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Green Road Design

By Dayanti Karunaratne
March 16, 2009
File under: Sustainable Practices


When we consider sustainable transportation, we generally think of bicycling, alternative fuels and practices like carpooling and ride sharing. However, transportation doesn’t just involve our vehicles – it includes infrastructure like highways and roads.

Recently, the transportation infrastructure industry is incorporating sustainable practices when designing roads.

Some look to the success of LEED, the U.S. Green Building Council’s rating system, to shape their program, while others see the process as more of a partnership between public and private groups, one which brings stakeholders and experts together to decide the best plan of action.

The New York State Department of Transportation, on the other hand, is in the process of creating their own system of evaluating projects. While all could be critiqued, the fact that companies, government officials, and engineering experts are working in this area is definitely a positive sign.

While some of these programs are “in development,” and others ready to take on pilot projects, all are dwarfed by LEED in terms of public awareness. Perhaps it’s no surprise that green buildings have attracted more attention than green roads – after all, a building can be a custom home, a well-ventilated office, or a monumental downtown symbol.

Roads? We barely consider them until they create problems. In the past, roads have largely been the domain of engineers and construction workers, councilors and city planners. But, according to a presentation in front of the Congressional Budget Office in May 2008, highway infrastructure spending accounts for over 66 billion dollars annually.

What’s more, this spending is more easily justified than, say, schools or energy facilities because the economic returns are clearer.In the past, environmentalists have positioned themselves in opposition to highway construction projects.

However, the green movement involves learning about new industries, like ventilation systems and glazed windows.The green building movement has shown us that the possibilities are endless in terms of innovative materials and sustainable practices.

It has also shown us the many opportunities for eco-minded professionals in the construction field.In order to encourage the greening of roadways, we, as consumers, need to start thinking practically and environmentally about the concrete and cul-de-sacs we use everyday.

We need to think outside our Smart cars look at the bigger picture at the massive network of roads and highways that take us where we want to go.

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