Clean Air and Sustainability Are Important Topics for Transportation Researchers

(Source: Texas Public Radio)

Source: Texas Public Radio

Air pollution and sustainability may not have been hot topics for transportation professionals in the past, but they were widely discussed during the 93rd Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), a conference that brings together transportation professionals from around the world. And as we have highlighted in the past, air emissions from the transportation sector are of particular concern in Texas, and many at the conference took note of the state’s progress.

For instance, one panel highlighted efforts to reduce costly cargo truck delays at various Texas-Mexico border crossings. These truck delays occur due to a myriad of reasons, including rush-hour transit times and customs issues, but a recently launched initiative known as the Border Crossing Information System, or BCIS, is aiming to shorten these delays through accurate monitoring and reporting of truck queues and, in turn, reduce harmful air emissions.

In many ways, concerns at land border-crossings parallel air quality issues at marine ports. Given Texas moves a lot of cargo through both means it’s only appropriate that the TRB committee focusing on marine environmental issues is chaired by Jim Kruse of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) – one of the leading partners of the BCIS effort directed at reducing delays from border truck crossings. Also, EDF’s Elena Craft presented on another important marine environment issue for Texas – emissions from the barge sector. While barges are a key piece of the freight transportation system, they are also a source of emissions, and there are a number of opportunities for the industry to improve efficiency and air quality at the same time.

Like many states, Texas is growing rapidly and attention to clean air and public health should have an increasing importance for local, state and federal transportation decision-making. As development continues, it is important for leaders and policy makers to ensure future projects mitigate harmful air emissions as much as possible. We already know the public health dangers that arise from poor air quality and the resulting costs for communities located near ports and busy highways, and it is promising to see sustainability and clean air reach an elevated importance at this prestigious conference.

Of course, this doesn’t imply that everyone will breathe clean air tomorrow, but it does bring to light the contributions EDF and other key stakeholders have made in this arena. EDF and our partners still have more work to do, but we are glad to see transportation professionals taking special note of health and air quality in Texas and beyond.

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