Q&A: NEVI Deployment and GHG Reduction Initiatives

New Jersey Department of Transportation, alongside other state and regional agencies, has embarked on ambitious initiatives to revolutionize its transportation fueling infrastructure through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Deployment and through pursuit of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions reduction target goals. These initiatives are rooted in the state’s commitment to the 2019 New Jersey Energy Master Plan, the New Jersey Global Warming Response 80x50Act, the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, and the 2021 Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, among other state and federal initiatives, to encourage electric vehicle (EV) adoption and cut transportation-related emissions, marking critical steps towards New Jersey’s climate goals.

We recently spoke with Megan Fackler, Director of Statewide Planning and Sudhir Joshi, Manager of Statewide Strategies from the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) to learn more about NJDOT’s ongoing activities for advancing these two initiatives. Their involvement in the planning for NEVI Deployment and the Every Day Counts (EDC-7) innovation, “Integrating GHG Assessment and Reduction Targets in Transportation Planning,”  place them at the heart of the NJDOT’s carbon reduction efforts.  This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

NEVI Deployment Challenges and Strategies

Q: What has NJDOT been doing to advance NEVI Deployment since Plan acceptance in 2023?

A: The National Electric Vehicle Program is a program from the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, delegated to the Federal Highway Administration. NJDOT is going to deliver this program in New Jersey.

At NJDOT, our approach has focused significantly on federally mandated stakeholder engagement on a statewide basis. Our traditional outreach, utilizing project-specific and countywide approaches, was adapted to address the breadth of the state-led, statewide initiative. This entailed actively involving various community groups, small business leaders, partner agencies, utility providers and other private industries. We have utilized various channels such as public information centers, social media, and weekly emails.

Our team coordinated with every level of our Department to prepare for our larger meetings with external stakeholders. We have had a lot of discussions internally with our subject matter experts, who have helped develop our approach to contract procurement that incorporates the comprehensive criteria outlined in the NEVI guidelines and ensures contractors are complying with state guidelines as well.

We put on a pre-bid conference on October 17, 2023 that explained the range of requirements that the awarded contractor must fulfill.  We have sought to ensure contractors understood that they would need to comply with federal and state standards. For example, chargers must be accessible within 1 mile of New Jersey’s Alternative Fuel Corridors and provide a convenient, reliable charging experience for all users.

In developing our approach, NJDOT has decided to assign a single contractor to manage an EV charging site’s full range of compliance, with priority given to DC fast chargers. A DC Fast Charge operates on a voltage of 208 to 480 volts three phase alternating current — this is not a circuit you would likely have in your home. In 20 to 30 minutes of time, the DC fast charge should deliver 80 percent of a full charge of the vehicle’s battery.

At each of the 19 EV charger stations development zones along New Jersey’s Alternative Fuel Corridors, a 4-charger station will be provided, with each of the EV chargers capable of providing simultaneous charging at 150 kilowatts. Each charger will be equipped with a Combined Charging System and a North American Charging Standard, also known as the Tesla, port.

Contractors were informed about site selection responsibilities, environmental review documentation, and the necessity for agreements with site hosts and utility providers. The contractor will choose the locations of the 19 proposed sites and will provide one comprehensive environmental review applicable to all sites. The Department also stressed the importance of planning, design, and maintenance to ensure a high-quality user experience, requiring contractors to have the proper reporting mechanisms in place to monitor satisfaction and usage. There were additional discussions on revenue opportunities, and the inclusion of disadvantaged business enterprises.

NJ Alternative Fuel Corridors (AFCs) and Direct Current Fast Charger Development Zones were shared at NJDOT’s Virtual Public Information Center sessions.

In our pre-bid meetings, we have emphasized several other requirements that an award must encompass, such as the ensuring that traditionally underserved communities are included.  The awarded contractor will need to submit: a Justice40 Plan detailing benefits and impacts on overburdened communities; a workforce development plan geared to this new technology including recruiting efforts toward underrepresented groups; and other documentation that commits to monitoring and upgrading chargers over a period of 5 years of required maintenance.

Additionally, contractors must hire pre-qualified personnel such as a NJ-licensed Professional Engineer who will design the station, before an entity installs the actual chargers. Electricians must be pre-certified by the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP) or complete an apprentice program approved by US Department of Labor.

Following the planning and installation of DC fast chargers, contractors are also required to operate and maintain the station. For example, contractors are required to ensure that their charging stations remain operational and accessible for at least 97 percent of the time over the course of each year. These standards emphasize that trained personnel are crucial to the success of the program.

