Assessment of the Near-Road (monitoring) Network including comparison with nearby monitors within U.S. cities

Raj M. Lal, Anu Ramaswami, Armistead G. Russell

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12 Scopus citations


Emissions from on-road mobile sources have historically been an important anthropogenic contributor to ambient air pollution leading to high levels of air pollution near major roadways. The U.S. EPA recently implemented the Near-Road (monitoring) Network to measure NO2 concentrations by high-traffic roadways in urban centers throughout the U.S., as these locations were believed to characterize worst-case human exposures to traffic-related air pollutants. Many near-road sites also include PM2.5 and CO measurements, which along with the NO2 observations, were compared in a pairwise manner against non-near-road monitors located within the city-scale boundary. After controlling for primary emissions from the target highways, we found the PM2.5 concentration difference (i.e. near-road concentration minus non-near-road site concentration) between the near-road and non-near-road urban sites to be δ = 0.42 µg m-3( H0: µ diff = 0; Ha: µ diff > 0 (µ non-near-road > µ near-road); p = 0.051; α = 0.05, 95% CI: -0.08-0.90 µg m-3, n = 35 comparisons). NO2 and CO levels were on average higher at the near-road sites compared to the non-near-road urban sites by 5.0 (95% CI: 3.4-6.5) ppb (n = 44 comparisons) and 9.2 10-2( 95% CI: 0.04-0.14) ppm (n = 42 comparisons), respectively. The average PM2.5 difference found here is 5%, and at 14 of the 35 (∼40%) urban monitor comparisons and 28 of the 72 (∼39%) overall comparisons, PM2.5 is actually higher at the non-near-road site relative to its near-road pair. Cleaner vehicle fleets, formation of secondary PM from on-road emissions occurring downwind (i.e. away from the road), decreased secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation rates in the near-road environment, the prevalence of other low-volume vehicular and local, non-vehicular sources of emissions at the non-near-road sites (e.g. railyards, truck yards, ports, biomass-fueled heating, backyard barbecuing, and commercial cooking, etc) and local meteorology (e.g. wind speed and wind direction) explain this finding. The wintertime PM2.5 concentration difference was higher than the other seasons, likely a result of higher primary PM2.5 tailpipe emissions and lower temperatures that both reduced near-road PM volatility and decreased photochemical activity resulting in lower SOA production at the urban scale. Further, all near-road NO2 and CO concentrations were below the annual and hourly NAAQS, while eight (most of which were in wildfire-prone locations) of the 94 PM2.5 sites used in this study were above the annual National Ambient Air Quality Standards. In addition, strong agreement with both annual average daily traffic and fleet-equivalent AADT were found for near-road NO2 and CO concentrations, while weaker, but still positive relationships were found for near-road PM2.5 levels. Lastly, same observational data was used to assess on-road mobile source emission estimates from the EPA National Emission Inventory, and analysis of the observations are in rough agreement with the current ratio of NOx to CO emissions from on-road mobile sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114026
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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