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Press Releases :: March 31, 2009

Subcommittee Addresses the Need for a Research Agenda to Mitigate Our Transportation System’s Impact on the Environment

(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held its third hearing in a series to discuss the impact of the transportation system on the environment. The planning and design of surface transportation infrastructure can influence congestion, the number of vehicle miles traveled, and the amount of energy embodied in the system from materials. In addition, planning and design factors also impact water quality, air quality, human health, and the ecology of the natural environment. Witnesses testified about the research needed to understand and mitigate the impacts of the transportation system on the environment. Subcommittee Members questioned witnesses about the components of a research agenda and possible implementation strategies.

“Climate change mitigation efforts largely focus on improving our current fuel sources and developing alternative fuels. Today there is an opportunity to think more broadly about the impact of our transportation infrastructure on the climate and what research is needed to begin minimizing our impact in more far-reaching ways,” stated Subcommittee Chairman David Wu (D-OR).

Currently, 28 percent of the total U.S. carbon emissions come from the transportation sector. The majority of these emissions—82 percent—arise from highway travel alone.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) funds research on strategies to reduce the impact of the transportation sector on the environment, but the interest in addressing climate change is relatively new. The following research categories would support the reduction of carbon emissions from transportation:

• Forecasting and analytical tools to support state and local global warming studies;
• Tools to assess system performance;
• Travel behavior;
• Demand management;
• Congestion; and
• Energy use in materials.

“We need to think about improving the energy efficiency of our transportation system, not just the cars and trucks on it,” added Wu. “For example, what are the modeling tools that would help communities develop an effective mixed-use transportation system of cars, buses, light rail, trolleys, and bikes like we have in Portland? If we are serious about congestion mitigation and traffic management, what’s required to realize these goals?”


Throughout the 111th Congress the Technology and Innovation Subcommittee will continue its work to decrease the impact of our transportations systems on the environment. In May 2007, the Subcommittee held a hearing to address the regulatory barriers preventing the utilization of green technologies. This hearing resulted in creation of H.R. 5161, the Green Transportation Infrastructure Research and Technology Transfer Act. In June of 2008, the Subcommittee held a hearing to review sustainable, energy-efficient transportation infrastructure.


For more information, please visit the Committee’s website.

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