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Environmental Control Practices in the Transportation Industry

In the 21st century, global concern regarding environmental impacts and energy use for the transportation infrastructure demand different and new strategies to maintaining, operating, constructing, designing, and planning transportation solutions and systems. As observed by Evangelista (2014) environmental sustainability in the transportation industry is increasingly becoming a major concern. A sustainable transportation system is the one that (a) permits the basic access needs of societies and people to be attained safely and in a way that is consistent with ecosystem and human health, (b) operate efficiently and is affordable, and (3) minimizes waste and emissions. The challenge of climate change, as argued out by Liimatainen, Stenholm, Tapio and McKinnon (2012) demand transportation agencies to quickly devised strategies aimed at addressing this concern. Additionally, Scientists have unanimously agreed that transportation agencies need to minimize greenhouse emissions. This research paper identifies existing environmental aspects of the transportation industry and explores control measures to address the problem.

Environmental Aspects of Transportation Industry

Roads can pollute environment in different ways. For instance, roads that cause run-off to be contaminated can lead to environmental degradation. Additionally, vehicles travelling on roads can minimize air quality and produce disturbing noises. Other problems that can be caused by roads include contamination of natural resources, dust pollution, soil erosion, and landscape degradation. As pointed out by Northern Territory Government (2014), the major concern in road development encompass weed management, water pollution, visual amenity, vehicle and traffic noise, vegetation control and management, drainage and storm water management, soil contamination, social equity, resource consumption, land use management, greenhouse emissions, fire management, cultural heritage, biodiversity, and air pollution. Dirty roads can be a source of environmental pollution. Some of the measures that can be undertaken to keep roads clean, according to Northern Territory Government (2014), include covering all loads of soil being removed from site for disposal, installing litter traps lined with filter cloth, ensuring that the roads are swept at least once a day, and installing rumble grids and wheel washes at entire main road crossings.

Borrowing from Australian Environmental Protection Authority(EPA) (1996) construction practices that does not address environmental pollution can result to contamination of ground and land water, disturb aquatic wildlife communities and ecological systems, kill fish, and cause damage in wetlands and waterways. Environmental risk in is in most cases high when road construction work is carried out along a river valley, near creeks and streams, and near coastal areas. Project managers should integrate environmental measures during project planning stage in order to make sure minimal environmental pollution. Additionally, risk assessment is extremely important and should take into consideration the environmental impacts associated with construction activities (EPA, 1996). Areas that demands protection during construction encompass groundwater recharge areas, aquatic animals and plants, as well as, endangered or sensitive fauna or flora. The information that need to be gathering before the construction work starts include identification of contaminated and clean stormwater, changes to drainage, a map of exiting vegetation pointing out areas to be retained, and alterations to the photography of the site in the course of each phase of the construction project. Some of the measures that should be undertaken to reduce erosion encompass cording schedule works, avoiding clearing of areas of highly erodible soils, and keeping land clearance to a minimum. Other measures include cultivating the cut surface, designing the slope of a cut with an aim of reducing angle of incline, keeping haul roads off sloping terrain, keeping vehicles to well-defined haul roads, and stabilizing the site and installing and maintaining erosion controls.

Environmental Control Measures

There is a broad range of options that can be adopted to reduce greenhouse emissions. Some of these strategies (1) energy efficiency, (2) reduced-carbon transportation energy sources, (3) integration of land use and transportation, (4) alternative transportation modes, (5) system optimization or efficiency, (6) infrastructural changes, and (7) strategic planning (Liimatainen et al., 2012). Transportation agencies must ensure that vehicles are energy or fuel efficiency. People should be encouraged to purchase hybrid cars with an aim minimizing carbon emissions. Intercity bus, intercity rail, light rail, as well as, urban buses are regarded by American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (2004) as important in reducing greenhouse emissions. The reasons given by this is that these transportation modes have reduced greenhouse gas emission per passenger compared to conventional options.

