The National Academies

NCHRP 14-09(5) [Completed]

Impacts of Environmental, Health, and Safety Regulations on Highway Maintenance

  Project Data
Funds: $150,000
Research Agency: Auburn University
Principal Investigator: Dr. A. Ray Tarrer
Effective Date: 5/1/1991
Completion Date: 5/31/1993

The number and complexity of environmental, health, and safety regulations have proliferated in recent years. In order to respond to these regulations, transportation agencies have been required to invest increasingly larger shares of their highway maintenance resources to achieve compliance. These regulations have often been imposed without adequate recognition of the resources, technology advances, or the time required to achieve compliance. In addition, budget constraints have caused maintenance agencies to absorb the cost of compliance by reducing the funds and other resources available for needed maintenance work. Ultimately, deferred maintenance may lead to expensive infrastructure rehabilitation and replacement projects.

Many transportation maintenance operations are facing environmental, health, and safety requirements that have multiple impacts on available resources. Actions taken to achieve compliance may include alteration of operating procedures, modification of existing equipment, purchase of new equipment, selection of new and possibly more costly materials, and implementation of extensive record-keeping procedures. For example, recently adopted federal regulations that are intended to control lead particles in soil and water have significantly increased the costs of removing lead-based paints from existing steel bridges. Several states now claim that it is more cost effective in some instances to remove and replace a steel bridge than it is to remove the lead-based paint. Another example relates to current air quality regulations that limit the use of pavement-marking materials that have highly volatile components. Alternative pavement-marking materials require costly retrofitting of application equipment and ofte n have reduced performance characteristics.

Environmental, health, and safety regulations are promulgated by a number of agencies at the federal, state, and local government levels. These regulations are often issued without full knowledge of the implications on transportation maintenance activities. Conflicts between these regulations and inconsistencies in their interpretation often arise because the highway and regulatory agencies do not effectively communicate on a regular basis.

Research is needed to assist transportation agencies to effectively comply with environmental, health, and safety regulations in maintenance operations. Specific areas where current regulations have significant impact on maintenance operations must be identified, and a framework must be developed for the quantification of costs associated with environmental regulation compliance in order to allow transportation agencies to adequately budget maintenance resources.

The objectives of this research were to identify the technical, operational, and economic impacts of environmental, health, and safety regulations on highway maintenance programs and to provide information for transportation agencies and legislative decision-makers on the costs and consequences of regulatory compliance.

The revised final report was received by the panel in 1993. The report contained an executive summary targeted to legislators and top-level administrators noting problems with environmental and safety regulations and providing suggestions for legislative relief. It also contained a handbook for maintenance operations staff providing recommendations for budgeting and responding to regulations, summarizing pertinent regulations, and providing examples of successful mitigation techniques.

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