Creating Green Roadways: Integrating Cultural, Natural, and Visual Resources into Transportation

Creating Green Roadways: Integrating Cultural, Natural, and Visual Resources into Transportation

by James L. Sipes, Matthew L. Sipes

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781597263221
Publisher: Island Press
Publication date: 01/01/2013
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 296
File size: 45 MB
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About the Author

James L. Sipes is a landscape architect, environmental planner, and the author of Digital Land and Sustainable Solutionsfor Water Resources. Matthew L. Sipes is a civil engineer with HMB Professional Engineers, Inc.

Read an Excerpt

Creating Green Roadways

Integrating Cultural, Natural, and Visual Resources into Transportation

By James L. Sipes, Matthew L. Sipes


Copyright © 2013 James L. Sipes and Matthew L. Sipes
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-59726-322-1



A road ... is just a road.

It is a ribbon of asphalt, striping, and guard rails that allow automobiles to get from one point to another.

But a road can be something more.

A road can not only meet transportation needs, but it can also be a community asset that is as much a part of what defines a place as parks, houses, trails, and sidewalks.

A road can be respectful of people and place. The footprint of the road can be minimized to prevent negative impacts on cultural and natural resources, and the design of the road can ensure that existing resources are protected. In rural areas, roads can be an integral part of the landscape; the Blue Ridge Parkway shows us how it can be done. In any landscape, a green roadway should have a positive influence on cultural, environmental, and economic sustainability.

Creating Green Roadways is about this idea of a road being more than just a road. With creativity, sensitivity, passion, and technological know-how, we can build roads that are not only safe, practical, and buildable, but also environmentally friendly, visually attractive, and helpful in creating a sense of community.

This book advocates a way of approaching road design that integrates cultural, natural, and visual resources into the transportation design and planning process in an economically viable and socially significant way.

A green roadway is energy efficient, addresses long-term concerns such as climate change, and seeks to have the smallest carbon footprint possible. It can be easily implemented and is designed to last a hundred years.

But Creating Green Roadways is about more than just roads. It is about pedestrian and bicycle facilities, streetscapes, and community character. It is about protecting important cultural and natural resources and ensuring that creatures large and small can cross the road safely. It is about multimodality, natural processes, and energy efficiency.

Why We Need Green Roadways

The automobile is an inherent part of the American way of life. We love our cars. The American Dream includes a white picket fence, a chicken in every pot, and two cars in every garage. For every teenager, obtaining a driver's license is a rite of passage that opens up a whole new world of freedom and possibilities.

So much of our culture has been influenced by the automobile. Roads dominate the American landscape, and we build our cities and towns around the automobile. For the last seventy years or so, it seems we have adopted the philosophy that the more roads we have, the better. The development of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s helped connect the country and resulted in a significant increase in privately owned automobiles. It also led to the creation of the suburb, and the development patterns in the United States changed almost overnight.

Highways are also the backbone of the American economy. The Interstate Highway System has served as the nation's primary transportation network for more than half a century, and it has had a lot to do with the diverse, robust economy that we have in the United States.

We rely much more heavily on roads for commercial and personal transit than any other country in the world. Transportation systems provide direct economic and social opportunities and benefits. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, "Transportation's vital importance to the U.S. economy is underscored by the fact that more than $1 out of every $10 produced in the U.S. gross domestic product is related to transportation activity." Virtually all goods and services involve interstate highways at some point.

Local roads are essential for the day-to-day lives of many Americans. We seem to drive everywhere—to work, to school, to stores, and to parks. As a general rule, when transportation is efficient, the potential market for a given product or service increases, and this leads to a stronger economy. It is important to be able to transport supplies to manufacturers and to ship final products to consumers. The more efficient this system, the better.

The Expansion of Our Highway Infrastructure

When Henry Ford introduced his Model T in 1908, it changed the American culture overnight. It no longer took days to visit relatives in the next town over, and the concept of distance changed significantly. According to the Antique Automobile Club of America, in 1910, Ford produced nineteen thousand Model Ts. By 1927, fifteen million Model T Fords had rolled off the assembly line. For comparison, there were a total of 4,192 automobiles registered in the United States in 1900, and around 210,000 in 1911.

One given is that if you build cars, you need to build roads.