We are planning to issue and advertise an RFP in 2024 and begin issuing the first awards. Projects on the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway will be handled separately from this Alternative Fuels Corridor procurement.

Q: What are some of the challenges in achieving the goals of the NEVI Deployment Plan?

A: We must ensure that we align our internal schedules to federal timelines, while also ensuring compliance with the program’s equity and environmental goals and requirements. Other challenges include coordinating with utility providers in a timely manner and including them in pre-bid discussions with contractors. In all of this, our team is also prioritizing stakeholder feedback and accounting for their feedback in our analysis.

Electric vehicle chargers by type and level.  NJDOT will focus on first deploying DC Fast Chargers. Source: Union County, NJ.

It is important to recognize that FHWA did not define for NJDOT how best to achieve the NEVI plan’s deployment goals. For example, it was unclear when we first started thinking about the project whether it made more sense to hire a single contractor to oversee the project – soup to nuts, or to break the project into contracts for different parts. The Department worked with the FHWA to develop a specific approach that supports EV charger implementation in New Jersey.

Q: What types of in-house technical expertise, knowledge, skills, and/or abilities will NJDOT need to have to aid in successful implementation of EV and larger carbon reduction goals?

A: NJDOT’s in-house capabilities are focused on two main areas of expertise: contracting and environmental compliance. First, the Division of Project Management, in conjunction with our Division of Procurement, specializes in various construction and non-construction contract types. Their policies and procedures guide NJDOT staff to ensure that all contractual aspects are timely managed.

Second, the Environmental Division plays a crucial role in addressing environmental compliance and specific site needs. These internal resources, combined with external consultants, form the backbone of NJDOT’s strategy for advancing its carbon reduction goals, and NEVI in particular.

In addition, NJDOT anticipates and prepares for future aspects of NEVI, such as inspection and maintenance requirements of EV charging stations. It is possible that inspection tasks may be outsourced as a result.

NEVI Stakeholder Engagement

Q: How are you facilitating community engagement and awareness about the NEVI Program? What are the major challenges in engaging with local government and other affected stakeholders.

A: NJDOT has implemented a few initiatives. Our outreach was mainly a success with a few key challenges. We initially encountered some skepticism from stakeholders in terms of the locations for charger sites and EVs in general. We have worked hard to maintain a robust community engagement process statewide that satisfied federally mandated outreach guidelines. This includes our Virtual Public Information Center (VPIC) sessions and online resources, which generated thousands of views and hundreds of comments.

With a focus on equity, we identified broad stakeholders from previous working groups and through our legislative partners. The Department leveraged our partnerships to help raise awareness of our engagement sessions. The goal of the VPIC sessions was to reach representatives of diverse groups, provide NEVI Program information relevant to New Jersey, and allow for individuals to comment back to the Department in ways convenient for them.

Workforce Readiness/Equity and NEVI Deployment

Q: What steps is NJDOT taking to ensure workforce readiness and environmental justice for the NEVI Program?

A: Our role principally involves conveying expectations and setting specifications for contractors. These specifications, among others, includes abiding by EVITP requirements, or an approved apprenticeship program for hiring skilled staff familiar with EV technologies. The contractor will be responsible for training and ensuring that the workforce is equipped with the necessary skills, particularly for deploying DC Fast chargers. These requirements also apply to the subcontracting process as well, where partnering with Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) is highly encouraged.

FHWA’s framework to ensure equitable recruitment from underserved groups.

In recent years, the Department has been making a huge shift toward workforce development, such as with our investment in the Bordentown Training Center. This is an ever-evolving topic of conversation for us at NJDOT on how we can carry out our “commitment to communities” – whether it is speaking at the community colleges or opening the doors of training facilities for local municipalities. While there is nothing concrete at this time, I definitely could see EV charging maintenance integrated into the training center in the future should such support from NJDOT be needed.

We also have strategies to monitor progress towards our environmental justice goals, such as leveraging various tools and mapping technologies and producing the Community Engagement Outcomes Report (FHWA Approval of NJ NEVI Plan, 2023). The contractor’s role will be pivotal in this regard, as they will be tasked with effectuating Justice 40 initiatives and addressing environmental justice considerations in their operations.

EDC-7 Innovation and Greenhouse Gas Assessment

Q: How does NJDOT’s Carbon Reduction Strategy align with the NEVI Deployment Plan, and what steps are being taken to work with MPOs on this initiative?

