuels and energy sources. For more information, link to the report. (September 2018)
The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has issued a research study of the potential in California for pipeline-quality renewable natural gas (RNG) to be an important alternative fuel that can help the state to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction and renewable energy targets. RNG, a form of biogas, is gas recovered from municipal solid waste landfills, agricultural residues, and forest residues. RNG production potential in California through thermochemical conversion was evaluated as part of this project by assessing technical biomass availability in the state. Oxygen/air blown gasification, hydrogasification, and pyrolysis are the three major technology options available for thermochemical biomass conversion. The study found that significant research, development, and deployment efforts are necessary to achieve the successful commercialization of thermochemical RNG production. For more information, link to the report. (September 2018)
Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced that Charlotte, N.C., has been included as a winner of the American Cities Climate Challenge. Charlotte is the 19th city to receive the recognition. 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. (12-19-18)
The Federal Highway Administration has issued a summary report of a peer exchange that was held on Sept. 25-26, 2018, at the Maryland Department of Transportation, regarding approaches for accommodating renewable energy technologies in highway rights-of-way and transportation properties. The report summarizes the presentations and discussions at the peer exchange and describes a site visit to solar canopies that Maryland DOT installed on a parking deck at Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI). Participants represented DOTs in California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. For more information, link to the summary report. (12-13-18)
A report from the International Transport Forum provides recommendations for actions that can reduce carbon emissions from road freight transport. Findings include the need for better data on emissions and likely impacts of new vehicle technologies. In addition, the report found that new technologies are vital as well as ambitious fuel economy and CO2 emission standards that include heavy freight trucks. Route optimization, off-peak deliveries, and voluntary emission programs also are useful measures. For more information, link to the report. (12-5-18)
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)
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)
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)
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)
A coalition of vehicle manufacturers, utilities, public interest groups, unions, technology companies, and public officials have issued recommendations for how the United States can cut energy use in the transportation sector in half by 2050. The “50x50 Commission” released a report recommending stronger fuel economy standards, accelerated electric vehicle adoption, and development of more and better infrastructure for alternative fuel vehicles. The report also recommends enhancing the impact, effectiveness, affordability, and attractiveness of public transit. Additionally, the report recommends a transition to a more integrated transportation services model, where more efficient modes are made more affordable, reliable, and convenient. For more information, link to the report. (9-26-18)
A white paper issued by the National Center for Sustainable Transportation describes policy options for transitioning to plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) as a way to reach worldwide carbon reduction goals. The paper discusses the technical progress to date in transitioning to EVs and outlines the policies and programs necessary to address the challenge of completely displacing combustion engines. Policies include ending fossil fuels for light-duty vehicles; financial signals to encourage EV buyers and producers; multi-year commitments from PEV manufacturers; education campaigns; and coordination of efforts to meet charging needs, including greening of the electric grid. For more information, link to the report. (July 2018)
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)
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)
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have released a proposed rule to freeze vehicle fuel economy requirements and greenhouse gas emissions standards. The rule would set the 2021-2026 model year standards for car and light-duty truck fleets by locking in model year 2020 standards through 2026. The agencies assert that the proposed rule reflects a balance of safety, economics, technology, fuel conservation, and pollution reduction. The agencies also say that, if left in place, the current rules would impose more than $500 billion in societal costs on the U.S. economy over the next 50 years. The public will have 60 days to provide feedback once the proposal is published in the Federal Register. For more information, link to the Transportation Department’s announcement and the proposed rule. (8-2-18)
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)
The Energy Department is seeking information regarding the high-volume production and use of hydrogen in a variety of economic sectors. Information should address the expansion and diversification of domestic hydrogen supply, demand-sector market expansion, and leveraging industries and infrastructure, among others. Hydrogen use could be expanded and made more affordable across multiple applications such as petroleum refining, ammonia production for fertilizers, steel production, and fuel cells to power cars, buses or trucks. The DOE will use this information to assess domestic resources that are available for large-scale production of hydrogen. The request is part of the H2@Scale project to improve hydrogen infrastructure. Submissions are due Oct. 31, 2018. For more information, link to the announcement. (8-1-18)
The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has issued a report that examines natural gas in California as a way to transition transportation fuel to near-zero carbon. The report finds that natural gas fueling infrastructure can support both fossil natural gas and renewable natural gas, such as biogas. Investments in a fossil natural gas network can receive carbon credits by blending renewable gas, and renewable gas can save on costs by piggy-backing on the fossil gas infrastructure. The report also finds that natural gas fueling infrastructure for commercial transportation is expanding, but more facilities are needed for refining renewable gas for vehicles. Additionally, the report recommends planning for future renewable fuel adoption and that efficiencies can be realized by co-locating natural gas and hydrogen systems and equipment. For more information, link to the report and the policy brief. (7-24-18)
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)
An action plan for 2018-2021 developed by the Multi-State Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Task Force has been issued by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management. The plan recommends expanding the ZEV market by using brand-neutral campaigns or events like ZEV ‘ride and drives’ to increase public awareness. The plan also suggests that states enhance the network of charging and fueling infrastructure through public and private investments and the revision of residential and commercial building codes. In addition, the use of financial incentives and the electrification of public and private fleets is encouraged. The task forced was created in 2013 to support state implementation of ZEV programs. For more information, link to the action plan. (6-20-18)
The California Department of Transportation has issued draft guidance on making project-level significance determinations for greenhouse gas emissions under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The draft guidance, which applies to projects on the state highway system, outlines the process for making such determinations and identifying mitigation for significant impacts on projects for which Caltrans is the lead agency under CEQA. For more information, link to the guidance. (6-21-18)
The energy efficiency of ride-hailing or transportation network company (TNC) services at airports is addressed in a new report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The report includes data from four U.S. Department of Transportation Smart City Challenge finalists regarding annual air travel, TNC fees, parking, and car rental to understand how mobility services are affecting travel, energy use, and sustainability. The report indicates that TNC use now accounts for 18 percent of passenger ground transportation to and from airports, with revenues from TNC fees increasing while parking and car rental revenues appear to be in decline. The report suggests that this shift in transportation preferences could have implications on land use planning. For more information, link to the report. (6-18-18)
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)
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)
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)
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)
The Federal Highway Administration is withdrawing requirements that state departments of transportation (DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) measure tailpipe carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as a means to assess performance of the National Highway System. The rule required state DOTs and MPOs to establish CO2 emissions targets, calculate progress in meeting the targets, report to FHWA, and determine needed actions if targets were not reached. The withdrawal is considered a deregulatory action to reduce burdens on state DOTs and MPOs and remove requirements with “speculative and uncertain benefits.” The rule, which was signed May 22, will be effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. For more information, link to the final rule. (5-24-18)
New versions of the Future Automotive Systems Technology Simulator (FASTSim) are now available through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The simulator allows users to compare powertrains and estimate the impact of technology improvements on light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicle efficiency, performance, cost, and battery life. The newer versions expand vehicle range capabilities and update vehicle models to include not just conventional and electric-drive vehicles, but also fuel cell vehicles. The newer versions are available in Excel and Python and are suitable for large datasets. For more information, link to the announcement. (5-22-18)
The Federal Highway Administration has released a recording of an April 18, 2018, web conference regarding alternative fuels and electric freight trucks. The seminar included presentations concerning the current state of fueling infrastructure, vehicle range for electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles, and fuels commonly used in the freight industry. The seminar also addressed the challenges of using compressed natural gas instead of diesel for freight trucks, including the maintenance costs and fuel prices. In addition, presenters discussed the use of renewable hydrocarbon diesel in freight trucks and freight electrification. For more information, link to the recording, transcript, and presentations. (5-22-18)
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)
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)
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)
The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has released a white paper to help California align its framework for funding transportation with its climate policies. The paper provides an overview of the state’s commitments to climate action, including its Global Warming Solutions Act, and addresses the application of sustainability principles to transportation investments. The paper also highlights California’s sources of transportation revenue such as the excise tax on gasoline, fuel tax swap, and the zero-emission vehicle registration fee. The paper recommends the allocation of more transportation revenue to metropolitan planning organizations to support the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act. It also recommends requiring revenue generated by new local sales taxes to be spent on projects that reduce greenhouse gases. For more information, link to the paper. (3-16-18)
The Federal Highway Administration has announced the second round of designations for Alternative Fuel Corridors. For 2016 and 2017 combined, FHWA has received 58 nominations and designated segments or entire lengths of 71 Interstate corridors (including Hawaii) under the program. So far, 44 states (plus the District of Columbia) have facilities designated as corridor-ready or corridor-pending for one or more alternative fuel types (electric, hydrogen, propane, compressed natural gas, and liquid natural gas). Corridor-ready designees have sufficient fueling facilities on the corridor to warrant highway signage, whereas corridor-pending designees need additional facilities to warrant signage. For more information, link to the Alternative Fuel Corridors website. (3-9-18)
A webinar for public transportation agencies to discuss Electrify America LLC’s Cycle 2 National and California Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Investment Plans will be held on Feb. 14, 2018. Electrify America manages the $2 billion investment commitment resulting from the settlement with Volkswagen Group of America over emissions violations. The investment commitment is intended to encourage the adoption of ZEVs. The company seeks input and data relevant to the second cycle of funding, suggestions for educational events, site nominations for infrastructure development, and feedback on cycle 1 investments. Cycle 2 implementation is planned for July 2019 through December 2021. Comments are due March 1, 2018. For information on types of input solicited as part of the second investment plan, along with an online form for submitting input, link here. For webinar registration information, link here.
