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Active Transportation

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.

Active Transportation
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Air Quality

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.

Air Quality
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Climate Change Mitigation/Adaptation

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

Climate Change Mitigation/Adaptation
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Energy/Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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.

Energy/Greenhouse Gas Emissions
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Infrastructure Resilience

Transportation planning plays a key role in addressing potential impacts from extreme events and changing climate conditions and building resilience into the transportation system.

Infrastructure Resilience
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Context Sensitive Solutions

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.

Context Sensitive Solutions
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Environmental Justice

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and environmental justice principles apply to all U.S. DOT activities. 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.

Environmental Justice
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Environmental Management Systems

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

Environmental Management Systems
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FAST Act/MAP-21

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

FAST Act/MAP-21
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Geographic Information Systems

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.

Geographic Information Systems
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Historic Preservation/Cultural Resources

Transportation agencies must address historic preservation and cultural resource issues during the transportation project planning and development processes under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act. Early identification of resources in planning can expedite project delivery and provide opportunities for context sensitive solutions.

Historic Preservation/Cultural Resources
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Indirect Effects/Cumulative Impacts

Transportation agencies analyze indirect effects and cumulative impacts as part of the NEPA environmental review process. These analyses include consultation with stakeholders and the public, identification of important trends and issues, and analysis of the potential for land use change and related environmental impacts on valued and vulnerable resources. The long-range planning process helps identify the future system to be evaluated for cumulative impacts in the NEPA process.

Indirect Effects/Cumulative Impacts
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Invasive Species/Vegetation Management

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

Invasive Species/Vegetation Management
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NEPA Process

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.

NEPA Process
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Noise

FHWA requires consideration of mitigation for highway traffic noise in the planning and design of Federally aided highways.

Noise
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Planning & Environment Linkages

This topic covers efforts such as FHWA’s Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL), a collaborative and integrated approach to transportation decision-making that considers environmental, community, and economic goals early in the transportation planning process, and uses the products developed during planning to inform the environmental review process. Related efforts include Eco-Logical, an ecosystem-based approach to transportation planning and infrastructure development.

Planning & Environment Linkages
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Project Delivery/Streamlining

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.

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

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

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

Sustainability refers to taking into account social, environmental and economic considerations in transportation. These principles are important in all aspects of transportation, including long-range planning. The principles can then be carried through to short-range planning and program/project development.

Sustainability
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Waste Management/Recycling/Brownfields

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.

Waste Management/Recycling/Brownfields
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Water Quality/Wetlands

Protecting water quality is an ongoing environmental concern for transportation agencies, including requirements for stormwater runoff and mitigation 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.

Water Quality/Wetlands
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Wildlife & Ecosystems

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.

Wildlife & Ecosystems

 

Active Transportation

Recent Developments: New York City Tops List of Metro Areas for Bicycle Commuters

The University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies has issued a report that ranks the 50 largest (by population) metropolitan areas in the United States on how well people can travel to their jobs using a bicycle. New York tops of list of cities that provide easy or moderately easy bicycle commutes, as determined using a scale of one to four, with one being a stress-free route and four being no bike-specific infrastructure at all. The top five include San Francisco, Chicago, and Denver, with Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. splitting the fifth spot. The report presents detailed accessibility values for each metropolitan area as well as block-level maps that illustrate the spatial patterns of accessibility within each area. It also includes a map at the census tract level that shows accessibility patterns at a national scale. For more information, link to the report. (July 2019)

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Recent Developments: FTA Announces Grants for Low- or No-Emission Buses

The Federal Transit Administration has announced $84.9 million in grant funding for advanced-technology transit buses and infrastructure under the Low- or No-Emission grant program. The grants will go to 38 projects powered by technologies including fuel cells, battery electric engines, and related infrastructure investments such as charging stations. For more information and a list of projects, link to the announcement. (7-26-19)

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Recent Developments: Researchers Explore Potential for Incentivizing E-Bikes

White papers published by the Transportation Research and Education Center at Portland State University explore the potential for incentivizing electric bicycles as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The papers address the effects of e-bikes on person miles traveled and how incentives can be used to expand the market for such vehicles. Future research will focus on modeling travel behavior and sustainability impacts of e-bike use. For more information, link here. (5-23-19)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Issues Transportation Alternatives Annual Report

The Federal Highway Administration has issued its annual report on the status of transportation alternatives projects in the states. The report, which covers fiscal year 2018, indicates that approximately $781 million in funding was provided for 2,789 projects nationwide. More than three-quarters of the selected projects were pedestrian and bicycle facilities. The rest of the funding was applied to projects involving recreational trails, turnouts and vista overlooks, historic preservation, environmental mitigation and wildlife habitat connectivity, and street improvements related to Safe Routes to School. For more information, link to the report. (6-26-19)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Issues Community Connections Case Studies

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)

Related Resources: Active Transportation Case Studies, Context Sensitive Solutions Topic, Transportation and Health Peer Exchange

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Recent Developments: NACTO Issues Guide on Improving Intersections for Bikes

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)

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Recent Developments: FTA Announces $9.6 Million to Improve Transportation Access to Health Care

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)

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Recent Developments: Group Unveils Route for 3,700-Mile Trail Connecting the Nation

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)

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Recent Developments: NCHRP Issues Guide on Connecting Transportation and Health

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)

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Recent Developments: Report Reviews Transit Agency Partnerships With Ride-hailing Companies

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)

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Recent Developments: Environmental Effects of Ride-hailing, Other Travel Modes Reviewed in Report

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)

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Recent Developments: Regulation of Ride-Hailing Services Subject of New Report

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)

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Recent Developments: Study Urges Improving Corridors to Promote Healthy Communities

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)

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Recent Developments: New Benchmarking Report on Biking, Walking Issued

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.

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Recent Developments: Group Provides Explanation of Transportation Alternatives Program Funds

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)

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Recent Developments: Report Provides Survey Results on Transit, Livability Connection

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)

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Recent Developments: FTA Reports on Grant Program for Access to Health Care Solutions

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)

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Recent Developments: AASHTO to Host a Webinar on Recent Bicycle, Pedestrian Plans

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.

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Recent Developments: Health in Transportation Technical Assistance Announced

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)

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Recent Developments: Guide Issued for Growing a Safe Routes to School Program

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)

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Recent Developments: Group Issues Guide on Local Active Transportation Financing

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elements of a Road Safety Audit

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

What did they find?

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

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

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

Conducting Road Safety Audits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking Action to Improve Conditions

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

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

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

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

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

Challenges and Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Case Studies: Hawaii

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Developing the Plan

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Street Bridge Project Sets Groundwork

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

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

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

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

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

Projects Benefit from Early Outreach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Successes, Challenges, and Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PennDOT expects the initiative will lead to greater process efficiencies.

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

Next Steps: Training and Outreach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comprehensive Approach

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

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

Level 1 – Activate

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

Level 2 – Ascend

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

Level 3 – Peak

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

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

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

Consultation and Recognition

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

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

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

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

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

Collaborative Approach

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

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

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

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

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

Transferability and Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

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Case Studies: National Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange

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

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Case Studies: Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center

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

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Air Quality

Recent Developments: FHWA Publishes Ozone Nonattainment Area Maps

The Federal Highway Administration has published maps of nonattainment areas for the 2015 eight-hour ozone national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). Each map is intended to depict the boundaries of the designated area, including the boundaries of associated 2015, 2008, and 1997 eight-hour ozone nonattainment and/or maintenance areas (if any), as well as any associated MPOs. The maps are made available to help state DOTs and MPOs identify and understand the boundaries of nonattainment areas and how they intersect with other jurisdictional boundaries when complying with transportation conformity requirements of the Clean Air Act. For more information, link to the maps. (8-19-19)

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Recent Developments: Group Urges Congestion Pricing in Cities

A report from the National League of Cities encourages cities to consider congestion charging systems as a solution to build communities, calm traffic, and improve quality of life for residents. Congestion pricing is a type of road user charge system in which a flat or variable rate fee is charged to vehicles that drive in a specified area or zone within a city. The report explains how congestion charging works, reviews pilot programs, and shows the potential advantages and barriers to implementation. For more information, link to the report. (8-19-19)

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Recent Developments: EPA Announces Latest Version of Calif. Emissions Model

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced the availability of the latest version of the California Emission Factor model (EMFAC2017) for use in state implementation plan development and transportation conformity hot-spot analyses. The model is required for all new regional emission analyses that are started after Aug. 16, 2021, and for all new hot-spot analyses for carbon monoxide and particulate matter conducted on or after Aug. 17, 2020. For more information, link to the notice. (8-15-19)

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Recent Developments: Researchers Develop Simplified Tool to Calculate Emission Reductions under CMAQ

A spreadsheet-based tool to calculate emission reductions for projects under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) program has been developed under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP 25-25, Task 108). To obtain CMAQ funds, states must submit an analysis describing the air quality improvement benefits that the project or program will achieve. The research provides a method to calculate emissions reductions for 16 project types, based on minimized and simplified inputs. For more information, link to the report and related resources. (7-30-19)

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Recent Developments: EPA Outlines Achievements of Diesel Emissions Reduction Act

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a report to Congress providing an overview of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act program, from its inception in 2008 through 2016. EPA awarded $629 million to retrofit or replace 67,300 engines in vehicles, vessels, locomotives or other pieces of equipment, with $300 million of this funding coming from the American Recovery and Investment Act. EPA estimates that these projects will reduce emissions by 472,700 tons of NOx and 15,490 tons of PM-2.5 over the lifetime of the affected engines. For more information, link to the report. (7-25-19)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Posts Resources on Alternative Fuel Corridors

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

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Recent Developments: NCHRP Issues Guide on Enhanced Truck Data for Emissions Modeling

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

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Recent Developments: EPA Awards Over $13 Million for Cleaner School Buses, Diesel

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)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Newsletter Provides Air Quality, Climate Updates

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)

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Recent Developments: WRI Issues Costs and Emissions Appraisal Tool for Transit Buses

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)

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Recent Developments: Report Issued on Global Health Impacts of Transportation Pollution

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)

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Recent Developments: EPA Extends Deadline for Clean Diesel Grants

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)

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Recent Developments: CMAQ Guidance Issued on Total Emissions Reduction Measure

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)

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Recent Developments: DOE Launches Web Version of Fleet Life Cycle Tool

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)

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Recent Developments: Bike, Pedestrian Module for CMAQ Emissions Calculator Toolkit Released

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)

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Recent Developments: Diesel Idle Module for CMAQ Emissions Calculator Toolkit Released

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)

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Recent Developments: Smart Transportation Systems Can Improve Truck Environmental Impacts

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing Travel Demand: A Low-Cost Option

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Implementation

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

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

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

Incentive Program

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

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

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

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

Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Case Studies: Federal Highway Adminstration - Transportation Conformity Practices

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.

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Energy/Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Recent Developments: Report Estimates Benefits of EVs in Uber and Lyft Services

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation has issued a research report on the potential emissions benefits from increased electric vehicle use in transportation network company (TNC) fleets. The report says that drivers for TNCs such as Uber and Lyft travel more miles than average and have higher passenger occupancy. The report says that increased use of electric vehicles by TNC fleets would provide substantial emissions benefits, and that more public charging stations are needed to meet the demand created by electric vehicles in TNC fleets. Because TNCs typically don’t own the vehicles, states and local governments would need to create appropriate incentives to encourage the purchase of electric vehicles. For more information, link to the report. (8-13-19)

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Recent Developments: NOAA Issues Report on the State of the Climate in 2018

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued a new State of the Climate report that documents climate trends in 2018. The report says that data show that 2018 ranks as the fourth warmest year since recordkeeping began over 150 years ago. The report also says that global sea level was highest on record, and the global average sea level rose to a new record high for the seventh consecutive year. Additionally, the report documents the data on various types of greenhouse gases; temperatures throughout the atmosphere, the ocean, and over land; cloud cover; ocean salinity; sea ice extent; and snow cover. The State of the Climate in 2018 is the 29th edition in a peer-reviewed series published annually. For more information, link to highlights of the report. (8-12-19)

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Recent Developments: Alternative Fuels Corridor Funding Solicitation Announced

The Federal Highway Administration has announced an applied research funding opportunity for transportation agencies to assist with planning for the deployment of alternative vehicle fueling and charging facilities along Interstate corridors with the goal of filling gaps and designating the corridor as “corridor-ready.” The FHWA also has issued a revised handout discussing the current status of alternative fuel corridors nationwide. The deadline for submitting applications for funding is Sept. 9, 2019, and funding decisions will be announced later in the fall. For more information, link to the solicitation and the revised handout. (8-7-19)

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Recent Developments: CEQ Issues Draft Guidance on Considering GHGs under NEPA

The White House Council on Environmental Quality has issued draft guidance for how federal agencies should consider greenhouse gas emissions in conducting environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act. Unlike prior guidance, which said environmental impact statements should include an estimate of projects’ greenhouse gas emissions, the draft guidance calls for such projections only when they are “substantial enough to warrant quantification, and when it is practicable” to do so. Comments on the draft will be accepted until July 26. For more information, link to the draft guidance. (6-26-19)

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Recent Developments: Report Describes Federal, State Efforts on Electric Vehicle Deployment

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)

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Recent Developments: NACTO Announces Bike, Transit Assistance for Five Cities

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)

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Recent Developments: DOE National Labs, Exxon Partner on Researching Lower GHG Technologies

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)

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Recent Developments: CEQ Issues Agency Energy Management Instructions

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)

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Recent Developments: NREL Issues Assessment of Electric Vehicle Infrastructure in Maryland

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)

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Recent Developments: EPA Reports Record Fuel Economy, Meeting of Greenhouse Gas Standards

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)

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Recent Developments: Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge Adds Five Winners

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)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Updates Guide on Renewable Energy in Highway ROWs

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)

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

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

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

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

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

The six principles are:

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

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

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

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

Interregional Blueprint Process

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

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

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

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

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

Next Steps

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

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

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

Additional Efforts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trending

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

Original Impetus, Careful Site Selection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multiple Installations, Multiple Advantages

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

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

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

Replicability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third Party Financing Model

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

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

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

DOTs Urged to Work with Utilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Case Studies: Tennessee - Tennessee DOT's 'Green Islands' Program: Distributing Renewable Fuels Across the State

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.

‘Farm to Fuel Tank’ Vision

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solar PV at VTrans

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

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

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

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

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

How to Implement

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

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

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

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

Key Considerations

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

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

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

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

Lessons Learned

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

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

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

Next Steps

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

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

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

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Infrastructure Resilience

Recent Developments: Regional Resilience Toolkit issued by EPA, FEMA, MTC/ABAG

Tools and guidance to help communities face the effects of natural disasters are provided in a “Regional Resilience Toolkit” developed by the Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission/Association of Bay Area Governments. The Toolkit is designed to help integrate various planning processes – including for hazard mitigation, climate adaptation, sustainability, and equity – into a single process to create a common action plan. It also is designed to fulfill requirements for Local Hazard Mitigation Plan approval, and closely follows FEMA’s Local Mitigation Planning Handbook. For more information, link to the toolkit. (7-22-19)

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Recent Developments: National Engineering Academy Publication Addresses Disaster Resilience

The National Academy of Engineering’s latest issue of The Bridge addresses engineering for disaster resilience. The issue includes articles covering climate-resilient infrastructure policy and perspectives, risk-based design and benefit-cost analysis, and engineering flood and hurricane infrastructure. This issue also covers community resilience with regard to “lifeline” systems such as power and water, a model of physical and social system interdependence, and case studies of various locations including Los Angeles and New York. For more information, link to The Bridge, Summer 2019.

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Recent Developments: NOAA Develops Tool for Handling Stormwater and Coastal Floods

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has developed an interactive website tool for evaluating coastal flooding thresholds and the potential impact on stormwater infrastructure. The tool includes background information on coastal flooding, the ability to perform a quick flood assessment with user-supplied data, the evaluation of different scenarios to determine impacts to stormwater management, and various recommended actions to address the issue, such as planning, policy, on-the-ground, and funding options. Users can document the output of the Quick Flood Assessment Tool to produce a report for sharing. For more information, link to the Adapting Stormwater Management for Coastal Floods tool. (7-9-19)

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Recent Developments: Study Offers Approach to Incorporate Resilience in Transportation Planning

An approach for incorporating resilience into transportation planning has been developed under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP project 08-36 (Task 146)). The study, which builds on the Federal Highway Administration’s Vulnerability Assessment Framework, developed a logic model to map transportation system assets as well as a framework for adapting resilience principles to a broader range of hazards. The Absorptive, Restorative, Equitable, Adaptive (AREA) framework helps planners determine strategies to increase the resilience of the entire transportation system. For more information, link to the report. (6-28-19)

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Recent Developments: NOAA Offers Online Information Tool for Coastal Flooding

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

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Recent Developments: GAO Reports on Ways to Reduce Federal Fiscal Impacts from Climate Change

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

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Recent Developments: FEMA Hosts Webinar Series on Resilient Infrastructure and Communities

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)

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Recent Developments: District of Columbia Issues Resilience, Managed Retreat Plan

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)

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Recent Developments: Project Costs, Benefits of Using Natural Infrastructure Pose Challenges

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)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Highlights Road Weather Initiatives, Products

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)

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Recent Developments: Urban Flooding in the United States Subject of NAS Report

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)

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Recent Developments: Report Finds FTA Should Provide More Guidance on Emergency Plans

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)

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Recent Developments: Climate Group Developing a Managed Retreat Toolkit

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)

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Recent Developments: Texas Issues Updated Coastal Resiliency Master Plan

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)

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Recent Developments: Call for Presentations: Transportation Resilience 2019 Conference

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)

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Recent Developments: Report Addresses Resilience Planning, Policy on Maryland's Eastern Shore

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)

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Recent Developments: Briefing Focuses on Green Infrastructure as Blueprint for Resilience

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)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Issues Handbook on Life Cycle Planning in Asset Management

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)

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Recent Developments: AASHTO Resilience Webinar Series Recordings Available

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).

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Recent Developments: Synthesis Report on DOT Resilience Efforts Issued by NCHRP

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)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Assesses Resilience of NY, NJ, CT Following Hurricane Sandy

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)

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Recent Developments: Caltrans Seeks Applicants for Adaptation Planning Grants

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MnDOT’s study had four goals:

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

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

Overall Vulnerability Assessment

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

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

Assessment of Individual Assets’ Adaptation Options

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

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

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

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

Uniqueness, Challenges, Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FHWA Vulnerability Assessment Framework and Tennessee’s Approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Steps for TDOT

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons Learned and Advice to State DOTs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing for Equilibrium

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Codifying the River Science Approach

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

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

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

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

Understanding River Systems

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

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

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

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

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Context Sensitive Solutions

Recent Developments: FHWA Report Describes Highway Right-Sizing for Cities

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)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Newsletter Highlights Context Sensitive Solutions, Design Approach

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

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

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

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Case Studies: ContextSensitiveSolutions.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stakeholder Collaboration

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

Governor Signs the Collaborative Agreement

Colorado Governor Signs Collaborative Agreement. Photo: Colorado DOT

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

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

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

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

Comprehensive CSS Guidance Website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

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

Current Efforts and Next Steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practical roundabout solution: Photo: WSDOT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ongoing Process

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

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

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

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

Handling Possible Risks, Other Insights

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead

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

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

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

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

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Case Studies: AASHTO Best Practice Award Winners

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

Case Studies: Links to Additional AASHTO Case Studies

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

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

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

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

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

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Case Studies: Links to Additional Case Study Compilations

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Environmental Justice

Recent Developments: Social Equity the Focus of GIS in Transportation Newsletter

Using geographic information systems (GIS) to map environmental justice populations and examine social equity impacts is the topic of the August issue of the Federal Highway Administration’s GIS in Transportation newsletter. The newsletter includes articles about a mapping tool developed by the USDOT’s Volpe Center, the use of data and methods for identifying protected populations, and equity analysis as part of a transportation improvement program, from the perspective of a metropolitan planning organization. The newsletter also highlights news and events relevant to the GIS community. For more information, link to the newsletter. (8-14-19)

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Recent Developments: Environmental Justice CoP Survey: Webinar and Materials Available

The results of a survey of state transportation agencies’ environmental justice training needs were outlined in an AASHTO webinar held July 8, 2019. The survey focused on the frequency of trainings, information, resource gaps, emerging and innovative issues, and members' familiarity with existing resources. For more information, link to the webinar and presentation. (7-17-19)

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Recent Developments: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic States Hold Equity Workshop

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)

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Recent Developments: Climate Group Developing an Equitable Adaptation Toolkit

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)

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Recent Developments: EPA Launches Environmental Justice Training for States

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)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Issues Two EJ State of the Practice Reports

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)

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Recent Developments: Study Describes Use of Zoning, Land Use Policies for Environmental Justice

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)

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Recent Developments: Webinar Outlines Process for Title VI Complaints

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

EJ Process in Ohio

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

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

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

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

Identifying EJ Populations

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

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

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

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

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

Determining Potential Impacts

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

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

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

For example, the questions address the following issues:

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

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

Conducting Full Analysis, Report

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

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

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

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

Guidance Applies to NEPA Process

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

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

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

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

Lessons Learned

Schneider noted several lessons learned in developing the process.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EJ Guidance at PennDOT

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

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

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

Planning-Level Guidance

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

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

Project-Level Guidance

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

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

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

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

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

Key Takeaways

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

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

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

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

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Case Studies: Public Outreach Using Social Media - Using Social Media to Reach Environmental Justice Communities

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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.

Overview

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:

  • Advertise upcoming community meetings or events.
  • Provide timely information and resources about transportation plans and projects.
  • Solicit input, monitor feedback, and collect reactions about upcoming or existing transportation plans and projects.

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:

  1. Transportation Related News
  2. Project and program specific information
  3. Holiday and event graphics
  4. Video
  5. Just for Fun
  6. Safety

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 Graphic

NCTCOG experienced a 25 percent higher engagement rate when social media used:

  • Human tone - communicating in a way that is more personable and conversational.
  • Fun, light-hearted content
  • Content and voice mirror pages followed by staff at NCTCOG
  • Strategic plan, style guide and design guide

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.”

Additional Resources:

Additional Sources:

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Case Studies: Compilations

  • The Federal Highway Administration has several case study compilations, including a Transportation and Environmental Justice Case Studies booklet. There are two sets of case studies which provide examples of effective practices which promote EJ. While these case studies were developed some time ago, the themes of public involvement and data collection are still relevant to EJ in practice. The first set, Transportation and EJ case studies, features stories and identifies commonplace techniques that have been used to promote EJ in transportation planning. The second set, EJ and NEPA case studies, were developed with a focus on EJ analysis during the environmental review process.

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Environmental Management Systems

Recent Developments: Tutorial Posted on Environmental Management Systems Tool for DOTs

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)

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Recent Developments: NCHRP Study Provides EMS Analysis, Benchmarking Tool for DOTs

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)

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Case Studies: EMS Implementation Update Case Studies

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

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

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FAST Act/MAP-21

Recent Developments: FAQ Document Addresses Transportation Performance Management

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

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Recent Developments: FTA Guidebooks Address Transportation Asset Management Final Rule

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)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Reports Describe Improvement of Transportation Assets

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)

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Recent Developments: Workshops to Address MAP-21 Performance Management Framework

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Combined FEIS and ROD

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

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

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

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

‘Errata Pages’ Format for FEIS

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

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

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

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

For more information, link to the I-90 project documents on the WSDOT website here. The Puyallup River Bridge documents are available here.

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

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Geographic Information Systems

Recent Developments: Study Highlights Oregon Coordinate Reference System

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

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Recent Developments: NCHRP Report Says Statewide GISs Could Improve Section 106 Work

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)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Releases National Highway Planning Network Version 14.05

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)

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Case Studies: Massachusetts - Project Initiation with Mapping Tool Speeds MassDOT Project Delivery

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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.

Image: MassDOT

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:

  • road inventory,
  • highway facility information,
  • roadway condition,
  • bridge database,
  • transit routes,
  • rail inventory,
  • crash data,
  • environmental concerns, and
  • social equity concerns.

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.

Improved Outcomes

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.

