Wu Leads Look into Green Transportation Infrastructure
(Washington, DC) – Members of the Science & Technology Committee’s Technology & Innovation Subcommittee today looked into programs to help alleviate water pollution caused by runoff from developed lands, like streets and parking lots.
During the hearing titled “Green Transportation Infrastructure: Challenges to Access and Implementation,” Subcommittee Chairman David Wu (D-OR) led Members in examining what programs already exist in this arena and how they can be implemented more widely.
“Our challenge today is not the development of new technologies. It is to get people to start using the technologies we’ve got,” Wu said.
Green transportation infrastructure involves the use of materials and methods to minimize the impact that roads and highways have on the environment. Storm water runoff from developed lands is a major contributor to water pollution, as it is concentrated with oil, gas, heavy metals and other pollutants. Those areas produce runoff faster and in greater volumes than undeveloped lands, thus degrading the physical characteristics of streams and rivers. Increases in erosion will widen channels, decrease stability of banks and widen floodplains.
Storm water runoff from agricultural land, lawns and urban areas can cause pollution as well by washing chemicals, like fertilizers, and harmful bacteria into surface water. Those impacts can be mitigated though use of infiltration basins and trenches, detention and retention ponds, construction wetlands and filtration systems. Some common practices could also minimize the problem, such as street sweeping and reduction in fertilizer applications.
“On paper, these technologies look like no-brainers,” said Wu. “So why don’t we see them used more often? While there are certain technical and research issues that need to be addressed, their biggest impediments are state and federal regulations.”
As some state and local governments have taken to developing and implementing their own solutions, Wu expressed the need for better coordination among federal agencies working on the R&D and regulatory aspects of green transportation infrastructure.
“Research on the performance of green technologies needs to become a national priority if we are serious about their effective uses,” said one of today’s witnesses, Sam Adams, Commissioner of Public Utilities for the City of Portland Oregon. Portland, in Wu’s home state of Oregon, is the first city in the nation to adopt comprehensive green street policies to address street design and storm water management challenges.
“We need a partnership with federal and state agencies, universities and others to affect a fundamental change to green transportation technologies,” Adams said.