Environmental Review Toolkit
Accelerating Project Delivery

Eco-Logical Webinar
Highlights from the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation (ICOET): Applications of Eco-Logical from the U.S. and Beyond

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
1:00 - 2:30 PM Eastern

Presenters

  • Debra Nelson, New York State Department of Transportation
  • John Walewski, Texas A&M University
  • Kelly McAllister, Washington State Department of Transportation
  • Henrik Wahlman, Swedish Transportation Administration

Moderated by Mary Gray, Federal Highway Administration, Office of Project Development and Environmental Review

PDF Version [4.07 MB]


Table of Contents

Overview of ICOET

A Systems View of Sustainability: Incorporating Sustainability into New York State Department of Transportation's (NYSDOT) Strategic, Tactical, and Operational Decisions

Ecosystem-Based Protocols for Systematic and Sustainable Roadside Development

Washington Connected Landscapes Project

Landscape Analysis in Early Planning – Green Infrastructure


Overview of ICOET

Slide 1: Highlights from the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation (ICOET):
Applications of Eco-Logical from the U.S. and Beyond

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
1:00 - 2:30 PM Eastern

Presenters

  • Debra Nelson, New York State Department of Transportation
  • John Walewski, Texas A&M University
  • Kelly McAllister, Washington State Department of Transportation
  • Henrik Wahlman, Swedish Transportation Administration

Moderated by Mary Gray, Federal Highway Administration, Office of Project Development and Environmental Review

Image: Graphic of the ICOET logo

Slide 2: ICOET

  • Research
  • Collaboration
  • Networking
  • International
Image: Graphic of the ICOET logo
Image: Photograph of a speaker at the podium at ICOET
Image: Photograph of the ICOET meeting room. Attendees are seated at long tables facing the podium, which is centered between two large display screens.

Slide 3: Designed to Share what has been done to Promote Continuous Process Improvement

Image: Photograph of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT)/Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) booth during ICOET, showing attendees talking to FHWA personnel and picking up literature
Image: Photograph of three people making a presentation outdoors to a small group of people

Slide 4: ICOET 2013 - ARIZONA

http://www.icoet.net

Image: Collage of three photographs showing attendees at various display booths at ICOET

Slide 5: Questions?

Eco-Logical:
http://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/ecological/eco_entry.asp

Eco-Logical Webinar Series:
http://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/ecological/eco_webinar_series.asp

Image: Photograph of a lake just before dusk, edged by snow-capped mountains in the background and pink, gray, and white clouds in the distance. The mountains and clouds are reflected in the lake.

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A Systems View of Sustainability: Incorporating Sustainability into New York State Department of Transportation's (NYSDOT) Strategic, Tactical, and Operational Decisions

The slides in this presentation are all branded with the NYSDOT logo.

Slide 6: A Systems View of Sustainability

Incorporating Sustainability into NYSDOT's Strategic, Tactical, and Operational Decisions

Debra Nelson, NYSDOT
dnelson@dot.state.ny.us

Slide 7:

Sustainability is Overarching

Image: This slide contains a large diagram of a light green oval. At the top of the oval sits the NYSDOT logo. Below the logo, in the center of the oval, are three intersecting, colored circles: green (labeled "Environment"), yellow ("labeled Social"), and red (labeled "Economy"). Around the inner edge of the oval and encircling the three circles are the following terms, clockwise from the logo: Climate Change, Energy Efficiency, Scenic Byways, Reuse/Recycle, Green/Blue Highways, Asset Management, Travel Demand Management, Preservation Strategy, Economic Development, Complete Streets, Transit-oriented Development, Safe Routes to School, Safety, Livability, Bike/Pedestrian, Context Sensitive Solutions, Ecosystem Based Management, Smart Growth, Land Use Planning, GreenLITES, and Environmental Initiative.

