Innovative Transportation Safety Solutions....for bats?!
Last week, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe and I signed a Programmatic Biological Opinion -- an important document pledging our two agencies to do more to protect endangered Indiana bats, and threatened northern long-eared bats, in 37 states and the nation’s capital.
As I see it, safety is our top priority -- even for the endangered species which make their homes in the ecosystems along America’s roadways. This is good news for the environmental community, and something we need to see more of.
By giving states a new process by which to evaluate the environmental protections needed on highway projects, this important agreement to cut certain environmental review processes in half, saving between two weeks and three months for hundreds of highway projects nationwide, resulting in increased cost-savings for taxpayers and faster project delivery.
This agreement is among the most wide-ranging environmental document signed by the FHWA in the 21st century, and formalizes our ongoing commitment to protecting endangered species. Work began on this agreement – the first of its kind for transportation projects – in 2012 to ensure that highway projects in 37 states and the nation’s capital, where these bats live, will take extra steps to protect trees, bridges and other places where bats roost.
The federal government has considered the Indiana bat as endangered since 1967. The northern long-eared bat was added to the endangered species list in 2014.
This effort completes one of our very first “Every Day Counts” initiatives. The EDC Partnership with the States was launched in 2009, in partnership with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials as a means of accelerating the deployment of technology and process innovation to improve project delivery efficiency. Programmatics like this one have clearly contributed to improved environmental outcomes and efficiency. The result is faster project delivery and reduced costs.