Version 1.0

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The system also:

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

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

Current Efforts and Key Take-aways

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

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

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

Transferability

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

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

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

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Case Studies: Compilations of Case Studies - FHWA

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

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Case Studies: Compilations of Case Studies - AASHTO

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

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Historic Preservation/Cultural Resources

Recent Developments: List of Section 106 Programmatic Agreements Updated

The Federal Highway Administration has issued an updated list of statewide Section 106 programmatic agreements for historic properties. The listing, in table format, includes the state, the agreement type such as delegation or streamlining, what transportation facilities are covered under the agreement, the agreement signed date and expiration date, and links to the agreement text. Most states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have at least one Section 106 programmatic agreement in effect. For more information, link to the list. (8-14-19)

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Recent Developments: ACHP Offers Online Course on Consultation with Indian Tribes

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation has announced a new on-demand training course addressing early coordination with Indian tribes for infrastructure projects. The course covers Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act as it relates to federally recognized Indian tribes. The course provides information for understanding and skills for working with tribes when planning and developing pre-application information for projects. For more information, link to the announcement. (7-16-19)

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Recent Developments: VDOT Report Addresses Management of Historic Roads

A report issued by the Virginia Transportation Research Council addresses management considerations for historic roads. The report says there are unique challenges when it comes to managing the elements of historic significance in connection with historic roads, and a transportation department must take additional steps when contemplating any project affecting the road. Various elements and features must be identified and addressed, and a detailed history of the road’s historic significance must be prepared. For more information, link to Management Considerations for Historic Roads in Virginia. (7-12-19)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Newsletter Highlights Sec. 106 Agreements with Tribes

A review of Section 106 agreements between the Federal Highway Administration and federally recognized tribes is provided in the June 2019 issue of FHWA’s Successes in Stewardship Newsletter. The issue gives an overview of tribal agreements and consultation under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, including memoranda of understanding, programmatic agreements, and consultation protocol agreements. The newsletter also provides some statistics on the number and types of agreements currently in place and a case study from North Dakota. For more information, link to the newsletter. (6-21-19)

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Recent Developments: GAO Advises on Better Tribal Consultation for Infrastructure Projects

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)

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Recent Developments: NCHRP Issues Report on Highway Noise and Historic Properties

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)

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Case Studies: Case Study Compilations

Case Studies: Case Study Compilations - FHWA Issues Case Studies on Historic Preservation in Planning, Early Project Development

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.

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

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

The report includes the following case studies:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preservation Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safety Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Groundwork

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Case Studies: Florida - Historic Bridge of Lions Rehabilitation

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.

Rehabilitation Process

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.

Lessons Learned

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: roy.jackson@dot.state.fl.us.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neighborhood Cut in Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relocating and Rebuilding

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

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

Little Richard’s House

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

Lessons Learned

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

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

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

GDOT’s Community Focus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Origins of Story Map Concept

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenges and Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

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

Advice for Other DOTs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Indirect Effects/Cumulative Impacts

Recent Developments: FHWA Issues Instructions on Travel and Land Use Forecasting

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)

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Case Studies: Florida - Florida DOT Develops Standard Process to Conduct Cumulative Effects Evaluations

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.

Ten-Step Process

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:

  1. Initiate the cumulative effects evaluation: this can be done early in the process, during scoping, to help focus studies on resources of concern.
  2. Identify resources of concern: this includes elements of the natural and human environment -- focusing on resources in poor or declining conditions that may be substantially affected by the project or other activities in the area.
  3. Define the study time frame: this involves establishing and documenting the outer years of the time horizon for identifying past and future effects.
  4. Determine the potentially affected resource area (PARA): this is the geographic study area used in the evaluation and should encompass the resources affected by the project to the extent in which its alternatives contribute to the cumulative effects on the resources
  5. Evaluate past and present impacts on the resource: this includes an analysis of past and present effects, including the current condition of each resource, how it got to its current state, and major trends affecting the health of the resource – including protective regulations or conservation programs.
  6. Evaluate effects of reasonably foreseeable future actions: this includes identifying future actions that may affect the resources of concern – including all types of actions, not just transportation projects – and describing the direct and indirect effects of these actions.
  7. Add direct and indirect effects of build alternatives: this summarizes the direct and indirect effects of the project alternatives, focusing on resources of concern for the evaluation.
  8. Assess the potential for cumulative effects: this involves using information from previous steps to consider how a particular resource responds to change and to estimate the combine effects on each resource of concern. Each project alternative is evaluated separately.
  9. Identify potential mitigation measures: all relevant reasonable mitigation measures to avoid, lessen, remedy or compensate for adverse effects must be identified and discussed, even if they are outside the jurisdiction of the agency.
  10. Document results: this involves completing the cumulative effects evaluation portion of the environmental document, using the level of detail appropriate for the class of action. The evaluation should be separate from the direct and indirect effects. The cumulative effects evaluation “should explain what the effects are, how they were analyzed, why the analysis methodology(s) are reasonable, and what the results of the analysis mean.”

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.

Lessons Learned

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.

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Case Studies: Montana

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screening Process Developed

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

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

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

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

Detailed Analyses

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

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

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

Research Informed Development of Guidance

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

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

Process Offers Needed Consistency

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

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

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

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

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

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Case Studies: Texas - Texas DOT Offers Simplified Guidance to Assess Projects' Indirect and Cumulative Effects

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

Developing the Guidance

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.

Lessons Learned

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:

  • Know your state: A blanket approach to indirect and cumulative impacts analysis does not work in Texas. Though other state DOTs may have a more uniform statewide land use climate, it is critical to know your area and understand that indirect and cumulative impacts are complex and often call for a case-by-case approach. Texas uses decision trees (Induced Growth Indirect Impacts Decision Tree and Cumulative Impacts Decision Tree) to help determine which projects need indirect and cumulative impact analyses.
  • Simplify: TxDOT’s simplified approach to indirect and cumulative impact analyses made it more approachable for district environmental staff, who are project and technical experts but not necessarily versed in all aspects of NEPA.
  • Consider process improvements: By emphasizing technical reports and coordination early in the NEPA process, TxDOT was able to shorten their review cycles, save time and money, and produce stronger analysis in its documents.
  • Provide one-on-one coaching: In addition to regular conference calls (“NEPA Chats”) with districts to identify and provide guidance on various NEPA issues, TxDOT found great value in one-on-one coaching with district subject matter experts on individual projects rather than implementing agency-wide theoretical classroom training in how to apply the guidance.

For more information on TxDOT’s approach to Indirect and Cumulative Effects, contact Nicolle Kord, Environmental Specialist, Texas DOT at Nicolle.Kord@txdot.gov.

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Invasive Species/Vegetation Management

Recent Developments: Synthesis Report Issued on Landscapes for Urban Freeway Roadsides

A synthesis of state transportation department practices for landscape development along urban freeway roadsides has been issued under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (Synthesis 539). The report addresses sustainable design and maintenance practices in connection with urban landscape development, integrated vegetation management plans, maintenance agreements, the management of the illegal use of the right-of-way such as unpermitted vendors and unauthorized occupants, and work zone safety for maintenance crews. Water conservation and protecting irrigation systems from unauthorized use are also addressed. The report found that more documentation is needed of current landscape practices and policies concerning high-visibility urban freeways with limited pedestrian access, and that guidance is needed on how to incorporate the issues at the project planning stage so that state DOTs can be proactive with design, construction, and maintenance. For more information, link to the report. (8-8-19)

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Recent Developments: DOTs to Partner in Conservation Effort for Monarch Butterflies

State transportation agencies would play a key role in an unprecedented conservation effort for the monarch butterfly announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Under the agreement, voluntary conservation efforts will be undertaken by a coalition of transportation agencies and energy companies on highway and energy rights of way in the hopes of precluding the need to list the monarch as an endangered species. In return, the agreement would provide regulatory assurances to participants that additional conservation measures would not be required if the butterfly were to be listed in the future under the Endangered Species Act. For more information, link to the FWS’ Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement on Energy and Transportation Lands. (4-12-19)

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Recent Developments: Report Identifies Urgent Situation for Western Monarch Butterfly

A report that evaluates the key challenges to the western monarch butterfly population has been issued by the Environmental Defense Fund. The report identifies an 86 percent drop in the population since last year, and finds that the reasons for the decline involve various factors including the development impacts on habitat, pesticide exposure, climate change, parasites, and disease. The report concludes that partnerships between landowners, resource agencies, and conservation groups are necessary to reverse the decline. For more information, link to the report. (4-2-19)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Updates List of State DOT Pollinator-Friendly Practices

The Federal Highway Administration has updated its list of pollinator-friendly practices in roadside vegetation management by state DOTs. There are now programs featured from 33 state DOTs, including pollinator habitat programs, guidelines, project enhancements, and vegetation management efforts. For more information, link to the State DOT Pollinator-Friendly Practices section on the FHWA Pollinators website. (2-19-19)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Focus on Context

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

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

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

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

Use of ‘Design Zones’

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

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

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

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

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

Native Plants a Requirement

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

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

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

Threats from Invasive Species

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

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

Role of the DOT Landscape Architect

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

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

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

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

Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis and Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funding and Partners

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

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

Advice for Other DOTs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Case Studies: Washington State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits of Reduced Mowing

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

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

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

Looking out for Pollinators

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

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

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

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

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

System Tracks Acres Mowed

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

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

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

Public and Agency Outreach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Testing Goats as ‘Biological Mowers’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case Studies: FHWA Compilations - Greener Roadsides

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

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NEPA Process

Recent Developments: CEQ Issues Draft Guidance on Considering GHGs under NEPA

The White House Council on Environmental Quality has issued draft guidance for how federal agencies should consider greenhouse gas emissions in conducting environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act. Unlike prior guidance, which said environmental impact statements should include an estimate of projects’ greenhouse gas emissions, the draft guidance calls for such projections only when they are “substantial enough to warrant quantification, and when it is practicable” to do so. Comments on the draft will be accepted until July 26. For more information, link to the draft guidance. (6-26-19)

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Recent Developments: Study Examines Use of Categorical Exclusion PAs to Streamline Project Delivery

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)

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

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

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

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

EnviroNet System Screenshot, Courtesy Ohio DOT

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

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

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

NEPA Assignment a Motivator

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

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

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

Lessons Learned, Advice to Other DOTs

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead

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

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

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

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Noise

Recent Developments: FHWA Posts Updated Roadway Noise Construction Model

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)

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Recent Developments: NCHRP Issues Report on Highway Noise and Historic Properties

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)

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Recent Developments: Summary of Noise Practitioners Summit Now Available

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

History of Project

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

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

Permits, Protections

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

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

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

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

Lessons Learned and Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of a Group

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

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

Compliance and the Toolkit’s Origins

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

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

Using the Toolkit

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

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

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

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

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

Work in Progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Case Studies: Federal Highway Administration

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Planning & Environment Linkages

Recent Developments: FHWA Issues Report on Freight and Land Use Travel Demand

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a report that identifies best practices and tools for better understanding how land use, local economic development, and demographic factors drive freight movement, trip generation, and freight demand analysis. The report looks at the changing definition of what constitutes freight, a broader audience for freight decision making, and some of the emerging topics in freight. Some of the recommendations from the project will be incorporated into an update to the Quick Response Freight Manual (QRFM). For more information, link to the report. (July 2019)

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Recent Developments: New Performance-Based Planning Case Studies Issued by FHWA

The Federal Highway Administration has issued four new case studies that provide lessons learned with regard to performance-based planning and programming, a strategic approach to planning in which data supports decisions that ultimately help to achieve performance goals. The new case studies discuss the data collection strategies, the selection of performance measures, and interagency collaboration practices from the Maricopa Association of Governments, San Diego Association of Governments, Lewis Clark Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, and Rockingham Metropolitan Planning Organization, in Arizona, California, Idaho, and New Hampshire, respectively. For more information, link to the case studies. (6-17-19)

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Recent Developments: Researchers Develop Tool to Measure Effectiveness of Public Involvement

A toolkit to measure the effectiveness of public involvement in transportation have been developed under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP Research Report 905, Project 08-105). The toolkit, which includes survey instruments, a scoring tool, and guidelines for use, is designed to collect feedback from the public on several indicators of effectiveness and compare that feedback with the transportation agency’s perceptions. The combined responses then can be used to compare the effectiveness of different public involvement strategies over time. For more information, link to the report. (5-6-19)

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Recent Developments: Newsletter Highlights Use of Eco-Logical for Project Delivery

The state of the practice in use of the Eco-Logical landscape approach to infrastructure planning is outlined in the Jan. 2019 issue of Federal Highway Administration’s Successes in Stewardship newsletter. The issue provides examples of the Eco-Logical approach and its benefits, agencies that are using the approach, and ways it can be used to accelerate project delivery. For more information, link to the newsletter. (1-8-19)

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Case Studies: Federal Highway Administration - FHWA's Planning and Environment Linkages Effective Practices

FHWA Planning and Environment Linkages Website tracks Effective Practices including a collection of case studies that summarize the experience of a state or metropolitan area that implemented the PEL approach to transportation decision-making. The case studies document why and how change was achieved, some of the challenges encountered, and a few lessons learned.

For more information, link to the Effective Practices web page.

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Case Studies: Federal Highway Administration - FHWA Eco-Logical Case Study Series

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

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

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

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

Diverse Users

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

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

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

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

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

uPEL Report

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

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

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

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

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

Continuous Improvement

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

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

Code Available to Other States

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

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

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

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

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Project Delivery/Streamlining

Recent Developments: FHWA 'Successes in Stewardship' Newsletter

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

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Recent Developments: U.S. DOT Issues Policies on NEPA Page Limits, One Federal Decision Process

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued two interim policies related to expediting environmental reviews for transportation projects: one on implementation of the One Federal Decision (OFD) process under the National Environmental Policy Act and a second on limiting the page length of NEPA documents. The OFD interim policy addresses how the department and its operating agencies – as well as state DOTs with NEPA assignment – will implement the OFD process for environmental reviews and authorization decisions. It implements Executive Order 13807, which required federal agencies to use the OFD process for major infrastructure projects and established a two-year goal for completing federal environmental reviews. The policy also provides direction on issues including determining covered projects, agency responsibilities, developing permitting timetables, pre-scoping activities, concurrence points, and dispute resolution. In addition, it provides information on estimating environmental review costs for purposes of tracking projects on the federal permitting dashboard. The NEPA page-length guidance calls for agencies to limit the text of environmental impact statements to 150 pages (or up to 300 pages for complex projects) and to limit the text of environmental assessments to 75 pages (or 150 pages for mitigated findings of no significant impact). It also provides best practices for effective NEPA documents. For more information, link to the OFD Interim Guidance and the NEPA Page Limits Interim Guidance. (8-22-19)

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Recent Developments: FTA, California Transit Agency to Begin Expedited Project Delivery

The Federal Transit Administration has announced that the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in California will be the first to participate in the agency’s Expedited Project Delivery Pilot Program. The agencies will begin discussions about new and innovative approaches to expedite delivery and financing of transit projects. The Santa Clara VTA put forward a project, known as the Silicon Valley Phase II Project, to extend the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) heavy rail network into San Jose and Santa Clara. The agency is one of seven to express interest in being part of the program. For more information, link to the announcement. (7-8-19)

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Recent Developments: Tool to Measure Public Involvement Effectiveness Provided in Research

A tool transportation agencies can use to measure the effectiveness of their public involvement efforts has been developed under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. NCHRP Research Report 905 provides a practitioner-ready toolkit, which includes a survey, a scoring tool, and guidelines for scoring. It can be used to collect feedback from the public on several indicators and compare that feedback with the agency’s own perceptions. For the report and related resources, link here. (6-19-19)

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Recent Developments: AASHTO Seeks Poster Ideas for COES Meeting in Minneapolis

AASHTO is seeking poster presentations for the Committee on Environment and Sustainability Conference Reception and Poster session on Aug. 6th, from 6 to 8 pm at the Radisson Blu in Minneapolis. The poster session is a valuable opportunity for DOTs, universities, and consultants to present recent projects, case studies, or innovative solutions to emerging environmental topics. Send a one page description to Oscar Bermudez (obermudez@aashto.org) by June 21st. If selected, you will be notified by July 12th. For more information, link here.

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Recent Developments: ARTBA Gives Out Transportation Project Environmental Excellence Awards

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association presented the 2019 “Globe Awards” to transportation agencies and construction contractors for contributions to environmental protection and mitigation. The first place award in the large projects category was for the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge replacement in North Carolina, which took steps to minimize impacts on turtle nesting grounds and piping plover habitat. The second place for large projects was awarded to Washington State DOT for the Alaskan Way Viaduct/SR 99 Tunnel project in Seattle, which includes, among other things, advanced stormwater and pollution handling systems. For more information, link to the announcement. (5-15-19)

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Recent Developments: Researchers Develop Tool to Measure Effectiveness of Public Involvement

A toolkit to measure the effectiveness of public involvement in transportation have been developed under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP Research Report 905, Project 08-105). The toolkit, which includes survey instruments, a scoring tool, and guidelines for use, is designed to collect feedback from the public on several indicators of effectiveness and compare that feedback with the transportation agency’s perceptions. The combined responses then can be used to compare the effectiveness of different public involvement strategies over time. For more information, link to the report. (5-6-19)

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Recent Developments: Study Examines Use of Categorical Exclusion PAs to Streamline Project Delivery

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)

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Recent Developments: Newsletter Highlights Process Efficiencies in Project Development

A tool for accessing a variety of environmental information is outlined in the February 2019 issue of the Federal Highway Administration’s Successes in Stewardship newsletter. The issue describes the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Comprehensive Environmental Data and Reporting (CEDAR) system, which provides a single user interface to access all of an agency’s environmental data such as National Environmental Policy Act documentation, permitting information, and environmental contracts. CEDAR has been adopted by several other states including, most recently, Alaska. For more information, link to the newsletter. (3-18-19)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Posts Virtual Public Involvement Resources

The Federal Highway Administration has posted resources on ways to conduct public involvement activities virtually. The agency said use of virtual public involvement tools enhances and broadens the reach of public engagement efforts by making participation more convenient and affordable for greater numbers of people. Virtual public involvement techniques – such as telephone town halls, tablet-based surveys and mobile applications, and video posts for project information – are being showcased via the fifth round of FHWA’s Every Day Counts initiative. For more information, link here. (2-25-19)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Implementation Tools for ESA Consultations

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

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

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

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

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

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Section 4(f)/Section 6(f)

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

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

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Case Studies: Ohio - Ohio DOT Programmatic Agreement Streamlines LWCF Section 6(f) Requirements

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is cutting down its paperwork and ramping up its collaboration thanks to a unique Programmatic Agreement (PA) signed last year for compliance with Section 6(f) of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act (LWCF). So, too, are its partners, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and the National Park Service (NPS).

The PA lays out a carefully coordinated interagency process for fulfilling requirements when ODOT projects involve land protected under the LWCF. Under Section 6(f) of the law, any property that has received LWCF funding cannot be converted to non-recreational use without replacement of that land, which must be approved by NPS. Converted land must be replaced with land of equal or greater value, location, and usefulness.

Ohio DOT's Section 6(f) programmatic helps streamline requirements for LWCF properties such as Leetonia Trailhead. Photo: Ohio DOT

“We were having a lot of trouble getting projects through the 6(f) process,” explains Erica Schneider, Assistant Environmental Administrator at ODOT. “It hadn’t been much of an issue in the past because we didn’t have many projects with 6(f) impacts. But in recent years, the number definitely started to go up. The process was taking months, even years, to finish. We knew we had to do something.”

The jointly-developed document contains a number of provisions that reduce required paperwork and eliminate unnecessary agency involvement for any project that triggers Section 6(f) compliance while still ensuring that the resource is protected. Projects involving Section 6(f) properties continue to be broken out into three levels: maintenance, temporary non-conforming use, and conversions. But under the PA, the compliance process for each level has been streamlined. For maintenance-type projects, ODOT doesn’t have to coordinate with ODNR or NPS, which saves the agency at least 30 days of review time. Moreover, impacts that constitute a temporary non-conforming use of a Section 6(f) property can be approved by ODNR, and NPS only has to be copied on the decision, again saving at least 30 days of review time.

“As for conversions, they still take considerable time in that they still have to go through ODNR and NPS,” says Schneider. “But, overall, we’re in a much better position.”

For instance, each agency now has a 30-day deadline for review, and it now is acceptable to use ODOT’s (FHWA’s) real estate appraisal process for replacement land rather than that of NPS. In addition, reviews can be conducted concurrently by ODNR and NPS if the project schedule is expedited. And purchase of the replacement property can occur after National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) approval (it must be completed prior to final acceptance of the construction project by the engineer).

Furthermore, NPS now accepts FHWA’s documentation for Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act in order to satisfy their NEPA obligations for Section 6(f), which opens the door to one of the biggest time-savers: a standardized single form the partners developed for Section 6(f) as well as Section 4(f). Having a single form means that information doesn’t have to be duplicated, and the new format makes it easier for district staff and consultants to follow and for agency staff to fill out. Also, since Section 4(f) analysis must be approved prior to Section 6(f) approval, ODOT can have all of the information readily available, conduct the Section 4(f) determination and simultaneously be working on the Section 6(f) evaluation.

“Saving time is saving money,” says Schneider. “Streamlining saves us time in the environmental process and also translates through into cost savings during construction due to factors such as inflation and project delays.”

Genesis of the PA

Schneider says that when she and her co-workers at ODOT realized something had to be done about the Section 6(f) process, they first went to their FHWA Division Office. Together, they decided that the next step was to approach NPS and ODNR, the state agency that administers Land and Water Conservation Funds in Ohio. The goal was to suggest jointly developing a process that everyone would benefit from, a process during which participants would collectively identify and integrate streamlining measures.

FHWA, as the counterpart federal agency, initially took the lead in broaching the subject with NPS. Shortly thereafter, ODOT came together with FHWA, NPS, and ODNR for initial discussions. The concept received a universal green light, after which it took about a year to get through the entire process. Initially the discussion focused on what was required by law. Then the focus shifted to how the process could be streamlined. A draft agreement was created, increasingly refined, then finalized and signed in April of 2014. Schneider describes the process as “an excellent team-building exercise,” one that improved participating agencies’ relationships with each other.

Since signing the 6(f) agreement, ODOT has used -- or is in the process of using -- the PA for five maintenance-type projects and six projects that constitute a non-conforming use. Currently, six conversion type projects are in progress. Five of them are small conversions and the sixth is a full conversion. For the latter, replacement property still is being sought.

Schneider says that ODOT has applied to take on FHWA’s environmental review authority under NEPA, but that ODOT’s new role will not affect the PA. ODOT likely will include a cover letter explaining that under NEPA assignment, ODOT will be responsible for all of FHWA’s actions and responsibilities under the Section 6(f) agreement.

Possibility for Other State DOTs

“To my knowledge, we are the first and only state with a Section 6(f) PA in place,” says Schneider. From her perspective, the concept is one that could be adopted by other state DOTs provided they have a good working relationship with their state agency responsible for administering the LWCF, and that both agencies work well with their federal counterparts, FHWA and NPS.

“NPS was great to work with throughout the process,” she continues. “They were willing to look for streamlining measures wherever the law allowed it. Unfortunately, the law is quite strict in a number of areas so our opportunities were somewhat limited.”

On September 31, 2015, the LWCF expired and Congress has yet to reauthorize it. If the law is not reauthorized, no new Section 6(f) properties can be added. But lack of reauthorization would not eliminate Section 6(f) requirements.

“Lack of reauthorization only means that for the time being, there will not be any new Section 6(f) properties,” Schneider explains. “Despite no new additions, the LWCF protections will remain in effect on all existing properties into perpetuity. So while we may not have new properties in that category to worry about, we will always have the existing group. ODNR estimates that approximately 1,430 properties across the state fall into this category. ”

Additional flexibility like the de minimis impact option developed for Section 4(f) compliance, would be helpful, according to Schneider. Such changes could offer improvements to the process as well as opportunities for enhancement of the resources involved.

“The good news,” she concludes, “is that for all those existing properties, we have our PA in place.”

For more information, go to ODOT’s Office of Environmental Services or contact Erica Schneider, ODOT’s Assistant Environmental Administrator at Erica.Schneider@dot.ohio.gov.

