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DCIM100MEDIADJI_0052.JPGTransportation is a big contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. In the United States, the transportation industry alone is responsible for over a fourth of emissions.

Vehicles such as passenger cars and light-duty trucks (sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, and minivans) make up more than half of the transportation industry’s emissions.  Greenhouse gases, comprised mostly of carbon dioxide (CO2), are the result of burning gasoline and have adverse effects on our environment, society, and economy.  In addition to greenhouse gases, automobile exhaust contains gases (nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds) that can lead to the formation of smog and ground-level ozone, especially during the summer months.  Exposure to smog and ozone may cause eye irritation, reduce lung function, or aggravate existing respiratory conditions such as asthma.

While transportation is currently the second largest greenhouse gas emitter (behind electricity generation), it is possible to reduce the industry’s impact through changes in highway design, fuel consumption, operations, and technologies. MassDOT’s transition to All Electronic Tolling (AET) serves as an excellent example where a technological advance can lead to reductions in greenhouse gas and automobile exhaust emissions by reducing traffic congestion as well as vehicular crashes.

By replacing a total of 23 toll booths with AET, idling, acceleration, and deceleration no longer occur in these locations. MassDOT has estimated a corresponding reduction of seven to 30 tons of CO2 emissions each day. This also saves 700 to 3,600 gallons of gasoline daily. Moreover, studies suggest that Massachusetts experiences 1,150 fewer hours of vehicle delay every day with AET in place.

By reducing pavement area, AET also provides environmental mitigation by reducing stormwater runoff from highway facilities. About 20 acres of impervious area were removed as toll plazas were reconfigured and replaced with gantries. Reducing impervious cover increases natural infiltration, which reduces runoff volume and the frequency of flooding, as well as the associated pollutant loads discharging to receiving waters.  Although an indirect benefit of the AET installations, providing stormwater improvements has been one of MassDOT’s primary environmental goals for more than ten years.  Since 2010, MassDOT has spent $50 million to install more than 500 best management practices throughout the Commonwealth as part of the Impaired Waters Program. Practices such as infiltration basins, gravel wetlands, and wet ponds mimic pre-development conditions, without having to remove pavement, and improve stormwater in respect to both quality and quantity through the processes of settling, filtration, and/or detention.

The implementation of AET brings greater transportation efficiency and reduces transportation’s air pollutant emissions as well as its carbon footprint.  Through AET and the Impaired Waters Program, MassDOT is not only resolving transportation problems, but also improving environmental conditions and peace-of-mind for the motoring public.

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