A: NJDOT is taking specific steps that align with the goals of the NEVI Deployment Plan, including expanding the EV infrastructure at interstates, and then branching into more local areas. NJDOT’s Carbon Reduction Strategy directly supports the goals of reducing emissions established by Governor Murphy and President Biden. The strategy aims to meet the Governor’s mandate of 80 percent reductions by 2050, and President Biden’s goal [of carbon neutrality by 2035], through strategies aligned with the NEVI Deployment Plan.

NJDOT is working alongside its MPOs and NJ Transit partners to set and meet the FHWA’s recently issued rules on greenhouse gas emission targets. This includes coordinating regularly with MPOs to set greenhouse gas targets, share data on emissions metrics, and develop standardized methodologies for assessing reductions. This involves sharing data on VMT (vehicle miles traveled) and fuel usage to establish state benchmarks. The MPOs will have six months from the FHWA’s February 1st deadline to determine whether to adopt the state’s GHG targets or their own. We will be meeting with the MPOs in the coming week regarding these details. To that effort, NJDOT may leverage a single consultant funded through federal grants to help unify this process across the MPO regions. The department is poised to submit their final targets to FHWA, with the intention to make these documents public, ensuring transparency and community involvement.

The Carbon Reduction Strategy was in progress since December 2022, when the Carbon Reduction Working Group began the review process. This included developing strategies over the course of Winter and Spring 2023, in addition to resolving concerns brought forth by our leadership. Following our November 15th submission, FHWA will have 90 days to approve or deny the draft plan. (NJDOT CIA Team Planning & Environment Presentation, 2023)

In addition to deploying EV charging stations in line with our NEVI goals, NJDOT is exploring electrifying its own fleet and operations with technologies like electric garbage trucks. However, as we have seen this winter, concerns around reduced EV range and long charging times during cold winter temperatures could affect adoption goals if improvements in technologies do not continue. Regardless, all plans, targets, and strategies, in collaboration with MPOs, will undergo review and approval by FHWA. This process aligns with DOT’s recent guidelines for greenhouse gas reduction.


EV Infrastructure & Policy

New Jersey Department of Transportation. (2023). “NJ Approval Letter for EV Deployment Plan.” Retrieved from https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/nevi/ev_deployment_plans/nj-approval-letter-fy24.pdf.

New Jersey Department of Transportation. (2023). NJDOT Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment along New Jersey Alternative Fuel Corridors: Pre-bid Meeting Presentation. Retrieved from https://www.nj.gov/transportation/contribute/business/procurement/ConstrServ/documents/NJDOTNEVIPreBidMeetingOct172023PresentationRev.10-20-23.pdf

New Jersey Department of Transportation. (2022). “NEVI Program Overview.” Retrieved from https://dep.nj.gov/wp-content/uploads/drivegreen/pdf/nevi.pdf

U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration (n.d). National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program, Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/bipartisan-infrastructure-law/nevi_formula_program.cfm

U.S. Department of Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center. (n.d). Electric Vehicle Charging Stations.  Retrieved from https://afdc.energy.gov/fuels/electricity_stations.html

Carbon Reduction Efforts

Federal Register (2023). 23 CFR Part 490. National Performance Management Measures; Assessing Performance of the National Highway System, Greenhouse Gas Emissions Measure, Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved from https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2023-12-07/pdf/2023-26019.pdf

New Jersey Department of Transportation. (2023). CIA Team – Planning & Environment: Discussions on National Performance Management Measure (GHG). Presentation by Sudhir Joshi. Retrieved from https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/5-Planning.pdf

U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration (n.d). Carbon Reduction Program, Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/bipartisan-infrastructure-law/crp_fact_sheet.cfm

Environmental Justice and Equity

Conley, Shannon. Konisky, David M. Mullin, Megan. (2023). Delivering on Environmental Justice? U.S. State Implementation of the Justice40 Initiative. Retrieved from doi.org/10.1093/publius/pjad018.

Argonne National Laboratory. (2022). Using Mapping Tools to Prioritize Electric Vehicle Charger Benefits to Underserved Communities. Retrieved from https://publications.anl.gov/anlpubs/2022/05/175535.pdf

U.S. Department of Energy. (2022). Incorporating Equity and Justice40 in NEVI and Beyond. Retrieved from https://www.energy.gov/sites/default/files/2022-10/Incorporating%20Equity%20and%20Justice40%20in%20NEVI%20and%20Beyond.pdf‘.