Slide 8: Sustainability Decision Levels

Why right arrow Strategic - Integrate Transportation and Natural Resources Planning to support a sustainable society
downwards arrow
What right arrow Tactical - Support a sustainable transportation system that protects and enhances natural systems
downwards arrow
How right arrow Operational - Forward sustainable projects and actions that reduce environmental impacts and resource consumption

Slide 9: Stream-Highway Intersections

Image: This slide contains three maps of different areas in New York, laid one upon the other so that only the top map's content is visible, which is divided into towns and cities by black lines. A green boundary line surrounds a river system whose waterways are lined in blue, which are dotted with numerous red dots. A puffy cloud graphic overlaps the map and contains the words, "Approx. 1.2 million culverts total in NYS (state, county, local)." The words, "We can't fix them all!" are written in large letters across the map. Below the map are the following statistics: Highway length (centerline mi) = 337.8 mi; and Number of highway-stream crossings = 297.

Slide 10: Designs, Specifications, Partnerships

InterACT - Multi-agency team “committed to ensuring that stream crossings are designed, installed and maintained in a manner that protects the ecological integrity of aquatic systems, while accommodating practicable technology, engineering criteria and human safety.”

Image: The words "How (Operational)" are in a large rectangle in the upper right corner.
Image: An engineering drawing of a culvert
Image: Photograph of a road crossing over a culvert
Image: The logos of NYSDOT, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Adirondack Park Agency, USDOT, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Nature Conservancy

Slide 11: Sustainable Decisions: Science-based, Prioritized

Image: The words "What (Tactical)" are in a large rectangle in the upper right corner.
Image: Photograph of an informational sheet entitled "Incorporating Freshwater Biodiversity into NYS Transportation Planning." The sheet includes eight colored maps and a table.
Image: The Nature Conservancy logo with the words "Michelle Brown, Principal Investigator"

Slide 12: Sustainable Society

Image: The words "Why (Strategic)" are in a large rectangle in the upper right corner.
Image: Photograph of the cover of the Strategies for a New Age: New York State's Transportation Plan for 2030 document
Image: The logo of the New York State Wildlife Grants Program
Image: A box with the words: Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (CWCS) to address the wildlife species in greatest need of conservation in the State. Defines a vision and establishes a strategy for State wildlife conservation and funding.
Image: A box with the words: Strategies for a New Age: New York State's Transportation Master Plan for 2030 articulates a long-term, intermodal vision of the State's future transportation system and provides policy level guidance to achieve that vision.

Slide 13: Forward Four - Guiding Principles

Image: A collage of four images overlaid by a fifth. Three of the four images are different colored maps of New York; the fourth is a photograph of a stream in the woods on a sunny day. The fifth image is a graphic that shows an S-shaped black road with a yellow line down the middle, whose center portion is replaced by the word SAFETY. Four phrases are placed along the curves of the road: Preservation First, System Not Projects, Maximize Return on Investment, and Make It Sustainable. The NYSDOT logo is in the front, at the foot of the road.

Slide 14: “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”
Quote from Spiderman movie (2002)

This slide contains a graphic of a thick spider web in the background with a number of images overlaid on it.

Image: In the center of the web sits a graphic of colored intersecting circles: Environment (green), Social (yellow), and Economy (red).
Image: A graphic of three boxes placed vertically, with an arrow from the top box (Why) to the second box (What) and an arrow from the second box to the third box (How)
Image: The graphic from the previous slide of the NYSDOT SAFETY road
Image: A graphic of a small, green circle ("Local") nested within a blue, medium-sized circle ("Landscape") nested within a maroon, large-sized circle ("Global")
Image: The cover of the Eco-Logical: An Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure Projects document
Image: A number of logos are placed along the web strings, including the following: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Transportation Research Board (TRB), NYSDOT, ICOET, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, The Nature Conservancy, New York Natural Heritage Program, and USDOT.

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Ecosystem-Based Protocols for Systematic and Sustainable Roadside Development

Slide 15: Ecosystem-Based Protocols for Systematic and Sustainable Roadside Development

Applications of Eco-Logical Webinar
October 26, 2011
John Walewski, Ph.D.
Department of Civil Engineering, Texas A&M University

Image: Photograph of a section of Ronald Reagan Boulevard in Texas, a highway with two lanes in each direction divided by a grass safety strip

Slide 16: Project Team Lead:

Sean Compton
Principal
TGB Partners, Inc.
Austin, Texas

Dr. Steve Windhager
Director, Landscape Restoration
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
University of Texas at Austin

Dr. John Walewski
Department of Civil Engineering
Texas A&M University

Image: Photograph of two large patches of bluebonnets and a grove of trees on the side of a rural two-lane highway

Slide 17: U.S. Drought Monitor

Image: Screenshot from the U.S. Drought Monitor website showing the drought conditions in Texas on August 16, 2011. The screenshot includes a map of Texas, color-coded by degree of drought severity. Nearly 75% of the state is designated with the most severe classification: D4 Drought - Exceptional.

