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The DOT Doctor:
TEA 21

Before moving onto the paper – allowed me to offer some personal background and how I came to choose this article. TEA-21 has been a hot topic within the family since the original bill was on the floor of Congress. In my paper we discuss the revised TEA-21 bill.

I grew up in a family of transportation executives. My father was VP of O'Boyle Tank Lines. Transport Topics was a household word as well tankers, hazmat regulations, the introduction of anti-lock brakes (which my father spoke on in front of the ATA and DC Motor Truck Conventions), DOT, trucking regulations and all other facets of the industry. This led me to a career in the same industry. I have worked in the offices, warehouses, drove the trucks, owned the trucks and managed a terminal. Through all of this; I was personally involved with this regulation and all that TEA-21 governs.

When particulate matter collection was first discusses in the late eighties / early nineties, my past husband objected strenuously. He found the bill to be erroneous. Richard told me that the emissions that they are trying to suppress are not even produced through the burning of diesel fuel. It was a rouge effort to increase costs to owner/operators and trucking companies while virtually obtaining nothing. This greatly upset him and we became involved in the battle.

Over time, the "matter catcher" evolved. Originally installed as an aftermarket attachment to the exhaust pipes of a tractor, it caused much controversy. This particulate trap had to cleaned on a regular basis in order for the tractor to operate. Image stuffing a potato into a tail pipe and expecting your car to run; well that is exactly what was occurring as the trap filled with these fine dust particles. General cleaning time span was 30 days but on a high mileage vehicle or "dirty" truck, weekly cleaning were not uncommon.

This posed a real issue. This was not a quick cleaning job that a trucker could perform. Have you seen the height of those stacks? Generally 13' 6" or close to it. It was time intensive and costly because it had to be done at a shop. Besides, you could not just dump the filter or you were releasing the particles back into the atmosphere that you were using the filter to contain. Truckers were in a catch 22 situation. Luckily the only state that was requiring the operation of these devices was California and only to state registered vehicles. I remember seeing these cumbersome devices on those poor trucks.

Well time has past and collection products have evolved. We were concerned with the cost of the retrofit but laws and time took care of it all. The new trucks of today are built more efficient with such particulate collection / suppression devices as part of the design. The new high power diesel engines are a modern marvel compared to the small gas chuggers of low power during my father's days behind the wheel.

The trucking industry has evolved and my family has been there to personal experience many of the transitions. In fact my father was an innovator in the tanking industry. He invented and developed many of the unloading methods of dry bulk products that are in use today.

TEA-21 was a bill we fought when it was in its original infancy. Now that it has evolved, it is a bill I have been fighting to support. There is good in these regulations that this bill encompasses. When the Environmental Defense Network once again notified me it was back on the chopping board; I had to take action. This notification came about a day before this assignment re: a recent environmental issue was assigned. With this much background on the subject and it being a personal issue to this family; I only found it natural to choose it as my article of discussion.




Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) is a bill that is currently in front of Congress. Its predecessor was a six year bill that expired on September 30, 2003. TEA-21 ( has many environmental implications and offers many protections. One important protection offered by this transportation bill is the continued improvement of air quality in conjunction with the Clean Air Act. Since the US could not meet its quota according to the Kyoto Protocol standards without the purchase of huge amounts of "emissions credits" from other countries, President Bush withdrew the US's participation ( This bill would have greatly aided in the compliance of the United States with this protocol and in the world effort to improve air quality through the reduction of CO2 as well as the reduction of the usage of other ozone depleting products and actions.

TEA-21 is a vital transportation law that targets improved quality of life through renewal of the nation's main surface transportation law. This is the key law that shapes our transportation economical investments. Its passage will have a profound effect on the environment, public health, local communities, global compliances and the over all handling of transportation in the US. This bill is an optimum opportunity to improve transportation choices, air quality and public health. Should this bill be defeated or reduced in potency; there will be direct effects on air quality and public health as well as the reduction in highway and transit improvements.

The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century is up for reauthorization. Congress must decide how to amend the current bill and approportion the spending of $300 billion over the next six years or $150 billion a year to be spent by local, state and federal transportation agencies for highway building and improvements, highway safety and transit programs. These steps "provides an important opportunity to implement new incentives and improve priorities in public spending to ensure that transportation planning enhances our health, safety and overall quality of life" so states the Environmental Defense Network (

TEA-21 is a continuation of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program. A total of $8.1 billion is set aside for the six year period to provide a flexible funding source for state and local governments in concurrence with transportation projects and other programs designed to help meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act. Funds are available for areas that do not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards as well as previously unattainable areas that are currently in compliance. To qualify for funding; an area must be conducting an eligible activity and fall within the guidelines of the formula for funding ability.

TEA-21 provides innovative financing alternatives to obtain matching funds for transportation enhancement activities. The list of eligible activities has expanded. Some newly eligible activities include: safety education activities for pedestrians and bicyclists, establishment of transportation museums, and projects to reduce vehicle-caused wildlife mortality. The provision for tourist and welcome center facilities is specifically included under the already eligible activity guidelines of “scenic or historic highway programs.”

