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Green Transportation Infrastructure: Challenges to Access and Implementation

Statement of

Gloria M. Shepherd,
Associate Administrator

Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty
Federal Highway Administration
United States Department of Transportation

Hearing on

"Green Transportation Infrastructure: Challenges to Access and Implementation"

Before the

Committee on Science and Technology
Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation
United States House of Representatives

May 10, 2007

Chairman Wu, Ranking Member Gingrey, and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today about the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) efforts to advance environmentally sensitive transportation infrastructure.  FHWA is fostering a continued shift in the focus of the highway community from simply mitigating environmental impacts to actively contributing to environmental improvements.  In fulfilling this responsibility, we work closely with our partners at the Federal, State, and local levels to provide a coordinated national research agenda and deliver research results through training and technical assistance

Following the direction provided by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), FHWA and the State departments of transportation (DOTs) have become proactive partners in the environmental area.  The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) expanded the focus of environmental considerations from project development, construction, and operations, to the area of transportation planning.  SAFETEA-LU also contains a number of provisions to improve coordination between transportation and resource agencies.  Minimizing damage from, and mitigating negative impacts of, transportation facilities on the human and natural environments are always significant considerations for every Federal-aid funded highway project, from the initial planning and design stages, through development and construction, to operation and maintenance.

Our State partners are learning from experience that introducing environmentally sound technologies and construction practices early in project development can produce savings in costs and in time to completion, and can reduce future remediation expenses.  FHWA and its partners have made substantial contributions to the natural environment and to communities, through planning and programs that support context sensitive solutions, stormwater management, beneficial reuse of industrial byproducts materials, wetland banking, habitat restoration, historic preservation, air quality improvements, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, wildlife crossings, and public and tribal government involvement in transportation project development.

FHWA will continue to support these programs while it also works with State, local, and Federal partners to conduct sound environmental reviews in a timely way. With prompt decision-making, we routinely reduce project cost escalation, ease congestion, and deliver the transportation and safety improvements that the American public expects.

Research Programs for Environmentally Sound Practices and Technologies

Working with its partners, FHWA supports a research and technology program that is focused on developing and implementing an environmentally sensitive transportation program.

State Planning and Research (SP&R) Program.  Section 505 of title 23, United States Code, requires that States set aside 2 percent of the apportionments from the Interstate Maintenance, National Highway System, Surface Transportation, Highway Safety Improvement, Highway Bridge, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement, and Equity Bonus programs for State planning and research activities.  Of this amount, States must allocate 25 percent for research, development, and technology, unless the State certifies that transportation planning expenditures will require more than 75 percent of the amount set aside.  In fiscal year 2006, the set aside amounted to almost $600 million and, thus, provided almost $150 million for the State Planning and Research (SP&R) Program.  SP&R-funded  activities involve researching new areas of knowledge, adapting findings to practical applications by developing new technologies, transferring the technologies, and training the users of the technologies.

The SP&R Program is intended to solve problems identified by the States.  State DOTs are encouraged to establish research, development, and training programs that anticipate and address transportation concerns before they become critical problems.  Each State must implement a program that ensures effective use of available SP&R funds on a Statewide basis, and each State is permitted to tailor its program to meet local needs.  High priority is given to applied research on State or regional problems, transfer of technology from researcher to user, and research for setting standards and specifications.  Major research and development areas include infrastructure renewal (including pavement, structures, and asset management); activities relating to safety, operations, and management; environmental and real estate planning; and policy analysis and systems monitoring.

State DOTs have used SP&R funds for substantial research into regional stormwater issues and development of best management practices suitable for the particular issues in that locality or State.  An example of ongoing research related to stormwater at the State level is an "Investigation of Stormwater Quality Improvements Utilizing Permeable Pavement and/or Porous Friction Courses," which is being sponsored by the Texas DOT using SP&R funds.

Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative Research Program (STEP).  At the national level, FHWA currently administers environment and planning research funds under the STEP program created by SAFETEA-LU in section 5207.  STEP is intended to improve understanding of the complex relationship between surface transportation, planning, and the environment.  The program is authorized at $16.875 million per year for fiscal years 2006 through 2009.

Current initiatives propose research in areas related to planning, air quality, noise abatement, wetlands, vegetation management, wildlife connectivity, brownfields, and stormwater.  Some specific stormwater initiatives are the International Stormwater Best Management Practices Database, Evaluation and Update of FHWA Pollutant Loadings Model for Highway Stormwater Runoff, and Synthesis on the Fate and Effects of Chloride from Road Salt Applied to Highways for Deicing.  Other proposed research would examine tools such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to better map important ecosystem features, including wildlife corridors and invasive plants, to improve our ability to recognize and address environmental concerns very early in the process of planning a project.

Center for Environmental Excellence.  In section 5309, SAFETEA-LU authorizes $1.25 million per year for fiscal years 2006 through 2009 to establish a Center for Environmental Excellence to provide technical assistance, information sharing of best practices, and training in the use of tools and decision-making processes that can assist States in planning and delivering environmentally sound surface transportation projects.  FHWA is currently reviewing proposals from universities and expects to announce the establishment of the new Center for Excellence shortly.

