Environmental Planning Group (EPG)

Celebrating women in transportation and at ADOT

Celebrating women in transportation and at ADOT


Celebrating women in transportation and at ADOT

Celebrating women in transportation and at ADOT

By Angela DeWelles / ADOT Communications
March 1, 2021

Did you know that March is Women’s History Month? Because women have made so many major contributions to the transportation field, we asked several women at ADOT to share the reasons why they entered into a transportation career.





"I have been passionate about engineering ever since I can remember. Transportation engineering includes planning, design, construction, maintenance and operation of facilities that improve people’s lives every day. Being a part of this industry gives opportunities to be involved in the cutting-edge technologies that keep evolving. I am proud to be a part of the industry, especially ADOT. And I am proud to be working with those who share the same passion."

Tazeen A. Dewan, project manager, Multimodal Planning Division








"I initially 'fell into' the transportation sector as an environmental consultant, consulting for ADOT and railroads. The nature of the work and the opportunity to serve the public as part of something so integral to their daily lives are what have motivated me to work at ADOT."

Julia Manfredi, manager, Environmental Programs










"When I applied to ADOT 19 years ago, I did not think of it as trying to get a job in transportation. I saw it as another opportunity to be of service, only this time it would be for the citizens of Arizona. My passion is helping others and I knew that I could impact ADOT in a positive way and it would also give me the opportunity for career growth. ADOT has a great reputation as being family friendly, which also factored into my seeking a career with the agency."

Sonya Herrera, director, Administrative Services Division









"I credit my career in transportation to my college internship with the regional planning organization, where I conducted transportation modeling and forecasts. I couldn’t believe there was a career path where I could play SimCity all day! I’ve since enjoyed planning and designing roadway improvements throughout Arizona."

Susan E. Anderson, systems technology group manager, Transportation Systems Management and Operations Division








"Having spent years practicing law in the private sector, I had a desire to take the next step to become a judge. I was fortunate enough to be hired with the Executive Hearing Office in 2017, which has opened me up to the world of transportation. I enjoy dealing with the many interesting laws and regulations and working with a wide array of divisions and agencies."

Allyssa B. Reid, associate presiding judge, Executive Hearing Office







ADOT biologists help species and projects move forward

ADOT biologists help species and projects move forward


ADOT biologists help species and projects move forward

ADOT biologists help species and projects move forward

By David Rookhuyzen / ADOT Communications
September 9, 2020

When you think about ADOT, it's easy to understand why we have engineers, planners, truck drivers, sign makers and even accountants. But why does a transportation department need a dedicated team of biologists?

The answer, according to Justin White, ADOT's biology program manager, is the same as any other department with the agency. The five-member team helps ADOT complete projects while meeting stringent environmental requirements that include avoiding or mitigating any impacts on protected plants and animals.

During the planning stages of any project, the team works with consultants to conduct field surveys and use aerial photographs to determine what, if any, impact the project might have on different species of plants and animals, like the endangered Arizona hedgehog cactus. If there will be impacts, then the biology team works with ADOT engineers, district staff, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies to develop appropriate avoidance or minimization measures.

In some cases, such as with the endangered Pima pineapple cactus in southeastern Arizona, the team will teach contractors what the plants look like so they can be avoided during construction work. In another case, agave plants were removed from a project area and replanted nearby because they are a prime food source for the lesser long-nosed bat, which migrates through the area.

Some other examples of the team's work include:

  • As seen in the photo to the right, during a rock fall mitigation project in Oak Creek Canyon on State Route 89A north of Sedona, ADOT worked to protect the threatened narrow-headed gartersnake and coordinated with biologists from Northern Arizona University, who are working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife on a captive breeding program.
  • Before construction began on a bridge over Sonoita Creek in southern Arizona, ADOT biologists worked with the project team and contractor to start the project after the breeding season of the yellow-billed cuckoo so as not to disturb the birds.
  • As we've written about before, for the construction of the South Mountain Freeway, ADOT biologists worked in conjunction with Arizona Game and Fish to relocate chuckwallas from the project area.
  • We've also shared before about the efforts to determine where wild life crossings should be on US 93 for Arizona's big horn sheep population. Another example is along State Route 260 in Little Green Valley, east of Payson, where bridges were built instead of smaller box culverts to help wildlife cross easier, White said.

ADOT biologists consult on other areas too, such as Clean Water Act dredge and fill permits, as well as working with the Roadside Development Group and district staff on vegetation management, including control of invasive species and herbicide spraying.