The expansion of provisions for improvement of facilities and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians continues. The new rules have broadened this reach to include pedestrian walkways and safety / educational activities as well as the consideration of bicyclists and pedestrians in the planning process and facility design of all new constructions. Through the furtherance of these activities; we foster emission reduction activities and offer new avenues for transportation.

The revised bill allows for more funds to be distributed to the Recreational Trails Program. This program provides and maintains recreational trails. States are required to establish a State recreational trails advisory committee to receive funding. Currently $270 million is allocated to this project. This program that provides for accessibility to natural areas via non-motorized vehicles helps to add to the aesthetic beauty of an area while improving the local air quality.

Roadways designated as National Scenic Byways, All-American Roads, or as State Scenic Byways have $148 million allocated for technical assistance and grants under TEA-21. States are encouraged to develop a scenic byways program and undertake related projects of beautification.

From A Summary of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century ( we are told that "the Transportation and Community and System Preservation Pilot program is a comprehensive initiative of research and grants to investigate the relationships between transportation and community and system preservation and private sector-based initiatives." This portion of the bill allows States, local governments, and metropolitan planning organizations access to grants for the implementation of strategies that improve the efficiency of the transportation system; reduce environmental impacts of transportation; reduce the need for costly future public infrastructure investments; ensure efficient access to jobs, services, and centers of trade; and examine private sector development patterns and investments that support these goals. Previously $120 million was set aside for this project.

TEA-21 is not implemented to replace local planning. "The core metropolitan and statewide transportation planning requirements remain intact under TEA-21, emphasizing the role of State and local officials, in cooperation with transit operators, in tailoring the planning process to meet metropolitan and State transportation needs" according to the TEA-21 Summary. This bill is to offer aid thereby reducing the financial burden on local communities for transportation related restructuring and planning. In short, TEA-21 is designed to raise the awareness of the growing importance of operating and managing the transportation system as a focal point for transportation planning. Through the funding offered under this bill; new highway programs much like the twenty lane I-10 expansion project in Houston (; replicating the highway structures found near Los Angeles, can be completed thereby relieving rush hour congestion and reducing pollution for vehicle emissions.

New amendments to the bill in front of Congress are the inclusion of efforts to further ensure the involvement of local officials primarily of non-metropolitan areas. The current desire is to strengthen the financial aspects of the planning process, improve coordination, cooperation and public involvement. Through expanded awareness of the policies of TEA-21; the greatest benefits can be reaped. The TEA-21 Summary informs us that desire exists that "States will be encouraged to coordinate the design and delivery of federally funded non-emergency transportation services. The requirement for a stand-alone major investment study is replaced with a directive that such analyses under the planning provisions of TEA-21 and the National Environmental Policy Act are to be integrated."

A streamlining process is to be established which will encompass a coordinated environmental review process for the DOT to work with other Federal agencies in ensuring that major highway and transit projects are advanced according to cooperatively determined time frames. This new process of coordination will use concurrent, rather than sequential, reviews to expedite the funding approval processes. A 30 day window is being established for resolution. In addition; States will be allowed to include their environmental reviews in the coordinated environmental review process. Remember – environmental improvements and environmental regulation compliance is the goal of this bill.

Ozone and particulate matter standards have been a hot topic of trucking companies and trucking manufacturers for over ten years. California was one of the first states to implement such standards. As the TEA-21 Summary reminds us, "New and revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone and particulate matter (PM) were promulgated in July 1997." This regulation refers to fine particles less than 2.5 microns in size. It is felt that control of these particulates will increase air quality through the reduction of carbon, soot and heavy waste by-products from diesel fuel emissions.

TEA-21 required the Administration of the EPA to provide 100% financial support to the States for the establishment and operating of the PM2.5 monitoring network. December 31, 2005 is the deadline for attaining these new PM2.5 NAAQS quotas. Additionally, per TEA-21 Summary, "TEA-21 requires EPA to harmonize the schedules for State submissions of regional haze and PM2.5 air qua Transit."

TEA-21 is establishing budgets for multiple programs. These programs will foster mass transit initiatives, improve air quality and reduce emissions. Through the joint initiation of these projects; much can be accomplished both environmentally and economically.

The Joint Partnership programs allow public and private research organizations, transit providers or businesses to develop and promote innovations in mass transit systems and services or technology that has broad applicability. Such activities can reduce rush hour traffic, improve air quality and establish new means of mass transportation. Portland, OR's Metropolitan Area Express program, TriMet, ( is an example of these types of funds at work.

The International Mass Transportation program is a new program established to support activities as advocacy of American transit products and services overseas as well as cooperation with foreign public sector entities on research. This program finds new material to build roadways and bridges while reducing mercury levels and others toxics from our environment. (

New Advanced Technologies programs are established for study, design and demonstration of fixed quideway technologies, mass transit technology, fuel cell-powered transit buses, advanced propulsion control for rail transit, and low-speed magnetic levitation technology for urban public transportation. Such programs funded under this aspic could include the technology of the German-built "maglev" train, which uses electromagnetic levitation to hover a few millimeters above the track which is currently in use in Shanghai, China. (

TEA-21 recognizes the importance of education, training and development. For training and development of training programs to improve transit planning and operations; the National Transit Institute is funded $23 million across a six year budget.