The Antique Automobile Club of America also notes that there were only ten miles of paved roads in the United States in 1900. With all of the new automobiles being produced, there was a demand for more roads. The Federal Highway Act of 1921 provided funding to help state highway agencies construct paved, two-lane interstate highways. During the 1930s, the Bureau of Public Roads helped state and local governments create Depression-era road projects that employed as many workers as possible.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation authorizing a network of rural and urban express highways in 1944, but the legislation lacked funding, so nothing was built. When President Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highways and Defense Act in 1956, it was a significant moment in the history of the United States. From the start, the Interstate Highway System was hailed as the greatest public works project in history. The system was constructed as part of the nation's strategic homeland defense, illustrating the important role of transportation in emergency mitigation, defense, and recovery.

Eisenhower's vision of national prosperity was successful beyond expectations. The construction of the Interstate Highway System and subsequent expansion of connected urban freeway systems completely changed how people got around in this country.

A lot has changed since the Interstate Highway System was developed. The U.S. population has almost doubled, increasing from 169 million to more than 300 million, and gross domestic product has increased from $345 billion to $14.3 trillion. In 2006, we traveled more than three trillion vehicle miles, five times the level in 1955 (U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, 2009). In 2009, there were more than four million miles of paved highway in the United States, and the greatest distance from a road in the contiguous states was twenty-two miles (in the southeast corner of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming). In 97 percent of the continental United States, you were no more than three miles from a paved road.

The Problem

Our current transportation system is broken.

We need a new approach, because the old approach to designing and building roads no longer works. We are not able to meet the transportation needs of today, and the situation is just going to get worse.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that we need to invest $2.2 trillion in federal, state, and local funds over a five-year period to meet transportation requirements. Population growth has created capacity demands that our existing transportation infrastructure has not been able to meet. Funding for transportation infrastructure is woefully inadequate. In early 2009, economist Michael Hudson said, "The [US] economy has reached its debt limit and is entering its insolvency phase. We are not in a cycle but [at] the end of an era."

In the next few years, as our aging infrastructure is repaired and expanded, there will be opportunities to create green roadways. A lot of freeways were built more than fifty years ago and are in a constant state of disrepair. According to TRIP, a nonprofit transportation research group based in Washington, D.C., our transportation infrastructure is badly in need of repair:

• 33 percent of the nation's major roads are in "poor or mediocre condition"

• 36 percent of major urban highways are congested

• 26 percent of bridges are "structurally deficient or functionally obsolete"

One of the big problems is that demands upon our nation's highways have increased significantly over the years. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), there were approximately 65 million cars and trucks in 1955, and today that number has nearly quadrupled to 246 million (Schoen, 2010). In 1970, motor vehicles on U.S. roads traveled around one trillion miles per year; in 2010 this number had increased to more than three trillion miles each year. During that interval, the total number of miles of paved roads increased by only 1.97 percent.

In 2007, the condition of our transportation infrastructure really hit home when an interstate highway bridge in downtown Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi River, killing thirteen people and injuring dozens of others. The bridge collapse got the attention of transportation departments across the country, and many realized they needed to focus more on maintaining existing assets.

Additionally, population growth has created capacity demands that our existing transportation infrastructure has not been able to meet. Major cities are becoming more congested, commuting times are increasing, and problems will continue to get worse because of projected growth. By the end of 2050, the world's cities will see their populations expand by 3.1 billion new residents.

How do we build new roads if we can't take care of what we have now? We can no longer afford to design and build roads the way we once did.

Green Roadways and Quality of Life

There is a need to reevaluate how transportation is accommodated in rural, suburban, and urban communities. Roads and highways have such an impact on our communities that we need to start thinking of them in terms of quality of life. This is a basic concept behind developing green roadways.

Roadway projects often are viewed as blights on the landscape because they are the harbingers of noise and traffic, and physically and visually divide the landscape. Green roadways, however, are based upon the idea that a road can be an asset and can add value to a community's quality of life.

A green roadway should protect:

• natural resources by minimizing the impact of the road, reducing our carbon footprint, preserving trees, and managing water resources

• human-made resources by respecting cultural values

• creatures large and small by preserving habitats and ensuring that animals can cross the road safely

• motorists by creating the safest, most functional road possible

• open space and the existing landscape character by minimizing the road footprint and incorporating parks and conservation areas into transportation projects

• the future of our children by being energy efficient and using resources wisely

One of the best ways to build a green transportation infrastructure is to get people out of their cars. By reducing the amount of time people spend in cars, we reduce air pollution and encourage a greater level of physical activity. And if we are using cars less, we will need to build and maintain fewer roads.

