According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation account for about 28 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions, making it the largest contributor of U.S. GHG emissions. In absolute terms, between 1990 and 2018, GHG emissions in the transportation sector increased more than any other sector (https://www.epa.gov/transportation-air-pollution-and-climate-change/carbon-pollution-transportation). The climate-level processes affected by increased GHG emissions lead to changes that are experienced at the regional and local level. These include sea level rise, changes in precipitation regimes and temperature, and increases in the frequency or intensity of extreme weather events (e.g., hurricanes and heatwaves). These changes have important implications for public health and well-being, including increased heat-related deaths; damage and hazards from shoreline erosion and rural and urban flooding; impaired water quality from salt water intrusion in coastal areas; reduced air quality, whether from elevated levels of ozone due to warmer temperatures or particulate pollution from wildfires; and impacts on physical and mental health due to displacement and loss of life and property.
The negative impacts of climate change are disproportionately experienced by low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Moreover, mitigating these impacts is a challenge as many of these same communities have, over time, experienced disinvestment that has left them with fewer resources for resilience to climate change impacts. Consideration of GHG emissions and climate change impacts is, therefore, a key component of conducting robust equity assessments and achieving environmental justice. Climate change impacts also affect natural habitats and public and private property, with implications for housing, manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, and government sectors.
On June 21, 2019, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued the draft National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Guidance on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) (84 FR 30097). This draft guidance follows the issuing (2016) and rescinding (2017) of past CEQ guidance. Although the outlook for federal regulatory requirements in this area remains uncertain, a number of state governments have adopted climate action plans and similar efforts to reduce GHG emissions and address climate change impacts. Apart from state and federal policy directives or regulatory requirements, many communities are advocating for consideration of climate change and GHG emissions in transportation decision-making processes.
In response, many state DOTs are seeking ways to improve how GHG emissions and climate change effects are addressed in environmental reviews, specifically the analysis and documentation required by National and State Environmental Policy Acts (NEPA and SEPA); Environmental Justice and equity analyses; Community Impact Assessment (CIA); or Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) studies. In addition, state DOTs can support statewide climate action plans or climate resilience initiatives by considering GHG emissions and climate change impacts of their projects and programs. For example, Texas DOT uses a programmatic statewide technical report for an on-road emissions analysis and climate change assessment to support environmental reviews for project development.
Previous research has addressed methods for analyzing GHG emissions and climate change impacts that are potentially relevant for transportation decision-making. For example, the FHWA Infrastructure Carbon Estimator (ICE) 2.1, released in fall of 2020, estimates GHG emissions impacts of highway construction and operations using pre-engineering project information. NCHRP Project 25-56, "Methods for State DOTs to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Transportation Sector" (forthcoming 2021) is developing a guide to selecting GHG emissions tools for a wide range of decision-making applications and policy applications. While these projects provide examples and relevant background, they do not address the full range of considerations and approaches specific for environmental reviews. Further, emissions and energy models commonly used by transportation agencies to compare build alternatives typically indicate negligible changes in GHG emissions. At the same time, many climate change impacts stem from global processes and are indirect and/or cumulative in nature, which also makes them difficult to assess in connection with a specific project; the rescinded 2016 CEQ guidance addressed this issue through surrogate options for project-level analyses.
Research is needed to develop resources for state DOTs on cost-effective and practical approaches to analyzing GHG emissions and climate change impacts in environmental reviews.
The objective of this research is to develop and pilot a handbook for state DOTs with resources and approaches for addressing GHG emissions and climate change impacts in environmental reviews. The handbook will include details on available methodologies and replicable examples that:
- Use defensible methods
- Clearly disclose impacts to communities and other stakeholders
- Respond meaningfully to public comments and community concerns
- Inform mitigation efforts and transportation decision-making
Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.
Task descriptions are intended to provide a framework for conducting the research. The NCHRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objective. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. The research plan should build in adequate time for NCHRP project panel reviews of deliverables and checkpoints that are tied to panel review and/or approval of key deliverables as appropriate. Proposals must present the proposers' current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objective.
Task 1. Review current practice in addressing GHG emissions and climate change in environmental reviews (e.g., NEPA, SEPA, PEL studies, environmental justice and equity analyses). Provide a memorandum documenting the Task 1 findings for NCHRP review.
