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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-12-006    Date:  September/October 2012
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-12-006
Issue No: Vol. 76 No. 2
Date: September/October 2012


Internet Watch

by Kate Sullivan

Web Site Guides Roadside Revegetation

Road construction can drastically disturb the environment, stripping vegetation, severely compacting the soil, and leaving slopes vulnerable to erosion. Traditional efforts to revegetate roadsides after construction can result in slope failures, water contamination, weed infestation, or decreased landscape aesthetics.

In recent years, however, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has assumed a leadership role in proactive environmental stewardship, establishing sustainable roadside vegetation as an essential and cost-effective practice for improving the safety of roads and associated environments.

In 2003, the Coordinated Technology Implementation Program (CTIP), a cooperative technology deployment and sharing program between the FHWA Office of Federal Lands Highway and Federal land management agencies, launched an effort to develop a comprehensive manual on best practices for using native plants to revegetate roadsides after construction. The result was the 2007 publication of A Manager's Guide to Roadside Revegetation Using Native Plants (FHWA-WFL/TD-07-006) and the manual Roadside Revegetation: An Integrated Approach to Establishing Native Plants (FHWA-WFL/TD-07-005). The manual has been distributed widely to professionals throughout the country and internationally.

Recently, FHWA expanded the reach of the publications by developing them into a Web site.

Reaching a Wider Audience

Placing the content of the publications into a Web format, in addition to reaching a wider audience, saves the considerable costs of printing and distributing the sizeable manual and facilitates future updates. Thus, CTIP launched in 2009 the Web site "Roadside Revegetation: An Integrated Approach to Establishing Native Plants," accessible at www.nativerevegetation.org.

As originally designed and launched, the site had three major modules: learn, train, and visualize. The first section contains all of the information from the Roadside Revegetation manual and is presented in an easy-to-navigate, chapter-by-chapter manner. The manual and the Manager's Guide are both available for download in this module. The next section -- train -- encompasses six online training modules that highlight the major steps in the revegetation process, with relevant links to additional information.

The third section of the site -- visualize -- uses interactive features to show how variables can influence the effectiveness of site revegetation. The user can select what to plant, and the Web site will provide a conceptual drawing of how the area will look in 1, 5, or 20 years.

In 2011, FHWA supplemented the original site with a fourth module, share. This section enables users to submit summaries of their own experiences, as well as other useful information. Users complete a submission form on the Web site, and a team of volunteers from the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. National Park Service, and FHWA vets the entries.

Meeting a Growing Demand

About 1,000 individual users access the site every month, according to Amit Armstrong, manager of the Technology Deployment Program in FHWA's Western Federal Lands Highway Division in Vancouver, WA. "One of the site's major benefits is in meeting the huge demand for information on native revegetation," says Armstrong.

One reason for this demand is that in 2009, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' Technology Implementation Group chose native revegetation as an "Additionally Selected Technology." The award provides limited promotional assistance to promising projects not selected for implementation funding as a "Focus Technology." The publicity generated by this recognition has greatly increased interest in the project and visits to the Web site. In addition, a number of State and local departments of transportation have used the modules from the Web site for training their own employees on background and techniques for native revegetation.

"When you promote something new, you need to give people new tools," says Armstrong. "This work is very important -- it affects slope stability and water quality, and it keeps invasive species out of an area. This is a very practical site with practical tools."

Screen capture from “Roadside Revegetation” Web site.

Kate Sullivan is a contributing editor for Public Roads.




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