Some transportation experts have gone so far as to say we can't maintain the size of our current road system, and what we should do is actually close down 15–20 percent of existing roads. This kind of approach is not unprecedented: the Base Realignment and Closure process has led to the closure of more than 350 military facilities since 1989. The 2005 commission recommended that Congress authorize another Base Realignment and Closure round in 2015, and then every eight years thereafter. It will be interesting to see if we do the same thing with roads.

If we can reduce the number of cars and trucks on the roads, that will go a long way toward a more sustainable future for our kids.

Overview of the Book

Creating Green Roads is about how to integrate roads, bridges, trails, walkways, and other transportation elements in such a way that they become assets, not liabilities. Transportation systems have an impact on everyone. Whether it is driving to work, taking the kids to soccer practice, riding a bus, planning new communities, protecting the environment, or making it easier for kids to walk to school, roadways are a part of our day-to-day lives.

The book is divided into twelve chapters, including this introductory chapter.

Chapter 2 examines existing transportation policies and the impact they have upon how stakeholders make decisions. This includes federal, state, regional, and local policies, and how they work together. In particular, the chapter focuses on the U.S. National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 and its influence on how transportation projects address potential impacts. Although the National Environmental Policy Act has been around for years, we are just now starting to understand how it can lead to green, sustainable roadways.

Chapter 3 looks at the basic elements that typically make up a transportation project. Understanding the basics provides us with greater opportunities to make changes that lead to greener roadways.

Chapter 4 explores the design and planning process, how to develop a wide range of green alternatives, and the best approaches for ensuring a green roadway that considers both people and place.

Chapter 5 looks at how individuals and organizations can get involved in the planning, design, and implementation of green roadway projects.

Chapter 6 examines green roadways in urban areas and presents case studies that indicate successful approaches for implementing urban solutions.

Chapter 7 looks at suburban and rural areas and the unique transportation issues they face. This chapter also presents case studies on successful green roadway projects in these settings.

Chapter 8 explores how green roadway projects can be developed while respecting cultural, historic, and visual resources. It emphasizes how to develop green roadways that fit communities and help create a sense of place.

Chapter 9 focuses on how to develop green roadways that are environmentally sensitive and respectful of little creatures, with the aim of actually improving the world around us. This approach means looking at alternative energy sources and thinking of roadways as laying lightly on the land, and perhaps even being carbon-positive.

Chapter 10 looks at how we can construct green roadways so they last longer, are easier to build, and are less disruptive of people and the environment.

Chapter 11 examines the economics of green roadways and what we need to do to build the next generation of green roadways.

Chapter 12 looks at the next steps in creating green roadways. How do we plan for the next generation of green roadways, and what do we have to do to make this work?


Transportation Policies

Creating green roadways is a cooperative process designed to foster involvement by all users of the system. The most sustainable approach to transportation would be to maximize use of existing public infrastructure, reduce people's need to drive, increase roadway connectivity, disperse traffic, and minimize the construction of new roads.

Traditionally, the role of the federal government in transportation has been to set national policy, provide financial aid, supply technical assistance and training, and conduct research. The federal government provides a significant amount of funding for states to implement transportation projects, and there are requirements attached to those funds. Because of this combination of policies, regulations, and funding, federal agencies have a strong influence on state and local transportation decisions.

Green roadway projects are conducted at state and local levels. This is entirely appropriate because highway and transit facilities and services are owned and operated largely by the states and local agencies.

Federal Policies and Procedures

The federal transportation policy framework consists of a series of laws, regulations, orders, and other documents, and a number of different agencies are involved with implementing and enforcing these. It is important to know: (1) the key agencies and organizations that are involved with federal policies and procedures, and (2) the major federal acts and regulations that define transportation policy.


Excerpted from Creating Green Roadways by James L. Sipes, Matthew L. Sipes. Copyright © 2013 James L. Sipes and Matthew L. Sipes. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 Introduction,
Chapter 2 Transportation Policies,
Chapter 3 Basic Roadway Design,
Chapter 4 Design and Planning Process for Green Roadways,
Chapter 5 Public Involvement Process,
Chapter 6 Green Roadways in Urban Areas,
Chapter 7 Green Roadways in Rural and Suburban Areas,
Chapter 8 Cultural/Historic/Visual Resources,
Chapter 9 Natural Resources/Environmental Sustainability,
Chapter 10 Constructing Green Roadways,
Chapter 11 Economics of Green Roadways,
Chapter 12 Next Steps in Creating Green Roadways,

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