Massachusetts is Meeting Climate Change Head On

by Matt Mann, Reseach Program Coordinator

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State Street, Boston – City Lab

As weather events become more extreme, MassDOT and Massachusetts communities, especially those on the coast, recognize their infrastructure is vulnerable. Coastal cities and towns are currently grappling with the extreme climate impacts of higher temperatures, increased extreme precipitation and greater amounts of sea level rise. All of these impacts are not new, they have slowly been occurring over the past century.  It is predicted these changes will accelerate and increases will happen over a shorter length of time (e.g. by 2030, the sea level could rise by 4”-8” (BRAG Report, 2016)).

MassDOT and Climate Ready Boston presented at the April 2018 MassDOT Innovation and Mobility Exchange on the impacts to transportation assets and infrastructure, and strategies to better accommodate climate change. Mia Mansfield, Climate Ready Boston, presented on goals to guide Boston’s future growth:

  • Goal 1: Provide quality of life in accessible neighborhoods
  • Goal 2: Drive inclusive economic growth
  • Goal 3: Promote a healthy environment and adapt to climate change, and
  • Goal 4: Invest in infrastructure, open space and culture

Associated with these goals are planning and implementation projects for creating resilient infrastructure and buildings, preparing communities, and protecting shorelines. The feedback from the public outreach on what types of flood ready improvements the public would like to see included expanding open space, berm development, and flood walls. Project areas Climate Ready Boston has focused on are East Boston, Charlestown, and South Boston. Mansfield spoke about this initiative saying, “The resiliency strategy embraces layered flood control and integrated green infrastructure measures that mitigate the effects of climate change, and create social, environmental, and economic benefits and value to the people of East Boston and Charlestown and to all who share in the health of the city and the harbor.”

The existing transportation assets will be impacted by more flash floods, landslides, and flooding. Further, increased precipitation could have adverse impacts on the infrastructure that helps move the water, especially on culverts. Hongyan Oliver, MassDOT Office of Transportation Planning, and Chris Dorney, WSP USA, presented on MassDOT’s multi-year statewide Climate Adaptation Vulnerability Assessment study. This study aims first to identify a prioritized set of MassDOT transportation assets throughout the Commonwealth that is at high risk for future inland flooding, and second to provide actionable scientific information for adaptive strategies, and future capital and project planning. This second goal begins on a broader planning level and then is developed through a detailed analysis of vulnerable assets. One challenge is mapping statewide future floodplains where vulnerable assets are located. With this challenge in mind, MassDOT is currently conducting a pilot mapping study on a watershed in western Massachusetts. The approach is to prepare georeferenced data, assign slopes, calculate current peak flows and 100-year flows, elevations, and floodplains, and evaluate the asset exposure. Procedures for floodplain mapping will include developing an instruction manual, applying the data management protocol, and automating parts of the process for efficiency.

Next steps after that will include training additional MassDOT staff on the procedures, and applying the pilot study procedures and lessons learned from all other watersheds in the state and sharing the results and data with stakeholders.  Eventually, this important information and these strategies can then be incorporated into MassDOT’s project prioritization, capital planning, asset management system, and emergency preparedness procedures.

MassDOT Earns its First LEED Gold Certification

by Courtney Murtagh, UMTC Intern

LEED

In 2016, MassDOT’s Research and Materials lab was nationally recognized and awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. The award-winning MassDOT facility, located near the Massachusetts Turnpike, was designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects. The LEED certification is a globally recognized award commending sustainable and efficient building design.

The lab is used to run tests on concrete, soils, asphalt, chemicals, and other material for MassDOT Highway Division construction projects. The facility is responsible to evaluate materials for more than 500 ongoing construction projects at any given time.

The building achieved its high rating certification with its sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, renewable materials, and high indoor environmental quality, according to a MassDOT press release.

The building is also equipped with other state-of-the-art green technology including porous pavement for runoff rainwater to charge the water table directly, two dual-port Level-II Electric Vehicle charging stations and a photovoltaic (PV) system that is expected to generate about 675,000-kilowatt hours (kWhs) per year. That energy output is roughly equivalent to 75% of the facility’s projected annual demand, according to the press release.

The Baker-Polito Administration is committed to reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) and increasing energy efficiency. Improving transportation infrastructure is one way the administration is approaching this goal.  “MassDOT’s state-of-the-art Research and Materials lab has many environmentally-friendly features including approximately 500 kW of Solar-Carports, about 40 kW of Rooftop PVs, and south-side self-tinting windows that limit over-heating in the summer and winter, and increase energy efficiency while making the workplace more comfortable for people inside,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO of MassDOT, Stephanie Pollack. The Highway Division is focusing on reducing GHG emissions by reducing the energy and chemicals used in maintenance projects, bettering the ecological performance of land under MassDOT care and control, minimizing exposure to hazardous waste, adapting facilities for climate change resilience, and minimizing developed land use altogether.

