Increased Costs to US Pavement Infrastructure from Future Temperature Rise

Nature Climate Change, 7, pp. 704-707, doi: 10.1038/nclimate3390

Roadway design aims to maximize functionality, safety, and longevity. The materials used for construction, however, are often selected on the assumption of a stationary climate. Anthropogenic climate change may therefore result in rapid infrastructure failure and, consequently, increased maintenance costs, particularly for paved roads where temperature is a key determinant for material selection. Here, we examine the economic costs of projected temperature changes on asphalt roads across the contiguous United States using an ensemble of 19 global climate models forced with RCP 4.5 and 8.5 scenarios. Over the past 20 years, stationary assumptions have resulted in incorrect material selection for 35% of 799 observed locations. With warming temperatures, maintaining the standard practice for material selection is estimated to add approximately US$13.6, US$19.0 and US$21.8 billion to pavement costs by 2010, 2040 and 2070 under RCP4.5, respectively, increasing to US$14.5, US$26.3 and US$35.8 for RCP8.5. These costs will disproportionately affect local municipalities that have fewer resources to mitigate impacts. Failing to update engineering standards of practice in light of climate change therefore significantly threatens pavement infrastructure in the United States.

Spatial Differences and Costs of Emissions at U.S. Airport Hubs

Environmental Science and Technology, 2016, 50(8), pp. 4149-4158, doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b04491

As local governments plan to expand airport infrastructure and build air service, monetized estimates of damages from air pollution are important for balancing environmental impacts. While it is well-known that aircraft emissions near airports directly affect nearby populations, it is less clear how the airport-specific aircraft operations and impacts result in monetized damages to human health and the environment. We model aircraft and ground support equipment emissions at major U.S. airports and estimate the monetized human health and environmental damages of near airport (within 60 miles) emissions. County-specific unit damage costs for PM, SOx, NOx, and VOCs and damage valuations for CO and CO2 are used along with aircraft emissions estimations at airports to determine impacts. We find that near-airport emissions at major U.S. airports caused a total of $1.9 billion in damages in 2013, with airports contributing between $720 thousand and $190 million each. These damages vary by airport from $1 to $9 per seat per one-way flight and costs per passenger are often greater than airport charges levied on airlines for infrastructure use. As the U.S. aviation system grows, it is possible to minimize human and environmental costs by shifting aircraft technologies and expanding service into airports where fewer impacts are likely to occur.

Getting the Most Out of Electric Vehicle Subsidies

Issues in Science and Technology 28(4), Summer 2012

The electrification of passenger vehicles has the potential to address three of the most critical challenges of our time: Plug-in vehicles may produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions when powered by electricity instead of gasoline, depending on the electricity source; reduce and displace tailpipe emissions, which affect people and the environment; and reduce gasoline consumption, helping to diminish dependence on imported oil and diversify transportation energy sources. When all costs are added up, we find thousands of dollars of damages per vehicle (gasoline or electric) that are paid by the overall population rather than only by those releasing the emissions and consuming the oil. These costs are substantial. But, importantly, the potential of plug-in vehicles to reduce these costs is modest: much lower than the $7,500 tax credit and small compared to ownership costs. This is because the damages caused over the life cycle of a vehicle are caused not only by gasoline consumption, which is reduced with plug-in vehicles, but also by emissions from battery and electricity production, which are increased with plug-in vehicles.

Costs of Automobile Air Emissions in U.S. Metropolitan Areas

Transportation Research Record (TRR), 2011, 2233, pp.120-127, doi: 10.3141/2233-14

Automobile air emissions are a well recognized problem and have been subject to considerable regulation. An increasing concern for greenhouse gas emissions draws additional considerations to the externalities of personal vehicle travel. In this paper, we estimate automobile air emission costs for eighty-six U.S. metropolitan areas based on county-specific external air emission morbidity, mortality, and environmental costs. Total air emission costs in the urban areas are estimated to be $145 million/day, with Los Angeles and New York (each $23 million/day) having the highest totals. These external costs average $0.64/day/person and $0.03/vehicle mile traveled. Total air emission cost solely due to traffic congestion for the same eight-six U.S. metropolitan areas was also estimated to be $24 million/day. We compare our estimates with others found in the literature and find them to be generally consistent. These external automobile air emission costs are important for social benefit and cost assessment of transportation measures to reduce vehicle use. However, this study does not include any abatement costs associated with automobile emission controls or government investments to reduce emissions such as traffic signal setting.

Are Plug-in Vehicles Worth the Cost?

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 2011, 108(40), doi: 10.1073/pnas.1104473108

California is planning to spend $40 billion to build a high speed rail system from San Diego to Sacramento. Advocates argue that high speed rail will save money and improve the environment, while critics claim it will waste money and harm the environment. What accounts for these diametrically opposed views about a technology that has been operating in other countries for decades? And what can transportation analysts offer to inform the debate? Disagreements about the cost and environmental impacts of high speed rail can arise when analysts examine only the most direct effects of the rail system, and compare those to only the direct effects of road and air travel—-the two transportation modes from which high speed rail will likely draw passengers. But transportation energy use and emissions result not only from the direct effects of operating the vehicles but also from indirect effects, such as building the infrastructure, producing the fuels, manufacturing the vehicles, maintaining the system, and disposing of materials at the end of their lives. The full range of emissions from automobile travel, for example, includes not only tailpipe emissions but also the emissions created by building roads and parking garages, manufacturing cars, extracting and refining petroleum, and, finally, wrecking yards and tire dumps. One approach to environmental and cost-benefit analysis that takes both these direct and indirect effects into account is life-cycle assessment. In this article we use life-cycle assessment to compare the energy use and pollution emissions of high speed rail and its competing modes.

External Costs of Air Emissions from Transportation

ASCE Journal of Infrastructure Systems, 2001, 7(1), pp. 13-17, doi: 10.1061/(ASCE)1076-0342(2001)7:1(13)

The production of equipment and materials used for transportation facilities and services can have significant environmental effects. Considerable effort is expended to reduce such effects as efficiently and effectively as possible. In this paper, we estimate external environmental costs resulting from the production of common transportation equipment, materials, and services. These external cost estimates only include the effects from air emissions of conventional pollutants, including carbon monoxide, greenhouse gases (or global warming potential), volatile organics, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxides. The estimates include all the direct and indirect supply chain emissions, such as electricity generation and mining. The cost estimates are uncertain and are likely to be underestimates of total external costs. However, the estimates should be useful for an initial assessment of the total social costs of transportation projects, and to indicate products and processes worthy of additional pollution prevention efforts. In particular, we find that additional external environmental costs may range from as low as 1% to as high as 45% for transportation services. External environmental costs of transportation equipment manufacturing range between 0.3 and 11%, while the external environmental costs of transportation construction and operation materials are estimated to vary between 1 and 100%.