Infrastructure Research and Technology.  FHWA’s infrastructure research and technology programs also pursue initiatives with potential environmental benefits, including:

  • Cantilever construction of bridges, which keeps construction equipment out of the waterway.
  • Prefabricated technologies for construction and repair of infrastructure (bridges and pavements) and other accelerated construction technologies which reduce environmental impacts by (a) moving much of the construction process to controlled environments and (b) reducing the duration of damaging activities.
  • “Warm mix” technology for asphalt paving which reduces the temperature at which asphalt paving materials are manufactured and placed, thereby reducing both emissions and fuel consumption.  This technology also has the potential to increase the amount of recycled asphalt pavement that can be effectively used in the paving mixture.

FHWA promotes and supports the use of recycled materials in highway construction and, through our contractor, the Recycled Materials Resource Center, currently at the University of New Hampshire, we are making changes in the extent of use of several industrial by-product materials in highway construction.  FHWA also has an active Recycling Team that works with the States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and industry to implement recycling technology. 

Funding for these initiatives comes from several sources, including the Innovative Pavement Research and Deployment Program and the Innovative Bridge Research and Deployment Program.  The Highways for LIFE program will also contribute to implementation of these technologies.

Research Coordination, Training and Technical Assistance, and Partnerships 

Coordination.  As more transportation and environmental research is being undertaken by a diverse array of organizations, there is a growing need for organized approaches that support well-crafted research agendas.  FHWA hosts, funds, or participates in various research coordination efforts.  FHWA’s STEP program is a cooperative research program, and stakeholders were extensively engaged in defining the research agenda and  identifying focus areas and projects.  In addition to FHWA's STEP program, National and State-level research programs of particular interest to State DOT transportation and environmental practitioners include the Strategic Highway Research Program Two (SHRP-2) led by the Transportation Research Board (TRB); the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) research programs, including the 25-25 research initiative, which provides funding for quick turnaround research by American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' (AASHTO) Standing Committee on Environment; individual State DOTs’ research programs, which increasingly include environmental components that are often conducted in coordination with university partners; and university research, particularly practitioner-oriented research conducted by University Transportation Centers around the nation that receive funding authorized under SAFETEA-LU.

An additional key area of investment is the AASHTO Center for Environmental Excellence Transportation Environmental Research Ideas (TERI) Database.  TERI is a dynamic tool that helps practitioners keep track of and prioritize constantly evolving transportation and environmental research needs.

Training and Technical Assistance.  Important components of a coordinated research agenda are training and technical assistance.  FHWA is working with our partners at all levels to share research results and promote environmentally sound practices.

The FHWA's National Highway Institute (NHI) has developed courses addressing environmental issues associated with infrastructure construction, operation, and maintenance, including a number of courses relating to water quality and runoff.  Development of courses in these areas is coordinated with the appropriate Federal agencies--most often EPA, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)--and with representatives of State DOTs.  Courses include "Design and Implementation of Erosion and Sediment Control," "Water Quality Management of Highway Runoff, and "Managing  Road Impacts on Stream Ecosystems: An Interdisciplinary Approach."  Attached to this statement is a summary of research related to stormwater runoff, directly carried out, funded, or supported by FHWA, which provides additional information on these courses.  (See Attachment - "Status of Current FHWA Water Quality Research.”)

FHWA will be developing a NHI short course entitled “Environmental Factors of Construction and Maintenance.”  The course is intended to familiarize construction teams with environmental concerns to be addressed as part of construction and maintenance operations.  The scope of work for the training has been prepared, and a request for proposals will be issued shortly.  This is the latest of several courses developed and offered by FHWA's NHI relating to water quality and runoff.  The Attachment also includes additional information on this course.

Technical assistance is also available through FHWA’s Resource Center technical teams and through the Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) and Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP).  The latter two organizations represent 58 centers that work directly with local agencies to transfer technology and train practitioners at city, town, county, and tribal levels.

In addition, FHWA has developed case studies to showcase best practices or innovative techniques.  Transportation enhancement funds have often been used for projects that improve the quality of highway stormwater runoff.  The Sebago Lake-Route 35 Environmental Mitigation in Standish, Maine; the Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility; and the Rock Creek Watershed Restoration, Montgomery County, Maryland, are three examples of such projects showcased on our transportation enhancements website. 

We also showcase important water quality improvement projects or mitigation measures in our Environmental Excellence Awards Program and our Exemplary Ecosystem Initiatives.  An example is the Berthoud Pass Mountain Access Project in Colorado.  This project received the 2005 Environmental Excellence Award for Roadside Resource Management and Maintenance.  Prior to this project, the sediment and de-icing materials  needed for safety considerations on US. Highway 40, as it passed through the mountains in northwest Colorado, were pushed into the forest floor causing streams to fill up and clogging pipes.  Now, when Colorado DOT maintenance crews plow the highway in the winter, snow and sand travel through a sophisticated system of culverts and ditches to collect in a strategically placed concrete storage basin.  Once in the basins, the sand is allowed to settle out and clean water is released into the watershed below the highway.  Colorado DOT crews then recover the sand from sloped access ramps, and the process begins again.

Partnerships.  FHWA has actively supported a multi-agency effort to develop a non-prescriptive approach to making infrastructure more sensitive to wildlife and ecosystems through greater agency cooperative conservation.  The collaborative ecosystem approach to transportation development is described in "Eco-Logical: an Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure Projects."  FHWA currently has dedicated $1 million for grants to transportation agencies, local governments, non-governmental organizations, and others to advance pilot projects based on Eco-Logical and integrated planning principles.  Integrated planning is a process for the collection, sharing, analysis, and presentation of data contained in agencies’ plans--conservation, watershed, historic preservation, transportation, and others--to more comprehensively address the multiple needs of an area.  The solicitation for these grants is expected to be posted at http://www.grants.gov/  and several FHWA websites in the next few days.

