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The National Academies

NCHRP 25-56 [Anticipated]

Methods for State DOTs to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Transportation Sector

  Project Data
Source: AASHTO Standing Committee on the Environment
Funds: $500,000
Staff Responsibility: Ann M. Hartell
Fiscal Year: 2018

This project has been tentatively selected and a project statement (request for proposals) is expected in November 2017. The project statement will be available on this world wide web site. The problem statement below will be the starting point for a panel of experts to develop the project statement.

This research will identify specific efforts and strategies to reduce transportation sector greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are within state DOT control and provide methods for estimating and monitoring benefits and costs of these efforts.

Increasingly, state DOTs are being asked to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector. These requests are coming from the public, state governments (e.g., Governors’ offices), and from FHWA (e.g., new requirements for addressing GHG emissions in NEPA, potential national GHG performance measures). However, many of the strategies available to reduce GHG emissions from transportation are not under state DOT control (such as vehicle fuel economy standards and low carbon fuel standards). Many states lack the tools to quantify GHG emissions and it is often unclear what specific actions DOTs can take to reduce GHG emissions and the cost and benefits of those actions.

The research will give state DOTs the tools to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of potential GHG reduction actions and allow DOTs to make informed decisions about how to meet current and future state and federal GHG reduction goals, targets, and requirements. It will look beyond enterprise efforts related to state fleets and buildings to identify specific strategies that may include EV infrastructure, travel demand management, mode shift, projects to reduce miles traveled, or other efforts influenced by state DOTs.

A vast body of work around transportation and GHG emissions has been developed that ranges from in-depth discussion of specific strategies, such as installing solar panels in the right of way, to integrating GHG mitigation into planning, to understanding lifecycle emissions from construction practices. A variety of tools and methods have been developed to calculate emission reductions in the transportation sector, e.g., The Energy and Emissions Reduction Policy Analysis Tool (EERPAT), which evaluates a wide variety of policy options at the state or county level. However, efforts to apply those results to specific transportation stakeholders, including state DOTs, are lacking. State DOTs need solid information about what they can do to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector. This research will build upon the existing body of research by focusing the information to actions state DOTs can take to reduce emissions.

The research approach may include (1) a State of the Practice report that identifies current state DOT practices and existing tools and information, (2) a comparison of tools and strategies to reduce GHG in terms of state DOT authority, (3) identification of challenges to state DOTs for reducing transportation GHG emissions, (4) creation of a dynamic tool to evaluate costs and benefits of various GHG reduction strategies pre and post implementation, and (5) training state DOT staff to use the product(s), e.g., a webinar.

The most urgent need for this information is to meet new requirements from FHWA to evaluate GHG emissions in NEPA documents. FHWA does not require GHG reductions associated with this effort, but state DOTs expect other stakeholders to make this request. Another benefit is to support the increasing number of states with state GHG reduction goals that they are not on track to meet. Finally, FHWA recently proposed a GHG performance measure; setting reduction targets, and working to achieve them, will require all state DOTs to better understand which GHG mitigation options they can directly implement or affect.

Without this research, state DOTs will be less able to discuss the context of the GHG emission results now required in NEPA documents. Should FHWA finalize a GHG performance measure, without the information and tool from this research, states will face substantially more work and uncertainty in setting goals and making decisions on how to meet them. Finally, state DOTs will continue to build transportation projects, but without an improved understanding of how to reduce GHG emission through their projects, and programs will miss opportunities for reductions and could even unknowingly take actions that are counterproductive.

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