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Air Quality and Sustainability Highlights

November 2010/February 2011

Prepared by the Office of Planning, Environment and Realty
Federal Highway Administration

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Recent Events

EPA Issues 2010 Fuel Economy Trends Report. "Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 through 2010" shows that model year 2009 vehicles had the lowest CO2 emissions and highest fuel economy since EPA's database began in 1975. MY2009 average adjusted fuel economy was 22.4 mpg (for cars and light trucks) compared with 21.0 mpg for MY2008. CO2 emissions were 397 grams per mile. The increase in fuel economy was evident among all classes of light-duty vehicles reported: cars, station wagons, vans, SUVs and pickups. Other statistics of note: the MY2009 truck share dropped to its lowest level since 1995, and the percent of hybrid vehicles dipped slightly from MY2008, to 2.3%.

Success in Stewardship Newsletter Features FHWA's Climate Change Adaptation Activities. The February edition of FHWA's Success in Stewardship newsletter discusses some of FHWA's recently completed and ongoing climate change adaptation activities including our Gulf Coast Phase 2 study and climate change vulnerability and risk assessment pilot program.

Pew Center Releases Report Highlighting Options to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Transportation. Written by David Greene and Steven Plotkin, Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Transportation examines cost-effective solutions to cut GHG emissions from the transportation sector up to 65 percent below 2010 levels by 2050 by improving vehicle efficiency, shifting to less carbon intensive fuels, changing travel behavior, and operating more efficiently. Reducing transportation's GHG emissions would have the co-benefit of a reduction in oil use and improvements in energy security. Greene and Plotkin will present the results of their work in an AASHTO/FHWA webinar February 23 (see announcement below).

Pew Reports on Federal Agency Adaptation Activities. The Pew Center on Global Climate Change report, Climate Change Adaptation: What Federal Agencies are Doing, outlines many of the federal government's actions related to climate change adaptation. Additional information on FHWA's climate change activities is available on the FHWA's Highways and Climate Change website.

National Weather Service Offers Storm Surge Interactive Risk Maps. NWS has created an online tool which provides a snapshot of areas vulnerable to the storm surge from Category 1-5 hurricanes. The maps are intended for outreach, education and awareness.

NRDC Rates State Transportation Policies Based on Greenhouse Gas Reduction Potential. The Natural Resources Defense Council report, Getting Back on Track: Aligning State Transportation Policy with Climate Change Goals, looks at transportation policies in all 50 states and evaluates their greenhouse gas emissions reduction potential. NRDC formulated a list of policies and spending criteria that have been shown to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and rates states on their inclusion or implementation of these measures. NRDC makes a case that states could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making changes to their transportation policies, as most states don't currently align transportation policy with greenhouse gas reduction goals. NRDC also calls for changes in federal policies such as the disparity in state or local match funds required for transit projects (50% for New Starts) vs. highway projects (generally 20%).

2010 Tied as Warmest Year on Record. According to NOAA scientists, 2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year of the global surface temperature record, beginning in 1880. This was the 34th consecutive year with global temperatures above the 20th century average. For the contiguous United States alone, the 2010 average annual temperature was above normal, resulting in the 23rd warmest year on record. This preliminary analysis is prepared by scientists at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., and is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders so they can make informed decisions.

State and Local News

Initial Greenhouse Gas Transportation Scenarios Modeled in Oregon - The 2010 Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 1059, a statewide, comprehensive bill aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation. As part of the State's efforts to develop strategies leading to an ambitious 75% reduction in GHG emissions, the Oregon Department of Transportation recently completed modeling efforts designed to evaluate broad option packages to reduce GHG emissions. Scenarios ranged from 45% of households living in mixed use developments, to two-thirds of household involved in eco-driving programs to reduce fuel consumption, to the efficiency of light duty vehicles improving to 100 mpg by 2050. The initial results were designed to test a range of options and to provide a relative basis for comparison, and showed the clear impacts that technology level, urban form, and pricing levels could have on emission reductions. These initial results will be further refined in subsequent modeling with more detail provided on a range of outcomes such as public health, costs of implementation, and changes in vehicle miles traveled. The Oregon effort is unique in offering a robust modeling analysis able to simulate impacts on a household basis. For more information, see the Oregon Sustainable Transportation Initiative Website.

Oregon Releases Climate Adaptation Strategy. Developed in parallel with the Oregon Climate Assessment Report (OCAR) by the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (OCCRI), the Oregon Climate Change Adaptation Framework was released in December 2010. This framework presents a qualitative assessment of risks to people, infrastructure, communities and natural resources that are expected to result from the effects of climate change and identifies concrete actions the state should consider taking to begin to prepare for and adapt to these effects.

Pennsylvania Releases Climate Adaptation Plan. Pennsylvania Adaptation Planning Report: Risks and Practical Recommendations, released in January, includes near term recommendations for the transportation sector which could be implemented with currently available resources:

The report also includes recommended next steps and lists of resources.