Workforce Development and Training

National Governors Association. (2023). Workforce Development in The IIJA, CHIPS, And IRA. Retrieved from https://www.nga.org/publications/workforce-development-in-the-iija-chips-and-ira/.

National Center for Sustainable Transportation. (2022). Workforce Implications of Transitioning to Zero-Emission Buses in Public Transit. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/3jb4b73d.

San Jose State University. (2020). Southern California Regional Transit Training Consortium: Skills Gap & Needs Assessment. Retrieved from https://transweb.sjsu.edu/sites/default/files/1932-Reeb-Southern-California-Regional-Transit-Training-Consortium-Needs-Assessment.pdf.

National Center for Sustainable Transportation. (2018). Emerging Clean Transportation Workforce White Paper. https://www.uvm.edu/sites/default/files/media/Emerging-Clean-Transportation-Workforce-White-Paper12202018.pdf.

Argonne National Laboratory. (2022). Using Mapping Tools to Prioritize Electric Vehicle Charger Benefits to Underserved Communities. https://publications.anl.gov/anlpubs/2022/05/175535.pdf

NEVI Deployment in Other States

Colorado Department of Transportation & Colorado Energy Office (2023). Colorado National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Plan. https://www.codot.gov/programs/innovativemobility/assets/2023-update-of-colorado-plan-for-the-national-electric-vehicle-infrastructure-nevi-program.pdf.

Michigan Department of Transportation. (2023). Michigan State Plan for Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment 2023 Update. https://www.michigan.gov/mdot/-/media/Project/Websites/MDOT/Travel/Mobility/Mobility-Initiatives/NEVI/FY23-MI-Plan-for-EV-Infrastructure-Deployment.pdf?rev=968c7cbcf92c4b2abb08573f2af0f9f5&hash=409ED1B68C1FBEE6E52E334690405162.

New Hampshire Department of Transportation. (2023). State of New Hampshire Plan For Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Update No. 1. https://www.dot.nh.gov/sites/g/files/ehbemt811/files/inline-documents/updated-nevi-plan-8-1-2023.pdf.

North Carolina Department of Transportation (2023). North Carolina Plan Update for Electric Vehicle (EV) Infrastructure Deployment Plan. https://www.ncdot.gov/initiatives-policies/environmental/climate-change/Documents/ncdot-electric-vehicle-deployment-plan.pdf.

Washington State Department of Transportation. (2023). Washington State Plan for Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment July 2023 Update. https://wsdot.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2023-09/WSDOT-NEVI-Plan-Update.pdf.

Rising to the Challenge: How State DOTs are Innovating to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), transportation accounts for 29 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) annually in the United States. To address climate change, state departments of transportation (DOTs) will need to innovate to help meet emissions reduction goals. Some agencies across the country are leading the way through the development of prevention and mitigation strategies to establish a more resilient and sustainable transportation system.

This article, the first in a two-part series, will highlight select innovations in transportation technology being deployed to reduce GHG emissions. The second, focusing on the broad topic of resiliency, will detail how state DOTs are redesigning transportation infrastructure to protect the health and safety of travelers and affected communities in the face of climate change impacts.

While by no means exhaustive, this brief scan of state actions and current research highlights noteworthy current practices and innovations to prevent and mitigate climate change impacts as well as shares examples of new and emerging emissions reduction methods being studied and deployed.