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)
Auto manufacturers continue to innovate, increase fuel economy, and reduce pollution according to two new reports released by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975-2017 report indicates that model year (MY) 2016 vehicle fuel economy was 24.7 mpg, slightly higher than MY 2015. The report also illustrates that consumers have an increasing number of high fuel economy/low carbon dioxide vehicle choices. The second report, Manufacturer Performance, addresses how well manufacturers are meeting greenhouse gas emission standards for light-duty vehicles. The report indicates that all manufacturers are in compliance with the standards. For more information, link to the announcement. (1-11-18)
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)
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)
The Transportation and Climate Initiative has announced the continued support of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to explore strategies to reduce carbon emissions, improve transportation, and advance investments in clean transportation technologies. The states have been working together since 2015 and will continue by facilitating discussions to share goals and perspectives and to diversify transportation systems. To support these efforts, the Georgetown Climate Center released a report concerning market-based approaches to a multi-state transportation policy. The report provides an overview of the transportation fuel system in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions and how a cap-and-invest system covering gasoline and on-road diesel could operate. The report recommends complementary financing strategies to advance clean transportation markets. For more information, link to the announcement. (11-13-17)
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)
The Department of Energy has released a report on enabling use of fast-charge power stations to increase use of battery electric vehicles (BEV). The study recommends extreme fast charging – at 400 kilowatts for BEVs to be competitive with internal combustion engine vehicles. It provides an overview of BEVs, battery costs, and barriers to extreme fast charging. It also outlines associated research and development needs to resolve such challenges. For more information, link to the report. (October 2017)
The International Council on Clean Transportation has released a briefing on the development of infrastructure for fuel cell vehicle deployment around the world. The report provides the status of fuel cell vehicle development as of mid-2017, indicating that manufacturers have made major research and development investments. In addition, the report analyzes hydrogen infrastructure development in Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., illustrating that many governments and industries have initiated plans to develop infrastructure networks and that investment will be needed for the next 10 to 15 years. For more information, link to the report. (October 2017)
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)
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)
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:
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:
|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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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)|
“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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) is promoting the use of renewable fuels across the state, increasing the number of fueling stations that offer renewables through its “Green Islands” program.
While E10 (a mixture of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline) is now widely available, an increasing portion of the U.S. automobile fleet has been manufactured to be "flexfuel," and able to use E85 (a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline). Additionally, most diesel engines are able to use B20 (a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petrodiesel). However, a major impediment to increasing adoption of renewable fuels such as E85 and B20 is the lack of infrastructure to distribute the fuel.
TDOT faced this issue by helping establish a "green islands biofuel corridor network" of fueling stations not more than 100 miles apart along the highways that connect the state's major cities and destinations. The goal of "green islands” is to enable travel across the state using biofuel exclusively. These alternative fuel stations provide public access to biofuels along major corridors for consumers wishing to use them and reduce their consumption of fossil fuel. While some gaps in the network remain, TDOT will continue to offer grants to fuel stations as incentives to fill the gaps.
|Tennessee DOT’s Green Island program increases public access to biofuels. Source: Tennessee DOT|
“Increasing the availability and use of biofuels in Tennessee will help increase energy security, reduce air pollution and benefit the state’s economy, according to Alan Jones, Manager of the Policy Office in TDOT’s Long Range Planning Division. “The Green Islands grant program encourages fuel stations to offer these fuels to the driving public,” he said.
The benefits of reducing fossil fuel consumption and displacing imported petroleum with alternative fuels have been discussed for many years. However, the "green island" concept accelerated in the early 2000's when the Tennessee Farm Bureau started investigating how the state's agricultural community could assist in biofuel production. A vision of a vertically integrated biofuels industry wholly within Tennessee ("From Farm to Fuel Tank in Tennessee") began to take hold.
The Tennessee legislature was called upon to pass legislation to implement the vision. Proponents discussed obtaining seed money, such as grants, to advance the concept. The legislature determined that encouraging in-state biofuel production was in the state's economic interest, and therefore worth providing incentives. One law passed by the legislature named the TDOT to be the agency to manage a grant program for fuel stations to encourage increased availability of biofuels to motorists and vehicle fleet owners in the state. The grant program offered funding to purchase and install biofuel storage and fuel dispensing equipment across the state. TDOT stepped up, administering a program to provide public access to the fuel.
TDOT has since published several Requests for Proposals (RFP) aimed at gas stations willing to make biofuels publicly available for four years, in return for grant funding to help purchase and install the infrastructure. A subsidy was set at a maximum of $45,000 per biofuel pump. The maximum grant was capped at $90,000 for a single location, if the station proposed to sell both biofuels, E85 and B20, to the general public.
While most applicants proposed one or two pumps, several owners proposed multiple stations to achieve economies of scale. One owner proposed three locations, and received a total benefit of $270,000. Presently there are 60 E85 pumps statewide. Around half were installed by private sector operators deciding on their own to offer biofuels to their customers.
When stations meet their four-year contract obligation, many continue to sell the fuels, but some do not. Stations that have been the most successful helped market the fuel on their own. The vision of "From Farm to Fuel Tank in Tennessee" remains, although increasing the use of biofuels has lagged for numerous reasons. State grant funds remain available for stations still interested in selling alternative fuels.
Funding for the program has come from several sources. The state's first E85 pump, which came on-line in 2003, was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. In air quality nonattainment areas, TDOT used funds from the Federal Highway Administration's Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program. TDOT also received significant state funding from the state’s General Assembly for the green islands program.
An important part of the program includes increasing public awareness about biofuel, its benefits, and where drivers can purchase these cleaner fuels. As part of the interstate blue logo sign program, TDOT developed and posted blue signs with a biofuel image to advertise the locations of green island stations.
Grants provide an incentive for fuel stations to install the fueling infrastructure but, in the long run, stations will not continue to sell biofuels unless their customers buy them. Sustaining market demand for biofuels will require a more vigorous advertising and public education campaign at the state and national level.
For more information on the program, contact Alan Jones, Policy Manager, Long Range Planning Division, TDOT, at Alan.Jones@tn.gov.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has developed a tool to help communities prepare for coastal flooding. The Coastal Inundation Dashboard brings together data from more than 200 coastal water level stations into one easy-to-use web tool. It is intended to help decision makers and coastal residents understand both short-term risks such as an approaching hurricane or nor’easter, as well as longer-term risks like high tide flooding and sea level rise. For more information, link to the announcement and the dashboard. (6-7-19) >>See Related AASHTO CEE Resources: Infrastructure Resilience Topic Overview and Case Studies; Resilient and Sustainable Transportation Systems Program, Resiliency Case Studies: State DOT Lessons Learned
The Government Accountability Office has issued a report documenting potential economic effects of climate change and ways the U.S. government could reduce its fiscal exposure to such effects. Potential solutions could include establishing federal strategic climate change priorities; identifying significant climate risks and appropriate responses; creating a national climate information system; and providing the best-available, forward looking climate information to organizations that develop infrastructure design standards and building codes. For more information, link to the report. (6-11-19) >>See Related AASHTO CEE Resources: Resilient and Sustainable Transportation Systems Program, Energy/Greenhouse Gas Emissions Topic
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has announced a webinar series throughout June to provide information about recent updates to federal disaster response laws and infrastructure resilience programs. The series will address the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, passed in 2018 as part of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill. Topics will include the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program; infrastructure mitigation projects; hazard mitigation planning; grant application and evaluation; risk-based funding; resource management; benefit-cost analysis; building codes; enforcement; and capacity and capability. For more information, link to the webinar series. (5-23-19)
Washington D.C. has announced a new resilience plan that sets a range of goals for coping with increasingly severe floods and heat waves, the major climate change stressors projected to occur in the city. The plan, Resilient DC: a Strategy to Thrive in the Face of Change, includes a goal of retrofitting or removing all its flood-prone buildings by 2050, making D.C. the first major U.S. city to set a policy of managed retreat. The plan also includes tougher building codes for new buildings, constructing new flood-resistant infrastructure, and helping residents understand the climate risk they face. For more information, link to the plan. (4-29-19)
A review of methods to identify costs and benefits of natural infrastructure such as wetlands to reduce risks from coastal storms and flooding is in a report issued by the Government Accountability Office. The GAO specifically looked at the nature-based resilience approaches used by the Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate project costs and benefits. The GAO reviewed Corps guidance; obtained information on five years’ worth of projects that used natural infrastructure; selected eight coastal storm and flood risk reduction projects from the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts; and reviewed each project's planning documentation and economic analyses. The GAO found that the Corps is challenged to identify performance measures and the social and environmental benefits sufficient to be used in cost and benefit analysis. For more information, link to the report. (4-29-19)
The Federal Highway Administration has announced case studies, fact sheets, and videos to highlight key topics and aid the implementation of two road weather management solutions under the Weather-Savvy Roads initiative. Pathfinder is a collaboration between the National Weather Service, state transportation departments, and contractors to translate weather and road information into actionable traveler information. Integrating Mobile Observations collects weather, road condition, and vehicle data from agency fleets to improve awareness of road conditions, building on vehicle-based mobile technologies and real-time wireless communications. For more information, link to Weather-Savvy Roads: Resources to Aid Implementation. (4-23-19)
The current and future costs and impacts of urban flooding in the United States merit national attention, according to a new report issued by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report says that urban flooding is a complex problem that results from several factors including the capacity of drainage systems, the types of flood sources, and the patterns of development in a particular city. The report also says that the ability to respond and recover from flooding events can vary widely depending on social and economic resources. In addition, the report says that the responsibility for managing urban flooding is distributed across federal, state, and local agencies, and coordination among the parties is essential. The report includes case studies of Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, and Phoenix. For more information, link to the report. (4-3-19)
The Federal Transit Administration should develop and implement additional guidance on protecting transit rolling stock from disaster events and provide a centralized source for transit agencies to access lessons learned regarding emergency preparedness, according to a report from the Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General. The report says that although the FTA currently does not require transit agencies to develop emergency preparedness plans, several transit agencies have done so with varying degrees of success. The report reviewed the FTA’s emergency relief efforts in connection with agencies affected by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the extent to which lessons can be learned from the experiences of those agencies. For more information, link to the report. (4-11-19)
The Georgetown Climate Center has announced work on developing a toolkit to help public agencies and policymakers plan for the ordered relocation of infrastructure and development away from areas vulnerable to extreme weather, sea level rise, and flooding. For locations considering such managed retreat, the toolkit would provide information on evaluating risks and developing legally viable approaches, comparing different managed retreat approaches, and incorporating considerations of social support, housing, and employment for relocated residents. The toolkit is due for release in 2020. For more information, link to the announcement. (3-26-19)
Texas has issued an updated version of its master plan for coastal resiliency, addressing the need for coordinated efforts to restore, enhance, and protect the state’s coastline. The plan identifies the fact that the Texas coast is a complex system of natural and human-made environments that provide a variety of benefits to the state as a whole. The plan also highlights ways in which the coast is vulnerable to natural disasters and long-term environmental, social, and economic pressures; identifies eight priority issues of concern; and discusses projects to address them. For more information, link to the document. (March 2019)
The Federal Highway Administration has issued a call for presentations for the Second International Conference on Resilience to Natural Hazards and Extreme Weather Events. The event, to be held Nov. 13-15, 2019, is being organized by the Transportation Research Board with support from the FHWA and AASHTO. The event will provide practical information on emerging best practices and state of the art research results used by planners, policy makers, and designers along the following three themes: proactive adaptation; resilient recovery; and transformative resilience. For more information, link here. (3-22-19)
A new report outlines the risks of coastal flooding in the Chesapeake Bay region, an area where the data indicate that sea level is rising at a faster rate than the global average. The report, issued by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, documents the current situation in the Maryland’s eastern counties, including data from NOAA tidal gauge records, vulnerability to storm surge, and projections into the years 2050 and 2100. The report also serves as a guide for communities in the region to develop policies and practices in response to the flooding risks. The report includes suggestions and methods for fostering resilience through local policies and both regulatory and non-regulatory actions. For more information, link to the report. (3-13-19)
A briefing held by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute focused on the economic, environmental, and public benefits of green infrastructure. Experts from ASLA’s interdisciplinary Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resilience discussed their report, Smart Policies for a Changing Climate, which calls for infrastructure investment to create healthy and resilient communities that work in tandem with natural systems. For more information and a recording, link here. (3-4-19)
The Federal Highway Administration has issued a handbook on using life cycle planning to support transportation asset management. State DOTs are required to develop a risk-based transportation asset management plan, including life cycle planning and risk management analyses. Life cycle planning is defined as “a process to estimate the cost of managing an asset class, or asset sub-group, over its whole life with consideration for minimizing cost while preserving or improving the condition.” The handbook provides information on implementing a life cycle planning process for pavements and bridges. For more information, link to the handbook. (January 2019)
Recordings of AASHTO’s five-part webinar series addressing a variety of resilience topics for transportation agencies are available on the Center for Environmental Excellence website. The 2018 series was sponsored by AASHTO's Resilient and Sustainable Transportation Systems technical assistance program. The series covers lessons learned from Hurricane Florence, seismic resilient highways, building organizational resilience, cyber resilience, and the 2018 Transportation Resilience Innovations Summit and Exchange (RISE). To access the recordings, visit Resilience Webinar Series (December 2018).
