|Planning||FHWA > HEP > Planning > Border > Resources > Studies|
|U.S./Mexico Joint Working Committee on Transportation Planning|
Greening Transportation at the Border
Opportunities for Greening Transportation at the Border
Various government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and industry leaders throughout North America are developing and implementing new technologies and strategies to green the borders. The U.S., Mexico, and Canada are instituting policies to make the border regions more sustainable and livable, employing innovative methods for financing green transportation projects, utilizing new technologies and techniques to reduce GHG emissions, and measuring performance at the borders to understand and effectively address green border issues.
Sustainability and Livability
Government agencies and their public and private sector partners can reduce the environmental impacts of transportation by developing programs and implementing technologies that contribute to sustainable and livable communities and ecosystems. Current programs and technologies, implemented at the vehicle, roadway, and regional levels, have been shown to reduce GHG emissions, limit the ecological impacts of roadways, and promote healthy, livable communities.
Sustainable Freight Transportation
Freight transportation is a major contributor to GHG emissions in North America. Freight trucking, in particular, presents unique challenges. Due to anticipated growth in shipping demand, GHG emissions from freight trucking are projected to increase by 20 percent over 2007 levels by 2030. The projected growth in freight truck traffic is expected to make it difficult to reduce the total amount of GHG emitted from freight trucks. Also, heavy-duty truck fleet turnover occurs more slowly than for passenger vehicles, limiting the benefits from introducing technologies for new vehicles. However, because fuel is a major cost component to freight trucking (second only to driver costs) and because freight trucking is a profit-driven enterprise, carriers have a strong financial incentive to invest in fuel-saving technologies and strategies.
The private and public sectors and instituting programs and policies to reduce GHG emissions and energy consumption attributed to freight transportation. Cascade Sierra Solutions (CSS) and EPA's Clean Diesel Collaboratives are two programs that partner with carriers to reduce fuel consumption, thereby reducing GHG emissions and saving money.
CSS is a nonprofit organization that aims to reduce fuel consumption and emissions from heavy-duty freight vehicles, mainly along the Interstate-5 corridor in Washington, Oregon, and California. CSS promotes a variety of technologies and policies to reduce the environmental impacts of freight trucking while reducing costs for carriers. Three major initiatives include implementing onboard technological improvements sanctioned under EPA's SmartWay program; replacing older, more polluting trucks with cleaner vehicles; and implementing Truck Stop Electrification (TSE) along the I-5 corridor. Through its programs, CSS has upgraded or replaced 4,000 trucks and implemented TSE at six locations, resulting in an estimated savings of 11 million gallons of fuel and 110,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
EPA has established seven regional Clean Diesel Collaboratives across the United States to leverage funds and take a local approach to mitigating diesel emissions. Each collaborative is a public-private partnership consisting of EPA regional offices, state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and representatives from the private sector. The West Coast Collaborative, for example, has a Clean Diesel Program, that includes a competitive grant program to fund projects that reduce diesel emissions, such as vehicle retrofitting and diesel engine repowering. The Clean Diesel Program also allocates funding directly to the participating states to fund statewide loan/grant programs to reduce diesel emissions. Through these and similar program, EPA and its partners aim to reduce the environmental impacts of freight trucking across the United States.
Ecologically Sensitive Roadways
Often, roads have significant environmental impacts on the ecosystem through which they pass; vehicle emissions degrade air quality, stormwater runoff carries pollutants into hydrological resources, and roads form physical barriers to the passage of animals. Roads can be built sustainably if the proper techniques and technologies are applied. Additionally, roadways can be built and rebuilt with the local ecosystems in mind in order to minimize the impacts on plant and animal life. The Greenroads Rating System is encouraging and evaluating roadway sustainability, and SCT and the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) are addressing habitat segmentation wildlife connectivity as a part of roadway reconstruction projects.