Table 1. An Overview of State DOT GHG Reduction Practices
ColoradoActive TransportationSafer Main Street and Revitalizing Main Streets
OregonDemand ManagementMileage-Based User Fees (Limiting Demand)
CaliforniaDemand ManagementCongestion Corridors Program (CCP). Multimodal options along corridor
CaliforniaDemand ManagementRoadway Pricing, such as managed lanes
CaliforniaDemand ManagementMitigation Banks. "Cap and Trade" style bank for VMT
ColoradoDemand ManagementFlexible Work Arrangement Policy Directive — 2 -3 day WFH
MarylandEfficiencyTSMO Integrated Corridor Management. (Higher Throughput)
MassachusettsEnergySolar facilities on MassDOT property
CaliforniaEnergySolar facilities
New MexicoEVsEV infrastructure implementation
CaliforniaEVsFleet conversion
ColoradoEVsExpanding charging infrastructure
ColoradoEVsElectrifying transit fleets through VW funds
ColoradoEVsFleet conversion — VW funds
New JerseyEVsStatewide Charging Infrastructure Mapping
New JerseyEVsTransit electrification
New JerseyEVsNJDOT Fleet Conversion
ColoradoEVsClean Trucking MOU-30% ZEV by 2030
MarylandLand UseEncouraging Transit-Oriented Development
ColoradoLand UsePromote land use changes along state highway
CaliforniaMaterialsWarm Mix Asphalt (WMA) instead of Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA)
CaliforniaMaterialsCold in Place Recycling (CiR)
New JerseyMaterialsCAIT Pavement Recycling
NationwideMaterialsStiffer roadways to cut emissions and increase fuel economy
OregonPlanningEmissions considered in planning process.
ColoradoPlanningAdd GHG emissions to decision making, and treat similarly to the existing criteria air pollutants
ColoradoPlanningActivity-Based Mode (ABM) considers land use, better model GHG emissions
FloridaTransitBus On Shoulder. (Mode shifting)
Rhode IslandTransitAutonomous Electric Shuttle
ColoradoTransitInterregional Express Bus Service — transit emissions dashboard

Innovative Practices for Reducing GHGs

GHG reduction strategies are being instituted throughout the transportation sector, demonstrating how highway, transit and other agencies can contribute to reducing the overall carbon footprint. This article will highlight examples of technological and operational innovations being instituted by state DOTs.  These efforts can be broadly assigned to four categories: Materials, Energy, Electric Vehicles (EVs), and Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) Reduction.


The prospect of reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions from transportation seems daunting, but examples in research and practice offer several noteworthy strategies in use in this endeavor.  Pavement mixtures and materials, for example, provide a promising area for research and implementation in both California and New Jersey for making their processes greener.

In California, a report found that strategic application of pavement treatments across the state’s highway network could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between .57 and .82 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MMT). A switch to Warm Mix Asphalt (WMA) from Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) could reduce fuel and asphalt binder use emissions by 44 percent. Additionally, using cold in-place recycling (CiR) for repaving could reduce emissions by 52 percent.

Warm Mix Asphalt is promoted by FHWA as a greener paving alternative. Source: FHWA

Warm Mix Asphalt is promoted by FHWA as a greener paving alternative. Source: FHWA

In New Jersey, the Pavement Support Program (PSP), a partnership between NJDOT and Rutgers-CAIT, is currently researching pavement material recycling. Led by Dr. Thomas Bennert, researchers are testing and developing various methods for making paving materials more efficient, including studying the efficacy of recycling both pavement and pavement materials, such as disused asphalt shingles.

While such changes could seem minor, in aggregate, new materials and engineering methods could make a considerable difference. The 2020 article Potential Contribution of Deflection-Induced Fuel Consumption to U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions, published in the Transportation Research Record, explains how altering the composition of pavement could increase the operational efficiency of vehicles, lowering their overall emissions. According to the authors, increasing the elastic modulus of the entire U.S. pavement network could offset 0.5 percent of GHG emissions in the entire transportation sector.

Pavement is just one example of how the material aspects of roadway construction and operation can be leveraged to become more efficient and sustainable. There remain many opportunities in the materials sector for research and innovation, to build greener transportation corridors.


Highway departments—with a host of lighting, signage, and operational energy needs from administrative centers to vehicle fleets—have the potential to alter how their systems are powered. Already, Massachusetts and California provide examples of how highway departments can invest in greener energy usage.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), through its Highway Renewable Energy Program, has installed photovoltaic (PV) systems, more commonly known as solar panels, at five sites along its highway network.

Through a public private partnership, MassDOT leases land to a private company, which constructs and operates the renewable energy facility, in this case PV systems. The private company is able to take advantage of federal and state incentives, allowing MassDOT to purchase energy at lower rates (AASHTO 2021). The agency estimates that the amount of electricity generated by these highway right-of-way solar farms is enough to power 875 homes annually, translating into 2.3 tons of carbon dioxide saved each year (MassDOT 2021). The agency plans to expand the solar concept to parking facilities soon. Massachusetts is by no means the only state to explore this strategy; DOTs in Oregon, Ohio, and Colorado have led the way on using Right of Way (ROW) to install renewable energy sources.

An itemized list of Caltrans roadway fixtures, and corresponding GHG reductions. Source: Caltrans Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Mitigation Report.