A report that documents transportation agency resilience efforts and how they are organized, understood, and implemented has been issued under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. NCHRP Synthesis Report 527: Resilience in Transportation Planning, Engineering, Management, Policy, and Administration, is intended to help inform how transportation agencies approach regaining functionality after a major disruption or disaster. The report reviews the policies that promote highway resilience; definitions of risk and resilience and the relationship between these two fields; and how agencies are incorporating resilience practices through project development, policy, and design. The report indicates that although resilience policies are becoming well established, there is a lack of integration of resilience into practice. With the recent requirements for risk-based asset management plans, state DOTs may be challenged to develop a management approach. For more information, link to the report. (1-14-19)
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has issued two regional vulnerability assessments for Northern California and the Central Valley as part of its efforts to evaluate how climate change may impact the state’s highway system. The assessments look at risks such as extreme temperatures, increased precipitation, storm surge, wildfires, and sea level rise. Caltrans has provided summary reports for both regions, with overviews and locations of possible impacts, in-depth technical reports describing potential exposure of the highway systems, as well as interactive mapping applications for use by the public. The assessments will be followed by studies of appropriate responses. Caltrans conducted an assessment for the Bay Area region in 2017. For more information, link to the announcement and to the assessments. (12-17-18)
An updated summary of ways the Federal Highway Administration, states DOTs, and regions are addressing resilience and responding to climate change has been issued by FHWA. The summary lists actions FHWA has taken, how state DOTs are responding, and numerous resources that are available to help build resilience. For more information, link to the summary. (1-7-19)
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)
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)
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)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has developed maps that illustrate the heat island effect in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. The maps show variations in temperature throughout each city on a hot summer day, including the influence of roadways on temperature patterns. NOAA and its partners are sharing the maps and data with officials in the two cities, who may use them to help plan cooling strategies and inform resiliency plans. The team plans to develop more urban heat island mapping campaigns in other U.S. cities. For more information, link to the NOAA announcement. (10-15-18)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
An overview of efforts by transportation agencies to integrate resilience into transportation planning processes is provided in a white paper published by the Federal Highway Administration. The findings are based on a review of planning documents from 52 state DOTs and 101 MPOs. The study looked at which agencies are integrating resilience into their processes and how they are doing so. Examples are provided on including resilience in goals and objectives, vulnerability assessments, and performance measures, as well as developing resilience strategies and conducting monitoring and reporting. For more information, link to the report. (6-14-18)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has released its first climate change vulnerability assessment, focusing on the San Francisco Bay Area in District 4. The assessment, which is the first of 12 studies that will cover each Caltrans region of the state, identifies locations that may be impacted by changing conditions such as rising sea levels and storm surge, more frequent wildfires, changing precipitation patterns, and increasing temperatures. It includes a summary report as well as a technical report, and it is supported by a GIS database and interactive mapping application. Caltrans recommends use of the Federal Highway Administration’s adaptation decision-making assessment process and updating design approaches to include data from state resource agencies. For more information, link to the announcement and to the assessment. (12-27-17)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
The Federal Highway Administration has published a study of the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan region’s resilience to climate change, sea level rise, and extreme weather in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather events. The study identifies strategies to reduce extreme weather vulnerabilities of transportation systems using lessons learned from recent events and future climate projections. It provides assessments of vulnerability and risk at the regional, subarea, and facility level. The study is intended to help agencies in the study area evaluate adaptation strategies that could be applied to similar facilities in the region. For more information, link to the study. (10-26-17)
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is seeking applications for $20 million in climate change adaptation planning grants to local and regional agencies. The funding, which is available for three fiscal year cycles from 2017 to 2020, can be used to advance adaptation planning related to the state’s roads, railways, bikeways, trails, bridges, ports, and airports. Applications are due Oct. 20. For more information, link to the grant application guide. (September 2017)
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)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
For more information, contact Alan Jones, Tennessee Department of Transportation at Alan.Jones@tn.gov.
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.
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:
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).
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.
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.
The Federal Highway Administration has released a new report concerning the performance of right-sizing analysis on aging urban infrastructure. This form of context sensitive solution, which involves adjusting travel facilities to reflect changes in demand, provides the opportunity to develop transportation policies that better fit the community, promote safety, and help the community achieve broader economic development goals. The study provides a four-step process for right-sizing analyses, including looking at the motivation for the project, traffic management strategies, and potential economic development goals and impacts. The report includes examples of projects implemented in several states. For more information, link to the report. (1-3-19)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
This website provides comprehensive information on context sensitive solutions, including an extensive collection of case studies. Link to http://contextsensitivesolutions.org/
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.
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.
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
FDOT officials have identified the following key lessons learned from their Traditional Neighborhood Development efforts:
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.”
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
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.