National Partnerships are also being promoted through workshops on Linking Conservation and Transportation Planning and Project Development.  Pilot workshops were held last year in Arizona, Colorado, and Arkansas.  The workshop content is being updated and workshops will be offered again in fiscal year 2008.  The purposes of the workshops are to (1) facilitate the exchange of ideas, concepts, and methods for better collaboration between transportation and conservation planning practitioners and (2) promote the sharing of conservation and transportation geospatial data, methodologies, and tools to advance planning, environmental stewardship, and streamlining goals.  The primary audience for the training will be conservation and transportation planning and project review/development staffs at the Federal, State, regional, and local levels.

FHWA is also becoming an active participant in the Green Infrastructure Planning Workshops developed by a number of resource and regulatory agencies in cooperation with the Conservation Fund.  Green infrastructure relates to a strategic approach to conservation that promotes planning, protection, restoration, and long-term management that is proactive, systematic, holistic, multifunctional, and science-based.  Green Infrastructure workshops approach transportation planning as a way of promoting integrated planning principles.  FHWA has provided funding support for Green Infrastructure Workshops held recently in Anchorage, Alaska, and Colorado Springs, Colorado.

FHWA has been a leading partner in the Mid-Atlantic Green Highways Partnership (GHP).  The GHP is a public-private initiative that seeks to revolutionize the manner in which our nation's transportation infrastructure is planned and constructed.  The GHP promotes integrated planning, regulatory flexibility, and market-based rewards.  The GHP provides State DOTs an opportunity to highlight good environmental practices already underway and encourages additional innovations. FHWA has contributed significant resources towards the partnership including staff time, monetary commitments, and technological expertise.  Recently, FHWA and EPA co-founded a Green Highways Partnership grant for innovative watershed management projects within the Anacostia Watershed.  The grant, announced on Earth Day 2006, awarded a total of $1 million to three different groups working on projects designed to protect and restore urban water resources through a holistic watershed approach to managing water quality.  The grant supports Low Impact Development and restoration work in the Anacostia River watershed.  This partnership represents significant leveraging of public, private, and non-profit resources, while playing a pivotal role in advancing environmental results; safe, sustainable transportation systems; and economic competitiveness in and around the Anacostia watershed in D.C. and Maryland. 

Another recent event was a GHP workshop with Maryland that reviewed a project in the early Environmental Impact Statement stage to discuss stormwater management, conservation practices, and recycle/reuse of industrial byproducts, with a focus on what can then be used in the construction plans for the project.

In addition to work on stormwater runoff management, FHWA is collaborating with the multi-disciplinary, interagency teams of the GHP in the following areas:

Recycling and Reuse.  Recycling of industrial byproducts and their reuse as materials for infrastructure construction can not only reduce a wide range of environmental impacts (conserve landfill, reduce water/air pollution, reduce greenhouse gases), but can also save energy, money, and conserve non-renewable resources. The GHP recycling and reuse team has a number of efforts underway, primarily to overcome informational barriers.  After identifying and evaluating existing environmental regulations and construction/material specifications, the team will develop guidance documents for State and local agencies on the best methods and specifications for the use of industrial byproduct materials in road and bridge construction.  The team will also produce a comprehensive toolkit that provides technical information and guidance to help DOTs and regulatory agencies overcome barriers. 

Another GHP priority is to highlight existing State DOT projects that optimize the beneficial reuse of industrial byproducts.  An example of a project that has been showcased through the GHP is the Tarrtown Bridge in Pennsylvania, where the Pennsylvania DOT used shredded tires as lightweight embankment fill on two bridge approaches.  The project incorporated approximately 780,000 scrap tires, thereby easing the load on landfills. 

In West Virginia, the State DOT is using recycled blast furnace slag as the aggregate of choice in the western part of the State for the majority of the asphalt surface course pavements.  The effort results in a safer pavement due to the aggregate's nonpolishing properties (higher friction number).  Further, recycling blast furnace slag, when available locally, offers an economic advantage compared with using virgin limestone aggregate.

These are just two examples of the various industrial byproduct materials that FHWA is actively promoting for reuse in highway and bridge construction.  As noted above, the Recycled Materials Resource Center mission is to conduct research to insure that the use of recycled materials does not have a negative impact on the environment and to provide technical information to State and local agencies on the proper reuse of the materials.

Conservation and Ecosystem Management (principles and practices).  The conservation and ecosystem management team within the GHP focuses on bringing advances in mapping and data management together with various initiatives in conservation and ecosystem management to achieve greener highways.  The data and regulatory managers are working to gain agreement on how to develop a set of tailored, core data-sets and maps that can be integrated at both the transportation project and planning levels.  The maps will facilitate information sharing at the Federal, State, metropolitan planning organization, and local levels, and will facilitate the integration of conservation and ecosystem management practices into land-use planning.  Priority areas for conservation will emerge from the development of a regional ecosystem framework.

The Green Highways Partnership represents the next logical step in the evolution of EPA, FHWA, and Mid-Atlantic State DOT efforts in environmental streamlining and stewardship.  

Management of Highway Stormwater Runoff

FHWA has made the issue of managing stormwater runoff a particular focus in its efforts to promote technologies that mitigate damage and impacts to the environment from highway construction and operation.