An itemized list of Caltrans roadway fixtures, and corresponding GHG reductions. Source: Caltrans Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Mitigation Report

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), through investments in clean energy generation over the past two decades, generates more electricity than the agency needs. This surplus can be attributed, in part, to longstanding participation in the federal Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREB) program, which has helped to finance the construction of over 70 solar facilities that collectively generate 2.38 megawatts (MW) of electricity, capable of powering over 500 homes annually. Caltrans has also been able to reduce its energy usage by converting lighting infrastructure to more efficient bulbs, changing the majority to LED. By replacing these fixtures, the agency has reduced the amount it would otherwise have emitted by 32,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Electric Vehicles (EV)

Fleet conversion is seen by state and federal lawmakers as a priority for achieving carbon emissions reductions. Many state transportation agencies are already planning for, and supporting, electric vehicle usage across their networks. From statewide fleet conversions, to fast charging networks, to using the tools of policy to incentivize the transition for consumers, state DOTS are adapting to take advantage of this new technology.

One aspect of NJ’s EV conversion plan is to develop a robust network of fast chargers, which is already underway. Source: NJDEP.

One aspect of NJ’s EV conversion plan is to develop a robust network of fast chargers, which is already underway. Source: NJDEP

In New Jersey, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and NJDOT are playing a pivotal role in the Statewide Energy Plan, which aims to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050. The rollout of EVs and related support infrastructure are integral to achieving this net zero emissions goal. This effort includes mapping out a statewide charging network and investing in the transition of the NJDOT fleet to all-electric vehicles, as other states are doing.

Some of New Jersey’s EV efforts, such as new charging infrastructure, are funded by Volkswagen settlement funds, which were disbursed to each of the fifty states. Colorado, for example, is using some of its share of the funds to convert the Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) fleet to more sustainable vehicles. To learn more about NJDOT and its partner agencies EV conversion work, see NJDOT Tech Transfer’s account of the state’s Energy Master Plan and use of Volkswagen funds, such as for the purchase of electric school buses.

Similar work is going on elsewhere. Colorado’s CDOT issued a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to convert 30 percent of all freight trucks in the state to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2030. In California, a ruling by the state Air Resources Board (CARB) mandates that half of all freight vehicles sold in 2035 are to be zero-emission. In New Jersey, where emissions rules are enforced by the NJDEP, the agency proposed a rule directly modeled on the California model in 2021. This type of regulation uses a credit/deficit system to incentivize truck makers to sell ZEVs.  Thus, under this phased system program,  “the deficits incurred each year that must be offset by credits will begin in 2025, and increase every year through 2035, thereby increasing the total number of ZEV sales in the State.” (NJDEP 2021).

Through multiple mechanisms, state DOTs and partner agencies are working to convert both their own fleets, and those of users of the transportation systems they maintain. Here, too, there is room for innovation, for funding mechanisms, new policies, and technologies to support a wholesale EV transition.


Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) refers to the total number of miles traveled along a roadway network. As VMT is reduced, so too are emissions, including both GHGs and harmful pollutants (such as nitrous oxide) that cause a myriad of health issues.  Several VMT reduction strategies are being implemented by transportation and other agencies, including demand management pricing, land use planning, transit investments, and Work from Home (WFH) programs.

Annual Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) have been steadily rising over the last five decades. Source: St. Louis Fed

Annual Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) have been rising over the last five decades. Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Using pricing strategies  to manage roadway demand is increasingly being recognized as a means to alleviate traffic congestion.  Using dynamic pricing, a managed “express” lane’s toll is priced based on demand, becoming more expensive as more motorists choose to use it.  Depending on overall toll pricing levels, the strategy can induce price-sensitive users to change their time of travel, increase their vehicle-occupancy level, and/or change modal preference (e.g., switch to transit), potentially reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled.

Another pricing policy currently being explored is the Mileage Based User Fee (MBUF), in which drivers pay a per mile fee for roadway use, rather than funding roadway maintenance through the gas tax. This strategy is of particular interest since, as EV use increases, gas tax revenues will continue to fall, creating a deficit in the traditional funding structure for transportation. A flat MBUF, which would restore funding, can also serve to reduce total VMT by more directly conveying to drivers the cost of making a trip. The OReGO program, administered by the Oregon Department of Transportation is the only implemented example of this type of funding to date, though it is being studied in the Northeast. NJDOT Tech Transfer has written previously about ongoing research by the Eastern Transportation Coalition exploring the feasibility of implementing an MBUF program.

