Archive for February, 2010

Report from ACC/AAAE Planning Design and Construction Symposium

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I had the pleasure of attending the 2010 ACC/AAAE Planning Design and Construction Symposium this week in Atlanta (where the weather was more like Siberia, but that was probably a good way to keep us attending sessions!).

A couple of general themes that emerged were:

  • The aviation industry has done an incredible job of spending the $1.1b allocated through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, strongly demonstrating that: (1) our industry can work collaboratively and efficiently to deliver projects, and (2) there is a strong need for continued infrastructure investment in aviation.  Specifically, John Duvall of AAAE reported that all the funding was allocated as of January 2010; a total of 326 ARRA projects were approved, and already 185 have been completed.  Certainly jobs were created in this industry!  There is discussion that aviation may receive an additional $500m in funding through the current Jobs Bill being debated in Congress.
  • Nevertheless, according to Ben DeCosta of Hartsfield-Atlanta International Airport (the world’s busiest), the number one issue facing airports today is a lack of revenue that flows throughout the industry.  Accordingly, the industry must continue to “design to budget”.  Susan Baer of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey echoed that while the industry has never been “wasteful”, it is more important than ever to prioritize cost in design – her example was the new JetBlue Terminal at JFK (here and here), where significant emphasis was paid to cost, and still a gorgeous result.

I spent most of my time at the Symposium attending the Sustainability Track. Suzanne Geckle of CH2M HILL did a great job organizing a diverse and information-packed agenda, even though she just returned from maternity leave this week (that’s my kind of gal!).  Sessions included: 

  • Can Airports Meet LEED Goals?
  • Funding Green Initiatives
  • Lasting Passenger Friendly Sustainable Materials
  • Sustainable Airfields
  • IT Controls to Reduce Costs and Emissions

I particularly enjoyed presentations by Mike Kenney of KB Environmental Sciences on IT and Air Quality Modeling, and Ripley Rasmus of HOK on sustainable design for Indianapolis International Airport’s new LEED Terminal.

Finally, my personal highlight of the conference was the announcement of the 2010 Jay Hollingsworth Speas Award to Rick Busch at Denver International Airport.  DIA has been an HMMH client since its inception, and we are very proud to see Rick and his team get the recognition they deserve for a comprehensive, innovative, and effective noise management program.

Denver International Airport

Denver International Airport

EPA Issues New Short-term NO2 National Ambient Air Quality Standard

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

by Phil DeVita

On January 22, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strengthened the primary national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) by adding a 1-hour NO2standard of 100 ppb.  The EPA administration is retaining the current annual standard of 53 ppb.

The EPA decided the existing annual standard does not provide sufficient protection of public health in the short-term period and believes the new standard will protect against adverse health effects associated with short-term exposure near roadways and urban areas. Current scientific evidence suggests short-term exposures to peak NO2 concentrations correlates with adverse respiratory effects to sensitive populations (i.e., children and the elderly) leading to increased visits to emergency rooms.

Currently, all areas of the U.S. comply with the existing annual NO2 standard.  EPA will designate attainment and non-attainment areas for the new standard by January 2012.  Over the last 30 years, annual NO2 concentrations have continued to decrease.  This decline is mainly attributed to more efficient automobile engines due to the implementation of emission standards for light-duty vehicles.  With the phasing in of emission standards for heavy duty engines in newer vehicles, we should continue to see decreases in NO2 emissions in the future.

Studies have shown that NO2 concentrations are typically higher near roadways when compared to existing monitor locations maintained by state agencies.  Concentrations in heavy traffic areas can be as much as two times greater than residential areas.  As part of this action, EPA is requiring changes to the monitoring network to protect the public health from high short-term concentrations near major roadways, urban areas (i.e., areas with a population greater than 1 million people), and in communities vulnerable to NO2related health effects. These new monitoring and reporting requirements will begin by January 1, 2013.  Once these new monitors are in place, EPA at their discretion could re-designate attainments areas in 2016 or 2017.

The new short-term standard will affect all types of emission sources including aviation, mobile sources, and fossil fuel combustion sources.  For new projects subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and located in a NO2 non-attainment region, general conformity determinations will need to demonstrate project emissions will not exceed the new standards prior to receiving federal funding.  This may subject some sources to additional mitigation measures and could require a source to obtain emissions offsets.   In addition to NEPA review, a project may also need to demonstrate compliance with the new standard in order to receive approval under a state environmental policy act or an air quality permit.   One way of addressing compliance with the standard is conducting air dispersion modeling.  Air dispersion modeling is typically used by new or existing facilities to demonstrate compliance with the NAAQS.   Moving forward, dispersion modeling could be an effective tool many sources will utilize in demonstrating compliance with the new standard.

High Speed Rail Acceleration

Monday, February 1st, 2010

by Lance Meister

In what was, I think, widely regarded as something of a surprise last year, President Obama announced that $8 billion dollars would be allocated to high speed rail (HSR) projects around the country.  This was a complete and fundamental about-face from previous policy and totally unexpected.  The next several months were spent by the administration and the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) trying to determine what projects would qualify and how the money would be allocated.

The late summer and early fall was a frantic time for project sponsors, trying to meet the requirements for the grant applications.  HMMH was involved, in a small part, in a number of those applications, including in Florida, California, New York and the Mid-West.  Since then, it’s been a waiting game.

On Thursday, January 28, President Obama made the announcement regarding the grant awards.  The full list of awards is here.  Given that he was making the announcement in Florida, it came as no surprise that the Tampa-Orlando project was one of the big winners.  Other big winners were the California HSR project, New York-Albany-Buffalo and the Mid-West projects, including Chicago to St. Louis.  Many of the projects on the list are not really high speed rail projects, but are really just upgrades to existing lines to improve speeds and safety.  However, Florida and California are dedicated HSR projects, and if implemented as proposed, would represent real HSR in this country that would compete with systems around the world.

It’s clear that the $8 billion is not enough to build a complete HSR system, even if the entire amount had been given to one project.  However, it is very symbolic, and it’s a jump start at getting projects moving, and hopefully attracting more money at all levels to get the projects built.  The administration is also committing money each year to continue funding of HSR projects.

It’s been a long time coming in this country, and for those who have been advocating HSR for decades in the US, it’s a sweet victory.  Our own Carl Hanson has been involved in virtually every HSR project in the country over the last 30 years, and he’s as excited as I’ve ever seen him at the possibilities.

Now the fun really begins.  It’s time to get HSR moving in this country.  My hope is that one day we refer to the Obama High-Speed Rail System, much like the Eisenhower Highway System.   This may very well be the enduring legacy of the Obama administration.