The Baker-Polito Administration hosted a series of listening sessions throughout the Commonwealth in late October and early November 2017 to discuss possible ideas and solutions for reducing GHG emissions from the transportation sector. The listening sessions were held in response to the Massachusetts Global Warming Solution Act (2008) and Governor Charlie Baker’s Executive Order 569, An Order Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth. The specific regulations of the Executive Order require the Commonwealth to reduce GHG emissions by 25% below the 1990 emissions level by 2020 and by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. As of 2014, the Commonwealth had reduced emissions to below 21% of the 1990 emissions.

 

UMTC Affiliates & MassDOT Assistant Secretary Katherine Fichter Present at WPI Conference on Vehicle Automation

By Tracy Zafian, UMTC Research Fellow

In May 2017, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) held its second annual Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Summer School speaker series, sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Vehicular Technology Society (IEEE VTS). The event included two days of lectures and discussions.

CAV intersection
Photo source: U.S. Department of Transportation
  • Danjue Chen, Professor at UMass-Lowell and UMTC Affiliate, discussed the impacts of connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) on traffic operations and highway traffic flow, and how CAVs can help optimize roadway capacity and traffic control. Professor Chen is the featured researcher in this month’s Innovative Outlook (IO).
  • Hossein Pishro-Nik, Professor at UMass-Amherst and UMTC Affiliate, spoke about Vehicular Ad Hoc Networks (VANETs) for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-roadway infrastructure communications. His talk discussed the relationship between communications and safety in VANETs, how VANETs can be customized for different traffic conditions and individual drivers, and the issues of privacy in VANETs and Internet-connected devices and applications. Professor Pishro-Nik’s research is described in more detail in another post.
  • Jason Rife, Professor at Tufts University, presented information on different GPS-based technologies and applications that can assist with automated vehicles and navigation, even in dense urban areas with limited sky visibility.
  • Bob Sletten, Engineering Manager at Autoliv, a company that develops automotive safety systems for auto manufacturers, spoke about radar technology in automotive applications.
  • Akshay Rajhans, Senior Research Scientist at MathWorks, spoke about model-based design for connected autonomous vehicles. As described in the WPI conference program, “model-based design makes use of computational models of systems under design that are developed, optimized and checked after correctness specifications throughout the design cycle.”
  • Alexander Wyglinski, WPI Professor and organizer of the conference, provided an overview of vehicular communication systems and the fundamental concepts for understanding, designing, and implementing them.

The keynote speaker at the gathering was Katherine Fichter, Assistant Secretary for Policy Coordination at MassDOT. Ms. Fichter discussed the potential future impacts of driverless vehicles under different scenarios, including a Driverless Utopia and a Driverless Nightmare that were described in Driving Towards Driverless Cars, a blog by Lauren Isaac. Under these scenarios, autonomous vehicles are expected to improve roadway safety, increase vehicle miles traveled, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but there are other potential impacts that are less certain. For example, will more driverless cars reduce urban sprawl or increase it, and how will the mobility of low-income people be impacted? As Ms. Fichter discussed, there are questions as well about how autonomous vehicles will be regulated and insured. One big challenge is that current regulations are all based on the idea that vehicles have human operators; this will need to change.

The Fábos Conference on Landscape and Greenway Planning

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Are you interested in what planners from around the world are doing to design innovative bicycle and pedestrian corridors, green streets, and other creative solutions to challenging urban conditions? To explore these issues, international experts gather every three years at the Fábos Conference on Landscape and Greenway Planning to highlight recent trends and expand the research about landscape and greenway planning. The aim is to explore how landscape architects and planners from different countries have approached greenway planning and to understand how greenways have been tailored to each county’s unique geographical, cultural, and political circumstances.

The conference is organized by Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with generous support from the Fábos Fund in partnership with Szent István University, Bdsc09888udapest, Hungary. Professor Emeritus Julius Gy. Fábos is an international leader in greenway planning who taught for over 35 years in the UMass Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning. For more information about Dr. Fábos see http://www.umass.edu/larp/people/julius-gy-fábos.

This year’s conference, the 5th Fábos Conference on Landscape and Greenway Planning, Greenways, Corridors of Change and Resilience was held in Budapest, Hungary on June 30-July 3, 2016 and featured over 150 speakers from over thirty countries and five continents. The conference focused on the challenges of rapid social, economic, political and ecological change caused by forces such as urbanization and climate change. These conference papers range from solutions to creating urban greenways in some of the most crowded cities in the world, as well as innovative design solutions for old industrial waterfronts, to historic and cultural trails, such as the Dinosaur Trail for the Connecticut River Valley. The full papers from the conference are available in a two-volume edited proceeding at https://sites.google.com/site/fabos2016/publication.

The next Fábos conference will be held in spring, 2019 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. For more information, please contact conference co-organizer, Professor Robert L. Ryan at rlryan@larp.umass.edu or Tel. (413) 545-6633.

By Professor Robert Ryan, PhD, FASLA – UMass-Amherst Department of Landscape Architecture