Rural Transit Assistance Program receives $30.75 million over the life of the bill to promote delivery of safe and effective transportation services in rural areas. This can include non-emergency service vehicles as well as commuter buses and/or trains connecting to major metropolitan areas. The commuter system is an alternative to car-pools and allows for rush hour commuters to access near by cities without the use of individual vehicles thereby reducing congestion, pollution and improving air quality.

The TEA-21 Summary projects the Bureau of Transportation Statistics or BTS to be responsible for the establishment and maintenance of "a Transportation Data Base, a National Transportation Library, and a National Transportation Atlas Data Base, and will ensure the information it collects, analyzes, and disseminates [to be] relevant beyond the Federal Government. Added to the topics BTS will cover is the domestic impact of increasing global trade. A total of $18.6 million in funding is provided over the six years of the Act." This assimilation of information will allow for easy communication of ideas between states, municipalities and other transportation agencies.

The final act of this budget currently authorizes $158.8 million in transportation research funds, plus an additional $3.6 million in transit funds for grants to establish and operate ten regional University Transportation Centers and up to 23 other centers under the University Transportation Centers heading. This is to expand to 26 centers under the new bill. Education is one of the primary objectives of the transportation research center. The bill institutionalized the use of strategic planning in university grant management, and reinforces the program’s focus on multi-modal transportation. In effect; this bill will create four classes of grants to achieve these goals.

Metropolitan area integration of infrastructure is covered under the $1.282 billion in contract authority approportioned under the Intelligent Transportation Systems section of the bill. Projects included under this heading include but are not limited to: improvement of traffic flow that contributes to the improvement of air quality and those deemed as capital projects. Life-cycle cost analysis for projects funded from this program are required. All funded projects must meet with Highway Trust Fund standards.

At current; TEA-21 as passed by the Senate would not provide all these services or protect the environment adequately. As with all things environmental during the Bush administration; unfortunate cuts to the integrity of this bill have been taken. If passed the new TEA-21 bill would:

-          weaken protections for public health and accountability for highway air pollution;
- make it easier for road builders to harm parks, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, recreation areas, and historic resources;
- allow federal and state highway agencies to override local land use plans, regional transportation plans, and state air and water quality plans;
- reduce opportunities for the public and llocal officials to shape transportation spending plans and projects; and
- reduce consideration of alternatives thatt might meet mobility needs with less harm to health and the environment.

But not all is bad with the Senate bill. The positive side of the Senate version includes funding for the clean up of highway related water pollution, ensurance that transportation plans consider wildlife conservation, open up the option for tolls on roads to help finance better transit services and provide accessibility to employment for those without a private means of transportation instead of encouraging more sprawl, traffic, and economic inequality. Personally I have to disagree that the addition of toll roads is a benefit. In a discussion with the Green Party; we debated the pros and cons of toll roads in Delaware and the I-95 corridor. In conclusion we agreed that toll roads only promote pollution due to many motorists choosing the non-toll way which adds to local congestion on roads not designed to handle this increase in traffic. Furthermore, this increase in congestion adds to raised emission levels and poorer air quality for the local residents.

The House's proposal of the bill would implement less damage overall to core environmental laws. Similarly it would allow new or wider roads and highways with fewer safeguards against sprawl, traffic, noise and pollution.

Currently the Environmental Defense Network is making a call to action. This is an opportunity for all environmentally interested citizens to influence their Congressperson for a move viable and environmentally friendly TEA-21 bill. Right now is the opportunity to make this bill less harmer to environmental stewardship, promote public health and public involvement, and win funding for several good new initiatives. Deadline for your voice to be hear and count is August 13, 2004.

Citizen voices can make a difference. Writing your Congressperson and working with advocacy groups do make things happen. Recently a group of us truckers joined with trucking companies and other agencies to defeat the new DOT hours of service regulations. ( As of July 16, 2004; ( this occurred. These new rules were found to be harmful to the health of drivers. The new rules required additional down time which equals additional idol time therefore contributing to pollution. DOT saw the light and our combined voices did make a difference. It can again with this bill as long as people are willing to become active and take a stand.

Passing a viable TEA-21 bill would benefit everyone from local municipalities to global citizens. This law, if properly enacted, could aid in the reduction of Greenhouse gases that threaten tree species as far away as remote parts of the Amazon. Reports ( say that poor air such as pollution, traffic fumes, smog, cigarette smoke, soot, acid rain, acid smog and increased CO2 which leads to ozone depletion may kill over 50,000 every year. Support transportation solutions, not more pollution. The assembly of a viable TEA-21 bill would protect the environment through the implication of advanced transportation systems to the benefit of us all.

Source: What's At Stake! Support transportation solutions, not more pollution (July 15, 2004) Retrieved on July 19, 2004 from:


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