One project the department is currently working on is a statewide consultation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife to develop standard avoidance and minimization efforts for common ADOT activities that may affect listed Arizona species. The benefit would be to have predictability and expectations about what conservation efforts would need to happen ahead of time. 

White said the biology team's job is much like any other at ADOT – help a project reach fruition by ensuring it does all the necessary planning steps, and that includes federal standards for protecting native flora and fauna. 

"We're kind of a spoke in the wheel in the environmental development process," he said.

Much to be learned from historic site near SR 77

Much to be learned from historic site near SR 77


Much to be learned from historic site near SR 77

Much to be learned from historic site near SR 77

August 16, 2012

If you read yesterday’s blog post, you’ve already learned why ADOT gives special attention to culturally or historically significant project areas. So, for today’s post we thought it’d be fun to take an up-close look at an actual site…

As you can see from the video above, there’s an area that was recently excavated and explored. It’s called the Beethoven site and is located about five miles north of Snowflake, off State Route 77.

Ordinarily, an excavation like this would have to wait until ADOT had a highway construction project to work on (lane widening, new freeway construction, etc.) -- that way the cost would be included in the project’s scope.

But this site’s a little different…

It is scheduled for culvert extensions and passing lanes in the future, but because of its close proximity to the highway, the site (and all the history it contains) was starting to become endangered.

“We realized that we were dealing with something special ... more special than the average site,” ADOT Historic Preservation Specialist David Zimmerman said. “We started looking ahead and figuring the long-term affects on the site, from the continued use of the road into the future and the possibility that water or culvert maintenance could damage the site. We made a decision that it was probably best to extend our investigations and do more with that site.”

Luckily a federal grant from FHWA was awarded so ADOT could begin investigations right away.

“It’s been an opportunity to get in there and actually recover a lot of new information … and to find this communal structure is a really big step forward in understanding this time period,” says Desert Archaeology president Bill Doelle in the video above.

According to Zimmerman, the area is one that has been used in the past by the Zuni, Hopi, Apache and Navajo tribes. Among the discoveries at this site: some pit houses, along with a very large communal pit structure.

The structures and artifacts uncovered by crews will provide a lot of valuable information. But, according to Zimmerman, it’s going to take some time to really research all that has been discovered.

There’s still lab analysis, soil testing, artifact cataloging and radio carbon testing to be done, according to Zimmerman. After that, a report will be completed and researchers will be able to draw some conclusions on the site’s history and hopefully get more insight into the way people lived in the area, how they organized themselves and adapted socially and economically to the environment.

“Each site tells a story, but the real knowledge is how each site fits into bigger sites and the bigger area to really grab a pattern of culture,” Zimmerman said.

ADOT team works to preserve history

ADOT team works to preserve history


ADOT team works to preserve history

ADOT team works to preserve history

August 15, 2012

A look at a site under investigation near SR 77.

If you haven’t already noticed, we really like blogging about dirt!

Just take a look through our archives and you can read about how we move dirt, why it’s used in construction and even the circumstances under which we “paint” it green!

One thing we’ve never touched on is what might be lying beneath all that dirt…

You see, ADOT does a lot of digging, but we have to be very careful not to disturb any historic (or prehistoric) sites that could be at a potential project site.

That’s where the ADOT Historic Preservation Team comes in. As a part of ADOT’s Environmental Planning Group, this team is in place to make sure all ADOT projects adhere to state and federal historic preservation laws.

Cultural preservation doesn’t just make good sense – it’s the law
ADOT Historic Preservation Specialist Linda Davis explains that in 1966, the National Historic Preservation Act was passed to protect historic properties from any damage caused by the actions of federal agencies. As a result of the national act, Arizona established the State Historic Preservation Act in 1982 to protect cultural resources from the activities of state agencies.

That means whether a highway project is even partially funded with federal or state money, it is subject to these laws that are designed to preserve history and manage our cultural resources.

How ADOT identifies and preserves the state’s historic properties
Every ADOT project involves a cultural resource assessment, which includes an initial records search (Davis says there are many resources available to the team that can provide information on whether or not a project area has already been surveyed to identify historic properties). If the project area has not previously been surveyed, a consultant is hired to perform the survey.

When historic properties are identified within a project area, the potential project effects on the property are evaluated.

“We look at the footprint of the project … where it is, what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it,” she said.


Tomorrow, we'll share a video about this site located off of SR 77.

