The National Academies

NCHRP 25-70 [Pending]

Evaluating Carbon Reduction in Project Selection and Planning

  Project Data
Funds: $500,000
Contract Time: 28 months
Staff Responsibility: Mike Brooks


Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation is a critical component of economy-wide efforts to combat climate change. Several state departments of transportation (DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) have incorporated GHG emissions evaluation, with a focus on carbon dioxide (“carbon”), in their project selection and planning practices. These states include California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, and Virginia. Several recent federal actions have extended GHG evaluation activities to state DOTs. The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Carbon Reduction Program funds projects for state DOTs to reduce carbon emissions and requires the creation of state Carbon Reduction Strategies. Additionally, FHWA’s recent GHG Performance Measure rule requires state DOTs and MPOs to measure and set declining target amounts for carbon emissions on the National Highway System from on-road transportation sources.

With these developments in mind, research is needed to develop a toolkit to support state DOT carbon reduction evaluation programs. The toolkit will provide practical suggestions and illustrative examples for state DOTs to consider as they develop or refine their carbon reduction evaluation programs.  


The objective of this project is to develop a toolkit to support state DOT carbon reduction evaluation programs. At a minimum, the toolkit will include a decision-support framework to help state DOTs develop methodologies and select tools that support evaluation of carbon reduction in the context of project selection and related planning activities, and a collection of case studies illustrating effective implementation of processes and tools identified within the framework.


PHASE I: Planning and Initial Outreach

Task 1. Conduct a review of literature and relevant carbon reduction processes, tools, and resources. The review should include state DOT carbon reduction evaluation capabilities; limitations; staffing and labor considerations; use cases; impacts of inputs; modeling assumptions and uncertainty; and consideration of the scope and boundaries of processes and tools used to quantify and estimate emissions. 

Task 2. Develop a stakeholder outreach plan. The outreach should target transportation professionals from state DOTs, metropolitan planning organizations, and other relevant organizations to determine user needs. Submit a technical memorandum (#1, hereafter “tech memo”) including the results of Task 1 and the plan developed in Task 2. NCHRP approval of the tech memo is required before work on subsequent tasks may begin.

Task 3. Administer and summarize the stakeholder outreach. Submit a tech memo (#2) summarizing the results of the stakeholder outreach. NCHRP approval of the tech memo is required before work on subsequent tasks may begin.

Task 4. Propose a method to achieve the research objective to be fully developed in Phase II. At a minimum, the method should include the following: 

  • A capability to sort by relevant project and activity types.
  • A capability allowing the toolkit user to assess processes and tools relevant to evaluating the carbon reduction potential of specific transportation project types.
  • A discussion of models and tools suitable for each project type, including strengths, potential drawbacks, assumptions, and other relevant considerations.
  • Recommendations for effective implementation.
  • A gap analysis summary reflective of current carbon reduction evaluation practices.
  • A collection of relevant case studies that demonstrate effective implementation.

Task 5. Prepare Interim Report No. 1 that documents Tasks 1 through 4 and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the research. The updated plan must describe the process and rationale for the work proposed for Phase II.


PHASE II: Execute the Method and Produce Final Deliverables

Task 6. Execute the research method and develop the draft toolkit according to the approved Interim Report No.1.

Task 7. Conduct and summarize a virtual practitioner workshop. Obtain practitioner feedback on the draft toolkit in an online workshop. Summarize the workshop in an online debrief with NCHRP, including any recommended changes to the toolkit. Any proposed changes must be approved by NCHRP.

Task 8. Prepare the draft final deliverables, which shall include the following:

  • A conduct of research report that documents the entire research effort.
  • The toolkit, including the decision-support framework and collection of case studies.
  • An executive memorandum summarizing key findings.
  • Public outreach materials, including a PowerPoint presentation with speaker notes.
  • A standalone technical memorandum entitled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products”.

Proposals have been received in response to the RFP. The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.


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