States' Transportation Policies Can Curb Carbon Pollution

New Analysis Finds States Ignore Innovative Practices, Increase Pollution

WASHINGTON (December 14, 2010) -- Many states' transportation policies conflict with the goal of reducing carbon emissions and have huge potential for improvement, according to a 50-state analysis released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Smart Growth America (SGA).

Smarter state transportation policies, along with innovations at the federal level, can help the nation make significant progress in curbing carbon pollution. Transportation is our country’s second largest and second-fastest growing source of carbon pollution after electricity generation, yet current policies do not recognize the connection, according to the report.

“Most states’ transportation departments seem to be ignoring their important role in stopping climate change,” said Colin Peppard, deputy director of Federal Transportation Policy at NRDC. “If states considered all their transportation policy options, they could tap into tremendous potential to reduce carbon emissions, even with limited resources.” 

The report, "Getting Back on Track: Climate Change and State Transportation Policy," examined 17 key policy options, and  found that, for example, few states bother to adequately assess carbon emissions when deciding whether to allocate more funds to build new highways or maintain existing ones; or how much money it should devote to transit, if any at all. The report found many states miss opportunities to reduce transportation emissions, and, sometimes, likely increase emission rates.

“We know there are innovative approaches to transportation that are good for communities, address pollution and meet our transportation goals but we now know states aren’t using them,” said Neha Bhatt, deputy policy director at SGA. “We can get a better transportation system and reduce carbon emissions per dollar invested, but we have to change transportation policies at the state and the federal level to do that.”

The report gives high scores to California, New Jersey and Maryland for their long-term commitment to getting the most out of every transportation dollar spent. These states support policies to reduce carbon emissions and take steps to rebuild their economies through effective transportation decisions.

In the report, SGA and NRDC say that states -- and the federal government- should make wiser decisions to spend transportation money more effectively.

States can make it a priority to repair existing roads and bridges before building new ones and making intentional spending decisions for low-cost and low-carbon transportation options.

Meanwhile, as the federal debate on transportation policy takes shape, Congress and the administration need to set a national carbon emission target for the transportation bill and support carbon emission estimates on all projects that get federal funding.

The full report is available here and