The Greenroads Rating System is a program that measures roadway sustainability and encourages the use of sustainable technologies, policies, and products in roadway construction to reduce the environmental impacts of roads. Greenroads awards points to roadway construction projects that employ sustainable practices from initial planning through construction. The program includes a set of requirements to be eligible for a Greenroads rating and voluntary credits to recognize specific sustainable practices. Projects that meet certain criteria can be designated Greenroads Certified or certified at the higher levels of Silver, Gold, and Evergreen. The Greenroads Rating System was developed at the University of Washington with several partners and has been applied mainly to roadway projects in the Pacific Northwest. FHWA and transportation agencies in other countries are looking to apply similar roadway rating systems elsewhere.
SCT has implemented an ecological corridor initiative to address concerns with habitat segmentation and other impacts that roadways have on wildlife. Prior to roadway construction or reconstruction, SCT performs environmental impact studies along selected roadway corridors to ensure that ecosystems are being protected from damage during and after construction. SCT anticipates potential environmental impacts and requires that project proponents develop mitigation strategies to address these impacts. Some of these mitigation strategies include dedicated wildlife crossings; erosion-control techniques; and the planting of nursery-grown, native plant species along roadways. In addition, SCT has a wildlife management program to redistribute plant and animal life to protect them from the impacts of the roadway.
ADOT is addressing roadway sustainability in its long-range plans as well as at the project level. Faced with rapid population growth, ADOT has made sustainability a top priority in its long-range transportation plans in order to limit GHG emissions from transportation. Specifically, ADOT will promote multimodal transportation, encourage sustainable development patterns, and consider impacts that transportation poses for the environment. At the project level, ADOT is addressing habitat segmentation by construction-dedicated wildlife crossings. For example, in 2010, ADOT constructed a bridge to link two Bighorn Sheep habitat areas across U.S. Highway 93. This type of project-level improvement will allow for the safe movement of wildlife in a busy transportation corridor, promoting economic development and environmental sustainability.
Livability at the Borders
Transportation can play a major role in making a community more livable. The City of El Paso is an example of a community that is employing green transportation strategies to improve the lives and livelihoods of its residents. While El Paso once had a comprehensive streetcar network, some areas in the city are now beset with traffic congestion. As a result, air quality has deteriorated and obesity rates have skyrocketed. Because of the auto-centric transportation system, urban development sprawls out across the metropolitan area, reducing opportunities to walk, bicycle, and use transit.
The City of El Paso has set ambitious goals to make the city more livable and sustainable. The transportation elements of the plan include implementing bus rapid transit, promoting the use of cleaner fuels, and performing "urban retrofits" on major thoroughfares. These "urban retrofits" will transform wide roadways designed exclusively for automobiles into community streets that accommodate all modes and provide convenient and safe access to residential and commercial areas. These strategies will help improve air quality and public health, making El Paso a more livable community.
Green Financing and Industry
Addressing growing transportation and environmental infrastructure issues in border regions will require the use of innovative financing and emerging technologies. Innovative solutions for border issues include the use of public private partnerships (PPPs) to finance transportation projects, the development of new bilateral financial instruments to promote investment, the use of congestion pricing to influence transportation demand, and the development of new technologies to facilitate the transportation of freight and reduce vehicle emissions.
Financing Infrastructure Investment
A number of public agencies and institutions are actively financing investment in transportation infrastructure to address congestion and environmental issues in the U.S./Mexico border region. For example, the North American Development Bank (NADBANK), which was established in 1994 under the NAFTA, is supporting efforts in municipalities, such as Chihuahua, Mexico, to develop more sustainable transportation systems by investing in bus rapid transit systems. NADBANK's mission is to enhance the affordability, financing, long-term development, and effective operation of infrastructure that promotes a clean, healthy environment for the citizens of the region. Additionally, the BECC supports capacity expansion projects at ports of entry designed to reduce border crossing times and improve air quality. The BECC is taking steps to finance the modernization of existing bridges at Puerto Mexico to enhance the capacity of the border crossing to process vehicles. Regulatory reforms could allow bi-national debt financing instruments that would enable sub-national governments to coordinate across the border to issue bonds for projects that address border issues. Socially responsible financial products could attract individual and commercial investors to invest in environmental infrastructure projects.