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:
A workshop on advancing equity and opportunities for communities was held on May 15, 2019, by the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states that participate in the Transportation & Climate Initiative. States discussed regional policy issues and a cap-and-invest approach to reducing emissions from transportation. Presentations also highlighted economic and health disparities in areas that face pollution and that are underserved by transportation systems. For more information and a workshop recording, link here. (6-4-19)
The Georgetown Climate Center has announced work on developing a toolkit to help public agencies and policymakers build social and economic equity into climate resilience planning. The Equitable Adaptation Toolkit will feature best practices and substantive policy solutions for achieving equitable outcomes through city resilience initiatives to provide examples that communities and community-based organizations can use. It also will provide case study examples of planning initiatives, legal, and policy solutions that have been advanced through community planning, and best practice examples. The toolkit is due for release in 2020. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-1-19)
The Environmental Protection Agency has announced a national environmental justice training program. The program consists of five training webinars, which will be accessible through a publicly available website, aimed at building capacity in the states to integrate environmental justice into decision making and develop environmental justice knowledge and expertise. Planned topics include identifying and prioritizing environmentally impacted and vulnerable communities, enhancing community involvement in the regulatory process, using an area-wide planning approach to promote equitable development, and applying EJ to state environmental impact assessments. In addition, the EPA Regions will conduct training for their respective states. For more information, link to the announcement. (3-15-19)
The Federal Highway Administration has issued two new reviews of the state of the practice concerning environmental justice in highway programs. Environmental Justice Analysis in Transportation Planning and Programming: State of the Practice describes how state departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations are considering and addressing environmental justice concerns, based on a review of all 52 DOTs and a sample of 100 MPOs. The report addresses commonly applied techniques and new EJ approaches, including identifying and engaging with EJ populations; understanding the needs of EJ populations; assessing the benefits and costs of proposed plans; determining disproportionately high and adverse effects on EJ populations; and strategies to address such effects. Addressing Changing Demographics in Environmental Justice Analysis: State of the Practice documents how MPOs and DOTs are adapting EJ analysis to understand communities undergoing rapid demographic change. The report discusses trends in the size and location of low-income and minority households. The report also highlights strategies for addressing changing demographics in EJ analysis and provides five case studies. (3-21-19)
A report from the Tishman Environment and Design Center describes ways communities are using local zoning and land-use policies to address environmental justice concerns. The report, Local Policies for Environmental Justice: A National Scan, compiles 40 policies from across the U.S. Types of policies include bans on specific types of facilities, incorporation of environmental justice goals into municipal activities, and application of environmental review processes to new or expanded developments. Other policy types include proactive planning targeted at future development, targeted land use measures that address sources of pollution, and enhanced public health codes. For more information, link to the report. (2-21-19)
An overview of the process for filing complaints under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act was provided in a webinar hosted by the Federal Highway Administration. The webinar covered laws, regulations, and guidance; information on filing and processing of complaints; and investigation processes and outcomes. For more information, link to the webinar and related resources. (2-5-19)
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)
The Federal Highway Administration has updated its Quick Reference guide on community impact assessment (CIA) and has posted a series of best practice examples that demonstrate CIA approaches. CIA involves understanding the needs of communities and documenting potential social impacts with and without a proposed action. The guide outlines CIA processes, tools, and information sources. The best practices describe assessments conducted on projects in Rochester, N.Y.; Los Angeles; Winston-Salem, N.C.; Camden, N.J.; and Columbus, Ohio. For more information, link to the FHWA CIA web page. (6-12-18)
The Federal Highway Administration has developed a reference tool that compiles public involvement-related resources from state transportation agencies. The tool provides information and links to resources from each state transportation department including state long range transportation plans and statewide public involvement plans. The tool also provides links to resources on public involvement under the National Environmental Policy Act, plans for involving those with limited English proficiency, Title VI plans, environmental justice policy statements, and Native American tribal consultation resources. For more information, link to the tool. (5-22-18)
The Environmental Protection Agency has announced the launch of a mobile version of its EJSCREEN environmental justice mapping tool. The tool allows users to analyze environmental and demographic factors related to environmental justice when developing programs or projects that could affect overburdened communities. The mobile version provides most of the same key functions and features as the full online version, but will enable use on a tablet or smart phone. For more information, link to the mobile version and EJSCREEN resources. (4-24-18)
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)
The Federal Highway Administration has released a report regarding the Rethinking I-94: MnDOT Peer Exchange, held Aug. 15-16, 2017. The peer exchange was held to help Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) with stakeholder engagement efforts in connection with Interstate 94 improvements. The exchange included discussion of the decision-making process, community involvement, and risks. Presentations from Ohio DOT and Massachusetts DOT also were conducted to illustrate successful project completion through public engagement. Key takeaways from the meeting include the importance of allowing creativity and the expression of local culture, use of visual tools, and maintaining open and continuous communication. For more information, link to the report. (December 2017)
A recording of AASHTO's Environmental Justice Community of Practice (CoP) Nov. 17 webinar, Meaningful Community Engagement. The webinar discussed examples of resources, case studies, and successful processes used to increase the quantity and quality of community engagement from DOTs, MPOs, and FHWA. To access the recording and more information on the CoP, link here. (11-28-17)
The Transportation Research Board has issued a guidebook and set of tools for assessing environmental justice (EJ) effects of implementing tolls and rate changes. The guidebook provides a literature review of current tolling trends, pricing scenarios and collection methodologies, and public engagement approaches. It also provides examples of addressing EJ in several tolling lane projects and survey results of travel behavior. The guidebook shows the practitioner when and how to apply the tools through an eight-step process framework corresponding to the typical transportation project planning and development process. The guidebook and toolbox together help users measure the impacts of tolling on mobility, access, and household expenditures, and provide tools to engage low-income and minority populations. For more information, link to the research report and guidebook. (1-12-18)
AASHTO's Environmental Justice Community of Practice (CoP) held conference call on Oct. 31 to provide a recap and follow up to the Environmental Justice sessions at the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations’ annual meeting. Speakers provided an overview of their presentations, summarized the tabletop discussions with MPO’s, and discussed key takeaways for the CoP. For more information, link to the summary and to the CoP web page here. (10-17-17)
The Center for Environmental Excellence by AASHTO, in partnership with the National Conference of State Legislators, has launched a series of six webinars on environmental justice in transportation. The first webinar, held Sept. 14, included a federal oversight summary, review of the Center’s past EJ work, as well as a discussion on EJ analysis, especially in the planning phase. DOTs and MPOs shared their view of good EJ analysis, as well as lessons learned and best practices. The webinar recording and presentations may be accessed here. (9-22-17)
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)
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)
The integration of environmental justice principles in all levels of transportation decision making is available from the Federal Highway Administration and the National Highway Institute. The training is intended for transportation professionals in state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, local agencies, and consulting firms. Participants will learn to describe environmental justice (EJ) as it relates to transportation, the principles and benefits related to EJ, the importance of public involvement in the transportation decision making process, and EJ considerations in all phases of transportation including planning, environmental review, design, right-of-way, construction, and operations and maintenance. To register for the four-hour course, which is available online and on demand from the National Highway Institute, link here. (8-9-17)
The U.S. Department of Transportation is conducting a symposium to facilitate discussion around the transportation civil rights community. The symposium will include a series of web conference sessions to address development and implementation of Title VI best practices; provide tools for participants to effectively communicate and engage with diverse limited-English-proficient communities; and discussion of technological changes that are reshaping how transportation is provided. The sessions will also include discussion of regulatory requirements concerning service animals in air travel and the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. The symposium is scheduled for May 17-18, 2017. Link here to register. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-27-17)
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has updated question-and-answer guidance concerning handling of alleged violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The document addresses complaint-filing procedures, complaint processing and potential outcomes. The document also addresses investigation timeframes and how agencies gather information. FHWA regulations direct state departments of transportation to develop procedures for processing Title VI complaints filed with state DOTs against their federal-aid highway subrecipients. For more information link to the document. (3-27-17)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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:
Depending on the resulting answers, a full Environmental Justice Analysis Report may be required.
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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|
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.
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:
PennDOT has realized the following key points and lessons learned in implementing the agency’s planning- and project-level EJ guidance:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on the project-level guidance, contact Drew Ames, PennDOT Environmental Planning Manager, at email@example.com.
Executive Order 12898 requires Federal Agencies to identify and address, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse effects of the agency’s programs, policies and activities on minority and low-income populations, often referred to as Environmental Justice (EJ) communities. Social media can be used as one of many methods to reach out to and engage EJ communities. In an effort to ensure that efforts to engage EJ communities through social media are effective, state DOTs and MPOs work to identify and develop the most appropriate social media strategy to reach and target EJ populations.
According to Pew Research Center, approximately 7 in 10 American adults use social media. The use of at least one social media site continues to grow steadily across all demographics regardless of race, ethnicity, income, age, or gender. For example, Pew research by race shows that 69 percent of people who are African American and 72 percent of those who are of Hispanic origin use at least one social media site. Seventy-four percent of the population who make under $50,000 also use at least one social media site. Most young adults age 18-29 (88 percent) use social media. From a gender perspective, a higher percentage of women (73 percent) social media than men (65 percent).
Social Media can be used as an outreach tool to:
Social media data analytics tools and resources offer agencies additional insight on EJ populations to assist with future public outreach strategies that evaluate and address EJ as part of transportation planning and development. They help to provide meaningful insights and additional details about the comfortable engagement practices for particular populations that can be used to reach people who may not participate in traditional outreach and engagement efforts such as in-person meetings, helping to form a successful social media strategy. Social media guides and plans can include details and research on best practices such as tone, content, and tips on best practices for EJ communities or low-income communities. Just as with in-person interactions, social media accounts will need to fully understand how to communicate in a culturally appropriate and effective manner.
Community leaders are a key asset in understanding the cultural nuances and serving as conduits in EJ communities. For example, the Buford Highway Pedestrian Improvement project at the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) focused efforts on high school involvement by creating a public service announcement competition. GDOT used Facebook and Twitter to spread the PSA competition information and to reach a specific audience. Along with the use of social media, GDOT also utilized more traditional outreach efforts to reach high school students. These efforts included in-person community outreach efforts in supermarkets that catered to both language and cultural preferences.
While social media can be used as a tool for community outreach and engagement, it can also be a successful tool to build peer networks within an agency and to help facilitate and foster inter-agency collaboration. Social media development allows for agencies to participate in trends to learn more about user interest, coordinate with partners, interact with audiences, and highlight meetings and community events. These are all areas highlighted in the Practitioners Peer Exchange Environmental Justice Roadmap.
North Central Texas Council of Governments
In 2017, the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) transportation department developed a social media design guide that provided in-depth details on graphic dimensions, typography, watermarks, layouts, design trends, and photos. NCTCOG also developed a strategic plan and style guide to modernize the tone of social media. The additional resources NCTCOG placed on social media were used to target outreach and advertising for the transportation department.
Using a variety of communication platforms, NCTCOG identified six types of posts for engagement:
NCTCOG’s social media strategy studied the impact of hashtags and found that posts with hashtags received two times more engagement than posts without hashtags. They also found that the time of day and the visual content made a difference in impressions and engagement. NCTCOG’s manager of public involvement, Amanda Wilson, noted, “It is extremely difficult to get the attention of social media users between busy news feeds and algorithms that don’t show an organization’s posts to all followers. We analyzed what works and doesn’t work to reach our audience and focused on changes we can make, like when we post and using visually appealing graphics, to achieve greater engagement and impressions.”
Impressions are the number of times a social media post has been seen. Social media platforms use algorithms to determine which users to show certain content and not all of an organization’s followers will see each post. Impressions can be higher if you post at correct times, use graphics that attract attention, get “likes” or other reactions, or if people share an organization’s post. The reactions, comments or shares are especially important because it amplifies the impressions – getting the message out even to people who don’t directly follow the organization.
NCTCOG experienced a 25 percent higher engagement rate when social media used:
NCTCOG used these strategies for AirCheckTexas, a program that assists low- and moderate-income individuals repair or replace vehicles that don’t pass a state emissions inspection. Program interest and shares have increased significantly in the program since it started advertising on Facebook. The Facebook advertising uses visually appealing graphics and a call to action with the message “ACT NOW!” Geotargeting, which is tailoring an ad based on demographics and key words, has helped to “zero in” on individuals who are more likely to qualify for the program versus advertising that is not targeted. An additional way the reach of these ads has been expanded is when people “tag” their friends who may not have seen the advertisement. This type of word-of-mouth marketing can increase the effectiveness of paid advertising.