Task 2. Review available methodologies and tools for analyzing GHG emissions and climate change impacts related to transportation projects. Examples include but are not limited to:
For each methodology and tool, define, at a minimum:
- Effects that can be analyzed
- Appropriateness for use by regional context (e.g., coastal areas, urban areas)
- Scale and scope of analysis (e.g., lifecycle analysis or specific phase or phases)
- Required inputs or the availability of default input values
- Level of effort needed and/or costs for access and use
- Appropriateness for types of transportation projects (e.g., large capacity projects; bike lanes or sidewalks)
- Value for environmental justice, equity analyses, and CIA
- Project phase addressed (planning, construction, maintenance, operations, or some combination thereof)
- Level of transparency in calculations, assumptions, and limitations
- Clarity and comprehensibility in disclosing effects to members of the public and other stakeholders
Develop a matrix or similar graphic presentation that presents key characteristics of the methodologies and tools and matches them with typical types of transportation projects and project phases. In addition to including projects expected to generate measureable impacts, such as a large highway project, identify project types where an analysis is unlikely to reveal significant or disproportionate impacts, such as a sidewalk or bike lane project. Provide a memorandum with the results of Task 2 for NCHRP review.
Task 3. Collect and synthesize common community and stakeholder perspectives on GHG emissions and climate change impacts at the project level. Describe effective responses and approaches to resolving community and stakeholder concerns along with lessons learned. This task will draw from comments submitted on environmental reviews and targeted outreach to representative individuals and/or advocacy organizations, as well as outreach to state DOT staff and/or consultants. Provide a memorandum describing the information collection process and the results of Task 3 for NCHRP review.
Note: Proposers should describe their approach to collecting information for Task 3, including anticipated challenges and how these challenges will be overcome. A detailed plan for collecting information on current practice, including data collection instruments, target respondents, literature search strategies, and other relevant information will be included in the Amplified Work Plan.
Task 4. Conduct two virtual peer exchanges—one focused on GHG emissions and one on climate change effects—to convene participants from state DOTs with and without experience in considering GHG emissions and climate change in their environmental reviews. The peer exchanges will collect additional understanding of current practice and insights into how to fine-tune the handbook. Provide a memorandum summarizing the peer exchanges for NCHRP review.
Note: Tasks 3 and 4 may be conducted concurrently.
Task 5. Develop draft handbook for selecting and implementing tools and methodologies for at least 15 typical project types. Identify and recruit at least one state DOT not currently addressing GHG emissions or climate change in their environmental reviews for a pilot implementation of the handbook. Provide the pilot version of the handbook and the plan for the proposed pilot for NCHRP review. Following the review, present the results of Tasks 1 through 5 to the NCHRP project panel.
Note: The Task 5 presentation is planned as a one-day, in-person meeting, to be held in Washington, D.C. NCHRP will provide a meeting facility and pay travel costs for panel members to attend the interim meeting.
Task 6. Conduct the pilot. Provide a memorandum for NCHRP review that summarizes the pilot experience and, drawing from the pilot experience, identifies any proposed changes to the draft handbook for NCHRP review.
Task 7. Develop final deliverables. Anticipated final deliverables include:
- Handbook for state DOTs on how to select and implement methodologies and tools that are appropriate for addressing GHG emissions and climate change effects in environmental reviews. Topics to be covered include but are not limited to:
- Key references and resources for state DOT staff to understand GHG emissions and climate change impacts and how these impacts can be considered in environmental reviews
- Climate change impacts that state DOTs can expect to encounter when conducting environmental reviews
- Methodologies and tools for addressing GHG emissions and climate change impacts in environmental justice, equity analyses, and CIAs
- Regional differences to consider in selecting and using methodologies and tools
- Considerations related to project types and phases
- Data requirements, including the use of nontraditional data sources
- Case studies and examples from practice that can serve as templates
- Implementation challenges
- A technical report documenting the entire research effort.
- Fact sheet on essential findings and concepts suitable for state DOT leadership.
