The air quality and health impacts of projected long-haul truck and rail freight transportation in the United States in 2050

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Abstract

Diesel emissions from freight transportation activities are a key threat to public health. This study examined the air quality and public health impacts of projected freight-related emissions in 2050 over the continental United States. Three emission scenarios were considered: (1) a projected business-as-usual socioeconomic growth with freight fleet turnover and stringent emission control (CTR); (2) the application of a carbon pricing climate policy (PO); and (3) further technology improvements to eliminate high-emitting conditions in the truck fleet (NS). The PO and NS cases are superimposed on the CTR case. Using a WRF-SMOKE-CMAQ-BenMAP modeling framework, we quantified the impacts of diesel fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions change on air quality, health, and economic benefits. In the CTR case, we simulate a widespread reduction of PM2.5 concentrations, between 0.5-1.5 micrograms m-3, comparing to a base year of 2011. This translated into health benefits of 3,600 (95 percent CI: 2,400 - 4,800) prevented premature deaths, corresponding to $38 (95 percent CI: $3.5 - $100) billion. Compared to CTR case, the PO case can obtain approximately 9 percent more health benefits nationally, however, climate policy also affects the health outcomes regionally due to transition of demand from truck to rail; regions with fewer trucks could gain in health benefits, while regions with added rail freight may potentially experience a loss in health benefits due to air quality degradation. The NS case provides substantial additional benefits (approximately 20 percent). These results support that a combination of continuous adoption of stringent emissions standards and strong improvements in vehicle technology are necessary, as well as rewarding, to meet the sustainable freight and community health goals. States and metropolitan areas with high population density and usually high freight demand and emissions can take more immediate actions, such as accelerating vehicle technology improvements and removing high-emitting trucks, to improve air quality and health benefits.

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Final Report
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Center for Transportation, Environment, and Community Health
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2019-08
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freight transportation; diesel emissions; air quality; public health; particulate matter
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Attribution 4.0 International
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