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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-06-004 Vol. 69 No. 6    Date:  May/Jun 2006
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-06-004 Vol. 69 No. 6
Date: May/Jun 2006


Internet Watch

Green Highways: Merging Transportation and Environmental Missions

For years, two disparate communities dedicated to improving the lives of the American people struggled to achieve a common understanding. With a mission to protect human health and the natural environment, the environmental community has focused on safeguarding life's necessities including potable water and clean air. The transportation community, on the other hand, maintains a focus on building safe, sustainable highways and livable communities, while addressing the challenges of increasing growth and congestion. Historically, the dedicated public servants within the environmental and transportation communities sometimes viewed each other's missions as mutually exclusive or as roadblocks to achieving their respective goals. The Mid-Atlantic Green Highways Initiative (GHI), recently renamed the Green Highways Partnership (GHP), aims to bridge the gap between environmental and transportation issues.

Sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Region III and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the GHP is a network of industry, trade, and environmental organizations; private sector consultants and contractors; and local, State, and Federal Government partners. The goal is to develop mechanisms and actions for meeting transportation requirements and improving the natural, built, and social environment-striving for conditions that are "better than before."

Web Site Drives Collaboration

To facilitate merging transportation and environmental missions and developing successful streamlining and stewardship practices, GHP created a Web site, www.greenhighways.org, to serve as the hub for information and technology transfer. The "Green Highways Initiative" Web site targets audience includes researchers, practitioners, contractors, policy makers, regulators in transportation and environmental agencies, nongovernment organizations, and industry trade organizations.

The site will bring together research agendas, regulations, policies, practices, tools, and products in GHP's three theme areas: watershed-driven stormwater management, recycling and reuse of industrial byproducts and other materials, and conservation and ecosystem management. The highest priorities for the GHP Web site are communication, information sharing, and collaboration. The first thing visitors see on the homepage is up-to-date information on GHP activities, which include a forum, an ad hoc committee, an executive committee, and theme teams.

Practice Makes Perfect

GHP highly values the use of pilot projects to assist in identifying and implementing practices that are cost effective, provide environmental benefits, and have market appeal. The Web site will serve as a clearinghouse for exchanging research results and lessons learned from pilot projects that are applicable to the three theme areas.

The pilot projects will generate data on costs, the effectiveness of tested solutions, and construction issues that are relevant to the industry. These data will help establish baseline protocols and metrics. Users can check the Web site for progress on projects such as the proposed pilot on watershed-driven stormwater management, which will be spearheaded by the Maryland State Highway Administration, EPA, the Low Impact Development Center, and the Global Environment and Technology Foundation (GETF). GETF-under the direction of the GHP Web site Advisory Board and with support from public and private investors-will develop, house, and maintain the Web site.

The 'Green Highways Initiative' homepage.
The "Green Highways Initiative" homepage.

Initially, the stormwater management pilot will produce a set of values-such as linear feet of restoration, acreage of restored wetlands, or reductions in mass of pollutants-that researchers can use in trading schemes for wetlands creation and stream restoration. Further, the pilot will produce a number of innovative context-sensitive structural and nonstructural practices that the design community could apply to other transportation projects.

For more information, contact Noeleen Tillman, GETF vice president and GHP project manager, at 760-944-9398, or Marlys Osterhues, environmental protection specialist with FHWA's Office of Project Development and Environmental Review, at 202-366-2052.

Denise Rigney is the transportation liaison from EPA Region III's Water Protection Division, Office of State and Watershed Partnerships.


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