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Sustainability

Recent Developments: FHWA Highlights Five ‘Right-Sizing’ Projects

The Federal Highway Administration has issued five case studies on cities that have taken steps to revise their approach to transportation infrastructure in ways that connect neighborhoods, promote public well-being, and create more livable communities. The case studies look at the context and development of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, an eight-mile urban bicycle and pedestrian path in downtown Indianapolis created from excess right-of-way; the demolition of the elevated Park East Freeway in Milwaukee that has led to the redevelopment of 64 acres downtown; and the filling of a half mile of the Rochester, N.Y., Inner Loop expressway, a below-grade highway that cut through downtown, in phase one of the removal of the loop. The case studies also look at the demolition of the Central Freeway in San Francisco and the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle, two structures damaged by earthquakes and suitable for a more context sensitive solution. For more information, link to the Right-Sizing Case Studies. (8-6-19)

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Recent Developments: NCHRP Review of Motor Vehicle Laws to Address Automated Vehicles

A report on the implications of connected and automated vehicles on state motor vehicle laws has been issued under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP 20-102, Task 07). The report provides a review of state laws and regulations that may need to be reconsidered in light of the fact that, with connected and automated vehicles, drivers may not always be maintaining continuous involvement in the driving task or be fully responsible for managing traffic safety hazards. The report also identifies possible barriers to implementation and addresses processes and stages for modifying relevant vehicle codes. For more information, link to the report. (7-8-19)

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Recent Developments: Report Describes TRB ‘Mobility on Demand’ Workshop

The latest information and trends related to mobility on demand (MOD) services and technologies are described in a summary of a workshop held as part of the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting in January 2019. MOD allows consumers to access travel and goods delivery services on demand by dispatching or using public transportation, shared mobility, courier services, urban air mobility, and other innovative and emerging technologies. The report provides an overview of the workshop, including recent trends, results from demonstration projects and development of a research agenda on the topic. For more information, link to the TRB circular. (5-25-19)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Announces Environmental Excellence Award Recipients

The Federal Highway Administration has announced the 2019 recipients of its biennial Environmental Excellence Awards. The awards recognize partners, projects, and processes that use Federal Highway Administration funding sources to go beyond environmental compliance and achieve environmental excellence. For more information, including the 12 recipients, link to the 2019 Environmental Excellence Awards web page. (7-1-19)

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Recent Developments: Webinar Highlights Effective Complete Streets Policies

An overview of the 10 best complete streets policies of 2018 was provided in a May 21, 2019, webinar sponsored by Smart Growth America. The top policies, announced in a report issued by the National Complete Streets Coalition, included communities in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Wisconsin. A complete streets approach integrates people and place in the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of transportation networks. This helps to ensure streets are safe for people of all ages and abilities, balance the needs of different modes, and support local land uses, economies, cultures, and natural environments. For more information on the selected policies, link to the report and the webinar. (5-29-19)

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Recent Developments: Best Practices to Manage Mobility Data Issued by NACTO

Methods to help cities better access and manage mobility data are described in policy guidance issued by the National Association of City Transportation Officials. The report, Managing Mobility Data, provides a common framework for sharing, protecting, and managing data based on four principles: data is a public good; data should be protected; data should be collected purposefully; and data should be portable. It provides guidance on how to ensure individual privacy as data collection becomes easier and more widespread. For more information, link to the report. (5-30-19)

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Recent Developments: District of Columbia Issues Sustainability Plan

Washington D.C. has announced a new sustainability plan that, among other things, aims at increasing the use of transit and active transportation to reduce vehicle emissions and increase the city’s resilience to climate change. The plan, Sustainable DC 2.0 Plan, contains 36 goals and 167 actions across 13 separate sustainability topics including governance, equity, built environment, climate, economy, education, energy, food, health, nature, transportation, waste, and water. It follows the recent issuance of the city’s Resilient DC plan. For more information, link to the sustainability plan. (5-7-19)

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Recent Developments: Florida Agency Uses INVEST Tool for Regional Transportation Planning

MetroPlan Orlando, the metropolitan planning organization for Central Florida, used the Federal Highway Administration’s Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool (INVEST) to help the agency consider health and sustainability when evaluating its regional transportation plan. Using funds awarded by the FHWA, MetroPlan evaluated what it was already doing through its planning and organizational efforts. It also hosted the Transportation Think-In: Making 2045 Healthy, Sustainable, and Resilient, bringing together community leaders to discuss how transportation impacts their work. Additionally, it followed up the evaluation and summit by publishing three white papers. For more information, link to the FHWA case study. (2-11-19)

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Recent Developments: Report Highlights Transportation in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

A report from the U.S. DOT’s Volpe Center highlights findings from a thought leadership series, Transportation in the Age of Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Analytics, held from June to October 2018. The series convened experts in government innovation, vehicle automation, and logistics to consider the promise and potential of recent breakthroughs in machine learning and data analysis. These experts shared their visions for how new technologies can be applied throughout the transportation enterprise—such as data from mapping applications that can improve traffic modeling and save lives on U.S. roads. For more information, link to the report. (1-29-19)

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Recent Developments: Army Corps of Engineers Issues Engineering with Nature Atlas

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center has issued the Engineering With Nature Atlas, a collection of 56 projects illustrating the Corps’ initiative to develop more sustainable delivery of economic, social, and environmental benefits associated with water resources infrastructure. The Atlas includes information on a diverse portfolio of contexts and successful projects using nature-based approaches, including beaches and dunes, wetlands, islands, reefs, river systems, floodplains, natural materials, and habitat. The Engineering With Nature initiative is an alignment of natural and engineering processes that involves collaborations among multiple civil works research, development and technology programs and non-USACE partners. For more information, link to the Atlas. (1-15-19)

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Recent Developments: Report Evaluates Issues Regarding Dedicated Lanes for Automated Cars

A report evaluating opportunities, constraints, and guiding principles for implementing dedicated lanes for connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) has been issued under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. NCHRP Report 891: Dedicating Lanes for Priority or Exclusive Use by Connected and Automated Vehicles, describes the intended benefits when dedicating lanes for the exclusive use of CAVs in terms of safety, mobility, social concerns, and the environment. It also describes the conditions that would support dedicating lanes for priority and exclusive use of vehicles equipped with cooperative adaptive cruise control and dynamic speed harmonization, and provides a review of laws and regulations regarding dedicating lanes. The analysis, based on computer-based models, helps identify potential impacts associated with various conditions affecting lane dedication, market penetration, evolving technology, and changing demand. For more information, link to the report. (1-11-19)

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Case Studies: Arizona - Arizona DOT Champions Sustainability Using INVEST Tool

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is using a self-evaluation tool to assess and improve its projects and programs, helping the agency integrate sustainability into virtually every component of the transportation lifecycle, including planning, design, construction, operations, and maintenance activities.

Over the last several years, ADOT increasingly has recognized the importance of delivering transportation solutions in a more sustainable manner to achieve economic, social, and environmental goals.

“After three years of progress, our Sustainable Transportation Program has reached every corner of the agency,” said Steven Olmsted with ADOT’s Office of Environmental Planning. “It has become our standard way of carrying out our work and is bringing multiple benefits.”

Arizona DOT’s Sustainable Transportation Program has implemented solutions such this roundabout on US 89. Photo: Arizona DOT

History and Program Structure

The roots of ADOT’s sustainability program extend back to 2012 when the agency published two planning documents that both called for sustainability to be a key objective. At that time, it also was adding sustainable land use and urban planning into its Multimodal Planning Division, and beta testing the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool (INVEST).

In 2013, ADOT began incorporating sustainable practices into its project development and construction activities, “cherry-picking” successes and bringing them to the attention of managers to build internal support. For example, by addressing the storm water run-off component of a pavement project during construction, project managers could point out that heavy rains otherwise would have shortened the lifespan of the pavement an added to maintenance costs.

ADOT’s Sustainable Transportation Program was formalized in 2014 and is housed in the Environmental Planning Office, with management and oversight remaining largely centralized. Olmsted described the method as a “bottom up approach.” Since that time, the program has been working through designated milestones to ensure consistent adoption across a balance of disciplines. These have included an ADOT Resilience Program and ADOT’s 2016 Complete Transportation Handbook, which is a foundational resource to guide sustainable project development efforts. The handbook includes a set of strategies and tools to improve transportation system sustainability.

ADOT’s Administrative Services Division is the most recent agency component to be placed under the sustainability program lens. Draft policies are being developed for practices such as fuel efficiency, office recycling, and commuting, and are expected to become standard policy in 2017. Meanwhile, the agency continues to incorporate and assess best management practices for achieving sustainability in every component of the transportation lifecycle. For instance, INVEST has been used to assess the effectiveness of mobile onsite batch plants for cement production in sensitive eco-regions of the state.

Operational Focus Areas

To frame ADOT’s sustainability program for the year ahead, a roadmap containing several dozen “Operational Focus Areas” is agreed upon annually that span the agency’s work: planning, project development, operations, maintenance, and administrative activities. For 2016, focus areas included activities such as:

  • sustainable outreach to Arizona tribes,
  • upgrading the heavy equipment idling policy,
  • developing a reuse policy for millings, and
  • assisting the Transportation Research Board (TRB) in framing global sustainable transport.

Efforts also include stand-alone projects such as the Black and Green Sustainable Pavement Pilot Program. Sustainable pavement management enhances roadway safety and optimizes pavement life cycles to reduce costs, while also considering the environmental impacts of construction and material usage. Other projects are on the drawing board, including efforts related to clean energy and sustainable freight.

In addition, ADOT plans to publish a progress report on the three framework components of its FHWA Climate Resilience Pilot Project: storm water, extreme weather, and downscaling of climate data as it relates to transportation systems.

Evaluating Performance Using INVEST

ADOT has advanced its sustainability efforts in large part by pioneering the FHWA’s INVEST sustainability tool. FHWA developed INVEST to help transportation agencies incorporate the “triple bottom line” objectives of environmental, economic, and social sustainability into their programs and projects. Web-based INVEST includes four independent modules: Systems Planning for States, Systems Planning for Regions, Project Development, and Operations and Maintenance.

Using INVEST modules, agencies can self-score how well they have achieved specific sustainability goals by measuring their work against carefully chosen best practice “criteria.” Each criterion has been selected because it links to one or more components of the “triple bottom line.” For example, one criterion included in the Project Development module is ecological connectivity, while the Operations and Maintenance module includes an electrical energy efficiency criterion. In total, INVEST incorporates 81 criteria spread across the four modules.

ADOT has played a key role in the evolution of INVEST. In 2011 it participated in the INVEST Version 1.0 beta-test program. Then in 2013 and 2014, it implemented the PD module, and in 2015 and 2016 it scored and adopted the OM module. Also during 2016, it assisted with developing INVEST Version 1.2 and issued its 2nd Annual Sustainable Transportation Program Report which included the Arizona DOT Sustainability Implementation Report. Being a pilot test agency for the modules gave his agency an early lead in leveraging INVEST’s capabilities to make major strides forward in its own internal sustainability work, said Olmsted.

“We use INVEST to measure, plan, discuss, and improve,” he said. “It is a shortcut for arriving at what the current FHWA sustainable universe encompasses and helps us do more with less.”

Putting INVEST to Work

ADOT already has put INVEST to good use. In 2015, it scored 50 projects in the agency’s five-year construction program using the Project Development Module, with an initial specific focus on statewide roundabout projects. ADOT then expanded the scoring from roundabouts to projects ranging from pavement preservation to bridge deck rehabilitation to new lane miles. It was particularly interested in how green infrastructure, low-impact development, multimodal mobility, freight and Context Sensitive Solutions can be measured and defined.

Out of the projects scored, two were rated gold (50 percent of total possible points), 9 were rated silver (40 percent of total possible points), and 20 were rated bronze (30 percent of total possible points).

In 2016, ADOT’s INVEST scoring focus centered on the agency’s operations and maintenance efforts The agency received an independently scored 142 points out of a possible 210, sufficient to achieve INVEST’s highest platinum rating.

ADOT also has harnessed INVEST’s capabilities to help meet NEPA requirements. For example, the agency applied INVEST as a scoring tool for design alternatives and a public outreach tool for two Environmental Impact Statements by requesting comment during the scoping period.

Challenges Encountered

Selling the concept of sustainability inside a traditional road-building agency can be challenging, Olmsted said. And working with a self-scoring tool such as INVEST initially may be met with resistance from some managers. But by maintaining the focus on exchange of information, and with a potential to highlight successes as well as areas for improvement, managers usually transition from initial skepticism to active involvement in sustainability discussions.

Another challenge is that precise financial benefits are difficult to quantify. Comprehensive sustainable transportation is still in its infancy without the benefit of cost-benefit analysis and return on investment statistics.

Advice for DOTs

For other state DOTs interested in developing a comprehensive sustainable transportation program, Olmsted offered the following guidance:

  • Identify an internal senior-level champion early in the process.
  • Work closely with FHWA staff, who are extremely knowledgeable.
  • Be prepared to invest considerable time and effort to make the program viable.
  • Incorporate an awards program such as ADOT’s Excellence in Advancing Sustainable Project Development Award Program.
  • Carry out training on how to use INVEST for continuous improvement, and make its use a standard operating procedure.

Training on using INVEST is crucial, said Olmstead. In 2014 and 2015, his agency carried out classroom training on INVEST and also trained several local public agencies. During 2016, most sustainability training took place by having the training team “embed themselves” with individuals in their offices. In the coming years, the agency plans to continue classroom training classes as well as sponsor larger state-wide training sessions.

For more information about ADOT’s sustainable transportation program and use of INVEST, access the ADOT Sustainable Transportation Program web page or contact Steven Olmsted, ADOT Office of Environmental Planning at SOlmsted@azdot.gov.

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Case Studies: California - Caltrans Works to Advance 'Smart Mobility' Approach

Since 2010, the California Department of Transportation has been working to implement a new vision for integrating transportation and land use decisions that promises to combine a range of familiar solutions taking hold across the nation: smart growth, livability, context sensitive design, transit-oriented development, complete streets, and sustainability.

Caltrans’ “Smart Mobility 2010” framework was developed to ensure that the state’s transportation investments achieve balanced outcomes for mobility, environmental protection, social equity, and economic growth – all backed by specific performance measures.

Caltrans describes the concept as follows: “Smart Mobility moves people and freight while enhancing California’s economic, environmental, and human resources by emphasizing: convenient and safe multi-modal travel, speed suitability, accessibility, management of the circulation network, and efficient use of land.”

Developed using a smart growth program grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, the framework establishes six Smart Mobility principles to be applied based on specified place-types, each with its own set of performance measures.

The six principles are:

  • location efficiency,
  • reliable mobility,
  • health and safety,
  • environmental stewardship,
  • social equity, and
  • robust economy.

Under the Smart Mobility approach, transportation planning and design would be conducted based on seven newly established place-types: urban centers, close-in compact communities, compact communities, suburban areas, rural and agricultural lands, protected lands, and special use areas.

For each place type, performance measures would be targeted to align with the principles. Types of performance measures include the following:

  • support for sustainable growth;
  • transit mode share;
  • accessibility and connectivity;
  • multi-modal travel mobility, reliability, service quality, safety;
  • design and speed suitability;
  • pedestrian and bicycle mode share;
  • climate and energy conservation;
  • emissions reduction;
  • equitable distribution of impacts;
  • equitable distribution of access and mobility;
  • congestion effects on productivity;
  • efficient use of system resources;
  • network performance optimization; and
  • return on investment.
Increasing pedestrian mode share in San Francisco. Photo: Caltrans

Interregional Blueprint Process

The plan also calls for a “transformed state transportation planning process” developed through a multimodal “Interregional Blueprint” process, incorporating transportation and land use planning efforts underway by regional and metropolitan planning organizations in the state.

California is subject to some of the nation’s most ambitious environmental and sustainability goals, including the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), under which the state must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

In addition, Senate Bill 375, enacted in 2008, requires regional targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles. SB 375 – which has been touted as a possible national model for transportation planning – establishes a process and incentives for the creation of integrated regional land use, housing and transportation plans called “sustainable communities strategies.” Building on these regional efforts, SB 391 passed in October of 2009, requires that the California Transportation Plan prepared by Caltrans identify the statewide multimodal transportation system that will achieve the state’s climate change goals.

The California Interregional Blueprint, a statewide land use-transportation plan will integrate the state’s various modal plans and incorporate individual blueprints developed by regions across the state. Caltrans currently administers the California Regional Blueprint Planning Program for regional transportation planning agencies to conduct comprehensive scenario planning, bringing together a range of stakeholders to develop preferred long-range growth scenarios.

The Interregional Blueprint will incorporate the Smart Mobility principles and improve modeling and data gathering, serving as the foundation for the next update of the California Transportation Plan. The Interregional Blueprint planning process is underway.

Next Steps

A number of short-term actions will be undertaken between 2012 and 2014 to develop and test approaches to implement the Smart Mobility principles and performance measures. These include applying the framework in separate planning efforts in the northern and southern portions of the state. The agency plans to document these efforts and develop a “how-to” guide for implementation.

The vision for using the framework is described by Caltrans as follows:

  • find your place type;
  • forecast transportation needs;
  • apply Smart Mobility principles;
  • assess Smart Mobility Performance;
  • prioritize transportation investments;
  • achieve Smart Mobility.

Additional Efforts

Other efforts include a Caltrans-funded study, Improved Data and Tools for Integrated Land Use-Transportation Planning in California, which was completed in October 2012. Over a three-year period, the project team collected and analyzed data on land use-travel relationships at more than 200,000 locations in most of California. The project provided a final report as well as analytical tools for use in “sketch”-planning tools, which local and regional agencies use to assist in developing scenarios, and travel demand forecasting models, which are commonly used to analyze resulting scenarios. These products will be helpful to regional agencies in their Blueprint and sustainable community strategies and regional transportation planning, and to local governments for their planning efforts. Another significant Caltrans effort has been implementation of its complete streets directive.

Caltrans also has completed a survey, “Smart Mobility: A Survey of Current Practice and Related Research,” that looks at federal, state and regional activities to assess the current state of the practice of sustainability-oriented planning and performance measurement

For additional information on the framework, link to the Smart Mobility page on the Caltrans website or contact Chris Ratekin, senior transportation planner with Caltrans, at Chris_Ratekin@dot.ca.gov.

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Case Studies: Chicago - Chicago DOT Advances Model Sustainable Streetscape

Urban streetscapes in a major city may appear to be an unlikely environment to find leaner and greener practices. However, the Chicago Department of Transportation has shown that it is not only possible to make sustainable upgrades to city streets, but that such upgrades improve the quality of the landscape and the livability of the community in many ways.

To demonstrate the scope of sustainable practices in an urban context, Chicago DOT used a grant from the Federal Highway Administration under the Eco-Logical program to help transform an approximately 2-mile stretch of urban street on Chicago’s south side. Known as the Cermak/Blue Island Sustainable Streetscape, the project follows South Blue Island Avenue and West Cermak Road along the South Branch Chicago River. In addition to the FHWA grant, the $14 million project was funded through Tax Increment Financing, as well as grants from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Midwest Generation.

Planners and designers identified several performance goals for the project. These include:

  • stormwater management,
  • water efficiency,
  • multi-modal transportation improvements,
  • energy efficiency,
  • use of recycled materials,
  • reducing the urban heat island effect,
  • air quality improvements, and
  • education, beautification, and community development.

Phase I has been completed and Phase II, a portion of South Blue Island Avenue between South Wolcott Avenue and South Western Avenue, is underway, according to Janet Attarian, Project Director for the CDOT Streetscape and Sustainable Design Program.

CDOT held a dedication ceremony on Oct. 9, 2012, to highlight the successes of Phase I of the project. In announcing the completion of the first phase, CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein said the project “demonstrates a full range of sustainable design techniques that improve the urban ecosystem, promote economic development, increase the safety and usability of streets for all users, and build healthy communities.”

Stormwater management feature, Photo Courtesy of Chicago DOT

CDOT said the first phase of the project has achieved a number of sustainability goals:

Material Recycling and Innovation: the first commercial roadway application of photocatalytic cement, which cleans the surface of the roadway and removes nitrogen oxide gases from the surrounding air through a catalytic reaction driven by UV light; the recycling of more than 60 percent of all construction waste and the sourcing of more than 23 percent of all new materials from recycled content; the first installation of sidewalk concrete with 30 percent recycled content in the city; and the first installation of roadway asphalt that includes reclaimed asphalt pavement, slag, ground tire rubber, reclaimed asphalt shingles, and warm mix technology.

Stormwater Management: the project diverts up to 80 percent of the typical average annual rainfall from the combined sewer through a combination of bioswales, rain gardens, permeable pavements, and stormwater features; the creation of two public plazas that infiltrate stormwater and include seating and educational opportunities.

Water Efficiency: the elimination of the use of potable water for all landscape irrigation; the piloting of 95 drought tolerant, native plant species in bioswales, and infiltration planters to evaluate effectiveness in roadside conditions.

Energy Reduction: the project reduced the energy use of the street by 42 percent and used dark-sky friendly light fixtures; installed the first permanent wind/solar powered pedestrian lights and the first LED pedestrian light poles on a streetscape in Chicago; 76 percent of all materials used were manufactured and extracted within 500 miles of the project site; and 23 percent of all materials were within 200 miles of the project site; piloted use of microthin concrete overlay to extend pavement life and increase solar reflectance.

Urban Heat Island Effect Reduction/Air Quality: the project included high-albedo pavement surfaces to decrease the urban heat island effect, representing 40 percent of the total public right of way; provided a 131 percent increase in landscape and tree canopy cover; used ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel for construction vehicles.

Community and Education: the project developed community identity with education kiosks, a walking tour brochure, and a guide book in Spanish and English that provide a wide range of information about the sustainable best practices used in the project.

Alternative Transportation: the installation of a pedestrian refuge island in Cermak Road adjacent to Juarez Community Academy, and curb-corner extensions throughout the project, in order to improve pedestrian safety; one half mile of new bike lanes on Blue Island Avenue; improved bus stop areas with signage, shelters and lighting.

Monitoring and Evaluation: modeled and monitored stormwater best management practices to analyze design, ensure predicted performance, and determine maintenance practices; performed air quality testing to analyze photocatalytic impacts on air quality; and developed a maintenance protocol with the community to transition maintenance responsibility from the city over a two year period. For the first time, the project required that a streetscape contractor fully track and document the use of recycled content, recycled materials, and local manufacture and extraction on the project.

Site Chosen for Mix of Uses

The site was chosen because it includes a complex mix of uses that made it especially attractive for testing different design elements, according to project manager David Leopold, with Knight Engineers & Architects. The neighborhood includes a park, a high school, commercial real estate, a power plant, a brick yard, a scrap yard, a nonprofit organization, and, only a block away, residential areas.

One of the main goals of the project was to balance the needs of the all the existing users while at the same time minimizing the ecological impact of the uses, all in a limited amount of space, according to Leopold. CDOT made an effort to find opportunities for ecology “based on the limitations of our urban area,” Leopold said.

Another goal was to push the technology for sustainable infrastructure, Attarian said. As a pilot project, the design goals set a very high standard and a lot needed to be done “to make sure that [technology] would be available for us,” Attarian said. For example, for the photocatalytic cement CDOT had to find a domestic source willing and able to produce it, according to Attarian.

Another example is the high albedo pavement used in the project. The concrete mixes were developed and tested by CDOT, using slag and lighter aggregates

Key to the effort was realizing that “a single design mode can have multiple benefits,” Leopold said. As an example, bioswales are effective at trapping stormwater to reduce the amount of runoff flowing into the city sewers. They also serve as a buffer between the pedestrian space and the street. In addition, they provide habitat for birds and insects. Finally, they are attractive, serving to beautify the area and promoting economic development in the process.

In addition, the project was intended to be a laboratory to learn how to design, build, and install sustainable infrastructure. CDOT wanted to find out “what we [could] do if we try to take advantage of everything we had” in terms of innovative technologies, processes, and practices, according to Attarian.

The redesign of one streetscape provides a blueprint that can be scaled up to address stormwater issues, the urban heat island effect, and other sustainability issues throughout the entire city, both Attarian and Leopold noted. What was developed for and learned from this project will be standardized and implemented as much as possible citywide. CDOT has received information from the project’s contractor on what worked and what did not work, information that will be instructive to new efforts going forward, Attarian said.

“A big part of what we are doing is education,” Attarian said. There is education of CDOT employees on how to use the new materials and design principles. The project team is developing a set of sustainable urban infrastructure policies that will be publicly available.

In addition, public education is integral to the project. The FHWA Eco-Logical grant aided in the purchase of the hybrid wind- and solar-powered information kiosks placed along the sidewalks to provide educational material about the streetscape design.

Lessons Learned

There were several lessons learned from the design and construction of the project, according to Attarian. They include the following:

  • integrated design requires new roles within interdisciplinary design teams;
  • technology availability may not always coincide with project schedules;
  • changing “business and usual” within a public right of way requires communication with all users;
  • monitoring local pilot projects is critical for the accurate comparison of grey versus green alternatives; and
  • addressing livability issues within the public right of way involves inherently sustainable practices.

CDOT has installed the means to perform ongoing monitoring of the sustainable materials and techniques, including the monitoring of stormwater, pavement and air temperatures, and air quality. This monitoring was not required, but rather it was “what we wanted to do” to learn from the project, Attarian said.