NCTCOG also invested in paid advertising on Facebook that linked to a transportation planning survey (Mobility 2045). The paid ads targeted EJ communities, specifically African-Americans and Latinos, including ads produced in Spanish that targeted persons of Hispanic origin. In addition to expanding the reach of the survey in hopes of getting a higher number of completions, the paid advertising allowed NCTCOG to gather analytic data that showed which type of advertising was most effective. NCTCOG tested two types of ads, one using general professional language, and the other using more colloquial informal language.
The highest survey response rate came from those developed using general professional language and targeted to a general population. However, ads in Spanish targeted to the Hispanic community also had a higher response rate. For those that responded to the survey in Spanish, 90 percent were directed from Facebook advertising, showing that the advertising did help push a higher response. This was the first time social media advertising was used to specifically promote an MTP survey, but it will likely be used again in the future.
Peer Exchange Discussions
In a peer exchange discussion between Minnesota, Ohio, and Massachusetts a Transportation Planning Capacity Building (TPCB) Peer Program report highlighted the use of social media and public outreach. During the discussion representatives from state DOTs provided specific examples of public involvement strategies for their respective states. Strategies to maximize public participation included public meetings as well a full use of social media tools and efforts. Ohio Department of Transportation, Office of Environmental Services Administrator, Timothy Hill adds, “In Ohio’s project example, social media was (and continues to be) a vital tool in reaching Ohio’s public. Long gone are the days where a state DOT would post an advertisement in the paper for a meeting and people would come. Today’s world requires a full use of the social media palate and state DOTs should be flexible and know when (and how) to apply to best tools for their specific project’s needs.”
Resources including a recorded tutorial are now available for implementation of a recent National Cooperative Highway Research Program study on environmental management systems. The study provides an analysis of how transportation agencies currently are using Environmental Management Systems, along with a related benchmarking tool for DOTs, have been developed under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. The project (NCHRP 25-25 (111)) is intended to improve understanding and awareness of EMS and facilitate assessment of EMSs at state DOTs. A spreadsheet-based EMS “information array” provides links to literature sources, DOT examples, and survey data, as well as a prototype benchmarking tool for gap identification at the agency level. A “scrolling” version of the EMS tool also can be used to benchmark individual state programs against survey data from other DOTs. For more information, link to the final report; the Information Array; recorded tutorial and presentation slides. (3-7-19)
An analysis of how transportation agencies currently are using Environmental Management Systems, along with a related benchmarking tool for DOTs, have been developed under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. The project (NCHRP 25-25 (111)) is intended to improve understanding and awareness of EMS and facilitate assessment of EMSs at state DOTs. A spreadsheet-based EMS “information array” provides links to literature sources, DOT examples, and survey data, as well as a prototype benchmarking tool for gap identification at the agency level. A “scrolling” version of the EMS tool also can be used to benchmark individual state programs against survey data from other DOTs. For more information, link to the study. (1-4-19)
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:
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)
The Federal Transit Administration has posted two final reporting guidebooks to assist grantees in fulfilling new performance measure data and reporting requirements under the transportation asset management final rule. The Performance Restriction (Slow Zone) Calculation guidebook specifies the data needed to report the length of rail fixed guideway under performance restrictions when the maximum speed of transit vehicles is below the guideway’s full service speed. Procedures for calculating restrictions such as listing segments and calculating the restriction length by month is also provided. The Condition Assessment Calculation guidebook addresses the steps to reporting the condition of all facilities that agencies have a direct or share capital responsibility using a single numeric value. The guide highlights condition assessment procedures and aggregate approaches to condition rating. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-24-17)
The operation, maintenance and improvement of transportation assets is addressed in two new reports released by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The reports address FHWA’s Asset Management Rule that requires state departments of transportation to implement risk-based management plans and determine the benefits and costs over the life cycle of transportation assets. The first report, Incorporating Risk Management Into Transportation Asset Management Plans, specifies how to evaluate and prioritize risks and addresses risks associated with operations and environmental conditions. The second report, Using A Life Cycle Planning Process To Support Asset Management, provides a five step life cycle planning process and includes planning scenarios and how to use the results to improve financial planning. For more information, link to the risk and life cycle reports. (June 2017)
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is hosting a series of workshops concerning transportation performance management. The workshops will assist in application of technical requirements under the asset management, PM2 and PM3 final rules that implement the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act’s (MAP-21) new performance management framework. FHWA staff, state departments of transportation and municipal planning organizations will be able to adopt management systems for target setting, communication, life cycle planning and financial planning. The workshops will also demonstrate the incorporation of risk management into asset management plans and address progress and penalty requirements and how they will be determined. The first workshop is scheduled for June 20-23, in Kansas City, Mo. For more information, link to the announcement. (6-15-17)
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)
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)
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:
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.
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)
State departments of transportation could provide more efficient project delivery with regard to Section 106 compliance if each state could develop and implement a single, statewide cultural resources geographic information system in a centralized location, according to a report issued under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP 25-25/Task 90). The study examined the costs and benefits of having, using and maintaining a cultural resources GIS and its effects on transportation planning, project delivery, and compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act as well as Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act. The study found that DOTs support the creation of a single, statewide cultural resources GIS. For more information, link to Application of Geographic Information Systems for Historic Properties. (11-12-15)
The Federal Highway Administration has released a new version of the National Highway Planning Network (NHPN), a geospatial network database showing nearly half a million miles of highways throughout the U.S. The NHPN provides geospatially referenced information for National Highway System roads that are classified as principal arterial and rural minor arterial. It can also be used for modeling freight flows. For more information and a link to download the NHPH, link to http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/processes/tools/nhpn/index.cfm. (3-13-15)
An online project planning application developed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is expected to speed up project delivery while improving stakeholder engagement and environmental outcomes.
The MassDOT Project Intake Tool (MaPIT) streamlines project initiation and approval while also screening against multiple databases to flag any potential permitting logjams.
MaPIT uses a map-based interface and accesses the agency’s various transportation asset, environmental, and safety datasets to make the path from project initiation to environmental permitting, project priority scoring, and project delivery more seamless and efficient.
The process of meeting with proponents, initiating the project, and having these projects approved “has absolutely been faster,” said Michael Bolduc, Transportation Planner and GIS Specialist at MassDOT. “We’ve had a lot of really positive feedback,” he said.
Screening Against Multiple Databases
MaPIT streamlines project delivery by integrating several processes. At MassDOT, a transportation project intended for the Transportation Improvement Plan begins with two forms. The Project Need Form describes existing conditions and why a project is needed, and the Project Initiation Form describes what is being proposed and the scope of the project. Projects can be initiated either internally by MassDOT or externally by a city, town, or other local authority, according to Bolduc.
The MaPIT tool merges these two separate processes into a single online application. At the same time, as the project need is being developed, the tool screens against multiple geographic information system (GIS) layers, including:
Also, mapping is handled earlier in the project cycle, which creates a better workflow for the agency’s digital mapping staff, according to Kevin Lopes, Manager of GIS Services at MassDOT.
MassDOT District Project Development teams are notified by MaPIT when a project is ready to be reviewed for approval. Upon approval, the tool pushes all the information acquired during initiation process directly into MassDOT’s project management database and system of record—known as ProjectInfo—and the project is assigned a number. Efficiencies are realized because MaPIT populates the project database with relevant data “in one fell swoop,” Bolduc said.
MaPIT is part of MassDOT’s suite of tools called geoPASS—the Geospatial Planning, Analysis, and Screening Suite—that includes interactive descriptions of planned capital investments and maps of current approved MassDOT Projects.
Tool to Do More
The tool originally was conceived as an environmental screening tool but the development team soon recognized its potential to be much more. MassDOT applied for funding under Round 2 of the SHRP2 Implementation Assistance Program’s expediting project delivery focus area. SHRP2 funding was critical for getting the tool launched, said Tim Dexter, with MassDOT’s Environmental Services Section and a key member of the team developing the concept. “We had this grand idea with really no way to actually move it forward” if it weren’t for SHRP2, he said.
As the project scope expanded, the team looked at making the project initiation, mapping, and scoping process more efficient. Under the state’s system, the GIS staff would begin mapping only after projects were planned, approved, and entered into the ProjectInfo database. This required them to retrieve projects from the database and “individually draw each project, which is fairly labor intensive,” Dexter said. The MaPIT tool streamlines that process, automatically providing the project limits in a GIS format. It also can be used to create maps of project locations for public notice and engagement.
When initiating a project with MaPIT, the user draws the project boundaries on a map and then the tool automatically checks against all of MassDOT’s relevant GIS layers. “The hope is to not only help you through the application processes but also to screen against any potential problems” early in the process, Bolduc said. When considering land use, habitat, and wetland concerns, for instance, MaPIT will help planners identify any potential permitting issue and avoid problems later on, he said.
The tool also is expected to improved environmental outcomes. For projects initiated before MaPIT was launched, the Environmental Services Section typically got involved after a project was about 25 percent designed, Dexter said. Staff would begin design reviews and the permitting process, but the scope of work would already have been set. If at that point MassDOT staff or one of the state or federal regulatory agencies had significant concerns about the design, then “we’re going backwards in the whole design process,” he said.
With MaPIT, staff are now able to ask informed questions when the project is planned, scoping the project accordingly to address those concerns. “The ultimate goal from the environmental perspective is to ask the right questions when you plan a project, before you scope it and design it,” Dexter said.
MaPIT was introduced around the beginning of December 2017 to cities, towns, and other local authorities. According to Bolduc, there are many more pieces that MassDOT wants to add to MaPIT to make it even more useful. For instance, the tool currently identifies environmental justice and Title VI populations, but more could be done. According to Bolduc, there are plans to incorporate information from one of the interactive maps called the Engage Tool, which uses census data to help identify historically underserved populations.