If the evaluation indicates that the project may have an adverse effect on an historic property, efforts are made to avoid the property. If that’s just not possible, mitigation measures are developed depending on the type of property affected. For example, steps are taken to remove and preserve any artifacts from prehistoric sites (also called data recovery) or in the case of historic buildings and structures, a thorough documentation is conducted.

ADOT consults with the State Historic Preservation Office, Native American Tribes, land managing agencies and other stakeholders to make sure that findings and conclusions satisfy local and federal laws, including the National Historic Preservation Act.

What do they find out there?
Believe it or not, travel routes haven’t changed that much over time, said Davis, adding her team regularly comes across prehistoric trails, historic roads, prehistoric artifact scatters and habitation sites, historic trash scatters, historic buildings and historic landscapes.

Even within thriving municipalities that have been developed for years, there are prehistoric habitation sites, prehistoric canals, historic districts, and historic road systems (that include Apache Trail and Route 66).

“Arizona is rich with historic properties,” Davis said.

For more information on the historic Preservation Team, check out the Environmental Planning Group’s web page.

And, be sure to stay tuned … tomorrow we’ve got a video examining an actual site off of SR 77 that currently is under investigation.

Air quality impact studied by ADOT before projects move forward

Air quality impact studied by ADOT before projects move forward


Air quality impact studied by ADOT before projects move forward

Air quality impact studied by ADOT before projects move forward

September 2, 2011

Analysis and a computer modeling program assist ADOT in determining a project's impact on air quality.

A couple months ago we told you how ADOT works to minimize the noise impact a new freeway has on surrounding neighborhoods.

Well, similar efforts also are made when it comes to air quality …

ADOT is committed to improve air quality by making sure all projects comply with federal, state and local air quality laws and regulations.

That means ADOT’s Environmental Planning Group evaluates every ADOT transportation project to ensure air quality standards will be maintained.

ADOT Noise and Air Specialist Fred Garcia says smaller projects go through a qualitative review by his team to determine if the road work will have any impact on air quality. Larger projects (ones that increase traffic capacity or that have changes in the vertical and/or horizontal alignment) will go through a much more extensive quantitative analysis.

That quantitative analysis includes a sophisticated computer modeling process that helps predict localized air pollution concentrations in neighborhoods near the project.

According to Garcia, ambient background measurements must be taken first. ADOT gets these figures from either Maricopa County or from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

That baseline number helps the modeling program generate an emissions report. From there, other conditions are entered into the program, including vehicle counts, atmospheric conditions and emission dispersion rates.

The program produces a report that can tell ADOT what the concentration of carbon monoxide will measure at different distances away from the future freeway.  The program is so sophisticated that it even takes the future design of cars into account. In coming years, vehicle manufacturers are required to make cleaner and more efficient engines … the computer program can factor that into its predictions.

Once the quantitative analysis is complete, ADOT can tell if air quality predictions will meet standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If standards are met, the project can move forward. If not, the project is modified to help meet those standards.

Transportation isn’t the only factor contributing to air pollution. Construction, manufacturing, and even wind, weather and Arizona’s terrain play a role. However, there are things everyone can do to help minimize their impact, including carpooling, using mass transit and driving less during rush hour.

For more on air quality and ADOT’s Environmental Planning Group, visit their webpage.

Listen Up: ADOT works to minimize noise impacts

Listen Up: ADOT works to minimize noise impacts


Listen Up: ADOT works to minimize noise impacts

Listen Up: ADOT works to minimize noise impacts

June 6, 2011

Concrete noise walls reduce traffic noise by blocking the path that sound waves travel from the traffic to the residential area.

Most people don’t find the sound of traffic especially soothing …

ADOT certainly recognizes this and is constantly working to minimize the impacts to surrounding neighborhoods from the noise of new freeways.

You would think figuring out the impact of noise could get tricky because everyone perceives it differently – a sound that’s irritating to you might be tolerable to someone else.

But, federal law requires that ADOT estimate the future noise levels from new freeway projects, and if traffic noise approaches or exceeds 67 decibels, noise abatement must be considered. ADOT has taken it a step further, though, and considers 64 decibels to be the acceptable threshold to consider noise abatement for new projects.

The amount by which noise levels will change in a residential area also is a factor. A road project that will cause noise levels to increase by 15 decibels or more is considered an impact and noise abatement measures must be considered.

Just to give you an idea of what a decibel measurement means … a whisper could register at about 20 decibels, normal conversation comes in around 60 decibels and if you were standing about 15 feet from a loud rock band, you’d be hearing sounds measuring roughly 130 decibels.

