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25 Apr 2017
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When you think of a road, what do you picture? The beginning of a journey? Do you picture dread-inspiring traffic? Or perhaps smog floating on hard, black pavement? Austin’s 183 South project envisions a green road—a path to something better.
Often roads are a means to an end, but that kind of thinking is starting to change. Greenroads International, an independent, nonprofit organization, uses it’s Greenroads® Rating System to certify transportation projects based on environmental, social and economic responsibility. Using this system allows us to build roads that strike a balance between critical transportation infrastructure improvements, and natural resource preservation.
We’ve all seen the trend toward greener buildings in recent years. The architecture industry follows the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED rating system. The Greenroads® Rating System is our industry equivalent—the most widely used transportation sustainability rating system in the world. The third-party, point-based system was launched in 2010. There are now over 110 Greenroads projects around the world, valued at more than $18 billion.
Greenroads certification is more than just incorporating environmentally sound construction practices into projects. Roadways impact communities, the environment, and other surrounding areas. A good example of how Greenroads projects address these concerns is Austin’s 183 South project.
Austin’s 183 South is currently the largest construction project in the region, and the biggest the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (the Mobility Authority) has ever undertaken. Consistent with their core value of sustainability, the Mobility Authority is pursuing certification for the 183 South project through the Greenroads® Rating System, which, if approved, could make it the largest highway project in the country with this designation.
The project enhances roadway capacity for bicyclists, pedestrians, and more than 60,000 drivers a day in East Austin while preserving recreational and environmental resources for the local community. It includes improvements to an existing highway which will ultimately provide six lanes of traffic in each direction (three lanes tolled, and three non-tolled) freeway in each direction along an eight-mile stretch in between US 290 and SH 71. Non-tolled lanes will feature pedestrian and bicyclist facilities for the entire length, as well as a high-tech traffic monitoring system for improved traffic management and emergency response.
The 183 South project takes into consideration the careful balance between the natural and built environment. Innovative construction practices are applied to enhance multimodal transit, while preserving the local landscape. River and creek crossings are maintained, and a trailhead will be added to complement the beauty of the nearby Colorado River Wildlife Sanctuary. The project’s sustainability measures will help reduce construction noise, minimize intrusive glare and disruptive light pollution, lower emissions, enhance aesthetics, and reflect local community preferences in the design.
In our role as the Mobility Authority’s general engineering consultant (GEC) and lead in submitting the 183 South Greenroads application, we’re helping pave a balanced path between critical infrastructure enhancements and natural resource protection. As deputy program manager for the Mobility Authority GEC, I’m part of the oversight team for 183 South. I closely monitor how the project is progressing, and develop reports that keep the executive team, bondholders and the public aware of how construction is progressing. The Mobility Authority entrusted us with their GEC contract in 2008. Since then, we have maintained a focus on excellence in the many services we deliver.
Greenroads certification is an ongoing evaluation process that will extend over the life of the 183 South project. Potential certification ratings are respectively bronze, silver, gold and evergreen. While we anticipate a silver certification, an actual score will not be assessed until project completion in 2020.
The benefits of the 183 South project and its potential Greenroads certification extend way beyond added roadway capacity, bicycle and pedestrian accommodations, and an aesthetic design that reflects the community’s values. We’re also opening the door to enhanced quality of life and economic opportunity for East Austin, which is poised to become a magnet for growth and redevelopment. I couldn’t be more proud to play a role in helping to achieve the goals of the Mobility Authority. Through efforts like these, we can reduce the growing carbon footprint that our country’s roadway network has on our planet.
Together, we are building a highway to a better future—moving people through our environment, while at the same time preserving and enhancing it.
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