|Planning||FHWA > HEP > Planning > Border > Resources > Studies|
|U.S./Mexico Joint Working Committee on Transportation Planning|
Greening Transportation at the Border
The purpose of this report is to present opportunities for improvement regarding the "greening" of transportation at the U.S./Mexico and U.S./Canada borders. Greening refers to the adoption of environmentally sustainable practices to reduce environmental impacts. The report, which presents an overview of green transportation technologies, policies, and initiatives that can be applied in the border regions, is based on presentations given and discussions held at the "Greening Transportation at the Border Workshop" convened on February 23-24, 2011, in San Diego, California. The report is intended to serve as a reference for agencies involved in border transportation planning, including national, state/provincial, and local governments.
Greening Transportation at the Border
The green border initiative is a vision of how the U.S./Canada and the U.S./Mexico border regions can become sustainable and livable. A sustainable border region is one that strikes a balance between reducing impacts on the environment, promoting economic development, and supporting social equity. By adopting policies and technologies aimed at improving sustainability, the border regions can thrive long into the future.
A livable border region is one that is healthy, safe, and affordable for residents and others crossing the border. FHWA has identified six guiding principles for livable communities, consisting of providing transportation choice (alternatives to automobiles in particular); promoting affordable housing; enhancing economic competitiveness; supporting existing communities; enacting policies that promote collaboration; and enhancing the value of communities and neighborhoods. A focus on livability intends to improve the quality of life in the border regions for the current generation.
With the concept of fostering sustainable and livable border regions in mind, Federal agencies from the United States, Canada, and Mexico convened the "Greening Transportation at the Border Workshop" in February 2011 to formally kick-off a green border initiative for transportation. Presenters at the workshop gave information on the state the practice, challenges faced, and opportunities for implementing more sustainable transportation activities along the border.
Federal Green Border Initiatives
Federal agencies are already working together to coordinate efforts to green the border areas, thus capitalizing on expertise from a variety of disciplines. The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the General Service Administration (GSA) each sponsor programs that address transportation sustainability issues affecting border areas. For example, USDOT is working to create safer, greener, more livable communities in border areas by supporting the development of tools that measure the sustainability of highways and improving coordination on sustainability issues through formal partnerships. Two notable USDOT activities to address sustainability include its sponsorship of Sustainable Highways Self-Evaluation Tools2 and its involvement in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)/USDOT/EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities.3
The EPA is working with Federal and state partners, as well as bilaterally with the Mexican Government, to reduce vehicle emissions. These efforts include raising fuel economy standards, sponsoring voluntary emissions reductions programs, and retrofitting diesel engines. Additionally, a variety of public agencies, including USDOT and several state agencies, are partnering with EPA to devise workable strategies to address the challenge of vehicle idling at border crossings.
The BECC, an organization that provides technical assistance and training to local organizations in order to help them confront environmental issues created by growth spurred by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), certifies and finances the development of environmental infrastructure in border areas. One of BECC's recent areas of emphasis has been wastewater collection and treatment facilities along the U.S./Mexico border. In parallel, GSA, the agency that facilitates the procurement of buildings and vehicles in the United States at 165 land ports of entry at the U.S./Mexico and U.S./Canada borders, has a program in place to ensure that new facilities meet minimum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-Gold standards. GSA is also working to procure hybrid and electric vehicles for the Federal fleet.
Greenhouse Gas Legislation - The California Experience
California has been a leader in addressing climate change through legislation. The state has a special interest in addressing climate change due to its high level of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation sources (38 percent, the largest percentage among all categories of emissions sources). Additionally, California's densely developed and populated coast is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, which has been linked to climate change. To address climate change issues, California has passed two key pieces of legislation aimed at reducing GHG emissions and integrating transportation and land use planning:
Complementing these legislative efforts, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is addressing climate change by purchasing alternative fuel trucks, deploying energy saving lighting at Caltrans facilities, and identifying critical transportation infrastructure that may be impacted by sea level rise.
California is leading the drive for legislative action on climate change. The U.S., Mexico, and Canada can build on California's efforts to enact national or international climate change legislation and policies.