By improving road infrastructure, the Arkansas Department of Transportation wants to simultaneously reduce carbon emissions -- and it hopes that its newly unveiled carbon reduction strategy lays out a path to do so.
The 38-page document, accessible at www.ardot.gov/crs, was made available to the public this week and will remain available for public view through Oct. 6, the department has announced.
"As a transportation agency, there are certain things in our domain that we can do for carbon reduction," Jessie Jones, assistant engineer for planning at the department, said. "This will just about affect everyone who owns a car. Everybody is in this together."
According to the Biden administration, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress in November 2021 aims to improve the country's ports, airports, railways and roads "with a focus on climate change mitigation."
The law created the Carbon Reduction Program, which allows for funding for projects designed to reduce transportation emissions from on-road highway sources.
Arkansas will receive approximately $87 million in Carbon Reduction Program funding through fiscal year 2026. The newly released plan is meant to meet a requirement for that funding.
The projects and strategies the state Transportation Department is undertaking to reduce carbon emissions include traffic and congestion management, transit enhancements, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, energy and fuel-saving initiatives and technology solutions.
Across the country, the transportation sector accounts for 36.7% of carbon emissions, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By comparison, the industrial sector is responsible for 28.6% of all carbon emissions while 18.4% comes from the residential sector and 16.3% from the commercial sector.
In Arkansas, 36.1% of carbon emissions come from the industrial sector, while 26.6% comes from transportation, according to federal statistics. The residential and commercial sectors make up the rest at 20.9% and 16.4% respectively.
Arkansas may have a lower-than-average emission score for its transportation sector, but the state is still taking steps to reduce its carbon footprint by making road infrastructure improvements, Jones said. It is something ArDOT has emphasized for years, she said.
"Having a carbon-reduction program isn't new to us and these types of projects are not foreign to us," she said. "We're looking to improve on programs that are already in place."
Some of the projects include adding more dynamic message signs to alert motorists about upcoming highway traffic jams, improving regional transit services and making pathway improvements for bicyclists.
State transportation officials developed their strategy in conjunction with the state's eight metropolitan planning organizations, including Metroplan in Central Arkansas.
Casey Covington, Metroplan's executive director, said one of the major focuses of the strategy was to address congestion-heavy locations.
"A lot of congestion is associated with bottlenecks, like what you see at the [Interstate] 30 and [Interstate] 430 interchange," he said. "What I see in the program is that it addresses a lot of those types of locations, whether it's using roundabouts, making improvements to some ramps to improve traffic flow, etc. That's what is going to help meet our goals for carbon reduction."
Jones said feedback from the planning organizations was important in drafting the plan.
"We have a cross-section of different agencies that do different things, and this is a way for us to come together and work together on something that is very important," she said.
The carbon reduction strategy is scheduled to be presented to the Arkansas Highway Commission during its Oct. 25 public meeting and will be sent to the Federal Highway Administration by Nov. 15.