Slide 18: Problem & Solution

  • Central Texas - among the fastest growing regions in the country
    • Transportation network lagging
    • Sensitive ecology
    • New funding tools and authority at local level
  • Williamson County Texas assertive in funding mobility needs using a road bond program and pass-through financing
    • $350 million (2001) + $228 Million (2006)
  • Use of existing design and construction guidance, standards, & specifications...
    • State-wide with minor modifications
    • Not consistent with site ecology
    • Not sustainable?
      • Environmental...
      • Climate change...
      • Economical...
      • Social...
  • Eco-Logical concepts extended to construction specifications and ownership

Slide 19: Current Practices - The high price of a low cost solution to roadsides

Image: Photograph from Slide 15 of a section of Ronald Reagan Boulevard, which has been written over. The area from the far edge of one of the landscaped sides of the highway to the far edge of the other landscaped side of the highway is labeled "Bland Character." One landscaped side is labeled "Weed Dispersal," the other is labeled "Erosion," "Sediments," and "Poor Water Quality." Beyond the landscaped edges of the highway, the areas are labeled "Regional landscape character." The center grass strip is sectioned off, with each section labeled "mowing." The center grass strip is also labeled "$ High Maintenance Costs $."

Slide 20:

Roadside Installation and 20 years of Maintenance - Total Cost
TxDOT Urban Spec TxDOT Rural Spec Protocol Solution A Protocol Solution B
Bermuda sod, TxDOT seed mixes, mowings on the entire ROW. TxDOT seed mixes, mowings to the entire ROW. Sustainable solution on the 100% of the ROW. Sustainable solution with 15% of vegetation maintained.
$204,210 $163,895 $160,075 $134,460
Characteristics
  • TxDOT seed mix
  • 3 mowings per year throughout ROW
Characteristics
  • Compost and native seed mix
  • Rock berms and mulch fiber rolls
  • 3 mowings per year in safety strip only
Image: Aerial photograph of South Phase 2, a .64 mile section of Ronald Reagan Boulevard, that's labeled as being a 4.5% grade

Slide 21:

Image: This slide is divided into four differently-colored quadrants overlaid in the center with a map of Williamson County, which is colored to distinguish its four different ecoregions. The northwestern ecoregion quadrant is titled "Limestone Cut Plains" and includes a photograph of a stream in the woods on a sunny day and this list of Common Plants: Blackjack Oak, Little Bluestem, Yellow Indiangrass, Texas Indiangrass, Sideoats Grama, and Common Curlymesquite. The southwestern ecoregion quadrant is titled "Edwards Plateau" and includes a photograph of the tree-covered plateau and this list of Common Plants: Juniper, Oak, Mesquite, Sideoats Grama, Little Bluestem, and Muhly Grass. The northeastern ecoregion quadrant is titled "Blackland Prairie" and includes a photograph of a large field with pink wildflowers and it includes this list of Common Plants: Big Bluestem, Yellow Indian Grass, Switchgrass, Sugar Hackberry, Elm, Ash, Eastern Cottonwood, and Pecan. The southeastern ecoregion quadrant is titled "Post Oak Savanna" and includes a photograph of a large field with rows of trees and patches of blue and red wildflowers. This ecoregion's list of Common Plants includes Post Oak, Silver Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Brownseed Paspalum, and Yaupon.

Slide 22: Example Erosion Control BMP - Modified Mowing Practices

Reduce mowing to safety strip.