More information is available on the CDOT Streetscapes and Sustainable Design website, http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/supp_info/streetscapes_andsustainabledesign.html. Additional information is available by contacting Janet Attarian at (312) 744-3100), Jattarian@cityofchicago.org, or David Leopold at (312) 742-4772), dleopold@knightea.com.

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Case Studies: Chicago - Chicago's Green Alley Program

Since 2006, the Chicago Department of Transportation has been upgrading the city’s alleys with state-of-the-art green pavement materials and designs to better manage stormwater and prevent flooding. The agency also is testing use of reflective surfaces to reduce the urban “heat island” effect, and is increasing use of recycled materials for rehabilitation of alleys. Chicago’s Green Alley program was launched to help address rainwater collecting in alleys and flooding surrounding areas. Additionally, the program helped meet goals to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change established in Chicago’s Climate Action Plan. Each of the city’s departments was charged with determining how climate change will affect its programs and taking action to help mitigate and adapt to the expected impacts, including increases in temperature and more frequent and severe flooding.

Chicago’s urban landscape includes more than 1,900 miles of public alleys accounting for more than 3,500 acres of impervious surface, one of the largest alley networks of any city in the world, Leopold said. Rehabilitation of the city’s alleys using green techniques offered a good starting point to help relieve environmental stresses on the city’s transportation and sewer infrastructure. Most of the aging alleys throughout the city are not connected to the city’s storm sewer system and are prone to flooding. When flooding problems occur, instead of tearing up the alley and diverting water to the sewer system, officials now install permeable surfaces that slow down the flow of water and allow natural infiltration and recharge to the groundwater below.

The Green Alley program began with five pilot projects, and soon expanded for use on a regular basis. Rehabilitation using green infrastructure practices is taking place as the need arises to upgrade existing alleys. As of the end of 2009, the city will have installed more than 100 green alley designs throughout the city. To help get the word out on its sustainable infrastructure practices, the city published the Green Alley Handbook, which describes best management practices used in the program and examples from pilot projects. The handbook describes the following types of Green Alley techniques:

  • improved drainage through proper pitching and grading of the alley;
  • use of pavement materials such as permeable pavers, permeable concrete, and permeable asphalt;
  • installation of “high albedo” pavement which is light in color and reflects sunlight away from the surface rather than absorbing and radiating heat.
  • use of recycled construction materials, including recycled concrete aggregate used in concrete mix and as a base beneath surface paving, use of slag from industrial processes as a component of concrete mix, and use of ground tire rubber in porous asphalt and reclaimed asphalt pavement in non-porous asphalt;
  • use of energy efficient, “dark sky compliant” lighting that directs light downward and reduces light pollution.

The handbook describes four applications that used different combinations of these techniques based on site conditions. These included use of green pavement materials with conventional drainage, use of full alley infiltration using permeable pavement, use of center alley infiltration using permeable pavement, and use of green pavement materials with a subsoil filtration system. It also recommends a variety of best management practices that adjacent property owners can use, including recycling, composting of yard waste and scraps, planting shade trees and native plants, use of permeable pavements and green roofs, installation of energy efficient and dark-sky lighting, and creation of naturalized detention and vegetated swales to encourage stormwater infiltration.

The agency has had some “lessons learned,” including the need for increased maintenance for the permeable surfaces. The pervious pavements need to be cleaned on a regular basis to maintain permeability, and cleaning must begin before the pavement becomes deeply clogged with debris. City officials have found they can get the job done by running their traditional street sweepers twice a year – in the fall and the spring – as part of a regular maintenance routine for the green alleys. Chicago DOT is continuing to monitor the performance of green alleys to determine whether maintenance practices are sufficient and to measure infiltration rates, pavement strength and durability, and reflective characteristics of the materials.

For more information, link to the Green Alley Handbook or contact David Leopold, Project Manager, Streetscape and Sustainable Design Program, Chicago DOT, at david.leopold@cityofchicago.org. Information on Chicago’s Climate Change Action Plan may be accessed at http://www.chicagoclimateaction.org/.

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Case Studies: District of Columbia - District of Columbia DOT Advances Sustainable Practices Department-Wide

Environmental stewardship and sustainability efforts in the nation’s capital are continuing to advance, with the District of Columbia Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) implementation of a sustainability plan and a range of sustainable practices for the department.

DDOT’s Sustainability Plan incorporates and integrates sustainable practices throughout the department’s work, according to Faisal Hameed, Chief of the Project Development, Environment, and Sustainability Division at DDOT. The agency has established measures and targets that will be revised regularly so that DDOT can track and improve its environmental performance and increase the sustainability of the city’s transportation projects and programs.

Environmental, Social, Economic Goals

DDOT’s Sustainability Plan reflects the “triple bottom line” approach to sustainability, targeting environmental quality, social structure, and the economy.

DDOT defines a sustainable transportation as “a transportation system that provides its users with various mode choices in a balanced manner without compromising their safety, accessibility, and mobility while supporting the economy, promoting livability and protecting the environment.”

The plan identifies eight priority areas for sustainability and establishes goals, actions, measures, and targets for each. The priority areas and goals are:

  • Promoting transportation and land use linkage
  • Improving mode choices, accessibility and mobility
  • Effective cost assessments in decision-making
  • Supporting the economy
  • Improving DDOT operations and project development processes
  • Protecting the environment and conserving resources
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Promoting livability and safety

For each priority area, measures and targets are identified, such as reduction of annual greenhouse gas emissions from DDOT projects by 5 percent annually. DDOT will track each area and report annually on progress made in achieving the targets.

Sustainable Initiatives and Projects Underway

Examples of sustainable efforts include DDOT’s “Great Streets” initiative, with efforts such as the Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue project, which won one of the first grants from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under its Green Highways Partnership. DDOT employees successfully worked with EPA, the Federal Highway Administration, District Department of Environment, National Park Service, and other agency partners and the community to develop a sustainable design that improves bicycle and pedestrian safety by adding bike lanes, enhancing sidewalks, and incorporating low impact development (LID) features. Project features include bioretention areas, stormwater planters, and permeable concrete sidewalks, all of which help treat stormwater and reduce runoff into local waterways.

DDOT’s work to develop a Climate Change Adaptation Plan is another key sustainability effort. The plan will focus on developing a framework of recommendations for adapting to impacts brought on by a changing climate, especially as they relate to transportation infrastructure. DDOT has conducted workshops with the Federal Highway Administration, EPA, AASHTO, Metropolitan Washington Area Council of Governments, District Department of Environment, and various other agencies to develop this framework.

DDOT also is emerging as a national leader in bike-sharing and bicycle improvement programs, spearheaded by DDOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager. Over 100 bike-share stations have been installed in the city and several more are planned.

Another example is the Klingle Valley Trail project, which will address historic flooding that caused erosion of a stream and road in Rock Creek Park. Working through an interagency partnership focused on a watershed approach to mitigation, DDOT will replace the existing storm-damaged roadway with a 10-foot-wide permeable-surface multi-use trail, use LID techniques and build a consistent bioswale parallel to the trail, and conduct innovative full stream channel restoration and bank stabilization for Klingle Creek.

In addition, historic preservation goals were achieved in a sustainable manner in the reconstruction and restoration of O and P Streets in the Georgetown National Historic District.

Restoration of one and a half miles of the roadway required the excavation of more than 300,000 granite pavers and removal of historic trolley tracks. After inspecting each granite paver, more than 90 percent of the original stones were reused. Each was power washed and placed one-by-one into the new roadway base. The trolley tracks and underground appurtenances were refurbished and returned to their original locations. At the same time, the 19th century water mains were replaced. DDOT employees led the complex design and construction of the roadway features while maintaining traffic and access for residents in a street that consists of all historic houses.

Other successful efforts include DDOT’s Green Alley pilot program to demonstrate use of permeable pavement and other low impact development techniques in alleys throughout D.C., as well as the city’s LED street lights programs.

EMS Advances Sustainability

In support of its sustainability efforts, DDOT also is implementing an environmental management system (EMS), based on the International Standards Organization (ISO 14001) structure. The agency may seek ISO certification in the future, Hameed said. The EMS is being implemented in phases. As the first phase, DDOT focused on the project development and environmental review process as well as office operations.

Following the “plan-do-check-act” EMS model, DDOT’s EMS outlines the agency’s environmental policy and describes objectives, measures, and targets as well as roles and responsibilities for implementation, measuring and reporting progress, and ensuring continuous improvement.

For project development and environmental review, the plan applies to all phases of project development, including planning, preliminary engineering, environmental review, final design, construction and maintenance. It calls for incorporation of environmental features in DDOT projects and increased use of beneficial and recycled materials.

For example, under the plan, projects will set a goal to achieve a 5 percent decrease in overall emissions as well as a 5 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, and at least half of all projects will include environmental components such as low impact development features and tree planting.

In addition, measures and targets are included to help streamline environmental reviews by reducing delays from environmental issues, avoiding delays in obtaining permits, and fulfilling environmental commitments on projects.

As part of the EMS implementation, environmental audits will be conducted at every phase of the project development process, and environmental commitments and mitigation will be tracked to ensure that the commitments are carried through to design and construction. The results of the reviews will be documented in an annual report, including recommendations for corrective actions.

“The idea is to monitor and evaluate environmental considerations throughout the project development process,” Hameed said. Forms must be filled out when a project is initiated, he said, and based on that form, determinations are made regarding potential environmental impacts and mitigation. That form is reviewed and approved by the Project Development, Environment, and Sustainability Division to ensure commitments are carried out.

For more information, link to the DDOT Sustainability Plan.

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Case Studies: District of Columbia - D.C. DOT Initiatives Turn City Roads into 'Great Streets'

The District of Columbia Department of Transportation is emerging as a leader in sustainable approaches to transportation, instituting a collection of environmental process improvements and interagency partnerships to integrate land use, transportation, environmental stewardship, and community needs. There are a wide range of initiatives underway to help build sustainable communities across the city.

One initiative, dubbed “Great Streets,” focuses on improving major road corridors in the city. The program is intended to make road improvements that promote local businesses while also enhancing communities with better pedestrian, bicycle, and transit options for “sustainable mobility,” according to a summary.

The Great Streets initiative follows five basic principles:

  • Change the public and market perceptions of the corridors through streetscape and transportation improvements, and reposition them as one of the best places to live and work, consequently expanding the city's tax base;
  • Transform roadways and intersections into environmentally friendly and usable community open spaces;
  • Change the existing "corridors" function from major vehicular arterials into streets that sustain healthy pedestrian and transit based activities, and consequently support the city's air quality and transportation agendas;
  • Transform each corridor into a place that is memorable, compelling, and desirable to visit again and again;
  • Reposition the street as a vital neighborhood asset, and thus increase the community's stake in its design, upkeep, and stewardship.

To achieve these goals, DDOT plans to spend more than $100 million over 4 years to improve public spaces in six target corridors. Partner agencies in the city include the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, the Office of Planning, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), and Neighborhood Service Coordinators.

DDOT also is a key partner in several multi-agency initiatives and projects to spur economic development, social equity, and mobility in the city. Key among them is the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, a multi-agency effort to revitalize the areas around the waterfront of the Anacostia River. Goals of the initiative are to achieve environmentally responsible development; to unify diverse waterfront areas into commercial, residential, recreational, and open-space uses; to develop and conserve park areas; and to provide greater access to the waterfront, communities, and business corridors. Construction already has begun on a new 1.5-mile streetcar line in Anacostia, the first installment of a planned city-wide streetcar network. A series of open houses on the proposed streetcar network will be held in late October and early November.

These and many other DDOT initiatives are among a long list of actions included on the “Green D.C. Agenda,” a sustainability initiative launched by D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty on Earth Day 2009. Topping the list are the city’s pioneering efforts to promote bicycling. On Oct. 2, D.C. officials cut the ribbon on a state-of-the-art bicycle station. The facility offers bicycle parking, rentals, repairs and accessories at the west end of Union Station and holds approximately 133 bicycles. The $4 million project was funded by the Federal Highway Administration and DDOT. The city also is home to a first-of-its-kind bicycle sharing program. Launched in 2008, the program currently offers 10 kiosks housing 100 bikes. DDOT has plans to add another 50 stations to the network.

Within DDOT, plans for achieving sustainable transportation will be implemented through a range of process improvements, including a comprehensive environmental management system. Detailed information on environmental compliance and stewardship for DDOT projects is spelled out in the new Environmental Process and Policy Manual. Early consideration of stakeholder concerns allowed DDOT to streamline the review process for the 11th Street Bridges project and earned the agency top honors for environmental streamlining in FHWA’s 2009 Environmental Excellence Awards.

For more information, link to DDOT web pages on the Great Streets Initiative, the Anacostia Initiative, Bike Sharing, Bike Station, Environmental Management System, Environmental Policy and Process Manual, and Context Sensitive Solutions Guidelines. Additional information may be accessed by linking to the Green D.C. Agenda and transit and mobility action items page.

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Case Studies: Hawaii - Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan

The Legislature created the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Task Force. This is a group of 25 citizens with a diverse range of experience in planning, community, business, the environment, and government. They were charged with developing the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan, the State’s first long-range plan in 30 years. The plan contains a definition for sustainable development, strategic goals, planning principles, actions, and a broad range of indicators. For more information, link to Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan.

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Case Studies: Illinois - Illinois - Livable and Sustainable Transportation Rating System and Guide (I-LAST)

Transportation design and construction groups in Illinois have helped to design a voluntary guide intended to encourage use of sustainable practices for the transportation projects in the state. The Illinois - Livable and Sustainable Transportation Rating System and Guide (I-LAST), issued in January 2010, was developed in a cooperative effort between the Illinois Department of Transportation, the American Council of Engineering Companies–Illinois (ACEC-Illinois), and the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association (IRTBA). The guide – which is voluntary and “advisory in nature” – provides a description of sustainability in transportation and provides a tool for identifying and documenting sustainable practices on highway projects in the state.

The purpose of the guide is to:

  • provide a comprehensive list of practices that have the potential to bring sustainable results to highway projects;
  • establish a simple and efficient method of evaluating transportation projects with respect to livability, sustainability, and effect on the natural environment; and
  • record and recognize the use of sustainable practices in the transportation industry.

The I-LAST guide identifies the following goals of providing sustainable features in the design and construction of highway projects:

  • Minimize impacts to environmental resources
  • Minimize consumption of material resources
  • Minimize energy consumption
  • Preserve or enhance the historic, scenic and aesthetic context of a highway project
  • Integrate highway projects into the community in a way that helps to preserve and enhance community life
  • Encourage community involvement in the transportation planning process
  • Encourage integration of non-motorized means of transportation into a highway project
  • Find a balance between what is important: to the transportation function of the facility, to the community to the natural environment, and is economically sound,
  • Encourage the use of new and innovative approaches in achieving these goals.

The guide includes a checklist-based scorecard for evaluating the sustainable practices included in a highway project, with 17 separate sustainable features in eight categories:

  • Planning: context sensitive solutions, land use /community planning;
  • Design: alignment selection, context sensitive design;
  • Environmental: protect, enhance or restore wildlife communities; protect, enhance, restore native plant communities; noise abatement;
  • Water: reduce impervious area; stormwater treatment; construction practices to protect water quality;
  • Transportation: traffic operations, transit, improve bicycle and pedestrian facilities;
  • Lighting: reduced electrical consumption, stray light reduction;
  • Materials; and
  • Innovation.

For each of the 17 features, the scorecard lists activities and available points that could be earned for each activity included on a project. It also provides an explanation and resources to help users better understand how to implement each of the sustainable features.

The effort started with a desire to be more proactive on sustainability and was inspired by the GreenLITES approach developed by New York State DOT (see related case study). Industry partners worked with Illinois DOT to tailor their own system, agreeing that it would be used only on a voluntary basis. There is currently no certification or other incentive for the project scoring system, but such an approach may be added in the future.

While the I-LAST approach is voluntary, District 1 already has begun using the approach. The sustainable actions listed in the guide are already being done on many projects, but it is expected to bring awareness and encourage sustainable practices. While officials say they do not foresee a statewide mandate for the approach, it is expected to raise awareness of the types of practices that can be done.

The extent to which the Illinois guide takes hold also may be influenced by a sustainability tool currently under development by the Federal Highway Administration. The agency is in the process of developing its own rating system to provide criteria for sustainable practices.

For more information on the Illinois approach, link to the Illinois - Livable and Sustainable Transportation Rating System and Guide (I-LAST).

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Case Studies: Maryland - Maryland SHA Develops Decision Support Tool to Select Sustainable Solutions

A new decision support tool under development by Maryland’s State Highway Administration will help the agency quickly find cost-effective solutions to address congested travel corridors while protecting the state’s environmental resources and community quality of life.

The Model of Sustainability and Integrated Corridors, known as MOSAIC, is a new planning calculator that will allow planners to quantify sustainability data and compare alternative scenarios to make more informed decisions at the corridor level for transportation planning purposes. The tool will help planners and stakeholders to move more quickly along the project development path by providing clear and succinct assessments of the relative environmental, mobility, safety, and economic impacts of project options being considered at a low cost. MOSAIC is being jointly developed by MDSHA and the University of Maryland.

Six Sustainability Factors

The tool compares project scenarios according to six sustainability factors: mobility, safety, socioeconomics, energy and environment, natural resources, and project costs. Each factor includes multiple performance measures, totaling more than thirty measures overall. MOSAIC then produces a score for each alternative and ranks its performance in relation to the various factors.

Still in the initial phases, MOSAIC is a component of SHA’s Comprehensive Highway Corridor initiative, a program to improve transportation efficiency, safety, and sustainability in critical highway corridors. In its initial version, the tool can compare two alternative scenarios—the adding of a general purpose lane or creating grade-separated interchanges—against a “do nothing” option.

SHA used MOSAIC to plan improvements to the US 15 corridor north of Frederick, Md. The tool suggested that converting at-grade intersections to grade-separated interchanges on US 15 provided more sustainable benefits as compared to constructing additional travel lanes and was much better than the no-build scenario. Over time, MOSIAC will be upgraded to include additional multi-modal scenario options.

Data-Driven Solutions

SHA recognized the need for “incorporating data-driven sustainable solutions” into the decision-making process for transportation projects, bringing the agency to use an existing contract with the University of Maryland to develop MOSAIC, according to Eric Beckett, a regional planner with SHA.

The developers performed a comprehensive review of literature and best practices and studied state-of-the-art transportation planning strategies and tools used in various state departments of transportation. These reviews provided a baseline of what works and what is applicable for sustainability decisions.

MOSAIC requires a minimum amount of training to use and produces numeric outputs and summary reports. It also creates graphical outputs suitable for sharing with stakeholders. The user supplies data such as land use, transportation, and ecological impacts, and the various factors used in the calculation can be weighted according to policy considerations and agency priorities.

Currently, the tool is in the final stages of Phase 2, which “builds off of the original…model to include multi-modal improvements for comparison,” according to Beckett. SHA will be testing it on improvements to US 29 in the near future, Beckett said.

Ultimately, the MOSAIC tool will be integrated with the Maryland Statewide Transportation Model through SHA’s Enterprise GIS system. The Maryland Statewide Transportation Model is a multi-layer travel demand model working at national, statewide, and urban levels to forecast and analyze key measures of transportation system performance.

“Eventually the MOSAIC tool will allow us to quickly evaluate proposed road improvements and…changes to land use,” Beckett said. “We believe there is a great potential for transferability” to other state DOTs, Beckett added.

Additional information is available by contacting Greg Slater at (410) 545-0412, GSlater@sha.state.md.us, or Eric Beckett at (410) 545-5666, ebeckett@sha.state.md.us.

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Case Studies: Massachusetts - MassDOT Advances GreenDOT Sustainability Initiative

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is continuing to make progress on sustainability initiatives, a process that began with the 2010 GreenDOT policy directive.

In 2014, the agency conducted a comprehensive review of its progress on sustainability initiatives and issued the GreenDOT Report 2014 Status Update Report. Key priorities being pursued include:

  • improving the consideration of GHG impacts in transportation planning;
  • implementation of a complete streets funding program;
  • initiating a statewide climate adaptation and vulnerability assessment;
  • development of renewable energy on MassDOT assets;
  • delivering travel demand management services;
  • improving energy efficiency of MassDOT’s fixed assets; and
  • supporting increased uptake of electric vehicles.
Increasing bicycle and pedestrian mode share is an important element of MassDOT’s sustainability initiative. Photo: MassDOT

Improving Consideration of GHG impacts

MassDOT has been working with Metropolitan Planning Organizations for a number of years to incorporate GHG impacts of projects as a consideration when transportation projects are selected. This work has taken on new urgency with the 2015 passage of state regulation 310 CMR 60.05 which makes the consideration of GHG impacts a legal requirement.

The agency has provided metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) with analytical tools, guidelines and training to enable the quantification of GHG impacts. It also is undertaking analysis to identify the most efficient and effective means of reducing transportation sector GHG emissions through implementing a pilot of the Federal Highway Administration’s Energy and Emissions Policy Analysis Tool and a project with UMass Amherst under the Massachusetts Cooperative Research Program.

Shannon Greenwell, MassDOT’s project lead, noted that the central challenge in this work is to develop a system of GHG impact assessment that is consistent across the Commonwealth’s MPOs and allows the quantification of GHG impacts at a relatively early stage in the project development process.

Implementing a Complete Streets Funding Program

MassDOT has been a national leader in promoting Complete Streets designs. Early efforts were recognized in the award-winning 2006 Project Development and Design Guide. More recently, MassDOT issued the 2012 Healthy Transportation Engineering Directive and supporting engineering directives that set minimum standards for accommodation of active modes of transportation.

Its pioneering efforts to promote complete streets continue with the finalization of a Complete Streets Funding Program. This program will be released in January of 2016 and will help incentivize municipalities to adopt complete streets policies and construct complete street projects.

The agency also finalized a ground breaking Separated Bike Lane Planning & Design Guide in 2015 that significantly advances bicycle facility design in the Commonwealth and aims to set new precedents for design in the United States.

MassDOT Complete Streets Engineer Luciano Rabito noted that the first projects will be ready for funding in 2016 and that MassDOT has sought to provide flexibility for all participating municipalities. “We have designed a program that will offer assistance to all municipalities large or small; urban, suburban, or rural. The program, which will be managed online, will be easy to use and keep municipalities engaged throughout the process. Based on the positive feedback we have received, we are anticipating a hugely successful program.”

Statewide Climate Adaptation and Vulnerability Assessment

MassDOT has initiated a climate vulnerability assessment to help prepare the Commonwealth for the likely impacts of climate change on transportation infrastructure.

The scope of this first phase will include mapping the full inventory of MassDOT assets; compiling and mapping climate change predictions; conducting workshops to gather data on current conditions; assessing the level of risk to individual assets and the system as a whole; developing asset vulnerability criteria; and identifying a prioritized set of high-risk hazards and high-risk assets.

Development of Renewable Energy on MassDOT’s Assets

MassDOT’s work to support increased generation of renewable energy continues. The first phase of the project to establish solar farms on underutilized areas near State Highways was completed in 2015 with the addition of five solar arrays. These projects utilize an innovative form of Power Purchase Agreement financing, under which a solar developer bears the upfront cost of the installations and operation and maintenance responsibilities, and MassDOT secures a long term agreement to purchase low cost electricity. Additional solar projects are planned, as well as a wind turbine project for a commuter rail facility.

These developments add to a range of existing renewable energy initiatives on MassDOT’s assets which include solar projects as well as a wind energy project at an MBTA facility.

The project lead, Lily Oliver, explained that MassDOT is starting to see the benefits of highway solar projects after almost 2 years of design and construction. “A lot of upfront work was required for these projects to go ahead” says Oliver. “This included a competitive procurement process, price negotiations, town and highway access permits, obtaining approvals from FHWA and securing state incentives. It is satisfying to see these projects coming online which means reduced operating costs for MassDOT and lower greenhouse gas emissions for Massachusetts,” Oliver said. (see related AASHTO case study under Energy/GHG Emissions topic)

Delivering Travel Demand Management Services

In the area of travel demand, MassDOT supports the reduction of single-occupant vehicle travel by increasing the availability and use of commuting options such as carpooling, vanpooling, transit, bicycling, and walking through its MassRIDES program.

The use of these options leads to reduced traffic congestion; improved air quality; reduced GHG emissions; and enhanced quality of life in Massachusetts. MassRIDES now serves 495,000 employees within its 335 partner organizations.