Departments of Transports (DOTs) have increasingly adopted strategic planning in order to come up with effective environmental control practices. Strategic planning assist transportation agencies to think strategically and develop effective strategies for minimizing environmental impacts associated with their activities, systematically gather information regarding the agency’s external and internal environment and the interests of various stakeholders, enhance organizational learning, clarify future purpose and directions, formulate and precisely communicate strategic intention, and improve decision-making (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials(AASHTO), 2004). Just like all organizational approaches, strategic planning demands commitment, resources, and skills. DOTs have increasingly recognized the need of adopting best environmental control practices. Maintenance of construction sites, environmental mitigations, and storage of materials, waste generation, energy consumption, and raw material usage demands a considerable investment of financial resources. As observed by AASHTO (2004), environmentally conscious, effective, as well as, efficient use of these resources can result to both ecological and financial advantages.

A significant number of DOTs have undertaken planning processes with an aim of identifying environmental aspects of their business. As pointed out by AASHTO (2004), the environmental of transportation activities may encompass consumption of energy, human health effects, species or habitat reduction, spills to the environment, production of wastes, depletion of natural resources, use of raw materials, light or noise population, degradation of air quality, as well as ground and surface water contamination. Additionally, DOTs have adopted a wide array of technologies aimed at reducing environmental impacts of their activities. One of these technologies include three-way catalyst converter to minimize gasoline-fuelled engines’ emissions. Acting emission from vehicles encompasses volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, and sulphur dioxide.

Recycling has been considered as important in minimizing environmental impacts associated with transportation industry. Recycling include recycling of fuel and raw materials for cement manufacturing. Recycling of pavement and asphalt reduces production energy. Additionally, recycling minimizes transport energy since the majority of construction parts need to be moved into a construction site. Full-depth reclamation, according to EPA (1996), minimizes construction waste, price and emissions by utilizing available roadway materials to produce a reclaimed road base. Reclamation entails dismantling the available roadway into sub-grade material, affixing stabilizers and grading the mix. Other recycling technique that has played an integral role in minimizing environmental impact includes in-place recycling.

Septic/sanitary waste management practices and procedures are devised with an aim of eliminating or reducing the discharge of septic waste materials to watercourses or storm drain systems. According to EPA (1996), sanitary facilities ought to be located away from watercourses and drainage facilities. Construction engineers should also ensure that repair materials and debris are not released to the environment. Potential pollution from oil, hydraulic fluid, fuel, sealant, and concrete should be controlled. Some of the environmental stewardship practices that are recommended for graffiti removal encompass scheduling graffiti removal for dry weather, safeguarding nearby storm drain inlets before getting rid of graffiti from sidewalks, signs, and walls needing graffiti abatement, cleaning up afterwards by vacuuming or sweeping thoroughly by employing absorbent and later disposing the absorbent properly. Possible pollutant sources at public sites, as indicated by AASHTO (2004)encompass hydraulic oil and fluids, fuel, paint, sandblast grit, sediment, pesticide, leaks and spills, graffiti, illegal dumping, erosion, chemical vegetation control, sewage, litter, and trash. In order to prevent such pollutions, recommended control practices include water conservation practices, anti-litter signs, vacuuming and sweeping, maintenance facility housekeeping practices, spill control and prevention, concrete waste management, liquid waste management, solid waste management, vehicle and equipment fueling, and scheduling and planning. Other practices include illegal spill discharge control, material use, vehicle and equipment maintenance, and safer alternative products. Departments of Transport have produced internal guidance and manuals for stormwater facilities. The recommended environmental practices include disposing liquid and solid wastes produced by the cleaning of storm water drainage system in accordance with local, state, and federal solid and liquid waste disposal guidelines and rules.

