Fiscal responsibility, community quality of life, and a commitment to a better environment are three reasons state departments of transportation are implementing a variety of sustainable practices and programs across the country, according to a report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ Center for Environmental Excellence.
Accord to Leaner and Greener: Sustainability at Work in Transportation, which was produced in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), sustainability strategies implemented by state DOTs are speeding up project delivery and cutting costs while protecting and sometimes even improving environmental resources.
For example, the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s cost-efficient low-impact bridge replacement designs 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.
FHWA reports that 44 states have already deployed accelerated bridge construction methods. For example, Massachusetts DOT used prefabricated, modular superstructure units to complete a replacement of the I-93 Northbound Bridge over Riverside Avenue in Medford, Massachusetts. The bridge replacement took one weekend rather than the years of work that would have been required if conventional construction methods had been used.
Shorter construction time means that polluting heavy equipment is being used less. Shorter building periods also allow projects to be scheduled around critical times for plant growth or animal life, such as fish spawning season, the report says.
In Kansas, the state transportation department’s mowing policy (pictured) 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.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s investment in smart snow and ice removal practices cuts salt usage and associated winter maintenance costs while reducing impacts to the environment and enhancing safety. The department has invested in living snow fences made of grasses, scrubs and trees to control blowing and drifting snow, the report says.
In September, California reduced its state fleet by 7,112 vehicles, or 14 percent, in an effort to comply with governor Jerry Brown’s executive order to eliminate unnecessary vehicles. The reduction included 4,204 passenger cars and light trucks, which alone are expected to save the state more than $12.6 million each year in fuel, insurance and depreciation costs, according to the California Department of General Services, the state’s business manager.