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AASHTO Journal

State DOTs Go Green While Saving Money

Fiscal responsibility, community quality of life, and a commitment to a better environment are three reasons state departments of transportation are successfully implementing a variety of sustainable practices and programs across the country.

"Leaner and Greener: Sustainability at Work in Transportation," a free publication issued by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' Center for Environmental Excellence (CEE) in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration, showcases some of the many ways transportation agencies are simultaneously cutting costs, helping the environment, and strengthening communities. The report was unveiled Monday during the Board of Directors session at the AASHTO Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh.

"This report documents how state transportation departments, municipal planning organizations, and transit providers are putting into practice proven techniques that are speeding up project delivery and cutting costs while protecting and even improving environmental resources," said AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley.

Here are just a few examples of the successful programs highlighted in the study:

  • North Carolina Department of Transportation's (NCDOT) cost-efficient low-impact bridge replacement designs that have decreased bridge replacement times by as much as four years and shrunk project costs by up to 25 percent, while supporting water quality goals.

"These low-impact replacement designs enable us to make the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars while improving safety and promoting economic growth with minimal impact to the surrounding environment," said NCDOT Secretary Gene Conti.

  • Kansas Department of Transportation's mowing policy that promotes re-growth of the state's natural prairie habitat along many of the 146,000 acres of land adjacent to the state's highways, while cutting mowing costs by about $1.5 million a year and enhancing road users' safety.

  • Minnesota Department of Transportation's (MnDOT) investment in smart snow and ice removal practices reduces salt usage and associated winter maintenance costs while reducing impacts to the environment and enhancing safety.

"At MnDOT we're committed to using innovative practices like living snow fences which are made of grasses, scrubs, and trees to control blowing and drifting snow and virtual training for snow plow drivers, to keep Minnesota roads safe, costs low, and the environment protected," said Bernie Arseneau, MnDOT Acting Commissioner.

  • New York State Department of Transportation's "GreenLITES for Design" program. Started in 2008, GreenLITES is modeled after the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program. Every new project design at NYSDOT is evaluated using a sustainability scoring system that measures the extent to which it incorporates sustainable design choices.

Practices highlighted in the Leaner and Greener report are expanded in a series of case studies posted on the CEE website. The case studies provide additional detail, explanation, and contact information for a range of practices transportation agencies are undertaking to advance the "triple bottom line" of fiscal responsibility, community quality of life, and commitment to a better environment. Case studies include practices from Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington State. These case studies and more may be accessed on the CEE Sustainability Topic Case Studies web page.

The Leaner and Greener report shows that not only are sustainable transportation practices proving possible, but they are fast becoming the norm for doing business.

"Achieving sustainability in transportation is an ongoing, collaborative process," said FHWA Administrator Victor M. Mendez. "The FHWA is proud to work alongside all our partners to advance sustainable transportation practices that serve us now and will serve us in the future."

Read the report at aash.to/LAG-1 or obtain a printed copy from the AASHTO Bookstore at aash.to/LAGPrint.

11/21/2012
Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.