It's easy to assume that a transportation agency is hardly concerned about environmental effects. But for the WSDOT, clean air and clean water are major topics.
Most of the information about our environmental programs are found at the agency web site. If you visit you can read information on Washington's Growth Management Act and environmental permitting, as well as our agency efforts to retrofit fish passages and to address other chronic long-standing roadway environmental deficiencies.
Capturing and treating surface water run-off is a major permitting issue and throughout Washington salmon streams run next to major roadways.
We also are taking steps across the organization to reduce green-house gas emissions. This just an abbreviated list, but it gives you an idea of how we are taking a OneDOT approach to our environmental to cleaner air.
Construction Best Practices
WSDOT is promoting idle reduction on public works projects through construction contract language. We also are pursuing recycling asphalt and concrete recycling to reduce energy consumption for new material creation and transportation.
Energy efficiency, anti-idling, and green technology
WSDOT No Idle Policy
WSDOT has adopted a new policy requiring WSDOT fleet vehicle operators to turn off their vehicles when not needed for safety reasons.
Switch to High Efficiency/Low Energy Yellow Flashing Lights to Reduce Idling
In the Puget Sound and Spokane County areas, WSDOT will retrofit fleet vehicles within the next several years to change out older incandescent lighting on vehicles and arrow sign-boards with energy efficient technology.
WSDOT Vehicle Equipment Efficiency
We are taking steps to improve fuel efficiency including retrofitting vehicles in Puget Sound and Spokane areas to add exhaust and crankcase catalysts to reduce diesel emissions; avoiding purchasing sport utility vehicles; and phasing out all vehicles/equipment manufactured before 1996.
“Incident Response” Partnership with Washington State Patrol
WSDOT is working with WSP to reduce time frames for highway blockages due to vehicle accidents. Incidence response trucks are deployed across the state to help motorists. Lower Energy Traffic Signals Of the 965 traffic signals owned by WSDOT, we have converted over 70 percent to light emitting diode (LED) technology since 1998. All new traffic and pedestrian lights are LED.
Uninterrupted Power Supply for Traffic Signals
We implemented six projects to allow traffic lights to continue to operate when power is out. This is to keep traffic flowing during power outages and reduce idling. WSDOT wants to make more of these upgrades but funding is lacking.
Building Energy Efficiency Improvements
Several building improvements have been made including adding timers on office light switches; removing lights in unused areas/wings of buildings; shortening the time frame when lights are automatically on in the building by one-half hour at applicable locations; making water conservation changes; replacing fixtures with more energy efficient bulbs; adding separate, smaller water heaters so large heating boilers not activated in summer months at applicable locations; and training all maintenance technicians to look for energy saving opportunities and efficiencies including tuning HVAC systems and replacing older systems.
While a 20 percent biodiesel pilot project continues to be suspended due to operational issues associated with plugged fuel filters. Washington State Ferries is working with Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and Washington State University to determine causes of clogging problems and hopefully identify solutions. The M/V Elwa has burned ultra low sulfur diesel for over two years and will continue to do so through a partnership with Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, Northwest Clean Air Agency, and the Washington State Department of Ecology. Additional vessels have started to use this fuel as it has become more available. Washington State Ferries is looking at route planning, loading and unloading, equipment modification, heat recovery, etc. strategies to gain fuel efficiency.
Highways, Infrastructure, and Construction
Park and Ride Lots and Direct Access Ramps
We continue to build and support facilities and partner with transit agencies to encourage and ease the use of transit.
Using 5 percent biodiesel blend with ultra low sulfur diesel at 16 maintenance facilities in central Puget Sound. We will expand use as more fuel becomes available and plan to move to 20 percent biodiesel when engine manufacturer warranties allow this fuel use.
Hydrogen Fuel Cells
We are piloting one fuel cell and would like to pair with solar generation to make the location self-sufficient. Need funding for capital investment.
Where possible, WSDOT uses solar panels to power flashing beacons and electronics that keep our system functioning.
Ethanol – Flex Fuel
WSDOT currently has 396 flex fuel-ready sedans and pickup trucks out a fleet of approximately 2,000 vehicles. At this time there are no ethanol WSDOT fueling stations available. When ethanol is more prevalent, our flex fuel vehicles will be able to take advantage of this greenhouse gas-reducing fuel.
Hybrid – Gas/Electric
WSDOT acquired its first hybrid pickup truck in 2006. WSDOT has purchased 13 hybrid sedans. The purchase of larger quantities of these higher efficiency vehicles is a challenge due to the cost differential of between $4,000 to $7,000.
Commute Trip Reduction Incentives
As with all state agencies, WSDOT activity promotes alternative/compressed work schedules, car/van pooling, transit/bike/walk, and telecommuting.
There's more. WSDOT is working with freight interests to reduce emissions on roads, rails, farms and at ports through participation in work groups that share information and develop projects that reduce emissions from diesel engines.