Highway stormwater runoff, as part of development and urbanization, is a potential source of a wide variety of possible pollutants to surrounding water bodies.  Highway surfaces, along with adjoining areas, collect a variety of materials as a result of highway usage, maintenance, natural conditions, and pollution fallout.  While highway runoff may be a potential threat to receiving waters, if handled properly the runoff does not have to be a serious problem. 

There are a number of highly effective measures available to treat the runoff before it actually reaches any receiving waters.  Site-specific practices remain important treatment options, but a changing management style has also embraced the practice of planning at the watershed and sub-basin scales.  Best management practices are no longer driven only by water-quality criteria.  We are not looking only at “end of the pipe” treatment technologies but, increasingly, are focusing on practices and techniques that look at ecosystem-level impacts and stressors, such as conserving ecosystems, maintaining natural drainage courses, and minimizing cleared and graded area.

FHWA researches and showcases the various best management practices for managing stormwater runoff from highway projects.  These best management practices can generally be categorized as "structural" or "non-structural."

Structural best management practices consist of infiltration technologies, detention, retention, vegetative practices, filtering systems, and porous pavements.  Structural best management practices operate by physically trapping runoff until contaminants settle out or are filtered through the underlying soils.  They work through gravity settling the constituents, the infiltration of soluble nutrients through the soil or filters, or other biological and chemical processes.

Stormwater management innovations are underway throughout the mid-Atlantic region, where urbanized areas are particularly challenging.  In 2004 in Washington, D.C., the District Department of Transportation installed a biocell for stormwater management at Benning Road Bridge.  A biocell is composed of natural materials such as mulch, soil mix, and various types of vegetation.  Rather than require an engineered structure like a weir or drainage pit, a biocell acts like a filtration trench, where the soil or natural drainage materials filter the water. A biocell can remove up to 90 percent of the suspended solids from stormwater.  This project represented the first use of low-impact stormwater management technology by the District government.

The non-structural best management practices deal mainly with source controls such as land use planning, street sweeping, fertilizer application controls, reduced mowing, and litter removal from roads and roadside areas.  These methods help reduce the initial concentration and accumulation of contaminants in the stormwater runoff.  Non-structural controls can reduce the need for structural controls.

Many States, including Oregon, have implemented a requirement that any engineered stormwater facility, such as detention, treatment, pumping, or infiltration, must be accompanied by a site specific "Operation & Maintenance" manual.  This manual is necessary to ensure the agreements and assumptions made during the water resources analysis conducted during the NEPA environmental review process are fulfilled for the life of the facility.  The manual is provided to the people responsible for the long-term maintenance of the facility.

FHWA’s promotion and technical support for more environmentally sensitive use of de-icing agents and chemicals, as well as abrasion use for winter road maintenance activities, is saving operating budgets and increasing roadway asset service life, with less impact on the roadside environment.  We find a similar payoff for improvements in summer work managing the roadsides using improved herbicide and pesticide application and control.

In selecting the most appropriate best management practice, careful consideration must be given to the expected amount of runoff, the type and amount of contaminants, the availability of land, and the physical characteristics of the site.  Some best management practices can operate in any weather conditions, while others cannot.  Where there is limited space, certain of the structural practices may not be reasonable or feasible, while the non-structural practices can be implemented effectively anywhere.

FHWA encourages all States to study the quality of the highway runoff and its properties before implementing or designing any control treatment strategies for a specific area.  Given that every watershed is different, a one-size fits all approach could result in spending funds for unnecessary or inappropriate treatment.  We encourage early study by providing funding for mitigation of impacts associated with Federal-aid highway projects, including stormwater control, technical assistance, training, and research assistance to State and local transportation staff. 

See the Attachment to this statement for a status report on research, training, and publications related to stormwater runoff, being carried out, funded, or supported by FHWA. 

Obstacles to Implementation of Environmentally-Sensitive Technologies

The permitting program under the Clean Water Act, regulating discharges to waters of the United States, addresses stormwater discharges associated with urban areas and certain industrial activities, and includes transportation facilities.  Because of a lack of monitoring information, scientific analysis, and third-party evaluations, it may be difficult for new and innovative technologies  to demonstrate significant water quality treatment to satisfy regulatory agencies.   For example, the EPA's Environmental Technology Verification Program approves innovative treatment technologies through performance verification and dissemination of information.  Some State regulatory agencies have similar programs.  While these programs are beginning to test and approve innovative technologies in their region, many technologies  are still being tested, thus the level of acceptance by the regulatory agency for meeting permitting requirements may be limited, even if the technology theoretically demonstrates the necessary ability to meet the requirements.

Lack of a sound track record regarding the costs versus the benefits of a particular technology also can be a problem.  The business case has to be made for why a new technology is promising for both the environment and transportation.  Lifecycle information from existing infrastructure construction will help inform future decisions.

Of course safety and engineering considerations must always be balanced with environmental benefits.  However, safety and environmentally sensitive technologies can be compatible.  Context Sensitive Solutions that fully integrate safety into the project development process ensure that both the environment and highway safety benefit.  For example, properly designed landscaping can ensure adequate sight distances for drivers, avoid deadly fixed object hazards, and maintain the ability of drivers and pedestrians to see each other.  Water quality and highway safety can both be improved with gently sloping clear zones that allow errant motorists to regain control of their vehicles and reduce the risk of fixed-object crashes.  These clear zones also allow highway runoff to be filtered or absorbed before entering waterways.