Now you might be asking – how do you figure how noisy a new road will be before it’s even built?

Well, experts from ADOT’s Environmental Planning Group use sound pressure level meters to take readings of current noise levels in several areas near a proposed project site.

Measurements aren’t taken during rush hour because traffic is typically a little slower and quieter. Measurements are instead taken at the peak traffic noise hour, when traffic is free-flowing and cars are able to drive the speed limit, but the road is at maximum capacity.

Those measurements and the area’s topographic and weather information are plugged in to a very sophisticated computer program. It creates a model of the area and can tell ADOT what noise levels to expect if a new freeway is built, or an existing freeway is widened.

If it is determined a project will cause a noise impact to the area, ADOT has a few options, including:

  • Install noise walls or berms
  • Implement traffic control measures (speed limits, etc.)
  • Modify the proposed freeway alignment

On top of everything, the abatement method chosen has to meet multiple criteria showing that it is reasonable and feasible … a noise wall isn’t reasonable if the residents of the neighborhood don’t want it or it is cost prohibitive and it isn’t feasible if it won’t effectively reduce noise levels.

A little more on noise walls …

Barriers, such as concrete noise walls, reduce traffic noise by blocking the path that sound waves travel from the traffic to the residential area.

When sound waves hit the noise wall, they must bend over and around it. This is known as diffraction, which absorbs the sound energy, thereby reducing noise. For every decibel of reduction, it is necessary to increase the height of the wall by two feet. Noise walls are most effective when the distance between the source and the receiver is no more than 400-500 feet.

ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are currently studying the use of rubberized asphalt or “quiet pavement,” which can noticeably reduce traffic noise levels. When ADOT/FHWA completes the study, the results will determine whether quiet pavement can be used for noise abatement.

While no analysis, wall or special pavement can completely eliminate traffic noise, ADOT does have one of the most progressive noise abatement policies in the nation and that is something the citizens of Arizona may find soothing.

Environmental impacts carefully studied by ADOT

Environmental impacts carefully studied by ADOT


Environmental impacts carefully studied by ADOT

Environmental impacts carefully studied by ADOT

May 18, 2011

The impact of roadway construction on the surrounding environment is considered by ADOT.

ADOT can’t just construct a freeway wherever and however it wants…

Building a road actually requires a lot of careful planning, thought and exploration long before the first construction crews ever arrive on site. 

A potential project gets examined from every angle, but it’s the road’s environmental impact that gets one of the closest looks – and for good reason.

Think about it … if no thought was given to a project’s environmental effect, neighbors living nearby the new road would certainly see, hear and maybe even smell the consequences -- not to mention any potential long-term impacts to the environment.

So, it’s a good thing ADOT thoroughly takes into account a project’s possible impact. In fact, ADOT has an entire team devoted to just that.

Experts working within the Environmental Planning Group provide assistance at each stage of a transportation project and they ensure every project complies with applicable environmental laws and regulations.

The primary federal environmental law they are guided by is called the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA for short. NEPA acts as an umbrella for other federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations. Just some of the environmental aspects ADOT considers under NEPA are:

  • Water quality
  • Air quality
  • Noise impacts
  • Historic and cultural resources
  • Hazardous Materials
  • Environmental Justice
  • Threatened and Endangered species
  • Public involvement

In addition to NEPA, there are dozens of other environmental laws on the federal, state and local level that oversee everything from conserving native Arizona plants to farmland protection … EPG takes all these into account, too!

To determine what a project’s impact might be, EPG’s planning and technical sections will do things like conduct surveys to seek out threatened and endangered species in the area; analyze the social and economic impacts of a project; hold public meetings and hearings; consult with the state historic preservation office; and take readings and make predictions on air and noise impacts.

Through planning, EPG can help projects avoid or minimize negative project impacts. Some of the steps taken in the past have included:

  • Building noise walls and berms.
  • Salvaging native plants and re-planting them once construction is over.
  • Designing erosion control features.
  • Building wildlife crossings.
  • Including aesthetic treatments like landscaping, the creation of natural looking rock cuts and the addition of murals and sculptures.

The end result, hopefully, is a project that fits in with surrounding area and preserves the state’s unique natural and social environments.

There’s a lot to this subject and we’ve only touched the surface. In the coming weeks we’ll examine in more detail some of the environmental impacts ADOT considers before designing and building new projects … so stay tuned!