ADOT is considering the use of PPPs to finance transportation projects throughout the state and at the border. ADOT is developing a PPP program aimed at leveraging potential revenue streams to finance transportation projects. ADOT is also considering ways to enhance the use of solar power to power lighting, signals, and signage. In Texas, construction has recently begun on the West Rail Relocation Project, a project to relocate the Union Pacific railroad tracks out of downtown Brownsville and Matamoros sponsored by USDOT, Texas DOT, and Cameron County, Texas. The project involves construction of the first new rail bridge between the United States and Mexico in over a century. It eliminates 11 at-grade crossings and is expected to reduce the risk of train car collisions.
Applying Innovative Solutions
New technologies and financing mechanisms can potentially address issues of congestion, air quality, and limited investment in border regions. Reduced congestion means less idling and fewer emissions. One approach to minimizing wait times at the border that FHWA supports is the use of congestion pricing combined with enhanced traveler information systems. Congestion pricing is a system of charging transportation network users in periods of peak demand to reduce traffic congestion. A congestion pricing project is under consideration at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry near San Diego, California. Similarly, efforts are underway to develop a support network of infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles and to explore the feasibility of a "Universal Freight Shuttle" system. The latter would be an automated freight transport system that operates on an elevated guideway. The shuttle system could potentially include scanning and inspection systems to provide a cost-effective solution for moving and inspecting freight at ports of entry while reducing congestion and emissions.
Green Technologies and Strategies
There are a variety of green technologies and strategies that can reduce GHG emissions at and near the borders. Efforts are being made to reduce emissions through implementing anti-idling strategies, employing green construction materials and practices, and installing vehicle technology enhancements on new and existing vehicles.
Port of Entry Technologies and Strategies
Congestion and delays at ports of entry can significantly increase emissions at border crossings, impacting human and environmental health. In order to minimize emissions due to congestion, various ports of entry at both the U.S./Mexico and the U.S./Canada borders are considering strategies to reduce unnecessary idling, including employing batch vehicle processing and TSE technology. In addition, Canada is evaluating and improving the energy efficiency of its port of entry facilities in order to reduce energy consumption and GHG emissions.
In many congested ports of entry, vehicles waiting to be processed slowly move along the roadway as traffic advances, running their engines during the entire wait time. Batch vehicle processing is one strategy to reduce this unnecessary idling. Officials at the Canadian side of the Peace Arch Port of Entry in British Columbia installed a series of traffic lights to keep vehicles from advancing until the queue at the processing point is diminished. While remaining stationary at the traffic light, drivers are encouraged, though not required, to shut off their engines. Peace Arch officials evaluated the effectiveness of this strategy and found that 83 percent of drivers shut off their engines. Over the course of a year, officials estimate that this strategy could save 40,000 gallons of gas and result in over 800,000 fewer pounds of GHG emissions. At a cost of roughly $500,000 to implement, the batch vehicle processing strategy using traffic signals is an affordable and effective way to reduce unnecessary idling.
TSE is a strategy that was originally developed to reduce emissions from idling trucks at rest areas during driver layovers. When arriving at the truck stop, drivers shut off their engines and connect to an electricity source (and, in some cases, communications and heating/cooling systems), thereby reducing diesel emissions. This same technology, implemented in conjunction with batch vehicle processing, could be instituted at congested ports of entry where wait times to process freight vehicles are long. While waiting for the signal from border officials to advance to processing, truck drivers would connect to a centralized power system instead of idling. While TSE could have significant air quality benefits, the installation of the technology has a high capital cost. Additionally, TSE requires ample land for implementation, which is scarce at some ports of entry. Transportation officials are considering the benefits and constraints of implementing TSE at congested ports of entry.