Also, as MassDOT develops risk and vulnerability information for its transportation assets, all of the vulnerability data will be incorporated into MaPIT. Just as a project can be screened for critical habitat or crash clusters, “we’ll be able to screen for what assets may be vulnerable to severe storms, whether it’s a coastal storm or an inland storm,” Dexter said. “This is how we’re going to integrate climate change adaptation and planning into our project development process,” he said.
So far, MassDOT, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and several municipal proponents and design consultants have entered several batches of projects into MaPIT. MassDOT will have a better understanding of the benefits with regard to multi-year projects as more projects are initiated, said Bolduc.
Challenges and Lessons Learned
The project was undertaken in partnership with ESRI, the GIS company. ESRI dedicated staff to the project, helping keep the project on schedule as the team worked through requirements changes and data mappings. However, ESR went through some staffing changes mid-way through, which required MassDOT to spend time getting the replacement up to speed on the project, Lopes said.
Also, the tool requires the use of the Massachusetts government’s XML Gateway, which is managed by the state’s IT office, according to Lopes. The IT office provided MassDOT with resources to develop the project, but the development environment was not very stable and it had negative impacts on tool testing and staff training, Lopes said. However, it was a good learning experience for MassDOT.
Transferability and Advice
MaPIT could be a model for other state DOTs without too much concern about their GIS platform, Lopes said. If another state “had minimal GIS licensing, they could still get the same functionality out of it,” Lopes said. “It’s all about the data.” According to Lopes, Rhode Island is looking into doing something similar.
Also, other states that consider developing a tool should make sure the project is fully scoped before budgeting. Changes in the scope of the MaPIT development project meant that MassDOT’s budget for the effort was insufficient.
More realistic budget estimates could be developed by spending more time upfront analyzing the effort and complexities involved with working with third parties, such as ESRI and the state’s IT office.
Additionally, MassDOT suggests working closely with partners to ensure the availability of needed resources.
A video about the tool may be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fM1qDgt2GiI.
For more information contact Michael Bolduc, Transportation Planner and GIS Specialist at Michael.Bolduc@state.ma.us; Kevin Lopes, Manager of GIS Services at Kevin.Lopes@state.ma.us; or Tim Dexter, Environmental Services Section at Timothy.Dexter@state.ma.us.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
A Government Accountability Office report says that effective consultation between federal agencies and tribal governments regarding infrastructure projects affecting tribal natural and cultural resources could be improved. The GAO report identifies a variety of areas in which effective consultation is hindered. These include difficulties initiating consultation; disagreement on what level of tribal participation is satisfactory and whether tribes have sufficient resources to participate; the knowledge and capacity of agency officials and staff concerning tribal consultation; agencies’ respect for and knowledge of Indian law; and agencies’ practices for engaging with tribes and consulting with other federal agencies. The report offers recommendations including developing a government-wide system to identify and notify tribes of consultations. For more information, link to the report. (4-19-19)
Practices that state transportation agencies have used to mitigate the long-term effects of noise on historic properties are the focus of a new report issued under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. NCHRP Project 25-25, Task 106, Highway Noise & Historic Properties: A National Review of Effects & Mitigation Practices, provides six case studies as examples of the current state of practice where project officials have resolved instances of adverse effects from increased traffic noise. The practices, ranging from conventional noise walls to sound-reducing landscaping, have involved extensive collaboration and consideration of the project context. For more information, link to the report. (3-7-19)
The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) offers various training courses on Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, both live, in-classroom training and on-demand e-learning courses. The ACHP has announced its 2019 schedule of classroom training in various locations nationwide, including classes on Section 106 essentials, Section 106 agreements seminars, and workshops for practitioners. The online courses include an introduction to Section 106, successfully navigating section 106 reviews, and coordinating Section 106 with the National Environmental Policy Act. For more information, link to the classroom and e-learning courses. (11-13-18)
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has released the 31st annual list of 11 endangered historic places in the U.S., to highlight places of historic value that are facing deferred maintenance, inappropriate development proposals, or devastation from natural disasters. The list includes the Ashley River Historic District in South Carolina, Larimer Square in Colorado, and Ship on the Desert in Texas. The list also includes a 12th site in Vermont that is on “watch status,” meaning that a specific threat appears to be growing, but could be avoided through collaboration. For more information, link to the announcement, and full list. (6-26-18)
The National Park Service (NPS) has announced the availability of more than $50 million to support maintenance and infrastructure projects at 42 parks in 29 states. The funding will be used to improve trails, roads and bridges, restore buildings, and increase visitor access to parks. The $20 million in federal funding will be added to funding from many non-federal partners. Projects will include addressing deferred maintenance on the Alluvial Fan Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, and the development of a multi-use trail to connect the visitor center at the Gettysburg National Military Park to a historic farm. Funding also will be used for maintaining and improving trails, retaining walls and overlooks at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in Yellowstone National Park. For more information, link to the announcement. (7-24-17)
A report documenting the historic context for rail transit projects in the U.S. has been issued by the Federal Transit Administration. The analysis will be used by the FTA in support of an exemption from historic preservation reviews for railroad rights-of-way used for transit. The exemption would relieve federal agencies from requirements to review of the effect of undertakings on railroad rights-of-way under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The nation’s most historically significant resources would be excluded from the exemption. The exemption is required under by Section 11504 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act). For more information, link to the Historic Context Report. (6-15-17)
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)
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)
A report and set of case studies showcasing transportation agency programs that consider historic preservation in planning and early project development have been issued by the Federal Highway Administration. The report documents 17 case studies organized by program type, including Section 106 programmatic agreements, historic property databases for State DOT rights-of-way, statewide management of historic bridges, and staff liaison programs with State Historic Preservation Offices. The report, which also provides analysis on the effectiveness and benefits of the programs, was prepared in support of FHWA’s Every Day Counts Initiative.
The report contains the following case studies:
For more information, link to the report, Planning And Environmental Linkages For Historic Preservation, and to FHWA’s Planning and Environment Linkages Historic Preservation webpage.
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:
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.
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.
“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.
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:
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.”
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.”
The Florida Department of Transportation was able to preserve the historically significant architectural features of the Bridge of Lions, the gateway to historic St. Augustine. Accomplished by constructing a “bridge within a bridge,” the improvement project was able to retain key elements of the original bridge while addressing the bridge’s structural problems.
The Bridge of Lions crosses Matanzas Bay (part of the Intracoastal Waterway) and connects the city of St. Augustine with the resort communities of Anastasia Island, St. Johns County, Florida. It is located in an urban setting, with its western approach in the historic district of St. Augustine. Designed by John E. Greiner and constructed in 1927, the bridge has a total length of 1,545 feet. The main span is a 95 foot double-leaf rolling lift bascule. Approach spans are steel arched girder-floor beam spans with cantilevered overhanging sections.
This architectonic bridge is a significant feature of the historic streetscape of St. Augustine and is a gateway to the old city. The bridge was rehabilitated in order to retain its historically significant architectural features, while solving the bridge’s structural problems. This was accomplished by constructing a “bridge within a bridge.” Enough of the old bridge was retained to classify the project as a rehabilitation and not new construction. New construction would have required use of all modern design criteria.
Prior to rehabilitation, the bridge was in fair to poor condition, particularly in terms of the fracture critical girder-floor beam approach spans and the substructure units. At many locations, crutch bents had been previously installed in order to provide additional support.
As part of the rehabilitation, the bridge’s two fascia girders were retained for visual appearance, while new steel stringers were installed inside the girders. The fascia girders, which were removed, repaired, and then reset in place, were relieved of most of the loads and the new stringers now carry the majority of the dead load and the traffic loads. The stringers are hidden from view and will not distract from the architecturally significant arched girders. In addition, the approach spans were widened in order to improve the roadway geometry.
The bascule piers and associated towers were left in place and repaired. This included replacing the existing concrete piers within the splash zone with new concrete, as the existing concrete contained high levels of chlorides. The bascule piers were strengthened by the addition of drilled shafts, and a new footing was placed below the existing waterline footing in order to provide sufficient strength for a modern design scour event.
Several features original to the bridge, but previously removed or replaced, were replicated. These included the pedestrian railing (with the height increased to meet modern standards), light standards, and rotating traffic gates. The bridge steel was painted to match the original bridge color.
The original bridge was recognized as important for its high artistic merit, rather than its technological significance. This made it possible to focus the rehabilitation on its historic character and appearance. This resulted in Florida DOT making a finding of No Adverse Effect. The Florida State Historic Preservation Officer concurred with this finding.
By retaining a sufficient amount of the existing bridge, this project was considered a rehabilitation. New construction would have required use of all modern design criteria, such as widening the navigable channel from the existing 84 foot to the 125 foot width now required for the Intracoastal Waterway.
To maintain the bridge’s historic character, it was extremely important to retain the design of the piers and the arch-shaped fascia beams, in addition to the cantilevered end sections of the girder-floor beam approach spans. The fascia girders were reused on the slightly wider stringer approach spans, supported on substructure units that were rebuilt in-kind to the new geometry. The reused fascia girders support themselves and part of the bridge’s sidewalks.
For more information on the project, contact Roy A. Jackson, State Cultural Resources Coordinator, Florida Department of Transportation, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional 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. Link to Case Studies on Rehabilitation of Historic Bridges.
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.
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.
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.