Improving Energy Efficiency of MassDOT’s Fixed Assets

MassDOT has a number of initiatives underway and planned to reduce the energy used in its buildings and other fixed assets. These include the following:

  • Energy audits and high-payback upgrades of 130 buildings covering almost 1.9 million square feet; An estimated $4.4 million dollars will be invested in upgrades to the 130 MassDOT facilities, which are expected to produce an annual saving for Massachusetts taxpayers of $500,000.
  • Installation of LED lights in the tunnels of the Metropolitan Highway System in downtown Boston. The tunnels to be covered by the project contain approximately 25,000 existing fixtures that will be replaced.
  • Upgrading the heating units that prevent the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s third rail from freezing during winter. The existing heaters are outdated, have outmoded controls, and require a large amount of electricity to power. They are turned on in late fall and remain on until spring, running 24 hours per day. The MBTA is installing efficient units that can be remotely controlled based on actual weather conditions. It is estimated that this initiative could create savings of over 39.8 million kWh and $3.4 million annually in electricity costs.

Supporting Increased Use of Electric Vehicles

Massachusetts committed to a goal of 300,000 zero emission vehicles registered in the state by 2025 under a Multi-State ZEV Action Plan. MassDOT has a number of responsibilities under its draft Massachusetts’ Zero Emission Vehicle Action Plan. They include the installation of up to 12 DC fast charging stations at locations close to State Highways within Massachusetts to provide range confidence for drivers on longer journeys and providing signage to guide drivers to charging stations.

Challenges arise when installing a new layer of refueling technology on a busy State Highway system. They include meeting rules governing the use of federal air quality funds and complying with restrictions on commercial activities near the highway. MassDOT also must work with existing lessees, utility companies and other state government agencies, all while siting the charging stations where they will be most useful to the traveling public.

For more information on MassDOT’s sustainability initiatives, visit MassDOT’s GreenDOT Sustainability Initiative website.

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Case Studies: Massachusetts - MassDOT's 'Fast-14' Bridge Replacement Project Saves Time and Money, Lessens Environmental Impacts

The replacement of one deteriorating highway bridge typically requires years of planning and construction. In 2011, Massachusetts DOT completed the replacement of 14 bridge structures on I-93 in a matter of weeks, saving time and money, improving public safety, and lessening environmental impacts.

The project, which used prefabricated, modular superstructure units, was dubbed “Fast 14” – one of several projects under MassDOT’s Accelerated Bridge Program. The project was “one of the most ambitious and innovative infrastructure projects in the nation,” according to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

Accelerated bridge construction technologies are being advanced through the Federal Highway Administration’s Every Day Counts Initiative. Intended to address the nation’s deteriorating bridges, these new techniques are aimed at cutting costs, increasing safety, and minimizing inconvenience to travelers.

According to FHWA, by using these techniques, DOTs can reduce the time associated with traditional planning, design, and bridge construction efforts by years. In addition, the newer designs and materials produce safer, more durable bridges with longer service lives than those built using conventional techniques.

Such methods also can lessen the environmental impact of construction. Most of the bridge fabrication occurs offsite in factories rather than on the construction site, minimizing disruption to sensitive ecosystems such as wetlands. Shorter construction time also allows projects to be scheduled around critical natural cycles for plants and animals.

Ten Summer Weekends

For the Fast 14 project, MassDOT announced the awarding of a design/build contract in January 2011. The $92 million contract was for the rapid replacement of 14 deteriorated bridge superstructures on I-93 northbound and southbound in the City of Medford over ten weekends between June and August 2011. This is a fraction of the estimated four years that would have been required if conventional construction methods had been used. A traffic management plan and a comprehensive communications plan allowed MassDOT to minimize congestion and other community impacts during construction, which was limited to off-peak hours. The project was completed ahead of schedule, according to Mass DOT.

One bridge that was replaced carries I-93 northbound over Riverside Avenue in Medford. On the weekend of June 3-5, 2011, the bridge was closed to traffic Friday evening, with the I-93 traffic diverted to two lanes in each direction. The substructures required only minor repairs, allowing for the rapid replacement of the superstructure.

MassDOT used excavators to demolish the old superstructure overnight, completing the removal by Saturday morning. Then the prefabricated, modular superstructure units were installed and concrete was poured to fill in between the panels. The bridge construction was completed on Sunday at midnight, and the Interstate was open to traffic in time for the Monday morning commute. The bridge was replaced in approximately 55 hours, according to MassDOT.

Project Innovations

Fast 14 debuted several innovations, according to Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for MassDOT. Of special note is a mix of concrete that was especially formulated for this project. “It's a high-early strength concrete mix that had a shrinkage-reducing admixture. This mixture was able to reach a compressive strength of at least 2,000 psi within four hours of it being set,” said Verseckes.

“Before finalizing this mix, it went through 40 test recipes to get to where we wanted to be,” Verseckes said.

Accelerated bridge construction embraces a number of techniques, according to FHWA. Primarily, there is the prefabricated bridge elements and systems. These are bridge components that are fabricated offsite or outside of the traffic areas, transported onsite, and installed with the use of cranes or other lifting equipment. Bridge elements include decks, beams, piers, and walls. Bridge systems refer to an entire superstructure or total bridge that is lifted into place.

Another component of accelerated bridge construction is the bundling of projects. Project bundling involves assigning multiple similar improvement projects along a corridor to one contractor, such as the 14 bridges in Medford. The bundling of projects saves procurement time and leverages expertise and momentum.

A third component of accelerated bridge projects is use of the design/build contracting method. According to FHWA, conventional bidding for design and construction contracts is a time-consuming sequence of events. Under design/build, a majority of the design work and all of the construction is the responsibility of one contractor. Thus, many tasks can be performed simultaneously and errors in design can be resolved more quickly.

Model Project

Fast 14 was highlighted when MassDOT hosted FHWA’s Every Day Counts Northeast Regional Peer-to-Peer Exchange on Prefabricated Bridge Elements and Systems in July 2012. The four–day event was attended by over 100 state DOT personnel from 11 states.

“People across the country are very interested in accelerated bridge construction,” Verseckes said.

In addition, many logistical lessons were learned from Fast 14. As an example, Verseckes points out “the importance of early coordination for transporting and storing the [prefabricated bridge units], which involved working with the state police, the contractor, and MassDOT, and keeping residents of the city of Medford and travelers using I-93 informed.”

MassDOT’s Accelerated Bridge Program continues to be at the forefront of highway construction innovation. In the 2012 construction season, MassDOT had over 20 accelerated bridge projects planned or completed, according to Verseckes. In addition, work began on the state’s first "mega project," the Burns Bridge in Worcester, which carries Rt. 9 over Lake Quinsigamond. The Burns Bridge project is using the design/build accelerated delivery technique. Mega projects are those with a construction budget in excess of $100 million.

As of Sept. 1, 2012, MassDOT had reduced the number of structurally deficient bridges in the state by 19.5 percent since the baseline year of 2008.

Nationwide, FHWA reports that 44 states have deployed accelerated bridge construction methods.

More information is available on the MassDOT Accelerated Bridge Program website and at FHWA’s Every Day Counts website, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/everydaycounts/. Additional information also is available by contacting Michael Verseckes at michael.verseckes@state.ma.us.

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Case Studies: Minnesota - MnDOT’s Corridor Investment Strategy Yields Social, Economic, Environmental Benefits

The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT) Corridor Investment Management Strategy (CIMS) was created with one key objective in mind: advance multimodal solutions that ensure a high return on investment while reflecting the state’s social, economic, and environmental goals.

CIMS is a system of selecting projects to be funded based on an analysis and scoring of social, environmental, and economic benefits of each project.

The MN 23 CIMS project in Duluth widened and reconstructed sidewalks, realigned signals, closed driveway access points, added bus pullouts and improved lighting. Photo: Minnesota DOT

Challenge, Solution
“CIMS gave MnDOT the opportunity to apply a robust understanding of public return on investment to the selection of highway improvements”, said Philip Schaffner, MnDOT’s Policy Planning Director.
The MN 23 CIMS project in Duluth, MN widened and reconstructed sidewalks, realigned signals, closed driveway access points, added bus pullouts and improved lighting.

CIMS came about as a result of challenging conditions. As was the case for other state transportation agencies in 2012, MnDOT officials were dealing with increasingly constrained resources alongside a transportation system that was aging. MnDOT determined that dialog and possible collaboration with other agencies whose work intersected with theirs could help strategically leverage resources and also potentially create more sustainable systems. The result was CIMS.

To familiarize other agencies and the public with the CIMS strategy, MnDOT held a series of 16 regional meetings that spring. In February of 2013, the agency issued a $30 million solicitation that invited municipalities to apply for state highway funding for projects that offered the greatest potential to help move CIMS objectives forward and also were consistent with the Minnesota GO Vision and the Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan. The funds were from the state trunk highway account, which is funded by a combination of state gas taxes, vehicle registration fees, and sales tax on the sale of motor vehicles.

”The Minnesota GO vision calls for transportation systems that maximize the health of people, the environment and our economy, so we knew our selection process needed to reflect the triple bottom line,” Schaffner said.

MnDOT formed an advisory group of other state agencies to help develop the project evaluation criteria and evaluate project proposals. The group included Explore Minnesota Tourism and the state’s Department of Commerce, Department of Education, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Department of Health, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Public Safety, and the Pollution Control Agency.

Evaluation Criteria

Notably, the project evaluation criteria decided upon by the advisory group were broader than strictly traditional performance factors such as direct user benefits/costs and system performance. Instead, the following criteria were applied to determine project proposal scores:

  • 60 percent: enhanced benefit-cost ratio calculation using a benefit-cost ratio analysis tool that considered the following factors:
    • social – safety, bicycle/pedestrian health effects, and noise;
    • economic – travel time, travel time reliability, vehicle operation costs, life cycle costs, and loss of agricultural land;
    • environmental – emissions (carbon dioxide plus criteria pollutants), wetland effects, and runoff.
    • 30 percent: other factors evaluated qualitatively (one example cited for each) -
      • local economic impacts – such as improving access for tourist destinations;
      • context sensitivity – such as enhancing natural, historical, archeological, and cultural resources;
      • system considerations – such as closing a gap in a trail/bikeway;
      • community health and access – such as improving access for disadvantaged populations; and
      • multimodal impacts – such as improving access to an intermodal terminal.
      • 10 percent: financial plan match – at least 10 percent of project costs are covered by non-MnDOT funding with additional points available for applications that requested less than 90 percent of project costs.

Ten projects were selected from a total of 45 applications, with project construction scheduled for either 2014 or 2015. Selected projects tended to address three types of scenarios: a solution for a significant safety issue; a low-cost operational improvement; or a multifaceted urban main/complete streets project. The projects all are either complete or were scheduled to be finished by early 2016.

Typical project components include activities such as the following:

  • curb, sewer, utility, and pavement upgrades/replacement;
  • improved sidewalks and ramps;
  • additional turn lanes and upgraded signals;
  • streetscaping (that in one case specifically is designed to reduce flooding);
  • improved pedestrian crossings and bicycling conditions; and
  • improved access to other modal nodes such as bus and rail transit or trails.

For one of the projects, an interchange was constructed that increases safety, reduces environmental impacts, and facilitates agricultural equipment crossings. Another project included a four-to-three lane conversion and construction of a roundabout to support future economic vitality.

“The $30 million in CIMS funding helped the agency leverage an additional $65 million in other federal, state and local funding for a total construction program of almost $100 million,” Schaffner said.

Lessons and Reflections

The use of an enhanced benefit-cost analysis helped MnDOT translate broad goals into comparable and common metrics. The methodology allowed the review committee to compare a range of project types using one set of criteria.

“One of the benefits of the CIMS approach was that environmental impacts, particularly runoff, were elevated in importance and considered when selecting projects,” Schaffner said.

However, not all of the measures made much of a difference in project selection. For example, lack of data and forecasting methodologies meant that the health impacts of biking and walking were often missing from applications and, even when included, they usually were small relative to other factors.

“The 2013 CIMS solicitation was an incredible learning opportunity for MnDOT,” he said. “We have incorporated some of the measures into our standard guidance for benefit-cost analysis, we’re continuing to study and refine the methodology for other measures, and we’re using the solicitation as a template for other competitive grant programs.”

In terms of advice for other transportation agencies that might be interested in a similar approach, Schaffner recommended working with other agencies to develop scoring criteria “to ensure they are understandable and customized to the local context.”

For more information, contact Philip Schaffner, Policy Planning Director, Minnesota Department of Transportation at philip.schaffner@state.mn.us, or link to the MnDOT CIMS website.

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Case Studies: New York - GreenLITES Certification Offers Incentive for Sustainable Practices

New York State Department of Transportation is pioneering an effort to measure its own performance on sustainability and is also creating a powerful incentive for its employees to go green. NYSDOT’s Green Leadership in Transportation and Environmental Sustainability (GreenLITES) program, launched in September 2008 and continuing to evolve, is a certification program that recognizes projects and operations that incorporate sustainable practices. The more green practices performed, the higher the certification level that can be achieved.

The first program of its kind in the nation used to rate all DOT projects, GreenLITES is modeled after the building industry’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program for green building practices and the University of Washington’s Greenroads program. GreenLITES applies a similar approach to recognize and encourage environmentally sustainable practices in transportation. The GreenLITES rating system tracks specific sustainable practices and awards credits based on the degree to which such practices are implemented. The system recognizes varying certification levels, with the highest level going to those efforts that go above and beyond standard practice and “clearly advance the state of sustainable transportation solutions.” Depending on the cumulative score acquired by incorporating sustainable choices into project design or operations, one of the following GreenLITES certification levels may be assigned:

  • Certified: Certification is awarded for incorporation of a number of sustainable choices.
  • Silver: Silver certification is awarded for incorporation of a number of sustainable choices with several of these choices having a high level of impact, or having advanced the state of practice.
  • Gold: Gold certification is awarded for incorporation of a substantial number of sustainable choices with many of these choices having a high level of impact, or having advanced the state of practice.
  • Evergreen: Evergreen certification is awarded for incorporation of the highest number of sustainable choices with many of these choices having an extremely high level of impact. Additionally, these efforts may advance the state of practice or are innovative in the way environmental sustainability is approached.

Scoring Projects and Operations
For Project Design, each project is tracked on a “scorecard” that lists and scores more than 170 practices in categories including sustainable sites, water quality, materials and resources, energy and atmosphere, and additional innovations and other actions. For each category, a list of activities is provided along with the number of credits that may be earned.

Because of the different nature of its work, the Operations Program takes a slightly different approach, incorporating GreenLITES sustainability measures into its existing annual maintenance and operations planning process. The long list of 130 operations and maintenance practices includes GreenLITES measures and other “green” practices available for credits in the following general categories:

  • Bridges
  • Drainage
  • Snow and Ice
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)
  • Guiderail & Fencing
  • Signs
  • Walls and Rock Slopes
  • Multimodal & ADA
  • Pavement
  • Signals & Lighting
  • Facilities
  • Roadside Environmental
  • Markings
  • Fleet Administration
  • Communications Technology & Emergency Preparedness
  • Other

The scoring is conducted each year at the end of March at the close of NYSDOT’s fiscal year. For both Operations and Project Design, the Department presents Evergreen and Gold awards each April on Earth Day.

The program has been implemented in stages, starting with the September 2008 GreenLITES Project Design Program, followed by the April 2009 GreenLITES Maintenance/Operations Plan Spreadsheet, the March 2010 Regional Sustainability Assessment tool and the Planning, Project Solicitation tool. The Department has also launched a Local Projects Certification Program that allows other state agencies, authorities, municipalities, and non-governmental organizations to use the GreenLITES project design tool.

The GreenLITES project design tool and operations tool have proved to be good for evaluating projects that are part of an existing construction or maintenance program. However, the Department also needed a way to select the “right projects.” This led to the development of the 2010 Project Solicitation Tool and the Regional Sustainability Assessment Table.

The project solicitation tool is a questionnaire that helps determine how closely a project is consistent with seven identified sustainability goals. Points are awarded for each goal criterion in the proposed project. Project scores may then be used as a discussion point when deciding what projects to include in long-term capital program submissions.

The Regional Sustainability Assessment Table is used by NYSDOT regions to develop and assess regional long-term sustainability goals from a more holistic perspective, across program areas and using the triple bottom line realms of economy, environment and communities. The table is used to identify current states, desired future states, and plans for accomplishing future states in all three sustainability realms as they relate to specific NYSDOT goals.

All these tools are continually being updated and refined. For example, the Department is currently using the 2.1.0 project design scorecard, and after each round of operations awards the operations plan spreadsheet is updated. Also, NYSDOT is currently working on how to better integrate sustainability into the Department’s asset management and program update processes.

“The Department of Transportation is more than concrete, asphalt and steel. We are, in fact, a vital connection to and part of the path toward economic recovery,” NYSDOT Commissioner Joan McDonald said in announcing the 2011 awards. “As we plan for the future, our transportation investments must be done in a manner that is both environmentally sensitive and sustainable. GreenLITES is the Department’s nationally recognized program which keeps us focused on making transportation decisions that support a sustainable society.”

For more information, link to NYSDOT’s GreenLITES website, which includes links for the Project Design Certification, Operations Certification Program, GreenLITES Regions, Local Projects Certification, GreenLITES Planning, and links to awards. Information also may be obtained by contacting the program staff via e-mail at GreenLITES@dot.state.ny.us.

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Case Studies: North Carolina - NCDOT's Accountability Framework: A Blueprint for Sustainability

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has been working to integrate the concepts of sustainability into its decision-making and make the link between mobility and how it can better support communities and regions across the state. The effort has resulted in the articulation of eight principles with corresponding outcomes, objectives, and performance measures. The eight principles focus on: moving people and goods; choices; connectivity; resource protection; prosperity; accountability; healthy communities; and organizational responsibility.

The initiative began with an extensive review of sustainability plans across state departments of transportation. The purpose of the review was to identify and synthesize the best practices in integrating the concept of sustainability into transportation decision-making, with a specific emphasis on state DOTs that have developed documented plans and performance measures. Following this review, an internal NCDOT survey was conducted to identify existing sustainable practices and better understand how the department views the concept of "sustainability."

Focus groups with agency staff and interviews with external stakeholders -- including other state agencies, metropolitan planning organizations/regional planning organizations, councils of government, transit service providers, and private industry partners -- were used to present and discuss the concept of sustainability, identify additional practices and initiatives that align with those concepts, and shape the subsequent principles and objectives that were the foundation of the framework. The department then identified metrics that would be used to assess consistency and progress in meeting outcomes associated with each of the principles.

Expanded Mission Statement

Integration of the concepts of sustainability are reflected in NCDOT's newly expanded mission statement: “Connecting people and places safely and efficiently, with accountability and environmental sensitivity, to enhance the economy, health and well-being of North Carolina.” The Department's mission was expanded and refined to recognize broadened responsibilities and aspirations, and now emphasizes a "triple bottom line" of enhancing economic development, human health and well-being, and environmental resource stewardship.

The principles have also been integrated into NCDOT's statewide transportation plan (2040 Plan) and its draft 5-year and 10-year transportation improvement program (“Policy to Projects”). Efforts are also underway to evaluate project prioritization criteria and consider ways to integrate sustainability concepts in the project prioritization process.

The effort has culminated in the development of an “Accountability Framework” that links sustainability-related principles to key overarching plans and policies, strategies, and performance measures to monitor implementation progress and effectiveness over time. Further integration of these concepts into initiatives and decision-making is key to implementation. Other critical implementation elements include a communications plan, monitoring, and continuous improvement.

“Our goal from the start was to develop a viable framework for our department, and also document the methodology for its development, the mid-course adjustments, and lessons learned,” said Julie Hunkins, Manager of the Quality Enhancement Unit with NCDOT.

Sustainability at Work in North Carolina

A recent example of sustainability at work in NCDOT is the project to replace a 69-year-old bridge, which carries US 17 over the New River. As part of the project, NCDOT demolished the old bridge and donated nearly 8,000 tons of rubble, concrete, and metal to an effort by multiple state and local partners to build a new artificial reef in the New River near Jacksonville.

“This is a great way for NCDOT to live out its mission, which includes environmental sensitivity,” said NCDOT Assistant Resident Engineer Jimmy Zepeda, who is overseeing the bridge replacement project. “By reusing this material instead of putting it in a landfill, we helped form a vibrant habitat where aquatic life now lives and grows.” Recycling and reusing the material also saved the department as much as $590,000 in costs to dispose of the debris in a landfill.

More information on the NCDOT’s sustainability efforts and the Accountability Framework is available from Julie Hunkins at NCDOT, e-mail jhunkins@ncdot.gov. (Photo courtesy NCDOT)

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Case Studies: Ohio - Ohio DOT Innerbelt Bridge Project: A Commitment to Sustainability

In February 2009, the Ohio Department of Transportation (DOT) initiated the first of two projects designed to replace the aging steel truss bridge that carries Interstate 90 over the Cuyahoga River Valley and into Cleveland’s central business district. The first Innerbelt project, developing a new westbound bridge adjacent to the existing bridge, demonstrates how Ohio DOT is working to make its major transportation investments sustainable by reducing cost, maximizing benefits, and conserving resources.

The Innerbelt project team committed to achieving sustainability goals in seven categories, which have been dubbed the “Green 7.” These include:

1. energy and energy efficiency;

2. community environment;

3. green building;

4. waste reduction and recycling;

5. green project administration;

6. materials and resources; and

7. construction practices.

Photo: Courtesy Innerbelt Bridge Photo Stream

ODOT's Commitment to Sustainability

The Innerbelt project’s design and construction team found several ways to cut project costs while conserving resources and getting the bridge built faster. Progress toward achieving these goals is documented in Monthly Sustainability Summaries posted on the agency’s website. For example, as of Oct. 31, 2012, the agency reported the following achievements:

  • Construction Vehicle Fuel Savings: By using construction vehicles with greater load-carrying capacity, the project has documented savings of over 85,000 gallons of diesel fuel.
  • Carbon Emissions Reductions: By reducing the fuel usage during earthmoving, the project team has saved more than 1,074 metric tons of CO2 emissions.
  • Materials Recycling: The demolition debris from the project is processed and sorted and more than half of all materials are recycled. The project team has recycled almost 5 million pounds of steel, preventing more than 123,000 cubic yards of waste from entering landfills.
  • Smaller Bridge Footprint - By using a creative bridge design that featured a modified alignment from the one originally proposed, the project team was able to reduce the amount of earthwork needed during construction by about 35,000 cubic yards and decrease the amount of steel and other materials needed to build the bridge.

Other examples of sustainability on the project include construction of a pair of “pocket habitats” under the new span of the bridge. These areas allow growth of native plants and provide a safe haven for migrating fish. In addition, the project team is relocating Peregrine Falcons that made their home beneath the existing bridge.

Based on these and other attributes, Ohio DOT has used the Federal Highway Administration’s INVEST sustainability self-assessment tool to give the project a “gold” rating.

More information on the project, access Ohio DOT’s Innerbelt Bridge website and project sustainability page.

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Case Studies: Oregon - Oregon DOT Advances Sustainability Planning, Practices

A pioneer in sustainable transportation, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) was the first state transportation agency to adopt an agency-wide sustainability plan. Issued in 2004, that plan stressed inclusion of sustainability considerations in the update of the Oregon Transportation Plan, implementation of a sustainable bridge delivery program (OTIA III), and development of an environmental management system for ODOT’s maintenance yards.

In 2008, ODOT embarked on a broader three-volume sustainability plan aimed at addressing both internal and external operations in seven focus areas: health and safety; social responsibility/workforce well-being and development; environmental stewardship; land use and infrastructure; energy/fuel use and climate change; material resource flows; and economic health. Volume I of the plan, issued in 2008, provides the vision and framework for ODOT’s sustainability goals and strategies.

Volume II of the Sustainability Plan, completed in 2010, sets goals, strategies, and performance measures for ODOT’s internal operations, such as its facilities and fleet. It includes goals such as increasing use of alternative fuels and electric vehicles in the ODOT fleet, reducing the amount of waste generated by facilities, and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from overall agency operations.

Volume III of the plan, which has not yet been completed, will address goals and strategies for management and operation of the statewide transportation system. This will include sustainable practices in project delivery, highway design and construction, and identification of the best tools to manage and implement sustainability within individual projects.

Annual Sustainability Report

The long list of sustainable practices and programs overseen by ODOT’s Sustainability Program Manager and the cross-discipline ODOT Sustainability Council are documented in an annual sustainability progress report. Some examples include installation of electric vehicle charging stations, purchase of electric vehicles, increased use of alternative fuels such as biodiesel for the ODOT fleet, and installation of solar panels on ODOT right-of-ways for the first-ever “Solar Highway” projects.