Benefits:

  • Reduce maintenance costs
  • Reduce potential erosion
  • Stabilize slopes
  • Improved safety for workers and motorists
  • Contributes to a “sense of place”

Limitations:

  • Challenges public perception of roadway aesthetic
Image: Photograph of the edge of a large field which has sustained a large amount of erosion

Slide 23: Findings/Recommendation

  • Political will & end-user buy-in
  • Life cycle cost does not equal construction cost
  • Design to local environmental conditions
  • Address solutions comprehensively with community buy-in
  • Guidance on planning, design, construction & maintenance
    • Formatted as traditional construction specifications
  • Separate landscape construction contract
  • Adequate supervision of landscape construction
  • Work with seed industry on developing adequate supply
  • Develop and promote program for adjacent land owner seed collection
  • Monitor and assess BMP/Protocol performance

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Washington Connected Landscapes Project

Most of the slides in this presentation are branded with the Washington State Department of Transportation logo.

Slide 24: Washington Connected Landscapes Project: Statewide Analysis

Image: Logo of the Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group
Image: A collage of silhouettes of footprints from various animals
Image: Photograph of two big horn sheep on the slope of a rocky mountain

Slide 25: Final statewide habitat connectivity analysis from the Washington Habitat Connectivity Working Group

Image: The cover of the December 2010 Washington Connected Landscapes Project: Statewide Analysis document, from the Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group
Image: A collage of logos: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Washington State Department of Transportation, Conservation Northwest, Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University, U.S. Forest Service, and the University of Washington

Slide 26: National vegetation classification standard: Five major vegetation associations

Vancouverian Forests
Rocky Mountain Forests
Semi-Arid communities
Subalpine communities
Alpine communities

Image: Map of Washington State, with areas colored differently according to the five major vegetation classifications

Slide 27: 16 Focal Species

Image: A collage of photographs of the sixteen focal species used in the Washington Connected Landscapes Project Statewide Analysis: Black Bear, Elk, Mule Deer, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat, Canada Lynx, Wolverine, American Badger, American Marten, Northern Flying Squirrel, Western Gray Squirrel, Black-tailed Jack Rabbit, White-tailed Jack Rabbit, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Greater Sage-grouse, and Western Toad

Slide 28: Landscape integrity approach

Focuses on the stage, not the actors

Image: Photograph of a vast curving canyon
Image: Photograph of a large barren field surrounded by a green field, a two lane road, and hills

Slide 29: Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group: Maps

Image: Map of Washington State, colored by land cover type
Image: Map of Washington State, colored by forest structure type
Image: Map of Washington State, colored by elevation range
Image: Map of Washington State, colored by slope degree
Image: Map of Washington State, colored by road buffer source type
Image: Map of Washington State, colored by acres per Dwelling Unit (DU)

Slide 30: Core habitat (green) and linkages (yellows ,reds, & blues) combine to produce a connected habitat network

Image: Map of Washington State, colored to show core habitat and linkages areas
Image: Map of Washington State, where all the colored areas from the previous map (green, reds, yellows, and blues) is colored green

Slide 31: Habitat networks & highways

Image: Logo of the Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group
Image: A collage of silhouettes of footprints from various animals
Image: Map of Washington State, with State highways, colored by traffic volume range, overlaid on focal species habitat networks

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Landscape Analysis in Early Planning – Green Infrastructure

All the slides in this presentation are branded with the Trafikverket (Swedish Transport Administration) logo

Slide 32: Trafikverket: Swedish Transport Administration

Landscape analysis in early planning - green infrastructure
The Götaland line example

Henrik Wahlman
Environmental specialist, ecology
Jönköping, Sweden

Image: Photograph of sunlight streaming through a group of white birch trees along a rural road
Image: Photograph of a passenger train speeding along, passing behind a row of shrubs, short trees, and a rail fence
Image: Photograph at night, looking down a set of well-lit railroad tracks
Image: Close-up photograph of a green seedling held aloft by four fingers

Slide 33: The Götaland line in Sweden

  • Connecting Stockholm - Gothenburg with a new, high speed railroad
  • Several separate projects
  • We studied the major part, 230 km Linköping-Borås
  • Estimated cost (15 billion USD)
  • Top speed 250 km/h (320 km/h)
  • Initial study phase (geography barely set)
Image: A map of Sweden, with approximately 25 major cities labeled, with dotted-lined loops between the cities of Borás and Jönköping, and Jönköping and Linköping

Slide 34: Road- and railroad-planning thus far...