The Federal Highway Administration has issued instructions for reviewing travel and land use forecasting elements in documents prepared under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The instructions provide an overview of why forecasting is important and the relationship between forecasting and the various stages of the NEPA process. The instructions also include concerns, risks, and key points regarding forecasting and the project scoping, purpose and need, the range of alternatives, and effects analyses. In addition, the instructions discuss procedures for handling changes during the NEPA process and how to reevaluate a NEPA decision prior to the next FHWA major approval. The instructions include examples and considerations for FHWA reviewers. The instructions supplement the 2010 Interim Guidance on the Application of Travel and Land Use Forecasting in NEPA and were released along with a frequently asked questions document. For more information, link to the instructions. (2-21-18)
The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), with cooperation from the Federal Highway Administration, has released the results of research into identifying a “consistent, legally defensible, and efficient process of assessing the indirect land use and environmental effects” of MTD projects. The research includes as an appendix an Indirect Effects Desk Reference, which defines key terms, outlines regulations, and describes a screening process for determining if additional analysis is required. For more information, link to Assessing the Extent and Determinates of Induced Growth. (7-1-13)
The Florida Department of Transportation has published a handbook with guidance on conducting cumulative effects evaluation (CEE) under the National Environmental Policy Act for FDOT projects that need federal funding, a federal permit, or involve a federal facility. The handbook covers when to evaluate for cumulative effects, describes FDOT’s 10-step CEE process, and addresses evaluations initiated in an area-wide planning study. FDOT also released a CEE Quick Guide summarizing its CEE process. For more information, link to the FDOT Cumulative Effects Evaluation Handbook. (2-11-13)
The Florida Department of Transportation has developed comprehensive guidance on determining the potential cumulative effects of transportation projects on sensitive resources in the state.
The Cumulative Effects Evaluation Handbook is intended to provide a standard process that is efficient, legally sound, and flexible while ensuring that potential impacts on resources are fully considered and documented in the environmental review process, according to Marjorie Bixby, manager of the Environmental Management Office at FDOT.
The handbook, published in December 2012, outlines when cumulative effects evaluations are needed and provides a 10-step process to guide practitioners. The goals of the process were to provide legally sufficient evaluations; enable project time and cost savings through an efficient, standardized approach; reduce sources of disagreement over methodologies; identify potentially controversial projects early in project development; and reduce costs by using area-wide evaluations for multiple projects.
Bixby, along with FDOT Natural & Community Resources Administrator Xavier Pagan, said that development of the handbook has provided needed consistency in a process that had often been complex, confusing, and time consuming. The handbook was developed with input from state and federal transportation agencies, resource agencies, and other stakeholders such as planning organizations.
Under the National Environmental Policy Act, environmental impacts must be considered for federal actions – such as federally funded or permitted highway projects. Such impacts include direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of the action. Quoting regulatory definitions, the handbook says direct effects “are caused by the action and occur at the same time and place” and indirect effects “are caused by the action and are later in time or farther removed in distance, but are still reasonably foreseeable.”
“Cumulative impact is the impact on the environment which results from the incremental impact of the action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions regardless of what agency (Federal or non-Federal) or person undertakes such other actions.”
While transportation agencies generally have had success analyzing direct and indirect effects for their projects, cumulative effects analyses have been more problematic – resulting in an increasing number of successful legal challenges in recent years.
The FDOT Cumulative Effects Evaluation Handbook addresses effects on resources such as the endangered Florida Panther. Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
The handbook describes how cumulative effects evaluation differs based on the project’s class of action under NEPA – categorical exclusion, environmental assessment, or environmental impact statement. It also provides guidance on types of projects for which a cumulative effects evaluation might be appropriate. These include: new facilities or those requiring substantial right-of-way; projects with direct or indirect impacts on environmental resources, particularly resources that are declining or that have protected status; projects that increase access to areas suitable for development; and projects where other planned actions may impact resources affected by the project.
When further analysis is needed to address concerns about cumulative effects, a cumulative effects analysis should be conducted, focused on specific resources of concern. The handbook outlines the following 10 steps:
According to the document, “It is important that all of the identified analytical elements be included in the cumulative effects evaluation. However, the steps may be modified to meet the needs of the project. The level of assessment and documentation depends on the nature of the project, the severity of impacts, and the potential for controversy.”
While the 10-step process is aimed at the project development phase for individual projects, the guide also allows for initiating the process in area-wide planning. Following this approach, the first six steps would begin during area-wide planning without focusing on any specific project, allowing the resource-based analysis to be used on any project proposed in the area.
Developing the Process
FDOT officials noted that the process was developed starting in 2006, following release of guidance from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program and AASHTO on indirect and cumulative effects.
Previously, each FDOT evaluation was done slightly differently, on a case-by-case basis. But Pagan said as more projects came online, the agency realized this approach was not workable. FDOT decided it needed a simpler and more consistent process. “We realized we can’t have it be case by case; we’re too big of a state, with too many projects and too many NEPA studies not to have a standard process,” he said.
A task group was assigned to develop the cumulative effects evaluation process, including representatives from 11 state and federal agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, FDOT districts and Turnpike Enterprise, legal counsel, and consultants. The process also needed to fit with FDOT’s Efficient Transportation Decision Making (ETDM) process, the state’s comprehensive approach for considering potential environmental effects during transportation planning. The process was developed over several years under former FDOT employee George Ballo and a team composed of the Central Environmental Management Office staff and consultants.
The cumulative effects evaluation process was based on research of effective practices used by state DOTs, input from stakeholders, as well as case law to help determine a sound process for such evaluations.
Pagan said having the cumulative effects evaluation process documented in a handbook is an effective way to ensure consistent application for FDOT. Since publication of the handbook, about 7 environmental impact statements have been prepared using the process, and the document has been well received by transportation practitioners and resource agencies alike, he added.
The FDOT process could be replicated by other state DOTs, he said, noting that the handbook was based in part on successful procedures developed by transportation agencies in California and Texas. Pagan and Bixby both said a key issue in developing the process was defining terms such as direct effects, indirect effects (previously known as secondary effects), and cumulative impacts. “Stakeholders needed to understand that those terms represent different things and how those things apply to transportation project delivery,” Bixby said.
Initially, FDOT had called its process the “indirect and cumulative effects process,” Pagan said. “One of the things that became obvious was that we needed to separate them.” Some stakeholders did not realize that you cannot have a cumulative impact if there are no direct or indirect impacts, he added.
Pagan also noted that agencies conducting cumulative effects analyses should use caution in identifying resources of concern. “If you’re going to identify resources of concern early, don’t make effects determinations during planning that can tie you down or cause issues when it’s not really appropriate to do so that early,” he said. “If you’re going to do it really early, be careful how you do it.”
In addition, Bixby advised being “open and communicative with the relevant agencies and stakeholders – and keep the agency with jurisdiction over the resource informed.” Because these groups helped FDOT develop its process, the handbook encourages things like looking at long-range plans, talking to metropolitan planning organizations, and talking to counties about their development plans. “It’s important to get the right players involved,” Pagan added.
“Ultimately we see that it’s very important to have a standardized process that in itself is flexible enough to apply to all sorts of situations, depending on the nature of the project and the nature of the resources in the project area,” Bixby said. The 10-step process can be applied to a variety of situations and adjusted as needed. At the same time, it documents that FDOT has carefully conducted a thorough cumulative effects determination, she added.
For more information, link to the Cumulative Effects Evaluation Handbook and the accompanying Cumulative Effects Evaluation Quick Guide; or contact Marjorie Bixby, Manager, FDOT Central Environmental Management Office, at Marjorie.Bixby@dot.state.fl.us.
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:
Using this initial screening process, the vast majority of MDT's projects will not require detailed analysis.
The Desk Reference provides a framework with the following steps for conducting a detailed analysis, where needed:
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 email@example.com.
Challenges associated with assessing the indirect and cumulative effects of transportation projects across Texas have been eased by a revised and simplified set of handbooks and guidance documents developed by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
TxDOT faces a distinctive challenge when assessing the indirect and cumulative effects of its projects across the state: the state lacks a statewide land use management policy and manages its lands at the local level. The lack of a statewide approach to land use creates varying conditions across the state that make a strictly defined indirect and cumulative effects process unfeasible—the same project could have drastically different indirect and/or cumulative effects under contrasting land use conditions created by the various land use policies of different cities.
For example, where one city may employ strict zoning laws, other cities may frequently and broadly grant variances; an interchange project that may reasonably be assumed to have a ½-mile radius Area of Influence (AOI) in the first city may require an AOI with a radius of several miles in the second city because the second city’s less strict zoning creates the possibility of a geographically much larger AOI.
The varying land use climates across the state and extensive use of frontage roads parallel to limited access facilities create an interesting challenge for Texas: how to create guidance that balances streamlining the indirect and cumulative effect analyses with the unique conditions presented by different local approaches to land use regulations.
|TxDOT's indirect and cumulative impacts guidance helps streamline implementation of projects such as the FM 2493 Road Widening EA Project in Smith County, Texas. Photo: Texas Department of Transportation|
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)’s guidelines for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementation (40 CFR §§1500-1508) established the requirement for federal agencies to consider direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts in the NEPA process. Subsequent guidance and resources provide further direction on considering indirect and cumulative effects under NEPA (e.g., AASHTO Handbook 12, NCHRP Report 466, FHWA Interim Guidance and Q & A, and NCHRP Project 25-25, Task 43).
TxDOT developed its own cumulative impacts guidance in the early 2000s, which was met with positive feedback from around the state and other DOTs. Soon after, the agency began developing a guidance that incorporated both indirect and cumulative impacts. Following the suggestion of FHWA Texas Division, the more comprehensive guidance document pulled from a variety of sources like the NCHRP Report 466—the Transportation Research Board’s Desk Reference for Estimating the Indirect Effects of Proposed Transportation Projects—to provide TxDOT project teams with a step-by-step process. Initially implemented in 2009, minor updates to the guidance document in 2010 added keys for success and how to approach small projects through added-capacity Categorical Exclusions.
Implementing the 132-page guidance document proved both successful and challenging. The guide acts as a detailed “how-to” resource of indirect and cumulative impact analysis methods. TxDOT learned, however, that document users found its size cumbersome and struggled with the unfamiliar technical terms (e.g., notable feature, impact-causing). In response, TxDOT split the guidance into two separate guidance documents—one for indirect effects and one for cumulative effects—and simplified them by consolidating the number of steps, removing technical jargon, and splitting out easily convoluted concepts, such as growth-related effects and encroachment effects. TxDOT also added an Indirect and Cumulative Impacts Handbook to provide a high level overview of the steps to conduct a thorough and defensible analyses of indirect and/or cumulative impacts that may occur as a result of a transportation project.