When appropriately applied, "green" transportation technologies and practices, such as use of highway infrastructure to mitigate stormwater runoff, beneficial reuse of industrial byproduct materials, and context sensitive solutions, not only yield significant benefits for avoiding or mitigating negative environmental impacts of highway construction, but can produce safety enhancements and economic savings as well.  Ongoing research, transfer of technologies and best practices, and new partnerships are providing States and tribal governments more knowledge and tools to address such issues as stormwater runoff control.  A heightened focus on integrated planning should help ensure that potential environmental impacts are identified and addressed early in the project development process.

Mr. Chairman, members, thank you for this opportunity to testify.  I will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

================ ATTACHMENT =======================


Status of Current FHWA Water Quality Research



I.  Research Projects

ProjectInternational Stormwater BMP Database

Contractor:  Wright Water Engineers, Inc, and GeoSyntec Consultants

Purpose of Work:  Water Environment Research Foundation, American Society of Civil Engineers-Environmental and Water Resources Institute, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Highway Administration and American Public Works Association have formed a coalition of organizations to fund and manage the International Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMP) Database.  The work will consist of entering currently available and newly developed data sets, keeping the Web site and database up to date, providing data analysis and developing protocols for integrating low impact development techniques into the database.

Status:  The work is ongoing and the database is currently accessible through the Web site at http://www.bmpdatabase.org

ProjectEvaluation and Update of FHWA Pollutant Loadings Model for Highway Stormwater Runoff

Contractor:  U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia

Purpose of Work:  The Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey are cooperating on a national project to evaluate the existing highway stormwater runoff model and update the model using new information and software.  This work will incorporate the existing model in a new software platform, provide information on the probability distributions of:  precipitation characteristics, highway-runoff-volumes, highway-runoff concentrations, upstream flow, upstream receiving-water concentrations, and structural best management practice performance.  This information will be used to estimate the probability of concentration and loads in receiving waters downstream of the highway outfall and it will estimate the probability of the outfall exceeding water quality standards.

Status:   The model is in preparation.  Information on this project can be found at:  http://ma.water.usgs.gov/fhwa/, along with the 1990 FHWA Pollutant Loadings Model for Highway Stormwater Runoff.

ProjectState Transportation Agency Strategies to Address NPDES Phase II Requirements, NCHRP 25-25(16)

Contractor:  Venner Consulting, GeoSyntec, and Parsons Brinckerhoff

Purpose of Work:  The research will focus on determining how state transportation agencies have addressed compliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II requirements. Research will be directed toward determining staffing and organizational structure throughout the entire agency to address NPDES Phase II compliance for construction activities as well as the stormwater management program as a regulated Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4)

Status:  The final draft report was submitted in November 2006 and the consultant is addressing comments from the review panel.  The final report should be published soon.

ProjectWater Quality Analyses for NEPA Documents: Selecting Appropriate Methodologies, NCHRP 25-25(35)

Contractor:  Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas, Inc.

Purpose of Work:  The National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) requires that sponsors of transportation projects consider the impacts of those projects on water quality and water resources.  There are numerous methodologies available to perform these analyses; however, there is little or no guidance on selecting the most effective analytical tool for the particular information being presented for NEPA documentation.  Some methods developed by the EPA and FHWA may be more suited for detailed project level analysis and some better suited for planning level studies and watershed-based analyses.  The objective of this study is to identify those water quality analysis methodologies that are best suited for detailed project-level impact assessment for NEPA documents.

Status:   The research started in December 2006, and will be concluded in the fall of 2007.

ProjectQuantifying the Components of Impervious Surfaces

Contractor:  U.S. Geological Survey

Purpose of Work:  The purpose of this research is to determine, using existing land use, land cover, and impervious surface data, the individual contribution of the various components to impervious surfaces, to the overall storm water runoff issue.  Preliminary results of this report for 6 case studies (Washington, Virginia, Nebraska, Iowa, Florida) shows that the percentage of impervious cover contributions from road surfaces in these studies varied between 20 – 35%.  Generally roads were at 28%, buildings at 29%, and parking lots at 25% for total impervious areas in a watershed.  As the watershed becomes more developed and the impervious surfaces increase, the contribution from the road surfaces decreases.

Status:  Final report can be found on the web at:  http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2007/1008/.

ProjectGuidelines for the Selection of Snow and Ice Control Materials to Mitigate Environmental Impacts, NCHRP Project 6-16

Contractor:  Levelton Consultants, Ltd.

Purpose of Work:  Every year considerable quantities of snow and ice control products are applied to highways.  This application involves a balancing act of maintaining safety and applying what is needed without causing environmental impacts.  This project is looking at a way to define the selection of winter maintenance materials based on their environmental impact.  They will be looking at the most common chemical alternatives such as sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, calcium magnesium acetate, potassium acetate, etc.  This project will develop guidelines for selection of snow and ice control chemicals and abrasives, based on their constituents, performance, environmental impacts, cost, and site-specific conditions.  Investigators will look at the environmental impacts of the effects on human health, aquatic life, flora and fauna, surface-water and groundwater quality, air quality, vehicles, and physical infrastructure including bridges, pavements, railway electronic signaling systems, and power distribution lines.  In the past, transportation departments have focused on performance and cost under various weather conditions without evaluating their relative impacts on the environment.

