NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) has announced the winners of the 2020 Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Awards.
“We congratulate these winners who are on the cutting edge of possibilities in sustainability in transportation,” TDEC Commissioner David Salyers said. “Their innovation and achievements come in many forms, but all share the goal of a better environment, and our state benefits from their example.”
“This year’s winners represent a broad range of projects designed to enhance transit services while also raising the bar for environmental stewardship,” TDOT Commissioner Clay Bright said. “We are so pleased to encourage and support initiatives that provide benefits to citizens and communities.”
The Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Awards recognize outstanding initiatives to improve the efficiency, accessibility, affordability, and sustainability of transportation systems in the state. A panel of judges selected the following 2020 winners:
Southwest TN Development District
Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority
Knoxville Utilities Board
American Natural Gas / Frito-Lay Fayetteville
Town of Chapel Hill
Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee
Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County departments of Planning and Public Works / KCI Technologies, Inc.
NET Trans / Alliance AutoGas
The recipients were recognized Tuesday by the TDEC and TDOT commissioners via webinar in conclusion to the 2020 Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Forum and Expo. TDEC, TDOT, and Tennessee Clean Fuels host the annual forum, where participants share and discover projects that can reshape what is possible in transportation and mobility. In 2020, the event has been held as a free, online webinar series that promotes research, technology, planning, and policy developments that improve transportation efficiency, reduce vehicle emissions, and address mobility needs. Learn more at www.sustainabletransportationforum.com.
A description of the winning initiatives in East Tennessee:
Town of Chapel Hill – Pedestrian and Bicycle Infrastructure Community Master Plan
According to census data, the Town of Chapel Hill, Tenn., grew in population by over 50 percent between 2000 and 2015, due in large part to the small town’s proximity to the Greater Nashville Area. However, limited accessibility and a lack of alternative transportation routes made traffic congestion a major community concern, as well as a significant threat to pedestrian safety and mobility. In response, the Town of Chapel Hill began a community transportation assessment and planning project, identifying ways to connect residential areas, schools, parks, churches, retail, and business properties that would help accommodate future growth and transportation needs for the community. As a part of this planning process, Chapel Hill strategically invested in a walking trail at Depot Park that would function as a trailhead for a master community sidewalk. The town also updated traffic signals on Horton Parkway, leading to Henry Horton State Park, to provide protection to bicycle and pedestrian traffic in the area. To help continue its planning efforts, Chapel Hill received $50,000 from TDOT for a Community Transportation Planning Grant; $187,000 from TDEC for a Recreational Trails Grant, creating pedestrian pathways that connect Depot Park and the Chapel Hill Elementary School to Horton Parkway; more than $3 million from TDOT to fund construction projects under the town’s long range plan; and $60,000 from TDOT to fund both a local traffic study of major thoroughfares as well as the development of a virtual, interactive long range plan to aid in local stakeholder and investor education. Chapel Hill’s continued planning and implementation will provide the town’s residents and visitors with a choice of safe, reliable transportation without the need of automobiles.
NET Trans / Alliance AutoGas – Elizabethton, Greeneville, and Kingsport AutoGas Programs
NET Trans is a rural public transit fleet serving nine counties in the eastern part of the state. In March 2015, NET Trans entered into a partnership with Alliance AutoGas to implement three alternative fuel programs in Elizabethton, Greeneville, and Kingsport. The partnership’s goal was to initiate a replicable autogas program that addresses infrastructure, vehicle conversion and maintenance, staff training, and data reporting. As a result of this project, the NET Trans fleet now uses autogas in their PRINS bi-fuel vehicle propane systems, with the fuel supplied through the ongoing relationship with Alliance AutoGas. Over the past year, Net Trans has used more than 50,000 gallons of autogas to fuel their transit fleet. Propane autogas is among the lowest total carbon emitting fuels, showing an approximate 30 percent reduction in emissions when compared to traditional gasoline and diesel vehicle operation. Additionally, the greater affordability of propane autogas has allowed NET Trans to save on fuel costs and put more funds toward projects that expand their transit services.
Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority – Wayside Inductive Power Transfer System for Electric Buses
The Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) has expanded its already innovative electric transit bus fleet through the installation of inductive power transfer systems (wireless charging). Working with partners from the University of Tennessee, CARTA has paired an inductive power transfer system with several new BYD electric transit buses, each launched in March 2019 with a battery range of 150 miles and the ability to accept a wireless charge. The inductive power transfer system was installed within the transit-way of CARTA’s Shuttle Park South facility in downtown Chattanooga to allow for en route fast charging for longer, fixed route electric vehicles. The modular inductive power transfer system’s charging capacity ranges from 60 kW to 200 kW and can wirelessly charge an electric transit bus within minutes. As part of a complementary research project with the U.S. Department of Energy Vehicle Technologies Office, each of the new BYD vehicles was equipped with a telematics unit to provide real-time vehicle data and energy usage to a web-based portal that will assist in developing route designs and charging schedules that maximize vehicle performance. CARTA’s utilization of pure electric transit vehicles on its fixed route service going forward will have a significant impact on local air quality and can inform a national model for this type of charging technology deployment.
Knoxville Utilities Board – Electric Vehicle Level 2 Charger Rebate Program
In early 2019, the Knoxville Utilities Board’s (KUB’s) Utility Transformation Team began exploring ways to incentivize electric vehicle adoption within the utility’s service area, deciding that a charging station rebate program would best serve its customers in terms of accessibility and need. Tennessee’s first-ever utility charging station rebate program was launched by KUB in August 2019. The rebate covers 100 percent of electric vehicle charging equipment costs up to $400. By July 2020, the program has already aided approximately 85 customers with the purchase of their Level 2 electric vehicle chargers, amounting to almost $35,000 in contributions from KUB. Being the first utility to offer an electric vehicle incentive program in the Tennessee Valley, KUB has been recognized as a leader in utility efforts supporting electric vehicle adoption and is exploring ways to modify the existing program to create new opportunities for its customers.