Developing an Environmental Justice-Centered Tool for Quantifying Pollution Exposure from Transportation Projects

Research Team: Arpad Horvath (lead), Fiona Greer, Joshua Apte, and Jasenka Rakas

UC Campus(es): UC Berkeley

Problem Statement: Transportation projects in California, including roadway paving, transit terminals/centers, bridges and overpasses, railways, and future facilities such as vertiports support the mobility and growth of urban and rural communities. However, the processes involved in manufacturing the materials needed for these projects, the actual construction activities, and the generation of the energy needed to operate these projects all result in pollution that contributes to climate change and impacts the health of local communities. In addition to these general effects, project-specific air and noise pollution can create more burdensome impacts on vulnerable populations located nearby. Existing policies, including SB 350 and SB 535, reflect the state’s commitment to ensuring that disadvantaged communities receive priority for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction efforts from infrastructure systems and projects. AB 617 also represents an effort to minimize pollution from stationary sources in these communities. As the state proceeds to repair and rebuild its transportation infrastructure, emissions-related negative externalities from planning, design, construction, operation, and decommissioning of facilities should be equitably minimized.

Project Description: Using an integrated modeling approach, the research team will create a decision-support software tool that maps impacts from existing and proposed transportation projects and offers burden-reducing strategies for each phase of the project’s life cycle. The software tool will: (1) incorporate a state-of-the-art air quality model (InMAP) to map the exposure burdens from primary and secondary fine particulate matter (PM2.5) formed from emission precursors including nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), sulfur dioxides (SO2), and ammonia (NH3) generated by transportation projects in California; (2) quantify resulting GHG emissions associated with the project life cycle (material manufacturing, equipment use, other energy use, maintenance, end of life); and (3) map the exposure burdens from project noise. Outcomes of the decision-support tool are twofold. The tool will demonstrate the negative external costs from transportation projects. Mitigation strategies for each life- cycle phase, and their direct economic costs and expected changes in emissions and exposure, will aid policy makers and community members in making evidence-based, equitable decisions about transportation projects.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $79,994

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