Status:  The final report is available upon request from NCHPR.

II.  State Planning and Research Funds

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) requires that States set aside 2 percent of the apportionments they receive from the Interstate Maintenance, National Highway System, Surface Transportation, Highway Safety Improvement, Highway Bridge, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement, and Equity Bonus programs for State planning and research activities. Of this amount, States must allocate 25 percent for research, development, and technology (RD&T), unless the State certifies and the Secretary accepts the certification, that transportation planning expenditures will require more than 75 percent of the earmarked amount. These activities involve research on new areas of knowledge; adapting findings to practical applications by developing new technologies; and the transfer of these technologies, including the process of dissemination, demonstration, training, and adoption of innovations by users.

The State Planning and Research (SP&R) Program is intended to address problems identified by the States. State Departments of Transportation are encouraged to develop, establish, and implement RD&T programs that anticipate and address transportation concerns before they become critical problems. Each State must develop, establish, and implement a program that ensures effective use of available SP&R funds for RD&T activities on a statewide basis, and each State is permitted to tailor its RD&T program to meet local needs. High priority is given to applied research on State or regional problems, transfer of technology from researcher to user, and research for setting standards and specifications. Major RD&T areas include infrastructure renewal (including pavement, structures, and asset management); activities relating to safety, operations, and management; environmental and real estate planning; and policy analysis and systems monitoring.

III.  Available Reports and Publications:

Evaluation of Best Management Practices for Highway Runoff Control, 2006, NCHRP Report 565, Project 25-20(1)

This report focuses on improving the scientific and technical knowledge base for the selection of best management practices (BMP) through a better understanding of BMP performance and application.  This report documents an extensive program of research on the characterization of BMPs and stormwater, and the influence of factors such as land use practice, hydraulic characteristics, regional factors, and performance evaluation.  In addition to the report, a CD is affixed to the back cover containing three additional volumes and a spreadsheet model.  The additional volumes are:  User’s Guide for BMP/LID Selection, Appendices to the User’s Guide, and Low Impact Development Design Manual for Highway Runoff Control.

Great Lakes Initiative - Stormwater Workshop Report

The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration was initiated by Executive Order (EO) 13340, issued in May 2004. This EO acknowledged the national significance of the Great Lakes and created a unique partnership of key members from Federal, State, and local governments, tribes and others for the purpose of developing a strategic plan to restore and protect the Great Lakes ecosystem. EO 13340 set up a Federal Interagency Task Force and a Regional Working Group. On December 12, 2005, the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force met to reinforce and demonstrate commitment and collaborative efforts to promote further work and progress in the Great Lakes area. The task force identified existing Federal programs that will support Great Lakes ecosystem restoration and developed a list of action items. From this meeting in December, the Federal Highway Administration committed to convene a gathering of Great Lakes State DOTs to collaborate, share information, build contacts, examine issues, and develop strategies for dealing with stormwater runoff in the Great Lakes region.  The workshop was held in August 2006 and report was issued on the results of this workshop.  Copy of the report can be requested by calling 202-366-4085.

Eco-Logical (2006)

Eco-Logical is a guide or process for a comprehensive management approach that Federal, State, and local partners can use to get involved in infrastructure, planning, design, review, and the construction of projects to work more efficiently and effectively together.  The process integrates infrastructure development with ecosystem management to advance project approvals with conservation and sustainable land development practices.  The guide is available on-line at:  http://environment.fhwa.dot.gov/ecological/ecological.pdf.

Environmental Stewardship Practices, Policies, and Procedures for Road Construction and Maintenance (2005)

This report developed a compendium of environmental stewardship practices, policies, and procedures in areas of construction and maintenance.  This manual can be downloaded at:  http://www.environment.transportation.org/center/products_programs/environmental_stewardship.aspx.

Common Native Roadside Wildflowers (2005)     

This field guide highlights 100 native forbs and grasses commonly found on highway rights-of-way in Western America.  All are native to the United States and do not include plants that have been naturalized. 

The Nature of Roadsides and the Tools to Work with It – 2003

This publication discusses the various tools available for right-of-way managers.  Highway corridors crisscross our Nation and the management of these acres of land is complicated by many uses:  recovery zone for errant vehicles, utility lines, snow storage, open space, wetland mitigation, wildlife corridors, greenways, signage, and biodiversity.  This publication discusses some of the methods and tools available to protect and manage the beauty and value of our roadside biota.

The National Highway Runoff Data and Methodology Synthesis -2003

Volume I: Technical Issues for Monitoring Highway Runoff and Urban Stormwater 

Volume II :  Project Documentation with CD based bibliographic database of reports

Volume III – Availability and Documentation of Published Information for Synthesis of Regional or National Highway Runoff Quality Data 

This report evaluates the existing highway runoff quality data to determine if the quality and processes contributing to water quality constituents in highway runoff can be adequately characterized on a nationwide basis to fulfill the information needs of highway practitioners.  Results are also available through the internet at: http://ma.water.usgs.gov/FHWA/.

Common Roadside Wildflowers (2003)   

This field guide highlights 100 native forbs and grasses commonly found on highway rights-of-way and other natural areas across Eastern America.  State Departments of Transportation are encouraging their use for many reasons:  their natural beauty, adaptation to arid environments, usefulness to wildlife, addition to biodiversity and land health, ability to slow water runoff, and slope stabilization.