  • Knowledge too late!
  • Small potential to change the planned project
  • Based on knowledge about legally protected objects/areas
Image: Graphic of two isosceles triangles above a dotted timeline. The top triangle, labeled "Potential to change/influence project," points to the right, which shows this decreasing as a project proceeds. The bottom triangle, labeled "Knowledge about the landscape," points to the left, which shows this increasing as a project proceeds. The timeline is labeled, from left to right: Initial study, Location or Feasibility study, Detailed design study, and Building document.

Slide 35: Process questions:

  • Where should the line NOT go?
  • Areas that demands more detailed investigations?
  • Different landscape sensitivities?

The aim was to create a common decision base material for both cultural, visual and ecological considerations

Image: A black and white drawing of 10 birds perched on a wire

Slide 36: Delimited area passed on to next planning stage.

  • Areas/structures/functions demanding special care and consideration
  • Ecologically/visually/culturally important areas, (usually also) areas that may complicate the legal permission process
  • Areas potentially driving costs
Image: Close-up map of the areas between the cities of Borás and Jönköping, and Jönköping and Linköping

Slide 37: Landscape character assessment, a process

Aim: Deconstruct the landscape and find manageable and common characters.

  • Characters can be evaluated against the railway and give understanding of what consequences a railway might give.
  • Broad scale, cross-disciplinary. We did it in a Team with several experts.(natural, cultural, visual and others)
  • Starts in the FIELD! Get your team out!
  • Iterative process
  • LCA is coupled with deeper thematic studies
Image: Aerial photograph of a rural highway along the edge of a large lake

Slide 38: Green infrastructure: What did we do?

  • GIS-based analysis on existing data
  • Analysis of ecosystem functionality
  • Identify biologically rich landscapes as well as large scale ecological functions
Image: Black and white topographic drawing of a section of the countryside, labeled "Core tract," which is shaded in color. Another similar drawing is floated above the first drawing of a close-up of a section from the first drawing, which is labeled "Core systems." A third similar drawing is floated above the second drawing of a close-up of a section from the second drawing, which is labeled "Core habitat."

Slide 39: Core tracts of forest

Image: Close-up map of the areas between the cities of Borás and Jönköping, and Jönköping and Linköping, colored in various shades of green to show forested areas. The map is labeled "Indata: National Forest inventory, Nature reserves, etc."

Slide 40: Core systems - Analyzing functional connections

  • Key species are selected (relevant scale, knowledge about biology/ecology)
  • Based on threshold values for these species:
    • Least area
    • Dispersal distance
    • Least number of core habitats
    • Least total area of core habitats
Image: Colored drawing of green forests with orange butterflies

Slide 41: Functional systems of meadows and pastures (National perspective)

Image: Map of southern Sweden
Image: Map of the areas between the cities of Borás and Jönköping, and Jönköping and Linköping

Slide 42: Protected areas/Tracts with high biodiversity

Image: Map of the areas between the cities of Borás and Jönköping, and Jönköping and Linköping, with protected areas colored in green diagonal stripes
Image: Map of the areas between the cities of Borás and Jönköping, and Jönköping and Linköping, colored to show the various levels of biodiversity

Slide 43: Conclusions

  • The legal permitting process has to stop focusing on whether biodiversity hotspots are protected by legislation or not.
  • With analysis on the landscape level early on, high value areas and systems can be avoided.
  • Areas or objects with high conservational/biological value that cannot be avoided can be highlighted and more in depth analysis on how to handle them can start early in the next planning phase, avoiding future bottlenecks.
  • Cross-disciplinary approach can balance natural, cultural, and visual aspects against each other. Reduces potential conflicts between fields of expertise later in the process and gives a better knowledge base. Was very well received by the public, NGOs, and the permitting agencies and authorities. And it is FUN!
  • Knowing the landscape early on makes it possible to influence budget, alignment, and modeling.

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For questions or feedback on this subject, please contact Mike Ruth at 202-366-9509.

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