The promotion of land uses changes, such as transit-oriented development, is another proven way of reducing VMT.  David Wilson | Wikimedia Commons

The promotion of land uses changes, such as transit-oriented development, is another proven way of reducing VMT.  David Wilson | Wikimedia Commons

Several DOT climate plans promote more sustainable land uses along their networks as a means to achieve their goals. The Maryland Department of Transportation, for example, supports Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) in their Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act plan and predicts that the buildout of TOD in 20 zones across the state could remove 0.033 MMT of carbon dioxide by 2030. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), which mentions in its Transportation GHG Roadmap Briefing Update a multi-pronged strategy for reducing VMT, has hired a land use expert “to focus on partnering with local communities to more fully contemplate land use implications when designing infrastructure projects across the state.”

Related to land use planning is investment in multimodal transportation options. These strategies expand public transit, improve pedestrian safety, and support active transportation corridors, all efforts aimed to reduce VMT. For example, Caltrans released a detailed report on its Interstate 5 project in San Diego in which the agency states its plans to encourage a shift from single occupancy vehicle (SOV) trips to other modes by investing in expanded service on a parallel commuter rail route, and the construction of 23 miles of bicycle and pedestrian facilities along the same corridor. In New Jersey, NJDOT promotes smarter land use and expanded active transportation through the Transit Village Initiative, and the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside program, which fund a variety of improvements and expansions of transit and active transportation infrastructure which may serve the purpose of lowering VMT by fostering more active, transit-connected communities.  CDOT, through its Safer Main Street and Revitalizing Main Streets programs, makes similar investments to increase safety for all users and encourage alternate transportation modes.

Another method of reducing VMT is to invest in transit. CDOT has developed its “Bustang” service, offering intercity connections across the state on eight lines. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is piloting an approach in the St. Petersburg area, where buses on I-275 are permitted to drive on the shoulder under certain conditions. If the flow of traffic falls below 35 mph along the route, the bus may bypass the congestion by using the shoulder. FDOT also installed special red signals on on-ramps along this stretch of road to prevent collisions from merging vehicles. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) piloted “Little Roady,” an autonomous electric shuttle service that circulated through Providence along a congested roadway. RIDOT’s 2020 Transit Forward RI Master Plan 2040 recommends further study of such services, as well as investing in transit connections to further curb vehicle usage.

Finally, as was demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, a viable solution to bring down emissions is to reduce total VMT (see chart above). Moving forward, CDOT is looking to promote working from home — on a two or three day a week basis — as a climate strategy and department-wide practice. In 2021, the agency awarded $213,000 in telework grants through its CanDo Telework Grant program to local governments and non-profits to support remote work.

There is still much research and experimentation in the pilot testing, evaluation and deployment of innovation practices in materials, energy, fleet transition, and VMT reduction to meet overall GHG targets.  Transportation agencies and the transportation workforce are being called upon to confront an extraordinary and perhaps existential challenge that will require an ongoing commitment to advancing innovations in policies, processes, and procedures.

Ongoing Research

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), a research program led by the Transportation Research Board (TRB), funded by AASHTO member states and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), works to develop implementable research addressing critical issues in the transportation sector. This collaborative initiative recently published Incorporating the Costs and Benefits of Adaptation Measures in Preparation for Extreme Weather Events and Climate Change as a guide for incorporating the Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) process for adaptation planning and asset management. While resilience research and resources will be more thoroughly covered in the second part of this series, the TRB’s Resilience Research page provides an excellent overview for resilience planning.

Several upcoming NCHRP research projects will further inform planning for the GHG reduction process for transportation agencies. Research for the forthcoming Methods for State DOTs to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Transportation Sector was completed in March 2021, and investigative work for Assessment of Regulatory Air Pollution Dispersion Models to Quantify the Impacts of Transportation Sector Emissions was completed in June 2021.  Another study, Considering Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change in Environmental Reviews: Resources for State DOTs, was awarded in July 2021, with research expected to conclude by October 2023. Succinct summaries of current and upcoming research, sorted by topic can be viewed on TRB’s Research Snap Searches page.


Over the past century, the predominant impetus for transportation has been that of expansion and maintenance of the nation’s Federal, state and local roadway networks. However, as suggested by the initiatives underway by the many state DOTs highlighted in this literature scan, the role of the state DOT is changing. As has been shown, the state transportation agency, with its vast resources and footprint, has many avenues by which it can promote necessary innovations to help reduce GHG emissions, and so limit the impending threat of climate change.