- A stand-alone technical memorandum that identifies implementation pathways, key implementers of the results, and well-defined scopes of work for pilot implementations of the handbook. The technical memorandum should provide adequate detail on timelines, budgets, and staff resources needed for specific activities to implement the results of NCHRP Project 25-64. Potential implementation activities include developing state-specific training materials and activities on using the handbook, technical assistance in adopting and using a selected tool, a presentation to AASHTO’s Air Quality, Climate Change, and Energy Subcommittee or other relevant audience (see Special Note B).
Note: Conducting implementation activities is not anticipated as part of NCHRP Project 25-64. Following receipt of the draft final deliverables, the remaining 3 months shall be for NCHRP review and comment and for research agency preparation of the final deliverables.
A. Proposals should include a task-by-task breakdown of labor hours for each staff member as shown in Figure 4 in the brochure, "Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals" (http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/crp/docs/ProposalPrep.pdf). Proposals also should include a breakdown of all costs (e.g., wages, indirect costs, travel, materials, and total) for each task using Figures 5 and 6 in the brochure. Please note that TRB Cooperative Research Program subawards (selected proposers are considered subawards to the National Academy of Sciences, the parent organization of TRB) must comply with 2 CFR 200 – Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. These requirements include a provision that proposers without a "federally" Negotiated Indirect Costs Rate Agreement (NICRA) shall be subject to a maximum allowable indirect rate of 10% of Modified Total Direct Costs. Modified Total Direct Costs include all salaries and wages, applicable fringe benefits, materials and supplies, services, travel, and up to the first $25,000 of each lower-tier subaward and subcontract. Modified Total Direct Costs exclude equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, rental costs, tuition remission, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs and the portion of each lower-tier subaward and subcontract in excess of $25,000.
B. The NCHRP is a practical, applied research program that produces implementable products addressing problems faced by transportation practitioners and managers. The benefits of NCHRP research are realized only when the results are implemented in state DOTs and other agencies. Implementation of the research product must be considered throughout the process, from problem statement development to research contract and beyond completion of the research. Item 4(c), "Anticipated Research Results," must include the following: (a) the "product" expected from the research, (b) the audience or "market" for this product, (c) a realistic assessment of impediments to successful implementation, and (d) the institutions and individuals who might take leadership in deploying the research product. The project panel will develop and maintain an implementation plan throughout the life of the project. The research team will be expected to provide input to an implementation team consisting of panel members, AASHTO committee members, the NCHRP Implementation Coordinator, and others in order to meet the goals of NCHRP Active Implementation: Moving Research into Practice, available at http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/docs/NCHRP_ActiveImplementation.pdf.
C. Proposals are evaluated by the NCHRP staff and project panels consisting of individuals collectively very knowledgeable in the problem area. Selection of an agency is made by the project panel considering the following factors: (1) the proposer's demonstrated understanding of the problem; (2) the merit of the proposed research approach and experiment design; (3) the experience, qualifications, and objectivity of the research team in the same or closely related problem area; (4) the plan for ensuring application of results; (5) how the proposer approaches inclusion and diversity in the composition of their team and research approach, including participation by certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprises; and, if relevant, (6) the adequacy of the facilities.
Note: The proposer's approach to inclusion and diversity as well as participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises should be incorporated in Item 11 of the proposal.
D. The Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals for the Transportation Research Board’s Cooperative Research Programs were modified in November 2020 to include maximum file size and page limits for all CRP proposals. Proposals must be submitted as a single PDF file with a maximum file size of 10 MB. The PDF must be formatted for standard 8 ½” X 11” paper, and the entire proposal must not exceed 60 pages (according to the page count displayed in the PDF). Proposals that do not meet these requirements will be rejected. For other requirements, refer to Chapter V of the instructions.
E. Copyrights - All data, written materials, computer software, graphic and photographic images, and other information prepared under the contract and the copyrights therein shall be owned by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The contractor and subcontractors will be able to publish this material for non-commercial purposes, for internal use, or to further academic research or studies with permission from TRB Cooperative Research Programs. The contractor and subcontractors will not be allowed to sell the project material without prior approval by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. By signing a contract with the National Academy of Sciences, contractors accept legal responsibility for any copyright infringement that may exist in work done for TRB. Contractors are therefore responsible for obtaining all necessary permissions for use of copyrighted material in TRB's Cooperative Research Programs publications. For guidance on TRB's policies on using copyrighted material please consult Section 5.4, "Use of Copyrighted Material," in the Procedural Manual for Contractors.