Alaska DOT Presents on Adaptation Efforts. In a webinar hosted by the University of Alaska, Mike Coffey, Statewide Maintenance and Operations Chief for Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, described climate change impacts occurring and projected to occur on transportation infrastructure in the state. He also discussed adaptation activities his agency is involved with right now, along with some concluding thoughts on adaptation considerations for existing and new infrastructure.

California Releases Adaptation Progress Report. The one-year progress report on implementation of the 2009 California Adaptation Strategy reports that UC Davis is identifying areas of the state's freeway and highway system that are highly vulnerable to climate change impacts. From this review, transportation climate change hotspot locations in which population, travel demand and climate change effects intersect to create vulnerabilities will be mapped and assessed. In addition, Caltrans is working with other state government representatives on climate change related activities including: the update of the CEQA Guidelines, the development of interim sea level rise assumptions for state agencies, and the preparation of guidelines to address sea level rise in preliminary engineering documents for transportation projects.

Massachusetts Releases Climate Plan. Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020 projects a 7.6% reduction in GHG emissions from the transportation sector from 1990 levels by implementing a suite of measures including new federal vehicle and fuel standards, Pay As You Drive auto insurance, GreenDOT (MassDOT's sustainability initiative), clean car consumer incentives, and other measures.

ICLEI Launches Climate Resilient Communities Program. In November, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA launched a Climate Resilient Communities Program to help local governments learn how to adapt to climate change. The site guides communities through the process of assessing vulnerabilities, setting goals for resilience, and developing adaptation strategies that integrate with existing hazard and comprehensive planning efforts. The program provides a variety of free resources available to all, including case studies on local government adaptation efforts; fact sheets on financing adaptation, the mitigation-adaptation connection, and coastal adaptation strategies; links to websites, guidebooks, and toolkits; and notable reports and studies on adaptation.


Welcome Heather Holsinger and Rob Hyman. Heather and Rob joined FHWA's Sustainable Transport and Climate Change Team on December 20. Heather joins us from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, where she was the program manager for climate change adaptation issues. Prior to joining Pew, she worked for several years as a senior analyst at GAO. Heather has Bachelor's degrees in Economics and Environmental Science from the University of Virginia and Master's degrees in Environmental Management and Public Policy from Duke University.

Rob Hyman joins us from Cambridge Systematics, where he has been a key player in the company's climate change solutions practice. He was co-author of the Moving Cooler study of potential GHG emissions reduction policies from transportation and deputy program manager for the USDOT Report to Congress: Transportation's Role in Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Rob has a Bachelor's degree in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Harvard University and a Master's degree in Technology and Policy from MIT.

AASHTO/FHWA Webinar: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Transportation, February 23. 2:00-3:30 EDT. This webinar presents a major report that was issued by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and commissioned by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. The report identifies reasonable actions across three fronts - technology, policy, and consumer behavior - that could deliver up to a 65 percent reduction in transportation emissions from current levels by 2050. Authored by David L. Greene, of the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy and Steven E. Plotkin, of Argonne National Laboratory, the study provides three plausible scenarios of improved transportation efficiency and reduced GHG emissions through 2050, with technology progress and policy ambition increasing from the first to third scenario. Registration is free and open to anyone.

CSS Webinar Will Feature FHWA Climate Change Activities. On February 22nd, will host a webinar featuring FHWA's sustainability, GHG emissions mitigation, and climate change adaptation work. Information will be posted at:

Transportation Scholars Program Accepting Applications. This National Park Service Program, sponsored in part by FHWA, places transportation professionals and master's and doctoral candidates in National Parks across the country. One of this year's assignments is a 12-month stint in North Cascades National Park developing climate change adaptation strategies for transportation in protected areas. Applications are due February 28. For more information see the Transportation Scholars Program Website.

2011 Transportation Planning, Land Use, and Air Quality Conference, May 10-11. TRB is cosponsoring the 2011 Transportation Planning, Land Use, and Air Quality Conference on May 10-11, 2011, in San Antonio, Texas. The conference will explore the latest research on integrating transportation planning, land use decisions, and improving air quality. The spotlight theme for the conference will be Integrating Transportation, Land Use, and Air Quality to Meet Sustainability and Livability Objectives. For more information see:

If you have any suggestions for inclusion in future issues of Transportation and Climate Change News, or if someone forwarded this newsletter to you and you'd like to receive it directly in the future, please send your suggestions or request to Becky Lupes at

FHWA HQ Climate Change Contacts in the Office of Planning, Environment & Realty:

Office of Natural and Human Environment, Sustainable Transport & Climate Change Team
Mike Culp, Team Leader,
John Davies,
Connie Hill Galloway,
Heather Holsinger,
Rob Hyman,
Robert Kafalenos,
Becky Lupes,
Diane Turchetta,

Office of Planning
Robin Smith,

Office of Project Development & Environmental Review
Shari Schaftlein,

Updated: 12/27/2016
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