ODOT also considers sustainability in project decision-making. The Columbia River Crossing Project – a joint effort of the Oregon and Washington DOTs – was the first in the nation to include a project-level sustainability plan. Sustainability goals for the project are to be achieved through a long list of project elements, including addition of high capacity transit, reducing vehicle miles traveled, use of tolling, electronic safety technologies, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and use of sustainable construction materials and methods.

ODOT also is working with its sister agency, the Department of Land Conservation and Development, to implement the Oregon Sustainable Transportation Initiative (OSTI), an integrated statewide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector while creating healthier, more livable communities and greater economic opportunity.

ODOT Supports Electric Vehicle Infrastructure. Photo: Oregon DOT

Sharing Sustainable Practices

A wide range of programs and projects underway are documented on ODOT’s Sustainability Program Website, including a “sustainability news” section with articles describing recent efforts.

For more information on ODOT’s sustainability programs, visit the ODOT Sustainability Program web page, or contact ODOT Sustainability Program Manager Marjorie Bradway, marjorie.c.bradway@odot.state.or.us.

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Case Studies: Oregon - 'Solar Highway' Offers Model Approach for Renewable Energy

An array of hundreds of solar panels stretching 540 feet along an Oregon highway is helping to power a nearby interchange with clean, renewable energy through a unique public-private partnership that could serve as a model for the nation.

Oregon’s “Solar Highway Project” sits at the interchange of Interstates 5 and 205 in Tualatin, Ore., at the south end of the Portland metropolitan area. The project is the nation’s first roadside solar photovoltaic demonstration project.

According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, the project’s 594 solar panels produce about 122,000 kilowatt hours annually. The panels produce energy during the day which is used to light the interchange at night. ODOT buys the energy produced by the array at the same rate the agency pays for regular energy from the grid.

This clean, renewable source of energy will help the agency meet the mandate from Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski that state agencies obtain all of their electricity from renewable sources. By replacing energy from the grid, the solar electricity produced by the project will avoid the production of nearly 43 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions each year.

The $1.28 million project, which has been in operation for just over one year, was developed through an innovative public-private partnership between ODOT; Portland General Electric (PGE), Oregon’s largest utility; and US Bank. Material providers included Solar World US, the nation’s largest solar panel manufacturer, and PV Powered, the nation’s largest inverter manufacturer.

Making the Most of the ‘Right-of-Way Asset.’

ODOT Project Director Allison Hamilton explained that under this unique partnership “the public gets multiple values out of its right-of-way asset.”

“Using state and federal tax credits, the renewable energy projects are developed at least possible cost, which benefits the utility rate payers – including ODOT and the State of Oregon, “ Hamilton said. At the same time, ODOT gets green energy at grid rate instead of the higher green energy rate, she added.

“The solar energy project is owned, operated and maintained by the utility, which also assumes all the risk, and is responsible for maintenance of the right of way for the term of the contract (from 25 years up to 40 years or more),” Hamilton explained. But the utility also gets to count the project towards its renewable energy portfolio requirements, she said.

“It’s a win-win-win business model,” Hamilton added.

ODOT officials and PGE officials have deemed the project a success, demonstrating that solar arrays can complement and not compromise the transportation system.

In fact, Hamilton said the project has exceeded expectations, producing more than the expected 112,000 kilowatt hours in its first year, with only one maintenance incident where a panel was cracked and had to be replaced.

As a result, Oregon DOT and its partners – utility providers and private businesses – are poised to expand production of solar energy at the demonstration site and as well as other locations in the state.

Third Party Financing Model

According to ODOT, these public-private partnerships are expected to follow the same type of third-party financing model developed for the demonstration project.

“The utilities would contract with solar developers to design, build and install the arrays, which they – the utilities or limited liability companies involving the utilities – would own, operate and maintain, and which could count towards meeting statutory requirements to develop renewable energy resources. The utilities would also be responsible for maintenance and successful operation of the arrays, including any damage due to vandalism or crashes,” according to a summary on the demonstration project website.

ODOT would have a 25-year agreement to purchase all electricity generated by the solar projects, with options to renew for up to three five-year extensions.

DOTs Urged to Work with Utilities

Hamilton said many other states have expressed interest in following Oregon’s lead, but she stressed that each state will have unique circumstances. “Because each state has its own utility regulations, I would recommend project proponents work with or through their utility to learn the most efficient and cost effective way to size, permit and connect a project, and also to determine the most advantageous financing and ownership model,” she said.

“We learned that the larger the installation, the better, as you are able to spread your fixed costs out over more kilowatts, bringing down the cost per installed kilowatt” compared to the cost of existing grid energy.

Hamilton urged transportation agencies that are interested in developing a solar highway project to take advantage of the expertise of the utility, whose core business is energy generation.

“Oregon’s state transportation system has nearly 19,000 lane miles of right-of-way and there are more than 8 million lane miles of right-of-way across the nation,” according to an ODOT project summary. “Solar arrays on less than 1 percent of Oregon’s right-of-way could supply the nearly 50 million kilowatt hours needed annually by the state transportation system,” the agency said.

The project has been recognized with numerous honors, including the Federal Highway Administration’s 2009 Environmental Excellence Awards.

A wide range of information is available on the project website, including a solar highway meter that tracks energy generated on-site, news releases, photos, videos, research, technical documents, and information on planning for future projects. Additional information also is available by contacting Allison Hamilton at allison.m.hamilton@odot.state.or.us.

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Case Studies: Puget Sound Regional Council - Puget Sound's 2010 'Transportation 2040' Plan Sets 30-Year Vision for Sustainable Transportation

With a projected growth of approximately 1.5 million people in the next 30 years, the Puget Sound area in Washington State faces increased demand on the region’s transportation system.

The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), which is the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for the four-county Seattle-Tacoma-Everett region, has crafted an ambitious long-range strategy to plan for and shape the area’s transportation needs. The Transportation 2040 plan, adopted in 2010, lays out a 30-year vision for funding and building sustainable transportation programs and projects in the coming decades.

The plan – which received an award in 2010 from the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations – translates the PSRC’s broad commitment to transportation sustainability into tangible actions. The Plan is built around three equal and interrelated strategies that together define what “sustainable transportation” means for the region and are designed to influence overall transportation investment decisions. These three strategies address the following:

  • Congestion Relief and Better Mobility - To improve system efficiency, the plan recommends creating “smart corridors” with advanced technology, better information, advanced tolling approaches, and strategic capacity improvements. As an example, one project underway in the Puget Sound region is the deployment by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) of an Active Traffic Management System, including the use of high-tech overhead signs displaying variable speed limits, lane status, and real-time traffic information so drivers know what is happening on the road ahead. The first signs were installed on northbound Interstate 5, a major highway traversing Seattle. Since then, WSDOT has implemented similar systems on SR 520, completed in November 2010, and I-90, completed in June 2011. Active traffic management aims to improve safety, reduce congestion, and benefit the environment. Although more collision data will be needed for a statistical analysis of collision frequency, WSDOT officials expect to see a measurable and statistically significant reduction in collisions. Congestion relief also has economic benefits, with reduced fuel consumption as vehicles spend less time stuck in traffic jams.
  • Environmental Protection - A key focus of the PSRC’s long-range plan is to protect and improve the region’s environmental health. This includes ensuring that the region has healthy air, planning transportation projects that are better equipped to handle stormwater runoff, and addressing transportation’s role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change.
  • New Approach to Funding - The Transportation 2040 financial strategy relies on traditional funding sources in the early years but later transitions to add funding from new user fees. Such fees could come from high occupancy toll lanes, facility and bridge tolling, vehicle miles traveled charges, and other pricing approaches that replace the gas tax and help manage the transportation system usage.

Detailed recommendations for program changes and major new projects in three major focus areas help transform Transportation 2040’s vision for sustainable transportation into reality. These include the following:

  • Maintain, Preserve and Operate - The plan’s highest priority is to maintain, preserve, and operate the region’s existing transportation system, and represents the largest program cost;
  • Increase System Efficiency – Use transportation system management strategies like Active Traffic Management and variable tolling to improve efficiency of the existing transportation system; and
  • Strategically Expand Capacity - Implement strategic capacity investments in all modes of transportation including a 100 percent increase in peak hour local transit service, bicycle and pedestrian improvements in regional growth centers, and completion of a network of roadway projects. These investments would rely on users of the new highway capacity to pay for improvements through highway tolling.

In addition, Transportation 2040 supports the goals of Vision 2040, PSRC’s umbrella strategic plan, by focusing transportation investments in designated urban growth areas, increasing the availability and efficiency of transit and rail services, and focusing development in major travel corridors and regional growth centers.

As required under federal law, PSRC is in the process of updating the plan, anticipating completing the revision in 2014. The update will incorporate a method for the better prioritization of projects, include revised revenue estimates based on existing law, and address the level of investment for maintenance and preservation of the existing system.

PSRC has been developing the new prioritizing process over the past two years. The framework will assess projects using nine evaluation measures:

  • air quality,
  • freight,
  • jobs,
  • multi-modal,
  • Puget Sound land and water,
  • safety and system security,
  • social equity and access to opportunity,
  • support for growth centers, and
  • travel.

The prioritization framework will be used to evaluate over 800 projects, with the results being used to support decisions on transportation investments. When finalized, the framework will be integrated into the Transportation 2040 plan.

The update also addresses refinements to the transit-oriented development plans and the active traffic management plans to further address the level of demand on the transportation system. Under consideration are ways to encourage alternative, environmentally sensitive transportation choices; the development of land use policies that support bicycles, transit, and ridesharing; and the incorporation of complete streets principles.

In addition, the update will include a new rural transportation strategy and address other statutory requirements and issues identified by the PSRC boards.

PSRC is working to interpret new mandates from Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), and will incorporate new requirements into the plan update as appropriate, according to Robin Mayhew, a transportation program manager with PSRC. This may include collaboration at the state and national levels to shape the implementation of MAP-21 in advancing regional goals as identified in the plan.

PSRC will have opportunities in the coming year for public involvement in the plan update process.

A wide range of information is available on the PSRC’s Transportation 2040 website, http://www.psrc.org/transportation/t2040. Additional information is available by contacting Charlie Howard by e-mail at choward@psrc.org or Robin Mayhew at rmayhew@psrc.org.

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Case Studies: Rhode Island - Rhode Island DOT Targets Stormwater Pollution through Public Education, Outreach

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) has taken a leadership role in achieving sustainable solutions to manage stormwater through a unique statewide outreach and education initiative.

The “Stormwater Solutions” initiative, funded by RIDOT with a grant from the Federal Highway Administration, supports implementation of the new state-level stormwater regulations as well as RIDOT’s ongoing compliance with the federal Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) program.

The purpose of Stormwater Solutions is to:

  • conduct a statewide campaign to raise public awareness of the stormwater problem and actions individuals can take to prevent stormwater pollution;
  • develop consistent educational materials and outreach methods that municipalities, state agencies, and community organizations can use to empower citizens, businesses, and builders to solve local stormwater problems;
  • provide model ordinances for local stormwater management with related training; and
  • train government staff, local officials, and others in updated stormwater management practices.

State regulations call for incorporating Low Impact Development (LID) as the “industry standard” for development. LID is an approach to land development that works with nature to manage stormwater that runs off impervious surfaces as close to its source as possible and treats it as a resource rather than a waste product. It reduces the impact of built areas and promotes natural movement of water within an ecosystem.

By proactively integrating LID and sustainable practices into a comprehensive outreach and education program, the Stormwater Solutions initiative is finding sustainable ways to protect the environment, save money, achieve regulatory goals, and build public support for sustainable transportation infrastructure.

The initiative is being implemented in partnership with Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM); the University of Rhode Island (URI) Cooperative Extension’s Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials program; and the Southern Rhode Island Conservation District. As part of the initiative, a team of professionals from these organizations is developing materials to educate and inform towns, cities, and the general public across the state about compliance with the new stormwater regulations.

Training Programs to Prevent Runoff

Through the Stormwater Solutions outreach effort, more than two dozen training workshops for RIDOT and municipal employees have been completed. The training has addressed new ways to prevent runoff pollution at public works garages and construction sites; the inclusion of improved pollution controls in new project designs, construction practice, and routine maintenance; and designing for “green streets“ and ways communities can make a difference in preventing stormwater pollution.

RIDOT is also integrating LID techniques in new project designs. An early example of this integration is the reconstruction of Route 138 in South Kingstown. LID techniques will convey stormwater away from the road through grassed swales instead of standard piping and inlets, saving construction costs, improving water quality, and enhancing the road’s appearance. The project also includes a landscaped bio-retention feature in a roundabout to provide water quality treatment and to infiltrate stormwater into the ground.

Community Outreach

Stormwater Solutions is working to reduce impacts to stormwater at the source by conducting community outreach to educate the public and municipal officials on the importance of pollution prevention and applying environmentally sustainable and cost saving LID techniques. These source reduction activities – which include everyday actions such as reduced use of fertilizer, litter control, hazardous material control, and use of ground infiltration and bio-swales to filter pollutants – reduce the need to build and maintain expensive treatment structures and provide opportunities for creating greener, more visually attractive landscapes along roadsides.

Stormwater Solutions offers easy-to-use materials for public education and outreach to inform communities about ways they can help manage stormwater runoff. The materials – which are publicly available on a website – are designed for use by municipalities, stormwater managers, watershed organizations, or interested civic groups.

Illustration of Combined Sewer Overflow from Stormwater Fact Sheet: Source: http://ristormwatersolutions.org/docs/1.Intro.ResFactSheet.pdf.

For example, the website provides a series of fact sheets on various aspects of stormwater management:

  • Where Does It Come From, Where Does It Go?
  • Where Do I Fit In?
  • What Do You Do With Household Chemicals?
  • How Healthy Is Your Septic System?
  • Is Your Lawn Care Stormwater-Friendly?
  • Is Your Yard A Sponge?
  • Do You Scoop the Poop?
  • Making Auto Care Stormwater-Friendly
  • Involving Your Neighbors in Storm Drain Marking
  • Promoting Stormwater-Friendly Yard Care in Your Neighborhood
  • Promoting Responsible Pet Waste Disposal in Your Neighborhood
  • Involving Local Businesses in Stormwater Management

A variety of other outreach materials also are provided, including cartoons, articles, display materials, radio spots, videos, and stormwater training manuals. The website also provides a variety of strategies, examples from towns in the state, and an inventory of LID practices such as bio-swales, green roofs, cisterns, permeable pavement, rain gardens, and site design.

Next Steps

Allison Hamel, Environmental Scientist/Stormwater Program Coordinator with RIDOT, said the agency is working with DEM and URI to develop a second five-year agreement for public education and outreach. The second agreement will focus on:

  • training in use of a new Erosion & Sedimentation Control Handbook (currently under revision) for a variety of audiences, particularly field inspectors;
  • exploring greater focus on hands-on training to actively assist MS4s in managing local storm drain systems;
  • customizing assistance to meet local needs based on stormwater managers existing resources and their priorities;
  • targeting training/workshops/workgroups on priority areas such as high quality Special Resource Protection Waters (SRPWs) and restoration of impaired waters with total maximum daily loads (TMDLs); and
  • state and local permitting issues and implementation of the RI Stormwater Design and Installation Standards Manual, with emphasis on implementing LID at the local level and permitting in priority areas such as high quality SRPWs and restoration of impaired waters with TMDLs.

Transferability and Lessons Learned

Hamel said other state DOTs could benefit from efforts similar to the Stormwater Solutions program.

“We think that this would most definitely be transferable to other DOTs, particularly in other states where the DOT is the only state-wide MS4,” she said.

“Not only did RIDOT receive full compliance ‘credit’ for Minimum Measure 1 & 2 (except for the public notice part) from the state regulatory agency (RIDEM), RIDOT staff received personalized training that we would not have received otherwise (i.e. the linear LID training),” she added.

Hamel also stressed the importance of training. “One of our greatest lessons learned was that the ‘train the trainer’ workshops provided great resources, but those resources were rarely used and implemented once the ‘trainer’ got back to work.”

“This is one of the reasons why we are focusing on the hands-on training in the second agreement,” she said.

Hamel also noted the importance of training not only for staff, but also for upper-level management, that is, “those with decision-making capabilities and money-wielding powers.”

“It is important that managers and the directors recognize the money and assets and resources that stormwater management truly needs,” she added.

More information is available on the Stormwater Solutions website, at http://ristormwatersolutions.org/ and by contacting RIDOT’s Allison Hamel at ahamel@dot.ri.gov.

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Case Studies: Washington - Washington State DOT Works to Integrate Sustainability Throughout its Operations

As a leader in sustainability, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has been working for many years to incorporate the concept into all aspects of its work.

WSDOT defines sustainable transportation as a system that “preserves the environment, is durable, takes into account how we build and the materials we use and is managed and operated using policies and strategies that meet society's present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

WSDOT Secretary Paula Hammond has stated that the agency’s sustainability effort is not a program. The secretary sees it as an ethic and wants it embraced throughout the agency by finding new ways to extend the life of assets, invest wisely, and work efficiently.

Agency Organization

The emphasis on sustainability as an agency-wide priority is reflected in how the department is organized, according to WSDOT Sustainable Transportation Manager Seth Stark. WSDOT seeks to integrate sustainable practices in every facet of its work, from long-range plans to day-to-day operations. Stark points out that while he reports to Secretary Hammond, he also coordinates the Sustainable Transportation Leadership Team made up of five different agency directors representing such divergent areas as Environmental Services, Maintenance and Operations, Planning Public Transportation, and a Regional Office.

The sustainability efforts also support Secretary Hammond’s Moving Washington strategy, the agency’s investment framework for developing an integrated transportation system for the 21st century. The strategy focuses on three key elements: operate the system efficiently; manage demand on the system; and add capacity strategically. “By considering the impact of the state’s system on the economy, the environment and communities in a cost-effective and resource responsible manner we act responsibly and sustainably,” according to a WSDOT description of its strategy.

Secretary Hammond has explained the interconnectivity of the Moving Washington framework and the agency ethic of sustainability as, “Moving Washington is what we do, and sustainability is how we do it.”

Empowering Employees

A key to the incorporation of sustainability into WSDOT’s day-to-day decision-making is the Secretary’s Executive Order “Business Practices for Moving Washington.” The order calls on all employees to incorporate business practices that guide them toward innovation, sustainability, efficiency, and resource management in their daily work. It empowers employees to act sustainably, to get every benefit, every efficiency, and the best use out of the department’s limited resources. According to Stark, “Viewing each employee as the front-line specialist of their own work leads to the simple question, ‘Is there a better way, a more efficient way, a more cost effective way to do this task or make this decision?’”

WSDOT employees are further empowered through an additional supporting directive to agency executives, managers and supervisors to create a workplace culture and process that encourages employees to recommend sustainability initiatives.

Another effort in support of the agency’s sustainability goals is the agency’s work with the “Lean” process improvement system. The Lean system builds on efficiency and performance improvement methods already taking place at WSDOT to develop a culture that encourages employee creativity and problem-solving skills, Stark said.

Efforts to empower WSDOT employees already are paying of. For example, three Washington State Ferries (WSF) employees collaborated to identify a method to save fuel on one of the largest vessels in the system. The employees studied the effect of vessel speed on fuel consumption and suggested revised throttle settings to maximize fuel efficiency. Following a successful pilot project, WSDOT management adopted and implemented their suggestion, which is now the operating standard for the vessels on the route. These fuel conservation efforts – which also helped reduce vessel exhaust emissions – were honored with AASHTO’s 2012 America’s Transportation Award.

“Thanks to the ingenuity of these employees, WSF found a way to conserve fuel and save money without sacrificing on-time performance or a commitment to customer service,” Secretary Hammond said.

Sharing Sustainable Practices

A wide range of sustainable practices are described on the agency’s Sustainable Transportation website, including a series of “folio” fact sheets developed to educate and inform the public. Examples of WSDOT’s sustainable practices cut across a broad range of focus areas:

  • improving mobility and traffic operations with the installation of electronic, variable speed limit and lane status signs, electronic tolling, ramp meters, roundabouts and high occupancy vehicle lanes;
  • conserving fuels and energy through the West Coast Green Highway Initiative to support the use of electric and alternative-fuel vehicles; upgrading WSDOT vehicle fleet; and installation of solar-powered traffic control systems;
  • promoting economic vitality and stewardship by addressing key traffic chokepoints, investing in rail, separating freight from rail and light-vehicle traffic around ports, and boosting incident response and traffic management;
  • focusing on preservation and maintenance of the existing system by promoting longer lasting pavements, using recycled materials, using native plants, and using “precision” roadway salt applications in winter months to minimize amount of salt needed;
  • improving safety by installing cable median barriers, cleaning catch basins and drains to prevent flooding, retrofitting bridges and structures to withstand earthquakes, and building roundabouts to improve traffic flow and reduce the risk of collisions;
  • improving design and construction techniques with innovative engineering for structures that can endure a harsher climate, and innovative contracting for more efficient project delivery;
  • protecting and enhancing the environment by removing fish passage barriers, addressing stormwater pollution by preventing erosion and filtering runoff, connecting wildlife habitat, and restoring natural vegetation;
  • advancing community partnerships by integrating bicycle and pedestrian elements into highway projects and increasing investments to promote carpools, vanpools, transit, and telecommuting; and
  • reducing emissions linked to climate change through efforts focused on operating the system efficiently, lowering the carbon content of fuels, supporting improved vehicle technologies, and supporting a variety of transportation options.

Sustainability in Action

WSDOT also is promoting “sustainability in action” – a website feature that documents specific efforts underway within the department, such as a pilot project to retrofit a number of WSDOT vehicles to run on cleaner-burning propane and a pilot project that allows WSDOT workers to telecommute. Other examples include the following articles:

Dan Dollar, WSDOT’s Southwest Region fleet superintendent, fuels up a Ford Taurus, one of 21 WSDOT fleet vehicles being retrofitted to run on propane autogas and regular gasoline. Each $5,000 retrofit includes installing a propane tank in the trunk if it’s a passenger vehicle.

Adaptation Seen as Key Element

According to Stark, a key initial step that many DOTs can do regardless of where they are on implementing sustainability and climate change initiatives is the work that WSDOT has done through its climate change adaptation efforts. “Maintaining and preserving our existing system is central to providing a system that is sustainable,” Stark said.

“People throughout our agency are more frequently confronted with negative impacts from the increasing frequency of extreme weather events,” he said. WSDOT has performed a statewide infrastructure vulnerability assessment that identified all state-owned transportation facilities that are at risk.

“Through a scenario-based approach, WSDOT was able to recognize that while a lot of our system is resilient, we still have facilities where we need to be more sustainable,” he added.

By instituting an agency-wide sustainable transportation ethic, WSDOT aims to help target its limited resources on the state’s most pressing transportation needs.

For more information on WSDOT’s sustainability transportation program, contact Seth Stark at seth.stark@wsdot.wa.gov, or visit the WSDOT Sustainable Transportation Web Page.

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Waste Management/Recycling/Brownfields

Recent Developments: Benefits, Costs of TAM Systems Reviewed in NCHRP Report

An evaluation of systems to track transportation asset management (TAM) in terms of return on investment has been issued in a report under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP Research Report 866). The report, issued under NCHRP Project 20-100, provides objective approaches that can be used by transportation agencies to estimate the return on investment in TAM systems such as pavement management systems, bridge management systems, and maintenance management systems. Benefits of TAM systems, such as AASHTOWare Bridge Management software, include more proactive agency approaches to asset management, better prioritization, more robust analytical tools, and better data quality. The report includes an associated spreadsheet tool, the NCHRP Project 20-100 ROI Calculator. The calculator includes factors and procedures from the Highway Economic Requirements System State Version (HERS-ST), which can be used to perform life cycle analysis to reduce waste, prevent pollution, and encourage recycling. For more information, link to the report.