Aquatic Ecology and Stream Restoration Video – Fall 2003 

This video showcases six stream restoration case studies from across the Nation and promotes the importance of restoring our streams after road construction.  This project documents examples of a nationwide effort on stream restoration showing the appropriate designs and techniques for stream relocation, fish and wildlife habitat preservation, and methods to improve the water quality while providing safe, efficient roadways.  The series of videos has been developed by North Carolina Department of Transportation for Federal Highway Administration and is now available and a copy can be obtained by calling 202-366-2054.

Keeping it Simple – Easy Ways to Help Wildlife Along Roads (2003) 

This brochure highlights more than 100 simple, successful activities that help make roads more wildlife friendly, from all 50 States.  These success stories are also available at our Web site:  www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/wildlifeprotection  The Web site allows users to search by State and by category, and it provides contact information for sending new “keeping it simple” success stories to be added to the site.

Assessing the Impacts of Bridge Deck Runoff Contaminants in Receiving Waters- 2002, NCHRP Report 474, Volume 1: Final Report, Volume 2: Practitioner’s Handbook

This report presents guidance for assessing and, if necessary, mitigating the impacts of bridge deck runoff.  The final report includes findings of the literature review and a survey of highway agency practices, consultation and testing of sites.  The second volume or practitioner’s handbook presents the assessment process as a result of the final report.

Wet Detention Pond Design for Highway Runoff Pollution Control

The research developed a methodology for designing efficient wet detention ponds in the highway environment.  The methodology included performance characteristics, design guidelines, conditions, limitations, and applications for use.  A comparison was made between wet detention ponds and dry detention ponds in order to show the advantages and disadvantages of each system.  The research is complete and the preliminary draft final report was submitted to the technical oversight panel for review. The unedited final report for NCHRP Project 25-12 as prepared by the University of Washington is available for loan by contacting NCHRP at NCHRP@nas.edu.

Common Roadside Invasives (2002)   

This laminated field guide identifies common and showy roadside invasive grasses and forbs, all of which are on various State noxious weed lists.  We provide this guide with the expectation that it will help roadside vegetation managers and maintenance personnel to identify and control invasive plants in their jurisdictions.

Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Across European Highways – August 2002 

The Federal Highway Administration, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program sponsored an international technology scan to learn what actions are being taken in Europe to address habitat and wildlife issues.  As a result of the trip, the team formed conclusions and recommendations for U.S. application in the areas of policy, communication, guidance manuals, and research.  This publication is available from our Office of International Programs.

Management of Runoff from Surface Transportation Facilities--Synthesis and Research Plan, 2001, NCHRP Web Document 37 

The final report has been posted at: http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_w37.pdf.  The objectives of this research on the management of the quality and quantity of runoff waters from surface transportation facilities, was to (1) synthesize existing knowledge and practice into a form usable by practitioners; (2) develop a strategic research plan to address gaps in existing knowledge; and (3) recommend a system for continued exchange of information between practitioners and others interested in water-quality and runoff issues.

Guidance Manual for Monitoring Highway Runoff Water Quality – June 2001 

The Federal Highway Administration contracted with URS Group, Inc. to conduct an evaluation of water quality monitoring equipment for measuring the constituents of highway stormwater runoff.  Testing was done on the methodologies and use of these various monitoring and sampling equipment in the highway environment.  The results are presented in this manual.  This manual will assist State and local governments prepare highway stormwater monitoring programs based on monitoring goals.  Guidance is provided to assist the user in not only selecting equipment, but also with highway stormwater runoff monitoring designs for a comprehensive plan.  Recommendations and field evaluations are given for specific equipment and monitoring methods.  The report provides recommendations on adaptations necessary for using available off-the-shelf equipment to improve the evaluation of stormwater runoff in the highway setting.

Wetlands Data Reporting System – Spring 2001 

The FHWA has developed the Wetlands Accounting Database for collecting and analyzing wetland mitigation data.  The database is designed to accumulate data about wetlands mitigation projects.  It collects, correlates, and presents this data as useful and meaningful information.  The CD-based software is available upon request.

Case Histories of Wetland Restoration - December 2000

This report highlights four wetland restoration projects from regionally different areas within the United States.  These studies show that restoration can result in highly successful ecological communities that are similar in structure and function to the natural ones.  The goals, objectives, and criteria for restoration should be established in relation to the water regime of the drainage basin and ecosystem in which they lie.  The four projects in this publication offer some insight into what elements lead to a successful restoration project.  There is no single path, but certain elements and themes emerge from the examination of these projects.

Environmental Impact of Construction and Repair Materials on Surface and Ground Waters – NCHRP 25-9 – June 2000 

The CD-ROM based report presents a validated methodology for assessing the environmental impact of highway construction and repair materials on surface and ground water under six general highway reference environments. This methodology includes: (1) a set of comprehensive bioassay protocols that directly measure the toxicity of leachates from highway construction and repair materials on two target organisms, the water flea, Daphnia magna, and the freshwater algae, Selenastrum capricornutum, and (2) the IMPACT model that can estimate the fate and transport of such leachates in typical highway environments. The IMPACT model is based on an extensive database of bioassay toxicity results for materials ranging from common construction and repair products to waste and recycled materials proposed for use in highway construction.

