ERTC - Environmentally Responsible Transportation Center for Communities of Concern Environmentally Responsible
Transportation Center for
Communities of Concern

ERTC3 is a Tier 1 University Transportation Center to address the US DOT’s statutory research priority area of preserving the environment.

About ERTC3

Lead Institution:
University of Missouri – Kansas City, Kansas City, MO

Type of UTC: Tier 1 Center

Research Priority Area:
Preserving the Environment

DOT Strategic Goals Supported:
Federal and non-Federal funding amounts

  • Primary: Equity
  • Secondary:
    Climate and Sustainability

Member Institutions

Research Abstract:

The Environmentally Responsible Transportation Center for Communities of Concern (ERTC3) is a Tier 1 University Transportation Center to address the US DOT’s statutory research priority area of preserving the environment. ERTC3 will perform research to develop innovative approaches that will improve the sustainability, resilience, and equity of transportation infrastructure. This goal will be achieved through research in three main thrust areas as shown in Figure 1. The first thrust area, Environmental Analysis, will focus on measurement and monitoring of transportation related pollution in air, water, and soil. This effort will develop tools and models that will support evidence-based decision-making at transportation agencies regarding the environmental impacts of projects. The second thrust area, Environmental Justice, will focus on the assessment of environmental and health impacts of transportation activities on minority (communities of color, elderly, people with disabilities) and low income populations, which are called “communities of concern.” The third thrust area, Environmental Mitigation, will focus on the reduction of exposure to transportation related pollution through sustainable and resilient construction materials and practices and innovative technologies. In addition to research activities, through education, workforce development, and technology transfer activities, ERTC3 will help deployment of developed new mitigation technologies to reduce the disproportionate environmental impact of transportation activities on communities of concern.

ERTC3 Research Framework
Figure 1: ERTC3 Research Framework

Transportation conveys substantial socioeconomic benefits but at the same time impacts the environmental systems. Emission of pollutants from transportation increased with the growth of passenger and freight mobility. Highway vehicles, marine engines, locomotives, and aircraft are sources of pollution in the form of gas and particulate matter emissions. Transportation affects hydrological conditions and water quality. Fuel, chemicals, and other hazardous particulates discarded from vehicles can contaminate hydrographic systems. Soil erosion and contamination is also an environmental impact of transportation. Environmental impacts of transportation can be direct and indirect where direct impacts are typically well understood but indirect (secondary) impacts, which are often of a higher consequence, are more challenging to understand.[1] Research in the first thrust area of ERTC3 will focus on analysis and model development to better understand the direct and indirect environmental impacts, such as how deicing chemicals contamination in soils can lead to reduced permeability and consequently to increased flash floods.

Federal law, as detailed in Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Executive Order 12898, “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations,” states that federal agencies must identify and address disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations.

As transportation planners face the evolving challenges of aging infrastructure, funding constraints, climate change, and perception shifts for multimodal transportation systems, environmental justice analyses became more important and requires a better understanding of how siting of transportation expose these communities to elevated levels of air, water, and noise pollution, resulting in racial health disparities. The second thrust area of ERTC3 will focus on establishing these relations, such as relations between traffic congestion and asthma related hospital visits.

Third thrust area of ERTC3, Mitigation of transportation-related environmental pollution and consequently its adverse human health effects, requires development of sustainable construction materials and practices, and implementation of new technologies for pollution remediation. These mitigation methods may vary from use of alternative energy sources for ice free highways to replace deicing chemicals to the use of in pavement charging for electric vehicles to reduce air pollution.

Within the statutory research priority of preserving the environment, the proposed center aligns with the strategic goal of “Equity” outlined in the FY 2022-26 US DOT Strategic Plan which aims to reduce transportation-related disparities, adverse community impacts, and health effects. The center also aligns strongly with the strategic goal of “Climate and Sustainability” which aims to reduce transportation-related pollution and build a more resilient and sustainable transportation system to benefit and protect communities. Proposed ERTC3 research, education, workforce development, and technology transfer outcomes are also aligned with the outcomes listed in grand challenges – “Equitable Mobility for All” and “Net Zero Emissions” listed in the US DOT RD&T strategic plan. Proposed ERTC3 has the potential to transform our current transportation system to a human-centered sustainable and equitable system through collaboration between academia, government, and industry.

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