Nicolle Kord, TxDOT’s indirect and cumulative impacts expert, said the agency has “attempted to structure our guidance to be more accessible to a wider audience; in particular for those new to indirect and cumulative impact analysis.” For example, she said, TxDOT “attempted to make these complex ideas easier to understand by breaking them up into their individual parts (indirect encroachment impacts, indirect induced growth impacts, and cumulative impacts) as well as by removing jargon and putting guidance in plain language.”
Key Features of the Guidance Documents
The following table illustrates several key features of TxDOT’s indirect and cumulative effects guidance documents that contribute to their efficacy.
From its original cumulative effects guidance through its most recent guidance updates, TxDOT emphasized the following lessons that may be transferable to other state DOTs:
For more information on TxDOT’s approach to Indirect and Cumulative Effects, contact Nicolle Kord, Environmental Specialist, Texas DOT at Nicolle.Kord@txdot.gov.
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)
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)
The federal Pollinator Health Task Force has released a Pollinator Partnership Action Plan to support President Obama’s memorandum focused on honey bee mortality rates, monarch butterfly declines and other pollinator species that are leaning toward extinction. The plan provides examples of successful collaborations between the federal government and other institutions, including transportation agencies, and highlights areas that are ripe for future collaboration. For more information, link to the action plan. (6-23-16)
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:
“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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Case studies and best practices from state DOTs are available on FHWA's Pollinator website by clicking on FHWA Pollinator Publications and State DOT Pollinator-Friendly Practices and Information. The case studies focus on practices in Indiana, Texas, and Washington. State DOT practices include:
Programmatic agreements with the Federal Highway Administration concerning categorical exclusions are a good first step toward more streamlined environmental reviews, according to a report issued under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program Project 25-25. The study found that many state departments of transportation have entered into agreements that create a framework for decision making about actions that qualify for categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act. Examples of programmatic agreements for categorical exclusions used by the DOTs in Arizona, Connecticut, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, were reviewed. The report includes lessons learned, the text of the nine PAs, and a model agreement created by the FHWA. For more information, link to the report. (3-16-19)
The White House Council on Environmental Quality has released several new documents concerning procedures under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that address categorical exclusions (CEs) as well as new information on environmental impact statement (EIS) timelines. The CEQ published a comprehensive list of all federal agency categorical exclusions currently in effect as a way to identify how similar classes of actions are treated in the CEs established by various agencies. Separately, the CEQ reviewed 1,161 EISs for which a notice of availability of a final EIS was published between 2010 and 2017, and a record of decision was issued by June 7, 2018. The CEQ found that of the 1,161 EISs reviewed, half took longer than three years and seven months to complete; one quarter took more than six years to complete; and one quarter took less than two years and two months to complete. Timeframes from notice of intent to draft EIS stage averaged two years and seven months, from draft EIS to final EIS averaged one year and 5 months, and from final EIS to ROD averaged five months. For more information, link to the categorical exclusions compilation and the EIS timelines information. (12-14-18)
The Federal Highway Administration has developed a reference tool that compiles public involvement-related resources from state transportation agencies. The tool provides information and links to resources from each state transportation department including state long range transportation plans and statewide public involvement plans. The tool also provides links to resources on public involvement under the National Environmental Policy Act, plans for involving those with limited English proficiency, Title VI plans, environmental justice policy statements, and Native American tribal consultation resources. For more information, link to the tool. (5-22-18)
The Federal Highway Administration has announced draft audit reports for Florida and Ohio under the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program. The program allows state departments of transportation to assume environmental review responsibilities for federally funded highway projects in the state. One report is the first audit report for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) under a Dec. 14, 2016, memorandum of understanding (MOU). The other is the second annual audit for the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) under an Oct. 15, 2015, MOU. The reports document successful practices related to program management, quality assurance/quality control, legal sufficiency, training, and performance measures. The FDOT report has one finding of noncompliance related to insufficient documentation in project files, and the ODOT report has findings of noncompliance related to required nondisclosure language as well as project-level issues related to public involvement, environmental justice, environmental commitments, and fiscal constraint. For more information, link to the FDOT notice and the ODOT notice. (4-18-18)
The Federal Highway Administration has issued instructions for reviewing travel and land use forecasting elements in documents prepared under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The instructions provide an overview of why forecasting is important and the relationship between forecasting and the various stages of the NEPA process. The instructions also include concerns, risks, and key points regarding forecasting and the project scoping, purpose and need, the range of alternatives, and effects analyses. In addition, the instructions discuss procedures for handling changes during the NEPA process and how to reevaluate a NEPA decision prior to the next FHWA major approval. The instructions include examples and considerations for FHWA reviewers. The instructions supplement the 2010 Interim Guidance on the Application of Travel and Land Use Forecasting in NEPA and were released along with a frequently asked questions document. For more information, link to the instructions. (2-21-18)
A report assessing the use of project streamlining provisions under the National Environmental Policy Act and whether they have accelerated project delivery has been issued by the Government Accountability Office. The report found that, of provisions that mainly created new categorical exclusions, 10 out of 17 of these provisions were used by 30 or more state DOTs and generally sped up projects. The report also found that, of the six states assigned NEPA authority for highway projects, California reported that it has reduced environmental impact statement review time from 16 years to 6 years. However, both California and Texas have faced challenges in establishing baselines, such as how many and which projects to include, and the other four states had not reported results. Additionally, the report found a need for developing evaluation methodologies, including baseline time frames and timeliness measures. For more information, link to the report. (1-30-18)
The Transportation Research Board has announced a webinar to discuss ways to navigate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The webinar will address how to expedite projects through the NEPA process and whether a project will end up in a lawsuit. The webinar also will address whether a NEPA document will hold up in court and include presentations on what contributes to a project’s inability to obtain expedited NEPA decisions. The webinar is scheduled for Oct. 31, 2017. For more information and to register, link to the announcement.
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:
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.
The Federal Highway Administration has posted an updated version of the Roadway Noise Construction Model. The RCNM version 2.0 is an improved model for predicting construction noise and the effects of noise reduction efforts. The model will calculate the acoustic environment associated with highway construction equipment and activities. It is not required to be used on Federal-aid projects. The model was developed through the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP 25-49). For more information, link to the NCHRP report and the model. (4-8-19)
Practices that state transportation agencies have used to mitigate the long-term effects of noise on historic properties are the focus of a new report issued under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. NCHRP Project 25-25, Task 106, Highway Noise & Historic Properties: A National Review of Effects & Mitigation Practices, provides six case studies as examples of the current state of practice where project officials have resolved instances of adverse effects from increased traffic noise. The practices, ranging from conventional noise walls to sound-reducing landscaping, have involved extensive collaboration and consideration of the project context. For more information, link to the report. (3-7-19)
A summary of the 2018 AASHTO Noise Practitioners Summit is now available on the Center for Environmental Excellence by AASHTO Website. This event brought together noise practitioners from states throughout the country, as well as staff from AASHTO and FHWA, to discuss emerging topics of interest in the field and define a roadmap for the future of noise programs and research. The summary and presentations from the summit are available here. (1-11-19)
The Federal Transit Administration has issued an update to its Transit Noise and Vibration Assessment Manual. The document clarifies existing policy and provides updates to outdated references. Topics include procedures for predicting and assessing noise and vibration impacts of proposed transit projects for different stages of project development and different levels of analysis. The manual also describes noise and vibration mitigation measures, construction noise and vibration, and how to present such analyses in FTA environmental documents. For more information, link to the manual. (9-19-18)
Materials from AASHTO’s 2018 Noise Practitioners Summit are now available on the Center for Environmental Excellence by AASHTO website. The event brought together noise practitioners from state transportation agencies, as well as staff from AASHTO and the Federal Highway Administration, to discuss emerging topics of interest in the field and define a roadmap for the future of noise programs and research. Topics included noise analyses, after impact and abatement analysis, process and efficiency, mitigation, and issues outside of the noise regulations. For more information, link to the summit web page. (8-22-18)
Best practices for measuring and understanding how weather affects highway noise are included in a new report issued under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. The report, NCHRP Research Report 882: How Weather Affects the Noise You Hear from Highways, says that weather has a significant effect on highway noise because temperature and humidity affect the absorption of noise and changes in the temperature and wind gradients affect sound refraction. The effects can increase highway noise by more than 10 decibels. The research verified sound level differences due to weather and provides approaches to conceptual models that take weather into account. The research also produced a customizable brochure and interactive tool that state transportation agencies can use to explain variations in noise to the public. For more information, link to the report and outreach materials. (8-15-18)
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)
The Federal Highway Administration has updated its noise barrier inventory provided by the states for 2014-2016, and provided an associated tool to search the data. The data include state summaries and associated graphs. The search tool makes it easier to access the information, allowing users to filter information based on certain preferences. The FHWA noise regulation requires state highway agencies to maintain an inventory of constructed noise abatement measures that must include aspects such as year of construction, location, features, materials, and unit cost. For more information, link to the tool. (10-6-17)
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)
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)
A map depicting highway and aviation noise at the state and county level has been released by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The map indicates that as of 2014, more than 97 percent of the U.S. population had the potential to be exposed to transportation noise at levels below 50 decibels, roughly the noise level of a humming refrigerator. Less than one tenth of one percent of the population would potentially experience noise levels of 80 decibels or more, equivalent to the noise level of a garbage disposal. The map will be updated annually and eventually account for noise sources from rail and port facilities. The map supplements the National Transportation Atlas Database and is a tool to help prioritize noise-related transportation investments. For more information, link to the map. (3-21-17)
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Information also is available from Dr. Brian Maroney, SFOBB Project Manager and Chief Engineer, at email@example.com.
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.”
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.
“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.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to http://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/division/environmental/compliance-toolkits/traffic-noise.html.