As part of its goal to reduce GHG emissions at ports of entry by 11 percent in 2020, the CBSA is incorporating green building practices in new and renovated port of entry facilities. CBSA has a policy that all new buildings will be LEED-Silver certified to reduce the environmental impacts of new port of entry facilities. For existing facilities, CBSA is performing energy audits to determine current energy use and recommend ways to reduce energy consumption. Finally, the agency is retrofitting outdoor lighting with lower-energy technologies to reduce the carbon footprint of port of entry facilities. These strategies, combined with efforts to reduce unnecessary idling, are intended to help ports of entry become greener.
Roadway Technologies and Strategies
Several technologies and practices can be employed in the manufacture and installation of pavement surfaces that reuse and conserve natural resources while reducing GHG emissions. By incorporating Recycled Asphalt Pavement (RAP) and Recycled Asphalt Shingles (RAS) into new pavement mix, agencies can conserve natural resources. Additionally, warm-mix asphalt, a technology pioneered in Europe, requires that the asphalt mix be heated to 100 degrees less than traditional hot-mix asphalt, reducing GHG emissions and improving air quality for road construction workers. Finally, California is paving many of its roads with rubberized asphalt, which allows for reduced pavement thickness (and, therefore, fewer resources used), the recycling of existing resources, and GHG reductions.
There are also technologies and strategies to make concrete a more sustainable product. At the most basic level, recycled materials, including existing concrete, can be incorporated into concrete mix. Concrete can also be made to be porous to allow stormwater to seep into the water table instead of entering wastewater treatment. Also, special additives to the cement mix can remove some pollutants from the air. Above all, a sustainable concrete product is one that has a long, useful life so as to reduce the need for reconstruction. Separately or combined, these technologies can be applied in the border regions to limit the GHG emissions generated during roadway construction and to conserve natural resources.
Vehicle Technologies and Strategies
The United States and Mexico have developed programs to promote green transportation practices among shippers, carriers, and vehicle manufacturers. EPA's SmartWay Transport Partnership and Mexico's Transporte Limpio (Clean Transportation) are showing businesses that going green makes economic and environmental sense.
Through the SmartWay Transport Partnership, EPA partners with over 2,700 companies, including carriers, shippers, and logistics companies. The program promotes in-vehicle technologies that reduce fuel consumption and emissions. By using EPA-certified equipment, carriers who install packages of technologies on their trucks result in a 10-20 percent reduction in fuel consumption. EPA funds improvements through several finance programs, conducts outreach and education to disseminate information about SmartWay, and performs international activities to expand the scope of the program and learn best practices form outside of the United States. As part of the program, EPA collects data on carriers' and shippers' fuel consumption to evaluate their performance. Currently, the SmartWay partner companies constitute 10 percent of the trucks in the industry and 30 percent of the miles traveled. Since 2004, SmartWay partners have saved 14.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, 1.5 billion gallons of fuel, and $3.6 billion in fuel costs.
Some of the success of the SmartWay Transport Partnership can be attributed to the program's branding. As a well-known green brand, shippers are giving preferred status to SmartWay carrier partners to supplement their internal green policies; and carriers are advertising their SmartWay affiliation to potential customers in addition to saving on fuel costs.
Jointly administered by SCT and SEMARNAT, Mexico's Transporte Limpio is based on EPA's SmartWay Transport Partnership. The program is currently focused on reducing fuel consumption and emissions from long-haul shipping companies. Companies interested in participating in Transporte Limpio undergo an evaluation of their environmental performance and enter the program for three years, during which their environmental performance is assessed. At the end of the term, an action plan is developed to further reduce fuel consumption and emissions. In 2010, 38 companies participated in Transporte Limpio, which involved 5,000 trucks. Overall, officials estimate that carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 300,000 tons as a result of the program.
Both SmartWay and Transporte Limpio officials are looking to expand their programs to include more participants, further reducing fuel consumption and related emissions. Other countries are looking to the U.S. and Mexico as models to emulate.
