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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 59· No. 2 > Rewarding Environmental Excellence

Autumn 1995
Vol. 59· No. 2

Rewarding Environmental Excellence

Ginny Finch

The George S. Mickelson Trail is a transportation and recreational trail in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The George S. Mickelson Trail is a transportation and recreational trail in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

In the golden years of the Interstate era, transportation decision-making was clear-cut. Mobility was what Americans wanted, so mobility was what they got.

Today, things are more complicated. We still want mobility, but more and more, as we realize the limits of our natural and financial resources, we also want cleaner air and water, wetlands preservation, and intact neighborhoods and communities.

"Perhaps the greatest challenge transportation professionals face is to meet a growing transportation demand while at the same time protecting and enhancing the environment," Deputy Administrator Jane Garvey of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) told transportation and environment officials at the inauguration of FHWA's new Environmental Excellence Awards on April 21.

The awards were created by FHWA, said Garvey, as one way to officially recognize and thank those who have achieved the goals set forth in FHWA's Environmental Policy Statement goals such as benefiting all segments of society, building new partnerships, using innovative financing, and integrating environmental concerns into every phase of planning and project development.

April 21, the eve of Earth Day, was chosen to announce this year's winners because the awards reflect the true spirit of Earth Day enhancing our awareness of the environment and how we can improve it. And like Earth Day, the 1995 Environmental Excellence Awards showcase not just projects but processes and people as well.

Historic restoration project in  Lafayette, Ind., saves train depot for renovation as new a train and transit depot, and as a gateway to the Wabash Heritage Trail greenway.

The train depot in Lafayette, Ind., is being moved as part of a historic restoration project and will be renovated and used as a train and transit depot, and as a gateway to the Wabash Heritage Trail greenway.

 Swift Creek Recycled Greenway in Cary, North Carolina is a bicycle and pedestrian path made entirely of recycled materials.The winning entries were selected from more than sixty nominations sent in by 29 states and Puerto Rico. Winners were chosen in seven specific categories: bicycle and pedestrian programs, congestion mitigation and air quality improvement, public involvement, recycling, transportation enhancements, water quality and wetlands management, and judges' award for special achievement.

Department of Transportation (DOT) Deputy Secretary Mort Downey joined Garvey in presenting eight first-place Environmental Excellence Awards and four judges' awards. The first-place award recipients came from California, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, and South Dakota.

 Depot Plaza Historic Restoration Project removes numerous at-grade rail crossings, restore historic resource and develop pedestrian and bicycle greenways.

The awards panel was independent and diverse. The judges came from a university transportation research center, the Environmental Protection Agency, a national environmental group, and the faculty of a junior high school.

Ginny Finch is a program analyst and communications specialist in FHWA's Environmental Analysis Division. She recently created a 40-page color brochure, "Wetlands and Highways: A Natural Approach."

FIRST-PLACE AWARDS

Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs

Cedar Lake Trail (Minn.) is a 5.6-kilometer (km), non-motorized, off-road commuter route from St. Louis Park to downtown Minneapolis. The trail has four one-way lanes: two for bikers and skaters and two for walkers and joggers.

George S. Mickelson Trail (S.D.) is a 177-km, multi-use transportation and recreational trail along a former Burlington Northern rail bed in the Black Hills. The trail preserves the natural setting and links communities. It will accommodate hikers, horseback riders, bicyclists, cross-country skiers, and snowmobilers.

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement

Glendale Transportation Management Association Parking Management Program (Calif.) introduced parking charges, free and preferred parking for carpools, transit and vanpool subsidies, and other parking management strategies at two Glendale work sites. This program reduced emissions, vehicle trips, and vehicle miles traveled.

Public Involvement

Community Roadside Landscape Partnership Program (Minn.) is an ongoing program to improve roadside environments along rights-of-way. Using "in-kind" matching, the Minnesota DOT provides plant material, training, and technical assistance; local citizens do most of the work. This program encompasses more than 70 projects statewide, and it has provided a $3 million value at a $1 million cost.

Recycling

Swift Creek Recycled Greenway (N.C.) is a bicycle and pedestrian path made entirely from recycled materials. Plastic lumber was made from recycled milk jugs, soda bottles, polystyrene, and other post-consumer waste. The greenway, in Cary, N.C., is for recreation, transportation, and education. As an educational facility, it will enhance environmental awareness in the community by showing recycling coming full circle from a manufactured product to discarded waste and to another usable product.

Transportation Enhancements

City of Lafayette Depot Plaza Historic Restoration (Ind.) relocated the downtown train depot and converted it to an intermodal facility and a "gateway" to new greenway along the Wabash River. Depot Plaza is part of a larger railroad relocation project to remove three rail lines and 42 at-grade crossings from the center of town.

Water Quality and Wetlands

Route 3, Wawbeek-Saranac Lake (N.Y.) reconstructed state Route 3 in the Adirondacks between Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake. The FHWA Region 7 Design and Construction Team saved the visual character and ecological balance within the 23-km corridor while keeping Route 3 as the area's main east-west artery.

Judges' Award for Special Achievement

Ozark Mountain Highroad (Mo.) is a 29-km parkway loop being built to relieve congestion around the country music mecca of Branson. Estimates show that by 2015 it will save at least 4.5 million liters of fuel, reduce emissions by 13 to 18 percent, and reduce traffic delays by more than 10 million person-hours.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs

"For an Accessible Sea" (Puerto Rico) is a project at the public beach in Luquillo; it will make the beach more accessible to persons with disabilities.

Public Involvement

Metro "Region 2040" Planning Staff (Ore. and Wash.) with members of local governments and the public in the Portland-Vancouver area developed a comprehensive vision and plan for growth in the region over the next 50 years.

Recycling

Highway 54 (N.C.) was a pilot project for use of recyclable materials and research to identify innovative uses of waste products and to track their performance.

Transportation Enhancements

Dennis Semsick and Barry Beere (Pa.) provided professional engineering and design guidance to the sponsors of the 26-km Ghost Town Trail that crosses part of Indiana and Cambria counties.

Water Quality and Wetlands

FHWA Region 9 Design Team (Ariz., Calif., and Nev.) is an 11-agency environmental team that developed a memorandum of understanding on merging NEPA with Section 404.

Laura Lenzen (Neb.) launched and continues to manage the Wetlands Unit in Nebraska's Department of Roads.

JUDGES

  • Michael Berman, Research Associate, Center for Transportation and the Environment, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C.
  • Patricia Haman, Environmental Protection Specialist, Office of Federal Activities, Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Keith Mulrooney, Government Relations Specialist, The Nature Conservancy.
  • Geraldine Okwesa, Teacher of Biology and Environmental Science, Hine Junior High School, Washington, D.C.
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