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Water Quality/Wetlands

Recent Developments: Recording Available: Stormwater Webinar - Strategies for Addressing Impaired Waters

AASHTO has posted a recording and related materials from its May 10 webinar, Strategies for Addressing Impaired Waters and Achieving Project Delivery, Regulatory Compliance, and Watershed Management Goals. The webinar presented several innovative programs and solutions for addressing challenges associated with impaired waters, including presentations from transportation agencies in Massachusetts, California, and Virginia. For more information, link to the Center for Environmental Excellence Stormwater Community of Practice webinar page. (6-21-19)

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Recent Developments: Project Costs, Benefits of Using Natural Infrastructure Pose Challenges

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)

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Recent Developments: Guide Documents Benefits of Green Infrastructure

A new report from the Center for Neighborhood Technology discusses key considerations for assessing the economic merits of green infrastructure. The report covers the tangible and intangible benefits of features such as green roofs, trees, rain gardens and stormwater retention, and permeable pavement, describing how they contribute to improved water supply and quality, better air quality, and increased community livability. The report includes case studies from municipalities that have implemented green infrastructure features in Illinois, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington, and Wisconsin. For more information, link to the report. (4-30-19)

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Recent Developments: EPA Issues Interpretive Statement on Clean Water Act and Groundwater

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to change its interpretation of the Clean Water Act to specify that the law doesn’t allow it to regulate most sources of groundwater. The federal law only applies to lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water on the surface, not groundwater, according to the agency’s proposed new reading of the statute, even if pollution is discharged into groundwater and then migrates into a surface water. The EPA will receive public comments on the proposed interpretation until June 7. For more information, link to the statement. (4-23-19)

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Recent Developments: EPA Seeks Public Input for Development of Water Reuse Action Plan

The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking public input to help the agency develop a national Water Reuse Action Plan. The plan is intended to accelerate the application of water reuse, also called water recycling, as a safe, reliable, and sustainable way to meet the country’s water demands. The agency would like information on recommended specific actions, relevant scientific information, examples of water reuse implementation, ways to integrate water reuse into resource management, and ways it can improve resiliency. The EPA will accept public input through July 1, 2019. For more information, link to the EPA’s Water Reuse Action Plan page. (4-18-19)

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Recent Developments: EPA Issues Interpretation of Groundwater Permitting Authority

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to change its interpretation of federal water pollution law to specify that the law doesn’t allow it to regulate most sources of groundwater. The agency issued an interpretive statement of the Clean Water Act saying that the CWA only applies to lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water on the surface, not groundwater, even if pollution is discharged into groundwater and then migrates into a surface water. The reinterpretation of its permitting authority regarding groundwater was signed April 12 and will be subject to public comment. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-15-19)

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Recent Developments: New EPA Memo Updates, Reiterates Water Quality Trading Policies

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a new memorandum to reiterate and update its policies regarding water quality trading programs. The memo sets forth six market-based principles that are intended to clarify and expand the range of options available to state and tribal governments. The principles are expected to foster the wider adoption of water quality trading and are based on the agency’s continued commitment to the use of market-, incentive- and community-based programs to improve water quality at a lower cost. For more information, link to the memo. (2-6-19)

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Recent Developments: Army Corps Issues Mitigation Bank Credit Release Guidance

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a regulatory guidance letter addressing wetlands mitigation bank credit release schedules and consistency in establishing service areas for banks and in-lieu fee programs. The letter applies to mitigation banks and in-lieu fee programs that have not yet been approved and does not apply to other types of banks. The letter specifies that credits should be released incrementally as the bank site achieves certain performance milestones. The letter also specifies when financial assurances must be posted to ensure that ecological performance standards are met. In addition, the letter specifies that mitigation banks and in-lieu fee programs should have similar service areas and use the same criteria for selection. For more information, link to RGL No. 19-01. (2-22-19)

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Case Studies: EPA Compilations - Green Infrastructure Case Studies

EPA has a website that documents case studies on green infrastructure. Link to: Green infrastructure case studies web page.

EPA also has published a report presenting case studies of how 12 local governments developed and implemented policies for managing stormwater using green infrastructure. Examples of policy approaches include capital and transportation projects, stormwater regulation, demonstration and pilot projects, stormwater fee discounts, and other incentives. The report is intended to serve as a policy guide for municipalities, and includes descriptions of the most common and influential policies; background on how each policy approach works; and examples from the case studies about results, barriers, and processes for implementation. For more information, link to Green Infrastructure Case Studies: Municipal Policies for Managing Stormwater with Green Infrastructure.

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Case Studies: FHWA Compilations

Case Studies: Arizona - Arizona DOT Provides Guidance for CWA Section 404/401 Permits, Certification

The Arizona Department of Transportation has developed a manual to ensure compliance, provide consistency, and increase awareness of permitting and certification requirements for its projects under Sections 404 and 401 of the Clean Water Act. The ADOT Clean Water Act Sections 404/401 Guidance Manual, issued in October 2013, provides ADOT-specific guidance for obtaining and complying with required permits and certifications.

ADOT 404/401 Program Coordinator Julia Manfredi said the manual was developed to assist ADOT staff in project development as well as maintenance and construction. In response to a 2010 404 permit violation and a desire to improve its compliance efforts, ADOT added a 404/401 program coordinator to its staff, conducted a wide-ranging training program for hundreds of employees, and developed the Guidance Manual to provide additional guidance.

Manfredi said one of the purposes of developing the manual was to help determine when certification and permits are needed for maintenance activities, in addition to construction activities. Common "waters of the U.S." that would be subject to regulation in Arizona include washes, rivers and streams, natural ponds, wetlands, and canals.

Construction activities that could trigger Section 404/401 compliance by ADOT include culvert or bridge construction, roadway and utility crossings and geotechnical borings. Examples of maintenance activities would include channel bank protection, wash realignment and channelization and removal of sediment buildup from culverts.

Step-by-Step Process Outlined

The guidance manual provides a step-by-step permitting decision process for transportation agency staff. It outlines the following process both for construction and maintenance activities:

  • Step 1: Could "waters of the U.S." be involved?
  • Step 2: Will the activity involve discharges of dredged or fill material into "waters of the U.S."?
  • Step 3: Will a jurisdictional determination be needed? This may require preliminary calculation of impacts. Conduct a jurisdictional delineation if required.
  • Step 4: Quantify impacts and determine the type of Section 404 permit that is needed: either nationwide or individual permit.
  • Step 5: Prepare the Section 404 permit application and determine if a preconstruction notification is required for a nationwide permit. Submit the application to the Corps.
  • Step 6: Determine Section 401 certification required - whether conditionally or individually certified - and acquire certification.

The manual also provides information on staff roles and responsibilities, timing of permit decisions, clarification on how Corps guidance applies to ADOT, information on the internal coordination processes for construction activities and for maintenance activities, documentation for non-notifying permits, and check lists and flow charts. A link to the manual has been distributed widely, including districts and district engineers, and has been the subject of a series of webinars, she said.

Lessons Learned

Manfredi said the manual, which took about six months to develop, is currently in use and has been well-received by ADOT staff and regulatory agencies. She said it has helped to simplify the process and empower those required to make permit decisions. The process of developing the manual went smoothly, in large part because it was developed through a collaborative effort of ADOT staff and district offices, the Corps, and the Federal Highway Administration, she said.

She also noted that the manual - which includes a range of check lists and templates that are also available on the ADOT website - is a work in progress and will likely be updated on an ongoing basis. Future efforts will include ongoing compliance tracking and additional audience-specific training programs.

Manfredi said the manual could be used as a starting point for other state DOTs looking to document their own CWA Section 404/401 permitting processes - particularly western states in arid climates. The step-by-step process for permit decisions could be adapted for most any state, she added. ADOT anticipates the manual will help avoid permit violations and will help ensure better protection of resources by training staff how to better identify resources in the field. It will also serve as a streamlining tool by simplifying the process and allowing better use of time and resources within the agency, Manfredi said.

For more information, link to the Guidance Manual, and the ADOT Section 404/401 Procedures website or contact Julia Manfredi at JManfredi@azdot.gov.

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Case Studies: Florida - Florida DOT’s Programmatic Approach to Wetlands Mitigation

More effective mitigation for unavoidable wetland losses from transportation projects in Florida is being achieved through a unique programmatic mitigation approach developed by the Florida Department of Transportation.

The state’s "Revised Mitigation Statute," in combination with Florida’s Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method and a new General Permit for FDOT issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, have provided a framework for the programmatic mitigation approach.

Background

Given Florida's geology, FDOT construction projects often required the unavoidable loss of wetlands. In 1996, the Florida Legislature passed a law (the Mitigation Statute) to standardize and expedite situations where mitigation was required to compensate for the unavoidable loss of wetlands from FDOT’s projects. The 1996 statute required FDOT to pay the appropriate Water Management District (WMD) a fee established by the statute per acre affected by the FDOT project. With the WMDs tasked with protecting and managing their water resources, funding from the mitigation budget of an FDOT project would allow the WMDs to achieve their water resource protection and management effort, thereby mitigating the loss of wetlands from the roadway construction.

The law was forward thinking for its time. However, important portions of the law became outdated, and in 2014, the Florida Legislature passed revised language designed to give FDOT more flexibility to obtain full value for their wetlands mitigation expenditures (Title XXVIII, Chapter 373, Section 373.4137), commonly referred to as the "Revised Mitigation Statute."

Florida DOT's programmatic approach for wetlands benefits species such as the wood stork. Photo: FDOT

Benefits/Features

The "Revised Mitigation Statute,” passed in 2014, has a number of innovative elements.

  • The Revised Mitigation Statute requires FDOT to consider all mitigation options that meet federal and state requirements, thereby complying with the 2008 mitigation rule issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency. While working with the WMDs remains an option, FDOT may also consider the use of private mitigation banks providing FDOT with the ability to seek the most cost-effective option. FDOT has substantially reduced its mitigation costs and receives greater value for each wetland mitigation dollar.
  • WMD deliverables and responsibilities when using FDOT funds are now more explicit, improving accountability. Now, when WMD's receive mitigation funds from FDOT, they must prepare detailed plans for project-specific wetland mitigation areas enabling identification of specific wetland mitigation funded through each project's environmental mitigation budget.
  • The Revised Mitigation Statute enables advance mitigation. FDOT forecasts the wetland impacts associated with their three-year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) in an "impact inventory." FDOT may then purchase wetland mitigation credits, based on the forecast in the impact inventory, in advance of more detailed project development. If there is no mitigation bank in the area, the WMD may receive FDOT funds to plan and develop a mitigation bank to accommodate the mitigation requirements of future FDOT projects. The amount of mitigation provided by the WMD is then deducted from FDOT's future mitigation requirement. This program encourages WMD's to think of FDOT as a customer and shape their water resource plan to coordinate with the development of the state highway system in the area. Additionally, the FDOT forecasts of wetlands loss help the wetland banking industry plan for future demand.

Wetland Functions Considered

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (FDEP) continued development of Florida's Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method (UMAM) and its inclusion by FDOT in the Revised Mitigation Statute helped further accountability and accuracy. This process provides a scientific basis for adjusting the gross acreage of wetlands impacted by the specific functions provided by the affected wetlands. UMAM was adopted by all state agencies and the Corps.

With the UMAM analysis substantiating the existing functions of the wetlands affected by roadway construction, FDOT is able to coordinate with the Corps and FDEP on appropriate mitigation quantity, and thereby paying for only what is needed to mitigate the loss of wetland function.

Collaborative Effort Provides Ongoing Dividends

The "Revised Mitigation Statute" resulted from a fortunate confluence of knowledgeable stakeholders and a state legislature focused on efficiency, expedited project delivery, and an approach to mitigation that best serves the people of Florida. The effort was led by Marjorie Kirby and Xavier Pagan in FDOT State Environmental Management Office and Kathleen Toolan of the FDOT Office of the General Counsel with FDOT leadership support.

The rewrite of the Mitigation Statute involved intense negotiations involving FDOT, representatives of the mitigation banking community and FDEP and WMDs. With stakeholder unity, the revised statute sailed through the legislature because it respected the interests of all stakeholders.

The trust that was developed among stakeholders through the passage of the Revised Mitigation Statute has continued to benefit Florida as the various stakeholders continue to work directly to improve approaches to roadway project development and permitting. For example, seeing the opportunity to improve the efficiency of the permit process, stakeholders collaborated to develop a Regional General Permit from the Corps of Engineers for FDOT projects. The General Permit was issued April 8, 2015, and was designed to include the Revised Mitigation Statute. It also incorporates such features as:

  • Integration of NEPA and Clean Water Act Section 404 requirements; and
  • Addressing projects with five or less acres of fresh water wetland impact per linear mile, , excluding tidal wetlands, up to a limit of 10 miles of roadway (this category of project includes a large proportion of FDOT construction); and

Future Activities

FDOT continues to push ahead with proactive, programmatic approaches to wetlands as well as biological impacts. For example:

  • New uses for UMAM are being developed, in coordination with FDEP and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to enable its use for species and habitat mitigation.
  • New programmatic agreements are being developed, leveraging the collaboration developed among FDOT and the resource managers and FDOT has a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff member working exclusively on programmatic agreements. The first species to be addressed are freshwater mussels.
  • Technical specifications are being updated to include standard environmental minimization and mitigation measures. Presently documents enumerate environmental mitigation measures, but having standard environmental construction conditions for contractors will help ensure a uniform approach to activities across the state.

Florida is now benefiting on several fronts from the collaborative approaches that have been and are being developed to address the unavoidable wetlands and biological impacts of road construction, according to the state DOT officials. This is the result of a successful public-private partnership that has helped build trust and communication pathways to clarify, simplify and focus, laws, coordination and procedures to develop better outcomes for the environment and the users of the transportation system.

For more information on FDOT’s wetland mitigation approach, contact Marjorie Kirby, FDOT Environmental Programs Administrator at Marjorie.Kirby@dot.state.fl.us, or Xavier Pagán, FDOT Natural & Community Resources Administrator, at Pagan, Xavier.Pagan@dot.state.fl.us, State Environmental Management Office, Tallahassee, Fla.

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Case Studies: Maryland - Watershed Resources Registry Helps Maryland DOT Identify Priority Restoration, Mitigation Sites

An online tool developed by transportation and environmental agencies is helping transportation officials in Maryland identify watershed restoration and mitigation opportunities for projects.

The Watershed Resources Registry was developed by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maryland State Highway Administration, and others. Launched in the spring of 2012, the web-based tool is being used to identify opportunities for watershed restoration or mitigation in connection with federally funded projects requiring compliance with federal environmental and transportation laws.

According to a fact sheet, the geographic information system (GIS)-based tool was developed to analyze watersheds and identify the best opportunities for the protection of high quality resources, restoration of impaired resources, resource conservation and planning, and improvement of stormwater management.

Maryland SHA is using the tool to assist in avoidance and minimization of impacts during planning, design and maintenance operations, according to Sandy Hertz, Deputy Director of SHA's Office of Environmental Design. Additionally, the tool is used to prioritize watershed needs when a construction project requires mitigation. SHA staff gathers environmental inventory information and identifies potential mitigation sites using the registry.

The Watershed Resources Registry helps MDSHA locate high-quality wetland mitigation sites, such as Lizard Hill, in Maryland. Photo: MDSHA

The tool also helps with initial field reconnaissance by providing data that can be exported to a print map, including GPS coordinates for navigation. The tool helps to streamline information collection and preparation for permit processes, aids in National Environmental Policy Act and state environmental reviews, and is used to justify mitigation site selection as part of the review process. In addition, the tool allows SHA to achieve multiple goals using limited resources.

Recently, SHA used the registry in the preparation of the MD 4 Project Planning Study Preferred Alternative Concurrence Package, according to Hertz. Based on acreage replacement ratios agreed upon by the Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of the Environment, the proposed project would require just under one acre of compensatory mitigation for wetlands. A review using the tool was completed to identify potential wetland mitigation sites in the Patuxent River and Lower Potomac River watersheds. The registry identified significant acreage with potential for wetland restoration within both watersheds, Hertz said.

Web-based Model

The tool, which can be publicly accessed over the web using typical web browser software, includes an abundance of data for identifying restoration or preservation opportunities, including maps, GIS layers, GPS coordinates, federal hydrological unit codes, and an analysis of the ecological needs of each parcel.

Source: Watershed Resources Registry

Users typically would begin with the "find opportunities" template. The template guides in the selection of opportunities for restoration or preservation in compliance with one or more federal resource statutes and includes four ecosystem types:

  • uplands,
  • wetlands,
  • riparian (rivers and streams) areas, or
  • stormwater-impacted areas.

The WRR Technical Advisory Committee has created a ranking system applicable to each opportunity by performing suitability analyses. Each watershed or waterway segment has a score of 1 to 5 based on these analyses and is mapped using GIS data.

Once opportunities have been identified, various GIS layers can be switched on or off, including satellite imagery, and the locations can be viewed at multiple scales, showing their spatial relationships to nearby features.

When a site is selected, the tool provides location details that include the reasons the parcel is suitable for a mitigation or restoration opportunity and its particular ranking. For instance, a site with a score of four for stormwater compromised infrastructure restoration means that a significant number of criteria that reflect the disruption of the natural hydrologic system by stormwater are present at that location. The criteria were developed through the suitability analysis process.

A user can access the tool to identify sites that are consistent with environmental regulatory requirements and have the best potential for mitigation or restoration based on available data, according to Dominique Lueckenhoff, Deputy Director of EPA Region III Water Protection Division.

The tool includes a training video for new users, technical documentation about the suitability analyses, and a user guide. In addition, there is access to all the underlying data that allows for more sophisticated GIS analysis, according to Ellen Bryson of the Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District.

The tool currently contains data only for the state of Maryland, but its internal architecture is flexible enough to eventually serve other states and jurisdictions, according to officials who have worked on the registry from the beginning.

Developing the Registry

The registry began as an idea for using a watershed-based approach for planning a transportation project in Maryland, Lueckenhoff said in an interview. In 2006, discussion had begun on plans for improvements to U.S. Highway 301 in Charles and Prince George's counties, in Maryland, that would use the "green highways" principles, taking a watershed approach to sustainable infrastructure planning and delivery. As the various agencies came together on the project, there was talk about a "watershed bank" that would "become a multiple end-user product" and achieve benefits beyond just the one project to address U.S. 301, according to Lueckenhoff. "It could serve future projects and help preserve and restore resources, in addition to being supported through various credit markets," Lueckenhoff said.

It was clear that the U.S. 301 project was trying something new. The Maryland SHA along with federal and local agencies were attempting to build a highway in such a way that both the transportation needs and the environmental needs were met within a highly sensitive area encompassing four watersheds, according to SHA's Hertz.

Starting with a geographic information system (GIS) and data on watershed resources developed during the U.S. 301 planning, the WRR partners also added the regulatory requirements of the various statutes that affect watershed health, said Denise Rigney, an environmental scientist with EPA Region 3. The desire to bring the needs of watersheds earlier in the NEPA process and other planning processes led to the registry concept, Lueckenhoff said.

There was a "groundswell of partnership in Maryland," said Lueckenhoff, allowing for the product to eventually expand statewide. There was support from the top for this, Lueckenhoff said, but more importantly, it was built from the bottom up, addressing the needs of those at the field level.

The usefulness of the Watershed Resources Registry has exceeded expectations, Lueckenhoff said. All of the team partners – EPA, the Corps of Engineers, Maryland SHA, and FHWA – are using the tool.

Other agencies are using the tool as well. Field inspectors are using it to preview sites before a visit, local agencies are using it, and there is growing interest from the public. "There are uses that we didn't even imagine it for," Lueckenhoff said.

Interagency Collaboration

One of the most satisfying things is that the registry is the result of successful interagency collaboration, officials said.

It "evolved out of the willingness" of the various agencies to step outside their comfort zones, Lueckenhoff said.

This cooperative environment has been exciting, Bryson, of the Corps of Engineers, agreed. By bringing together the various types of information into one integrated tool, people are creating new kinds of information that weren't possible before, said Bryson. Members of various agencies can coordinate over the web and be assured that they're all looking at the same thing. "All the agencies are together on this," Bryson said.

The agencies continue the development process by meeting once a month to discuss improvements. As data change, they will be added to the tool, Bryson said. As new models are developed, the tool will be tweaked to accommodate them.

Also going forward, sites that are identified by the tool will be inventoried with site visits, and information regarding selected or completed restoration projects will be added, said Ralph Spagnolo, a wetland hydrologist with EPA Region III and a member of the WRR Technical Advisory Committee.

The Baltimore District of the Corps of Engineers includes portions of Pennsylvania, and Bryson said that a roll-out of the registry using Pennsylvania data is likely.

In producing a registry for another state, developers would be able to take advantage of the eight pre-existing suitability models in the Maryland WRR and start with available federal and state data, according to Lueckenhoff. An interagency technical advisory team or committee should be established (or utilized if one already exists) to collaboratively identify stakeholder needs and interests and evaluate to what degree the data and existing models are able to address them.

Due to the work done already, the next state will be able to develop and use its registry in significantly less time than it took for the initial development in Maryland, according to Lueckenhoff. The team already has been approached by several Mid-Atlantic States for transfer of the WRR to address a variety of needs, Lueckenhoff said. "It is highly adaptable, without being overly complex and challenging to multiple end users. This is a pretty good [model]," she said.

The registry has been selected to receive technical assistance from AASHTO's Technology Implementation Group, chosen as a National Water Program Best Practice by the EPA, and included in a handbook issued by the Environmental Law Institute.

The Watershed Resources Registry is available at http://www.watershedresourcesregistry.org/. For more information, contact Dominique Lueckenhoff (lueckenhoff.dominique@epa.gov) or Ralph Spagnolo (spagnolo.ralph@epa.gov) at EPA, or Sandy Hertz at Maryland SHA (shertz@sha.state.md.us).

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Wildlife & Ecosystems

Recent Developments: USFWS Revises Endangered Species Regulations

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued three final rules that adopt a suite of changes to the regulations implementing the Endangered Species Act. One rule addresses provisions that automatically give threatened species the same protections as higher-priority endangered species, to align with the National Marine Fisheries Service’s regulations. The second rule affects how the agency will consider the future when making listing decisions and designating critical habitat. The third adopts changes to some of the parameters under which other federal agencies must consult with FWS and NMFS to ensure their actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of listed species, or destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. The changes don’t apply to species that are already on the threatened list. The latter two of the rules are jointly issued with NMFS. For more information, link to the FWS ESA rule website. (8-12-19)

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Recent Developments: Research Analyzes Best Designs for Artificial Bat Roosts

An analysis of best mitigation design practices for artificial bat roosts on transportation structures is provided in a new report published under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP 25-25, Task 102). The report, Artificial Bat Roost Mitigation Designs and Standardized Monitoring Criteria, provides information on how to detect the presence of bats, along with strategies to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to bats from transportation projects. For more information, including the report, best practices manual, and presentation, link here. (6-18-19)

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Recent Developments: Study Shows Animal Detection System Can Deter Collisions

The Virginia Department of Transportation has issued a new study on the use of buried cable animal detection systems as a way to mitigate collisions between wildlife and vehicles. The system would provide warnings to drivers when triggered by the active presence of an animal on or near the roadway. During an 11-month study period, VDOT found the system capable of detecting deer and sometimes smaller animals such as coyotes with 99% reliability. The system also performed well when covered by snow. VDOT also found that by using the buried cable connected to a flashing warning sign, approximately 80% of drivers either braked or slowed in response. For more information, link to the study. (6-20-19)

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Recent Developments: FWS Issues Grants to States for Coastal Protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced the awarding of more than $20 million to 11 coastal states to protect, restore, or enhance more than 7,000 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent upland habitats. The funds are being awarded to 22 projects under the agency’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program. The projects are expected to have multiple benefits such as boosting coastal resilience, reducing flood risk, enhancing habitat, stabilizing shorelines, and protecting natural ecosystems. For more information, including descriptions of the winning projects, link to the grants web page. (5-8-19)

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Recent Developments: DOTs to Partner in Conservation Effort for Monarch Butterflies

State transportation agencies would play a key role in an unprecedented conservation effort for the monarch butterfly announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Under the agreement, voluntary conservation efforts will be undertaken by a coalition of transportation agencies and energy companies on highway and energy rights of way in the hopes of precluding the need to list the monarch as an endangered species. In return, the agreement would provide regulatory assurances to participants that additional conservation measures would not be required if the butterfly were to be listed in the future under the Endangered Species Act. For more information, link to the FWS’ Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement on Energy and Transportation Lands., (4-12-19)

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Recent Developments: Report Identifies Urgent Situation for Western Monarch Butterfly

A report that evaluates the key challenges to the western monarch butterfly population has been issued by the Environmental Defense Fund. The report identifies an 86 percent drop in the population since last year, and finds that the reasons for the decline involve various factors including the development impacts on habitat, pesticide exposure, climate change, parasites, and disease. The report concludes that partnerships between landowners, resource agencies, and conservation groups are necessary to reverse the decline. For more information, link to the report. (4-2-19)

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Recent Developments: FHWA Updates List of State DOT Pollinator-Friendly Practices

The Federal Highway Administration has updated its list of pollinator-friendly practices in roadside vegetation management by state DOTs. There are now programs featured from 33 state DOTs, including pollinator habitat programs, guidelines, project enhancements, and vegetation management efforts. For more information, link to the State DOT Pollinator-Friendly Practices section on the FHWA Pollinators website. (2-19-19)

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Recent Developments: Report Highlights Wildlife Crossing Workshop and Peer Exchange

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a summary report on an October 2018 Eco-Logical workshop held in Maggie Valley, N.C., focused on wildlife crossings. Workshop attendees shared information on wildlife data collection, data collection techniques, wildlife crossing options, and wildlife-vehicle collisions in the North Carolina/Tennessee I-40 corridor. For more information, link to the summary report. (2-5-19)

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Recent Developments: USFWS Proposes Recovery Plan Amendments for 42 Species

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced the availability of 26 draft recovery plan amendments for 36 endangered and six threatened plant and animal species across eight states. The agency is seeking any information that may help the agency understand the species’ biology, threats, and recovery needs; identify implementation issues and concerns; and facilitate more effective implementation. Affected states include Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and Washington. For more information, link to the announcement and Federal Register notice. (1-30-19)

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Case Studies: Colorado - Agreement Offers Streamlined Mitigation Option for Impacts to Canada Lynx in Colorado

An innovative Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) created by Colorado DOT (CDOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will provide CDOT with a new streamlined option for fulfilling its mitigation responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act as they relate to the Canada lynx (lynx). In essence, for projects that are determined to have impacts on lynx, CDOT now can propose that it pay an in-lieu fee (ILF) into a Lynx Mitigation Fund rather than carry out mitigation measures onsite. The MOA was signed on July 7, 2015.