The necessity of reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Vehicle Miles Traveled, and building resilient infrastructure that can withstand increasingly severe weather requires innovations in both process and technology in the transportation sector.

There is, of course, work to be done beyond GHG reduction. The second installment on this theme will cover how state DOTs are currently rising to the challenge of resilience, innovating through planning, engineering, and research, to strategically strengthen our transportation infrastructure to weather a more intense, and unpredictable, climate.


AASHTO Center for Environmental Excellence. (2021).  MassDOT Public-Private Partnership Generates Solar Energy on Highway Rights of Way. American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. https://environment.transportation.org/case_study/massdot-public-private-partnership-generates-solar-energy-on-highway-rights-of-way/

Azari Jafari, H., Gregory, J., and Kirchain, R. (2020). Potential Contribution of Deflection-Induced Fuel Consumption to U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Transportation Research Record. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0361198120926169

California State Transportation Agency. (2021). Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure. California State Transportation Agency. https://calsta.ca.gov/-/media/calsta-media/documents/capti-2021-calsta.pdf

Caltrans. (2021). Caltrans Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Mitigation Report. Caltrans. https://dot.ca.gov/-/media/dot-media/programs/transportation-planning/documents/office-of-smart-mobility-and-climate-change/ghg-emissions-and-mitigation-report-final-august-2-2020-revision9-9-2020-a11y.pdf

Caltrans. (2016). I-5 North Coast Corridor Public Works Plan/Transportation and Resource Enhancement Program. Caltrans. https://dot.ca.gov/caltrans-near-me/district-11/programs/district-11-environmental/i-5pwp-toc/s5-1

Colorado Department of Transportation Multimodal Planning Branch. (2021, July). Transportation GHG Roadmap Briefing Update. Colorado Department of Transportation. https://www.codot.gov/programs/environmental/greenhouse-gas/ghg-briefing-memo-july-2021.pdf

Environmental Protection Agency. (2019). Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Global Warming of 1.5° C. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/

Maryland Department of Transportation. (2020). Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act. https://www.mdot.maryland.gov/OPCP/MDOT_GGRA_Plan.pdf

Massachusetts Department of Transportation. (2021). MassDOT Renewable Energy Projects. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massdot-renewable-energy-projects

National Cooperative Highway Research Program. (2021). Incorporating the Costs and Benefits of Adaptation Measures in Preparation for Extreme Weather Events and Climate Change—Guidebook. Transportation Research Board. https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25744/incorporating-the-costs-and-benefits-of-adaptation-measures-in-preparation-for-extreme-weather-events-and-climate-change-guidebook

National Cooperative Highway Research Program. (2021). Methods for State DOTs to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Transportation Sector. Transportation Research Board. https://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=4384

Oregon Department of Transportation. (2021). Climate Actions Under Consideration. https://www.oregon.gov/odot/Programs/Documents/Climate%20Office/Climate_Actions_Under_Consideration-ODOT_5-Year_Climate_Action_Plan.pdf

Oregon Department of Transportation. (2021). ODOT Climate Action Plan. https://www.oregon.gov/odot/Programs/Documents/Climate%20Office/Climate_Action_Plan_Overview.pdf

Oregon Department of Transportation. OReGO. https://www.myorego.org/

Rhode Island Division of Statewide Planning. (2020). Transit Forward RI 2040. https://transitforwardri.com/pdf/TFRI%20Recs%20Briefing%20Book-Final%20201230.pdf

Sachs, S. (2021). Pinellas Buses to Drive on I-275 Shoulder in New FDOT Pilot Program Set to Start in June. News Channel 8. https://www.wfla.com/news/pinellas-county/pinellas-buses-shouldering-onto-interstate-in-new-fdot-pilot-program-set-to-start-in-june/

State of New Mexico. (2019). New Mexico Climate Strategy. https://www.climateaction.state.nm.us/documents/reports/NMClimateChange_2019.pdf

State of Rhode Island. (2020). Clean Transportation and Mobility Innovation Report. http://climatechange.ri.gov/documents/mwg-clean-trans-innovation-report.pdf

Transportation Research Board. (2021). TRB Snap Searches. http://www.trb.org/InformationServices/Snap.aspx

Transit Cooperative Research Program. (2021). An Update on Public Transportation’s Impacts on Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Transportation Research Board. https://www.nap.edu/download/26103