Range anxiety: a concern for drivers of alternative fuel vehicles. Help is planned, however — thanks to the federal transportation bill passed last December. Section 1413 requires the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to designate, within one year, alternative fuel corridors. These will be publicized segments within the national highway system that include fueling infrastructure — at sufficient locations — for electric passenger and commercial vehicles as well as fueling service for vehicles needing hydrogen, propane or natural gas.
The corridor designation process required DOT/Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to solicit nominations from state and local officials. Twenty states nominated portions of their road systems.
An eligible corridor could be any segment on the National Highway System, which includes Interstate highways as well as other roads important to the Nation’s economy, defense, and mobility. This broader scope is significant because a corridor could include major Interstate routes and feeder roadways. North Carolina DOT, for example, nominated I-40, Raleigh to Ashville, and I-85, Raleigh to Charlotte. These metro areas include many alternate fuel facilities adjacent to the Interstate main line, proximate locations important for Interstate travelers.
The inclusion of corridor roadways is also important to truck-stop and convenience store owners. A concern for businesses is whether the federal government might subsidize or otherwise show favoritism towards certain fuels. For example, by allowing new or different access at Interstate rest areas.
If a national fuels network is the long-term goal, a strong, first-step regional effort was presented by the nomination from Vermont’s Agency of Transportation (VAT), on behalf of the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) — a collaboration of 11 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states (Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and the District of Columbia. New York and Connecticut are part of TCI but they also submitted separate nominations to address individual state issues.)
Gina Campoli is VAT Environmental Policy Manager. She managed TCI’s nomination. Campoli said the corridor designation is an opportunity “for route recognition, (it) may help with future grants, and enhances work that we’re already doing.”
Campoli said that TCI states, for example, have zero emission vehicle goals. Many TCI states subsidize the purchase of alternative fueled vehicles; therefore, it makes sense to advance the development of a supportive fuel network. FHWA wants designation to help greenhouse gas reduction goals. And there are broader concerns. Clean Air Act benefits are also important within FHWA’s review. Ozone, for example, is a persistent pollutant in the Northeast and ozone is directly linked to transport and petroleum-based fuels.
There is no direct funding linked to corridor designation. However, among comparable highway projects, designation might favorably tip the scales towards a project within an alternate fuel corridor, an important concern in today’s competitive funding environment. Regional development is important. As alternate fueled vehicle sales increase, people will want to drive in regions with the products and services they need. An alternate fuel corridor designation makes it clear: alignment between public policy and personal choice. People like that. DOT’s corridor announcements are due December 4, 2016.