Colorado DOT’s in-lieu fee mitigation fund will support broad efforts to mitigate impacts to the Canada lynx. Photo: Colorado Division of Wildlife

“We have known for some time that our actions were impacting lynx by increasing the barrier effect of highways,” explains Jeff Peterson, Wildlife Program Manager for CDOT’s Environmental Programs Branch. “However, because our right-of-way very seldom contains usable habitat, mitigation has been challenging. Choices such as providing safe passage over or under the highway at the site often can end up being more costly than the project itself, and possibly less-effective.”

Under the terms of the MOA, Peterson says, “we can propose using the ILF as our preferred mitigation choice in our Biological Assessment (BA). USFWS then either agrees or disagrees with our choice in its Biological Opinion (BO). Furthermore, we can propose it under both Section 7 and Section 10 of the Act.”

From Peterson’s perspective, the new option is a win-win. If the ILF gets a green light for a particular project, CDOT’s ESA responsibilities are fulfilled and it can get on with its project. And from a species preservation perspective, adding an in-lieu fee to the fund opens up the possibility of using the fund for more strategic and comprehensive mitigation elsewhere in the state. Although CDOT has not yet had the opportunity to put the MOA to work, Peterson says, his agency is planning a number of projects that are strong candidates for the ILF option. “And when that time comes -- and I’m virtually certain it will -- we’re ready,” he says.

The lynx is listed as threatened in Colorado. Currently, there are believed to be approximately 200-300 lynx statewide. Peterson says it has been estimated that approximately 670 miles of Colorado highway are located in lynx habitat, and an additional 210 miles or so of lynx movement corridors exist between patches of suitable habitat.

MOA Provisions

ILF contributions to the mitigation fund are based on project “award” costs with the rationale that they represent the most accurate construction cost estimates. The amount contributed is tied to the type and severity of the impact(s) the project would be expected to have on the lynx. It is based upon the average cost of mitigation and compliance with the ESA compared to total construction costs (by percent) for past projects that included mitigation for impacts to lynx. Maximum contribution for an individual project is 5 percent.

The fund can be used for a new stand-alone mitigation project or, more likely, to enhance a current project. For example, if a highway project is in lynx habitat, and mitigation normally would call for a concrete box culvert (CBC) to be installed under a portion of the highway to channel flowing water, the ILF could be used to cover additional costs of building a bridge, which would open up passage for lynx under the bridge.

Under the terms of the MOA, funds can be leveraged, and partnering is encouraged. For instance, the Forest Service may be carrying out a project to consolidate land parcels that includes trading some of its land for private parcels throughout the forest. If some of those parcels are in an area known to be frequented by lynx, CDOT could partner with the Forest Service so the land on either side of a proposed lynx crossing would be protected from development.

The MOA calls for two management teams to be created: an Advisory Committee and a Fund Management Team. The teams are in charge of managing the ILF mitigation process for individual projects. Besides participation on the teams, each of the three lead agencies has additional responsibilities spelled out in the MOA. For example, CDOT is in charge of setting up the two management teams; FHWA must participate in the development of ESA compliance documents and consult with USFWS on any project that may affect lynx; and USFWS is responsible for providing the most up-to-date information and science available when determining the most appropriate mitigation for lynx.

Benefits, Challenges and Transferability

Peterson predicts that numerous benefits will accrue from using the MOA. First, there are the direct benefits of enabling projects to move forward efficiently and mitigation efforts to be broader and more strategic for the benefit of the lynx. In addition, he anticipates that it will also foster increased trust between CDOT/FHWA and the resource agencies. Other potential benefits may include a more positive public perception of CDOT’s wildlife department and demonstrated success in interagency collaboration.

Challenges in putting the MOA to work remain to be seen. In the meantime, challenges definitely were encountered in creating and signing off on the MOA. The first was securing active and substantive support from senior-level management on the concept itself. Beyond that, obtaining agreement among Regional Managers on the terms of the sliding scale initially was a hurdle. Yet another obstacle encountered was how to account in budgets for moving money from one project into another one that isn’t in the same CDOT region, or perhaps even proposed yet.

“The good news is that the basic procedure outlined in the MOA can serve as a template for creating a similar document in another state,” he says. “It would be a matter of plugging in state-specific details such as funding sources, maintenance responsibilities, and reporting requirements. To my knowledge, no one else is using anything similar.”

According to Peterson, perhaps the most important thing to do at the very beginning is to get all the parties together for several informal discussions during which everyone is heard but nothing is yet put down on paper. The time is well worth it, he says. Once everyone is invested in the success of the endeavor, the chances of developing the MOA in a spirit of collaboration are much greater.

“But everyone should be prepared for a fair amount of wordsmithing before the document is finalized. No matter how well everyone gets along, each agency needs to feel comfortable that its mission is protected. I’d recommend access to a lawyer to help with that aspect; for our MOA, we used the USFWS legal advisor and it worked well.”

Peterson concludes, “At the end of the day, it’s a case of rolling up your sleeves and putting the effort in now to reap benefits well into the future.”

For more information, contact Jeff Peterson, Wildlife Program Manager, Environmental Programs Branch, Colorado DOT, at Jeff.peterson@state.co.us or visit the CDOT website at www.CODOT.gov/programs/environmental/wildlife.

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Case Studies: Iowa - Iowa DOT Undertakes Massive Move for Mississippi River Mussels

A multi-agency effort including the Iowa Department of Transportation successfully relocated tens of thousands of freshwater mussels in the Mississippi River—including three federally endangered species—to protect them from bridge construction in what is possibly the largest single-project mussel relocation in the country.

I-74 Bridge over the Mississippi River. Photo: Iowa DOT

The mussel relocation, part of the project to construct a new bridge to carry I-74 over the river between Moline, Illinois, and Bettendorf, Iowa, was a joint effort of several state and federal agencies that planned and accomplished the task under an unusually tight timeframe, according to Mary Kay Solberg, Environmental Specialist Senior with the Iowa DOT and a key participant in the project.

More than 150,000 mussels were relocated between August and October 2016 to prepare for the start of construction. In doing so, direct impacts to 32 species of mussels, including threatened and endangered species, were minimized or avoided altogether.

“To my knowledge, that was the largest single-project relocation in the U.S.,” Solberg said. Mussels play an important role in the ecosystem because they filter the water and help to improve water quality.

Project Background

The I-74 bridge project has been in development for about 20 years, according to Solberg. The current two spans for I-74 were built in 1935 and 1959.

When the environmental impact statement and record of decision were completed, the numbers and diversity of mussels were unclear. Native mussel populations were presumed to be minimal in the project area due to the presence of invasive zebra mussels, which can outcompete native species. Also, the selected bridge alignment was expected to avoid impacts to what was at the time the only mussel listed under the Endangered Species Act inhabiting the project area, the Higgins eye pearlymussel. The transportation agencies planned an official mussel survey closer to the construction date.

Mussels from the I-74 Project. Photo: Iowa DOT

The survey was revealing. “Turns out, there were over a million mussels underneath the footprint of the new bridge,” Solberg said, including three federally endangered species: the Higgins eye pearlymussel, and the more recently-listed sheepnose and spectaclecase. Species on state lists of endangered or threatened species also inhabited these beds.

Thus began a three-year process to figure out what to do about these mussels, a partnership that included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Federal Highway Administration, the Iowa DOT, the Illinois DOT, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Developing a Solution

Iowa DOT initiated formal consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service who then began preparation of a biological opinion. Because the project—including the required elements under the National Environmental Policy Act—was so far along at this point, the tasks were accomplished unusually quickly. “Pretty much record time—it was amazing,” Solberg said.

There were benefits to doing the mussel survey late in the process, according to Solberg. “We were able to get a much more accurate, up-to-date picture of the mussel population in the project area and could come up with a much better plan to minimize impacts,” she said. “The density and diversity of mussels surprised nearly everyone.”

The partners set about developing a relocation plan for the native, endangered freshwater mussels. While relocations are not uncommon, ones of this scale are rare. As part of this process, the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to allow the relocation to focus on the actual places in the river where the shafts of the bridge piers would be drilled as opposed to the entire footprint, Solberg said. This reduced the number of mussels needing to be moved to around 150,000.

Iowa DOT contracted with divers to conduct the relocation work. The bridge alignment was laid out based on the design concept, and the areas where the piers would be drilled were delineated so the divers knew exactly where to remove the mussels, Solberg said.

The divers scooped mussels out of the river bottom mud and put them in mesh bags that were brought to the surface. “Originally we thought they were going to have to work around the clock, to stay on schedule and to finish before the water temperature became too cold to work,” Solberg said. In the end, they worked long days, five to six days a week for three months.

On the surface, workers removed any zebra mussels, sorted by species, and collected data regarding age, size, and gender, Solberg said. All of the federally endangered mussels had their shells marked and were given a number for future identification. Iowa DOT found new beds for the mussels, took a boat to the location, and released them over the edge “to their new home,” Solberg said. Initial monitoring has indicated that all relocations were viable.

Benefits and Next Steps

The mussel relocation was not as controversial as it might have been, according to Solberg. “We were very open, up front, about impacting a mussel resource, [and] what we’re going to do about it,” Solberg said, and she believed there was very little negative response as a result.

Iowa DOT is doing a number of things—in addition to the physical relocation of the mussels—as part of the mitigation.

One is a virtual reality (VR) program developed in partnership with Iowa State University and funded as part of the project mitigation. The program—aimed at helping the public understand the project—has views of the old bridge, the new bridge, and an underwater view that allows users to handle and learn about the mussels. The VR program is publicly available at the construction office in Davenport, Iowa, and eventually will be in the project office in Bettendorf, Iowa.

Other things funded as part of the mitigation include:

  • an intern position at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for educational programs for schools and other groups,
  • an interactive installation at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport that ran all summer,
  • updating existing mussel information on display at the Putnam Museum and Science Center in Davenport,
  • stocking the river with host fish for mussel larvae, and
  • ongoing monitoring of the effects of relocation.

The mussel relocation project won a 2017 Environmental Excellence Award for environmental research from the FHWA.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

“Even the best-intentioned project schedules need to be revisited from time to time,” Solberg said. The mussel survey and relocation was supposed to be in 2016 and expected to be uncomplicated. Had Iowa DOT gone with the original plan, it would have been unable to keep the timetable for the 2017 bridge construction bidding. They moved the survey two years earlier to allow time to learn what was there and to plan the mitigation.

Also, when dealing with different agencies, it is important to address competing interests as early as possible. There were times when the parties did not all agree on what was going to happen, but eventually an understanding was reached and the project moved forward.

As an example, Solberg explained that because there were both the federal and state endangered species, Iowa DOT potentially would have had to go through two separate processes with the federal and state agencies. Instead, she said, the federal and state resource agencies signed an Intergovernmental Agreement that allowed for development of a comprehensive conservation strategy, agreed upon by all agencies, to address all state and federal listed species. This saved time and effort.

Transportation agencies and resource agencies have different focus areas, and state DOTs should build and maintain good interagency relationships, Solberg said. Iowa DOT approaches projects by asking themselves “what do we need to do as a transportation agency to build this project and do it in an environmentally responsible way,” Solberg said.

“We’re all going to have to make some compromises to make this work,” Solberg said.

The official bridge groundbreaking was held in June 2017.

For more information, link to the I-74 Bridge Project website or contact Mary Kay Solberg, Environmental Specialist Senior with the Iowa DOT’s Office of Location and Environment, MaryKay.Solberg@iowadot.us.

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Case Studies: Washington - I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project Improves Mobility for People and Wildlife

A project to construct needed improvements to a stretch of mountain highway in Washington State will provide new opportunities for moving people through the corridor and reconnecting wildlife habitat and natural systems, which for years have been fragmented by the roadway.

Washington State DOT and partner agencies worked to develop innovative solutions for the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project, to achieve needed safety and mobility improvements for drivers, provide safe passage for wildlife, and reestablish vegetation and hydrologic connections across the roadway.

The solutions were developed by a unique partnership of agencies – including state and federal transportation agencies and the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the surrounding land – as well as other agencies, nonprofit conservation and public advocacy groups, universities, and citizens.

The 15-mile project area is on National Forest land and must be compatible with the U.S. Forest Service’s adaptive management plan for the area.

The DOT agreed to include wildlife connectivity along with transportation improvements as a part of the project purpose and need statement. The environmental impact statement specifies that the project is intended to meet traffic demands and improve public safety by addressing avalanches and slope instability, repairing structural deficiencies in the existing roadway, and expanding capacity, while also providing for ecological connectivity.

Regarding highway improvements, the project will:

  • expand the roadway from two lanes to three lanes;
  • replace the concrete pavement, straighten dangerous curves, and provide additional chain-up areas for trucks,
  • construct a new six-lane snow shed for protection from avalanches, and
  • stabilize dangerous slopes to reduce rock fall hazards.

In addition, wildlife passing structures are planned at 14 major wildlife crossing areas as part of the project. Structures include replacing narrow bridges and culverts with longer and wider structures to facilitate wildlife passage; adding wildlife exclusion fences to keep animals off the highway; and adding wildlife overcrossings at strategic locations.

A key aspect of the project was the identification of 14 separate “connectivity emphasis areas” – locations near streams or upland that can benefit fish, wildlife and hydrologic functions through restoring or enhancing a connection to habitat on both sides of the road. The areas were identified by a multi-agency mitigation development team.

Gold Creek Bridges and Wildlife Crossing

Gold Creek is one example of a connectivity emphasis area on the project, with improvements planned to achieve wildlife passage, hydrological connectivity, and re-establishment of vegetation.

The existing bridge structures at Gold Creek are 138-feet and 126 feet long, with a large quantity of imported fill within the floodplains and wetlands – a situation that has allowed little connectivity for aquatic or terrestrial species. Roadway improvements will replace the existing structures with wider and longer spans – two 1100-foot structures – and add a new wildlife undercrossing, all designed to improve connectivity and restore ecological functions.

Gold Creek was among the project areas that also benefited from partnerships among agencies and conservation groups to acquire private land to protect and contribute to the effectiveness of the conservation emphasis areas.

Over the last 15 years, a coalition including the Cascades Conservation Partnership, the Mountains-to-Sound Greenway Trust, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service have invested more than $100 million to protect land in the I-90 project area. Through combinations of land purchases and exchanges, the partnership has added 75,000 acres of conservation land and National Forest land within the area.

The Gold Creek improvements will allow multiple benefits – connecting wildlife habitat for small and large species while also helping to restore achieve hydrologic connectivity and providing mitigation for wetlands impacts.

Other noteworthy aspects of the project’s environmental commitments include creative solutions that combine benefits for wildlife connectivity and wetland mitigation and efforts to test and reestablish native vegetation in ecologically challenging environments.

In addition, the project includes extensive efforts to monitor wildlife occurrences – both before and after construction of wildlife crossings – to determine the effectiveness of the structures.

The monitoring program includes a unique public involvement effort, I-90 Wildlife Watch, in which citizens are encouraged to help gather data on wildlife in the area and to report wildlife sightings – including live animals or victims of collisions with vehicles.

The many environmental commitments of the project were in part the result of the extensive collaborative effort of the environmental review process itself, which was led by an interdisciplinary team including FHWA, WSDOT, USFS, USFWS, and Washington Department of Fish and Game. In addition, a range of other advisory committees, consultations, and partnerships with agencies, organizations, and the public helped to streamline the process of developing the Environmental Impact Statement. The project received FHWA’s 2011 Environmental Excellence Award in the category of Environmental Streamlining.

For more information, visit the project website at www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/i90/SnoqualmiePassEast.

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Case Studies: Wisconsin - Relocation of Karner Blue Butterflies

WisDOT Moves Karner Blue Butterflies by the Bushel

US Highway 10 cuts through the middle of Wisconsin, connecting the Fox Valley Cities in Wisconsin with the Twin Cities of Minnesota. This main traffic artery needed to be upgraded from a two- to four-lane expressway. Unfortunately, the new westbound lanes cut through a small 1/3 acre patch of Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis) and native barrens habitat that was occupied by Karner Blue Butterflies (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) (view a picture of a Karner Blue Butterfly, a federally endangered species. Recent surveys indicated a population of at least 10-20 adults consistently bred on this tiny patch of habitat.

WisDOT is part of a multi-partner Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the Karner Blue. WisDOT accommodates Karners along about 500 miles of highway right-of-way in central and northwestern Wisconsin. After going through the usual mitigation negotiation procedures of avoidance and minimizing, it appeared there was no way this swatch of earth could be spared from the new lanes. Another question arose as to the future viability of the Highway 10 site for the butterflies. It was unrealistic that a site this small, surrounded by Eurasian weeds, in the presence of a major highway, would remain viable in the long term. During the mitigation process, WisDOT began to explore the possibility of moving the butterflies. Although ideas about moving butterflies had been written about, no one had previously done this in the wild.

Fortuitously, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) just completed removing brush and most of the trees from an area near Emmons Creek, a lupine barrens community. Wild Lupine responded very well to the DNR barrens restoration effort, along with several other butterfly nectaring plants, but several surveys indicated that no Karners moved in to take advantage of the restored habitat. This presented an opportunity to move the Highway 10 population to the newly restored area.

The easiest way to move butterflies is in the egg stage. Karners conveniently lay almost all their eggs on the stems of Wild Lupine near the base of the plant. Methods included marking each Wild Lupine plant during peak flowering period, then after the egg laying period, clipping the Wild Lupine at the base of the stem with either a knife or clippers, gently laying the stems in large plastic bins and transporting the stems to the new site. The clipped stems were then inserted in the midst of living lupines at the Emmons Creek site. It seemed fairly straightforward, but there were a few questions. Would the eggs over-heat in the sun during the move and die? Would the eggs remain attached for the ride to their new home? After hatching, would the larva climb from the clipped stems to living plants?

To help with these potential pitfalls, the bins containing the clipped lupine stems with the Karner eggs were not tightly covered and were shaded from direct sun light. Fortunately, the weather during egg movement was relatively cool, with cloudy, nearly windless days. It is believed these weather conditions helped preserve the eggs from overexposure during movement. Care was taken not to over-pack or crush the bins with lupine stems. Once cut and placed in the bins, batches were moved within an hour to the new site. During the clipping portion of the work, a number of eggs were observed (3-6 on some stems) and it was noted that a few larvae had already hatched and were actively feeding on the lupine. The clipped stems were placed in the middle of healthy plants at the new site with as much contact between each as possible.

About 120 pounds of stems and leaves were removed from the Highway 10 site. Once this movement was complete, it was time to wait for eggs to hatch, larva to pupate and form new adults. About six weeks after the move, surveys were conducted at the new site for adults. It was very gratifying to report that 42 adults were observed on the new site where none had been seen before. It appears that the larva did find their way to new lupine stems and successfully pupated to adult butterflies.

This process may have implications for other butterflies, and perhaps even other insects. If the host plant and egg laying process is known, capture and release of these species can be quite easy, with minimal disruption to the individuals themselves. This may also provide a method for population expansion to new areas, or at least within nearby, similar, ecological areas.

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Case Studies: Wyoming - Wyoming DOT Provides Safer Passage Where Highway Meets Migrating Pronghorn

A series of underpasses and overpasses recently completed along a Wyoming highway has improved safety for the traveling public while preserving an historic wildlife migration route for pronghorn antelope and mule deer. Completed in October 2012, the Trappers Point project included design and construction of two overpasses and six underpasses on a 12-mile section of US 191, west of Pinedale.

Each overpass consists of a long-span precast-concrete arch culvert constructed over the highway to provide an artificial tunnel over which wildlife can cross safely. The culverts are surrounded by earth berms supported on each end by large precast-panel retaining walls. The project also includes about 30 miles of special fencing to direct animals to the safe crossings.

Historic Migration Route

In an area known as the Upper Green River Valley corridor, pronghorn travel between their winter range in the high desert, south of Pinedale, and their summer range in Grand Teton National Park. The corridor, which represents the second-longest wildlife migration route in the Western Hemisphere, intersects with US 191 at Trappers Point.

The Trappers Point area was named for the nineteenth-century fur trappers who took advantage of natural terrain that bottlenecks the migratory herds. In modern times, it had become the site of frequent vehicle collisions with pronghorn, mule deer, and other animals.

Seeking to address this concern, a collaborative effort between WYDOT and a number of state and federal agencies and other organizations identified key locations where wildlife crossing structures could be beneficial. To facilitate the passage of pronghorn – which are reluctant to use traditional wildlife underpasses – WYDOT committed to build its first-ever wildlife overpasses.

Trappers Pond Wildlife Crossing. Photo: Wyoming DOT

Locations for the various crossing structures were chosen based on areas with the highest instances of motor vehicle collisions, observations by local game and fish and WYDOT personnel, and studies of the movement of collared antelope and deer. The agencies also considered the terrain, as well as already-preserved movement corridors, such as public lands or conservation easements.

Development of the wildlife connectivity plan for the area was a collaborative effort that included the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal Highway Administration. It also incorporated wildlife research from organizations including the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the Wyoming Outdoor Council, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and National Geographic.

Focus on Highway Safety

The agencies initially collaborated in an effort to obtain funding for the project under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. When that funding fell through, WYDOT was able to continue the effort by stressing the importance of highway safety: the combined loss of wildlife and property damage to vehicles was estimated at nearly $4.1 million from 2005 through 2009.

Under the focus of highway safety, WYDOT was able to secure the National Highway System federal funds to advance the project, according to Tim Stark, Environmental Services Engineer with WYDOT. The funds are expected to provide a valuable return. According to WYDOT, “The savings from reducing wildlife deaths and damage to vehicles is expected to exceed the project cost of $9.7 million in 12 years.”

Monitoring Shows Promising Results

The project already has proven to be beneficial for thousands of animals that have found their way safely across the highway. The most recent monitoring, conducted between Oct. 1 and Dec. 15, 2012, used remote cameras to document 8,878 mule deer and pronghorn moving through the new crossing structures.

Wildlife crossings help pronghorn safely cross the highway. Photo: Wyoming DOT

These results were particularly encouraging by demonstrating pronghorn’s use of the overpasses. Of the 8,878 animal crossings, 2,442 were pronghorn and 6,436 were mule deer. While most mule deer moved through the underpasses, 92 percent of the pronghorn used the overpasses. “The Trappers Point overpass is so well designed and so well suited to accommodate pronghorn migration, that we observed pronghorn using the overpass even before completion,” Jeff Burrell, Northern Rockies program coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society, said in a release. Stark said WYDOT will consider lessons learned from the Trappers Point project in planning for future efforts to ensure the safety of travelers and wildlife.

The Trappers Point project has received numerous awards, including the Wyoming Engineering Society’s 2012 President’s Project of the Year and the Federal Highway Administration’s 2011 Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative award. A National Geographic video featuring the project also is posted on the WYDOT website.

For more information on Trappers Point and other wildlife protection projects, visit the WYDOT Wildlife and Fisheries website, or contact Tim Stark, WYDOT Environmental Services Engineer, at timothy.stark@wyo.gov or by phone at 307-777-4279.

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