Performance measurement provides data that can be used to diagnose problems and develop effective solutions. Wait times at ports of entry are a significant concern, not only for the economic impacts of delays, but for the unnecessary idling that increases emissions in the border regions. Agencies are measuring wait times and air quality at and near ports of entry to understand the scope of the problems and implement strategies to minimize the air quality impacts of border crossings.
Port of Entry Wait Times
Congestion and delays at ports of entry increase wait times to cross the border. Increased wait times result in vehicles idling for longer periods, increasing GHG emissions and diminishing air quality in the border region. Measuring wait times at ports of entry is the first step to understanding the scope of the problem and what solutions may be implemented to reduce delays, unnecessary idling, and emissions.
Transport Canada has been measuring wait times at border crossings in Ontario for several years. The agency uses global positioning system (GPS) and Bluetooth technologies to record wait times for passenger and commercial vehicles. Through its data collection efforts, Transport Canada has developed a baseline for wait times at several ports of entry for comparison with future analyses, which may use more sophisticated technologies and techniques. The agency found that while crossing times vary by time of day, the patterns remain relatively constant over longer periods of time, indicating that wait times at the ports of entry are relatively predictable. Transport Canada is investigating technologies that will provide a finer grain of detail about each segment of the border crossing process, specifically to better understand unnecessary idling.
FHWA, Texas DOT, and the Texas Transportation Institute are collaborating to implement wait time measurement systems at ports of entry along the U.S./Mexico border in Texas and Arizona. The team is using radio-frequency identification technology to determine the time that each vehicle enters and exits the port of entry and, in some cases, at interim locations at the crossing location. This data can be used to measure wait times throughout the day and over time to understand demand patterns. Wait time information can be shared with those crossing the border via the internet. Providing this information will allow drivers to shift to ports of entry with shorter wait times, reducing delays and associated emissions due to unnecessary idling. Additionally, this data can be shared with the agencies operating the ports of entry to help them make decisions that improve processing efficiency.
Vehicles passing through and idling at ports of entry release a host of toxic pollutants into the atmosphere, impacting the health of people in vehicles (drivers and passengers), people outside of vehicles (port of entry employees and pedestrians), and residents in border communities. Measuring the quality of the air inside and outside of vehicles at ports of entry and in border communities will help border officials understand the scope of the air quality problem in the border region. This data will help agencies address and mitigate air pollution at the border.
Researchers at San Diego State University performed a study to assess the in-vehicle pollutant exposures experienced by frequent cross-border commuters at the Tijuana-San Diego border crossing at San Ysidro. Participants in the study varied their exposure to ambient air by having the windows open or closed and/or using air conditioning with and without interior air recirculation. The study found that exposure to ultrafine particles and carbon monoxide was highest at the ports of entry while exposure to black carbon was higher in both the U.S. and Mexico, and exposure to PM2.5 was higher in Mexico. However, because of the amount of time spent at the border by crossing vehicles, there is significant concern about the human health impacts of air pollution at the border. San Diego State University partnered with Casa Familiar in San Ysidro to measure air quality for pedestrians crossing the border as well as within Tijuana. The study found that exposure to PM2.5, ultrafine particles, and carbon monoxide was much higher for pedestrians crossing the border at San Ysidro than they were within Tijuana. Reducing vehicle congestion at the port of entry could improve air quality for all users.
Air quality is a major concern for communities on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border due to emissions from vehicles passing through and idling at ports of entry. However, the concern is greater in border communities in Mexico - substandard transit vehicles release high levels of pollutants into the air, traffic congestion in the cities increases exposure to vehicle emissions, and poor roadway surfaces (dirt in some cases) contribute to unhealthy air in urban areas. Mexico's BECC is planning for and designing sustainable transportation infrastructure to improve air quality in border communities using air quality assessment data. For example, areas of the city with unpaved roads have very high levels of airborne particulates. In Tijuana, paving previously unpaved roads has been shown to reduce particulates by 25 percent. By measuring air quality, BECC is able to implement the strategy that has the greatest positive impact on local air quality.