Careful project staging, as argued out by AASHTO (2004) make highway and bridge buildings less troublesome to the environment. A significant number of DOTs have adopted these approaches to minimize the amount and duration of in-site construction sensitive environmentally sensitive areas. Other measures encompass preventing sedimentation of adjacent waterways, capturing vehicle contaminants, capturing airborne contaminants, and treating contaminants onsite before releasing. The New York Department of Transport (NYSDOT) has formulated environmental initiatives aimed at minimizing environmental degradation (AASHTO, 2004). One of the objectives of the NYSDOT encompasses strengthening and promoting environmental ethics throughout the Department. Department’s staff should leave project sites better they found it and devise ways of improving the New York’s environment. The other objective entails strengthening relationships with local municipalities, organizations, and environmental agencies to minimize environmental degradation within New York. Additionally, NYSDOT pilots new environmental improvement techniques. This encompasses increasing the use of recycled materials, enhance air quality, and minimize environmental toxins. The Texas DOT has adopted a detailed Environmental Tracking System aimed at following projects throughout the planning phases and making sure that the NEPA concerns are effectively tackled and environmental licenses are successfully coordinated prior for the release of the project to construction (AASHTO, 2004). Additionally, Texas DOT employ an Environmental Commitment Checklist with an aim of maintain and monitoring construction projects. The checklists offer contractors with an easy technique to adopt and adhere with environmental commitments.

Transportation agencies have acknowledged the significance of adopting Environmental Management Systems (SMS). As argued out by EPA (1996), SMS is a strategic planning tool that can assist organization to adopt environmental priorities. Specifically, SMS offers a standard model for transportation agencies to establish their own environmental goals. Additionally, it enables the organization to evaluate its performance in attaining those goals. Some of the benefits associated with SMS include enhancing environmental stewardship, adopting leadership and agency objectives, improving credibility with external stakeholders, enhancing relationships with regulatory agencies, improving compliance and getting rid of violations, and streamlining regulatory responsibilities. Other advantages of SMS encompass cost savings, enhancing environmental performance, reduced liability, operational benefits, as well as, assisting transportation agencies to a broad range of environmental challenges they face.

Project managers involved in construction activities should minimize noise nuisance wherever possible from movement of vehicles, genera construction activities, fixed machinery within the site, and vehicles. One of the measures of minimizing noise include regularly serving the vehicles used during construction activities, and limiting the times of operations of noisy vehicles and equipments(EPA, 1996). Other measures encompass fitting and maintaining appropriate mufflers on earth-moving and vehicles on site, enclosing noisy equipment, providing noise attenuation screens where appropriate, advising local residents when unavoidable out-of-hours will take place, as well as, conducting a study on the effect of ground vibration from construction activities. In order to ensure that all contaminated materials from the construction sites are disposed off in a friendly manner, EPA (1996) recommend a broad range of measures. These measures include disposing of contaminated materials in a landfill licensed, transporting odorous wastes covered in vehicles, sealing remaining contaminated waste or materials, excavating material in a way that avoids off-site environmental concerns, and assaying material uncovered on-site before disposal.

There are numerous legislations that have been put in place aimed at reducing environmental degradation. One of these legislations is The Northern Territory’s Environmental Assessment Act (Northern Territory Government, 2014). This legislation is aimed at ensuring that all projects that are assumed to have a considerable effect on the environment are subjected to environmental effect evaluation. Another important legislation is Northern Territory Waste Management and Pollution Control Act. As provided for in this legislation, any organization or individual performing activities may lead to environmental degradation must take reasonable care to reduce the environmental pollution and must promote control practices, pollution prevent, and effective waste management.

Transportation agencies have adopted environmental policy as one of the environmental control practices. For instance Australian Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment has an environmental policy which states that it provides efficient and safe use of the road network for the Australian people (Northern Territory Government, 2014). Additionally, the Department ensures that adherent with relevant environmental regulations and legislations, setting appropriate environmental approaches, creating and adopting sound environmental practices and policies, offering its employees with abilities and skills to attain environmental outcomes, enhancing the way the Department manage its suppliers and contractors, involving the community in both planning and adoption of environmental control measures, and reporting publicly on its environmental performance. The Australian Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment has adopted various policies aimed at minimizing environmental degradation. These measures encompass native vegetation clearing controls, intermodal integration and efficient vehicle use, alternative fuels and national fuel quality, guidelines for safeguarding heritage sites within the road corridors, weed management policy, noise standards for roads projects, vehicle noise standards, road reserve management, as well as, fire management policy (Northern Territory Government, 2014).

Conclusively, environmental control practices highlighted in this research paper are not exhaustive. There are several other environmental control practices that were not captured in this paper. In the general, the finding of this paper has demonstrated that the transportation industry is increasing adopting various control practices aimed at reducing environmental degradation.

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