US Department of Transportation

FHWA PlanWorks: Better Planning, Better Projects

Assessing Project and Regional Level Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Freight and Long Term Planning

Massachusetts Department of Transportation

Project Snapshot
  • MassDOT collaborated with all 13 MPOs, the MA Department of Environmental Protection, the MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to develop GHG estimation models for the region.
  • MassDOT developed seven project–level GHG impact estimation spreadsheet tools
  • MassDOT made recommendations for how GHG emissions could be incorporated into freight planning

Executive Summary

In 2008, Massachusetts passed the Global Warming Solutions Act (GSWA) which requires a 25% reduction in statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to the 1990 levels by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) used funding from the second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) to evaluate and update the tools and practices for estimating transportation related GHG emissions and to incorporate GHG emissions considerations into the Statewide Freight Plan. They did this by combining and implementing two products: C09 — Incorporating Greenhouse Gas Emissions into the Collaborative Decision–Making Framework; and C15— Integrating Freight Considerations into the Highway Capacity Planning Process. As a result, MassDOT has integrated new tools and methodologies into their project–level and long term planning processes.

Agency's Challenge

MassDOT must estimate GHG emissions for all highway maintenance activities and projects and MPOs are required to assess the impacts of GHG emissions in their Regional Transportation Plans (RTPs) and Transportation Improvement Plans (TIPs). MassDOT's statewide GHG projection modeling tool was resource intensive and only ran every four years, so MassDOT needed to establish a method of assessing and estimating project–level and region wide GHG emissions.

Product Implementation

The project comprised two tasks focused primarily on two issue areas:

  1. project–level and statewide estimation, projection, and application of GHG emissions data; and
  2. MassDOT and MPO including GHG considerations in freight planning.

Task 1 reviewed and evaluated how MassDOT and MPOs estimate project–level and statewide GHG emissions with two distinct goals:

  • Ensure the early stage project development and selection processes, including those for highway maintenance activities, utilize the most appropriate methods for estimating and considering GHG impacts of projects, in order to meet all requirements under the GWSA.
  • Improve the methods of forecasting transportation sector GHG emissions in Massachusetts and support the further development of data–driven plans, strategies and targets.

Task 1 also reviewed how MassDOT coordinates with MPOs to measure and track progress toward reaching GHG goals, using performance–based measures, to assist MassDOT in compiling the data necessary to comply with reporting requirements under the Global Warming Solutions Act.

Task 2 focused on further incorporating GHG considerations into freight planning and improving the coordination and integration of freight planning with other MassDOT and MPO planning processes. The outcomes of this task will be used to update the Massachusetts Statewide Freight Plan and strengthen MassDOT's and MPOs' current planning processes by incorporating freight considerations.

Stakeholder Collaboration

Throughout the year–long project, the project team engaged with staff from the 13 MPOs, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. They worked to combine tools, data, and technical expertise to review and develop practices for GHG emissions and impacts estimation. The project team facilitated meetings, workshops, and webinars for the project participants to ensure the tools being developed would actually help MassDOT and MPOs meet the requirements under the GSWA.

Key Outcomes

At the completion of the SHRP2 project, MassDOT was already utilizing project deliverables to improve planning processes. Key outcomes of the project included the following:

  • Development of seven new GHG impact estimation spreadsheets to be used for various MassDOT and MPO planning processes
  • Recommendations for how GHG emissions could be included when updating statewide and regional freight plans and freight travel demand models
  • Identification of FHWA's Infrastructure Carbon Estimator as an appropriate tool for estimating GHG impacts of highway maintenance activities and road repaving projects

Lessons Learned

The review and research conducted under this project confirmed that MassDOT is taking the right approaches to developing tools and methodologies for estimating, projecting, and considering impacts from GHG emissions during planning, project funding, and policy making processes. This project also provided recommendations for improvements that MassDOT can implement to strengthen those efforts.

Next Steps

  • MassDOT will continue to use project–level GHG estimation tools during the TIP process.
  • MassDOT will include deliverables from project as well as the C15 Guidebook as resources for future statewide freight plan updates.

For More Information


Shannon Greenwell
Sustainable Transportation Section
Office of Transportation Planning
Massachusetts Department of Transportation
(857) 368–8874
Brandon Wilcox
Community Planner
Planning and Environmental Team
FHWA Massachusetts Division
(617) 494–3113
Reena Mathews
Transportation Specialist
FHWA Office of Planning
(202) 366–2076