Stormwater Management Practices in an Ultra-Urban Setting: Selection and Monitoring - May 2000  

This report focuses on design criteria and monitoring studies on stormwater best management practices (BMPs) implemented in ultra-urban settings.   The report provides planning level review of the applicability and use of new and more traditional BMPs in ultra-urban areas.  The report provides specific guidance for selecting and siting stormwater management technologies.  Case studies are used to highlight various examples throughout the country that address ultra-urban considerations.   

Critter Crossings -Linking Habitats and Reducing Roadkill - February 2000

This brochure describes the transportation impacts on wildlife and highlights projects and processes that help to reduce these impacts.

Roadside Use of Native Plants - September 1999

This publication is for use in making site specific decisions.  The primer provides a holistic background information for decisionmaking.  It addresses basic techniques for using native plants.  The State-by-State section pulls together native, endangered, and noxious plant lists to aid in design and management.  The manual includes definitions, bibliographies, and policy citations to clarify the use of native plants on roadsides.

Evaluation and Management of Highway Runoff Water Quality - June 1996

This manual synthesizes the results of past documentation and research on highway stormwater runoff into a single-volume user’s manual on water quality impact assessment and mitigation.  It presents available and appropriate impact prediction and mitigation tools for use during highway project planning and development activities.

IV. Training Courses, Workshops, and Award Programs

Design and Implementation of Erosion and Sediment Control –NHI Course #142054

This NHI course was developed as a joint effort between FHWA and the EPA Office of Water.  The course reflects the Agencies' commitment to providing education and training on planning, design, implementation, enforcement, inspection, and maintenance strategies to control erosion and sediment on highway construction projects, as well as to ensure that regulatory issues are addressed accurately and uniformly. Each discipline involved in a highway construction project has a different set of priorities. The course offers participants opportunities for discussion and joint problem solving, through which they will gain information about the roles and responsibilities of other team members.

Water Quality Management of Highway Runoff –NHI Course #142047

This NHI course, developed with EPA Office of Water, provides an overview of the basic water quality parameters and processes, along with the requirements and guidance on best management practices the transportation community can use in mitigating highway runoff impacts and protecting water quality.  This course shares approaches and technologies for the water quality management of highway runoff, including the effective maintenance, inspection and evaluation of Best Management Practices (BMPs).

Managing Road Impacts on Stream Ecosystems: An Interdisciplinary Approach – NHI Course #142048

This NHI course will introduce and discuss the basic concepts related to the impacts that roadways have on streams and stream ecosystems.  The course will be structured to first address the ecological and physical characteristics of stream ecosystems, discuss the impacts that roadways can have on those ecosystems, and then look at tools that the practitioner can use to help avoid and mitigate those effects.  Through the use of case studies, discussion, and other techniques, the participants will be afforded an opportunity to use critical thinking to identify solutions and preventative measures related to the impacts of roads on streams and their riparian communities.  The course will be available at the end of the fiscal year 2007.

International Conference on Ecology and Transportation – May 20-25, 2007 in Little Rock, Arkansas 

Multi-disciplinary, inter-agency event conducted biennially to identify and share quality research applications and best management practices that address wildlife, habitat, and ecosystem issues related to the delivery of surface transportation systems.

2007 Environmental Excellence Awards

These awards have been designed to recognize outstanding transportation projects, processes, and people who incorporate environmental stewardship into the planning and project development processes using FHWA funding sources.  The winners will be recognized at our International Conference on Ecology and Transportation in Little Rock, Arkansas on May 20-25, 2007.

Exemplary Ecosystem Initiatives (EEI)

Since 2002, FHWA has designated 43 Exemplary Ecosystem Initiatives in 31 States.  An EEI is an initiative that sustains or restores natural systems and their functions and values.  EEIs are developed within a landscape context, using partnering and collaborative approaches and the best available science in ecosystem and habitat conservation.  All EEIs are posted on FHWA’s Web site at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/ecosystems/index.htm.

Alternative Practices for Highway Stormwater Management (2006)  

This previously aired four-part Webcast series, which can be accessed on the Web at any time, was presented by the Izaak Walton League and sponsored by FHWA. The sessions outline the latest techniques available to help transportation agencies save money, comply with water quality and water supply regulations, and improve water quality with context-sensitive stormwater management practices, including low impact development techniques. These techniques also can help highway department personnel manage stormwater quantity and quality while using existing rights of way and providing easy access for maintenance crews. Each session includes valuable background information and specific guidance on how to apply these principles for highway projects. The series also addresses barriers to using innovative stormwater management techniques and how to overcome those barriers. This series provides valuable information to design engineers, planners, regulators, students, maintenance supervisors, construction engineers, and consultants.  To view the archived Webcast, go to:  http://itre.ncsu.edu/cte/TechTransfer/Teleconferences/iwla2006.asp.

Environmental Factors of Construction and Maintenance (Under Development)

FHWA is developing a training course on how to mitigate environmental impacts during construction and maintenance projects.  The course is intended to familiarize State and contractor construction personnel with environmental concerns that should be addressed as part of construction operations.  These concerns include construction noise, construction dust, light pollution from nighttime operations, vibration, alkali runoff from concrete pour/ sawcut, emissions from equipment exhaust, disruption of species habitat or migration/ESA commitments, damage to archaeological or cultural resources, Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP)-maintenance activities, and hazardous materials.  We expect the course to be available sometime next year.

Gloria M. Shepherd, Associate Administrator, Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty, Federal Highway Administration
Testimony Mode: 
Testimony Date: 
Thursday, May 10, 2007
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