ALBANY, N.Y. — In commemoration of Earth Day, New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Commissioner Joan McDonald presented awards for staff initiatives — and for the first time work by New York City DOT staff — for incorporating environmental sustainability into project design and operations efforts through the first-in-the-nation Green Leadership in Transportation and Environmental Sustainability (GreenLITES) program.
"The DOT is committed to rebuilding and maintaining our transportation system to the benefit of all New Yorkers but we must do so in a sustainable manner, recognizing the need to reduce transportation's carbon footprint and preserve our natural surroundings," said McDonald. "GreenLITES is a nationally-recognized program which demonstrates that building and maintaining a transportation system can and should be done while minimizing impacts to the environment."
McDonald noted that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently posted GreenLITES as a case study and model sustainability program on that agency's Sustainable Highway Program's Web page.
NYSDOT managers and staff received awards for project designs or operational activities that fit the two most stringent GreenLITES criteria. Like the internationally recognized Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program for buildings, GreenLITES utilizes a rating system to score NYSDOT transportation project designs and operations and to certify them in four increasingly rigorous tiers: "certified," "silver," "gold" and "evergreen," the highest rating. The more sustainable elements incorporated into a project or activity, the higher it scores.
NYSDOT's GreenLITES initiative was used initially as a tool for the assessment of environmental sustainability on individual capital projects. The program's potential to address transportation investments across a range of program areas soon became apparent and a more holistic approach to the "triple bottom line" of economy, society and environment was adopted.
GreenLITES now includes a growing collection of tools for the planning and assessment of projects, operational activities, maintenance programs, and regional investments. It is implemented through a self-certification process overseen by an advisory committee. In addition, a quality review team provides assurance that "green" design elements are ultimately incorporated into completed projects.
Designs are rated in categories covering site selection, water- and air-quality protection, the minimization of waste, and innovation. Examples of design elements that scorers might rate highly include the selection of a project site that minimizes impacts to the environment and a project design that follows existing geographic contours. Other examples include designs that protect, enhance or restore fish and wildlife habitat, minimize storm water runoff, improve traffic flow, reduce energy and petroleum consumption, improve bicycle and pedestrian facilities and minimize noise and stray light.
NYSDOT maintenance operations staff incorporates GreenLITES environmental stewardship into all of their activities, which keep the highways and bridges functioning safely on a day-to-day basis. Maintenance requires implementing a comprehensive management system to plan, fund, track, and rate their environmental activities and ensure that NYSDOT maintenance and operation projects are done in an environmentally responsible manner. Work affected includes everything from cleaning catch basins and reducing herbicide applications to rehabilitating rest areas, enhancing noise barriers with landscaping and promoting the use of alternative fuel vehicles.
"Evergreen" recognition has been awarded to the following:
• New York City DOT — The M15 bus route along First Avenue and Second Avenue provides a critical transportation service in Manhattan, connecting many neighborhoods which are a long walk from the nearest subway station. However, M15 speeds were very slow and unreliable, due to heavy traffic congestion and high passenger boardings. Improving M15 service meant balancing transit priority with improved pedestrian safety and cycling facilities, as well as maintaining traffic flow on these busy streets. On Oct. 10, 2010, MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) and New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) implemented the M15 Select Bus Service (SBS) along this route.
• Franklin County NYSDOT Residency — Recognized as the Evergreen Operations Award winner for the second year in a row, Franklin County is a unique rural county located in Northern New York. Approximately 70 percent of the county is located within the Adirondack Park and remaining 30 percent is gentle hills sloping to the St. Lawrence River Valley and Canada. Among the residency's accomplishments: the use of recycled roadway millings used as shoulder backup and as a sub base on washouts, saving money buying quarry materials and reducing the carbon footprint associated with the mining and hauling of natural resources.
• Design of Fuller Road/Washington Ave. Ext Intersection — Located in the heart of the expanding SUNY Albany/Albany Nanotech/Harriman Campus/I-90/Crossgates Mall area, this is a critical intersection for the Capital Region carrying over 48,000 vehicles each day. The project involves reconstruction and reconfiguration of the intersection to provide an improvement that reduces congestion, improves safety and air quality, and provides access for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit. The project is also compatible with the overall development plans of the community as well as the development plan for the adjacent College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) Campus.
• Lake Champlain Bridge project — Located in Crown Point, the bridge is a primary connection between New York and Vermont and was closed unexpectedly in 2009 due to the discovery of severe deterioration and then subsequently demolished. A new replacement bridge (2,200 feet long with eight spans, including bridge approach roadways) was constructed at the same location and opened to traffic in November 2011. The project traverses French and Indian War historic sites in both states, is within the Adirondack Park, and crosses pristine Lake Champlain, all areas of high environmental and cultural sensitivity. Temporary ferry slips and landings were built in less than three months, and the ferry was used during bridge construction to eliminate a nearly 100-mile detour for traffic needing to use the bridge. The work was done without collateral intrusion into the environment, while protecting and preserving the historic sites.
• Ulster County NYSDOT Residency — Located in the upper Hudson Valley, the residency is comprised of 20 towns, one city, and two mountain ranges: the Catskills and the Shawangunks. The county is located along the western shores of the Hudson River. The residency maintains 720 lane miles of highways, primarily two-lane rural roads with some four-lane roads in and around the city of Kingston. The residency successfully reopened 30 roads without severe impact to the environment and removed 600 ash trees infested with the Emerald Ash Borer beetle.
• Design of Setauket - Port Jefferson Station Greenway Multi-Use Path — This project is located within the existing undeveloped NYSDOT right-of-way acquired in the 1960s for construction of a bypass of NY 25A in Suffolk County. This project will construct a 3.3-mile, off-road, multi-use path beginning at NY 25A in Setauket and ending at an existing New York State Park and Ride Lot in Port Jefferson Station located along NY112. The path will also tie into the recently completed bike lanes along NY112 and the existing shared road bike network along NY25A. The goal of this project is to provide a safe, non-motorized, alternative transportation facility to connect pedestrians and bicyclists to employment areas, particularly, SUNY Stony Brook and area corporate offices, houses of worship, shopping centers, and nearby Long Island Railroad Stations while minimizing the impact on the existing environment.
• St. Lawrence County NYSDOT Residency — St. Lawrence County is the largest geographic County in New York State, with two border crossings, the Adirondack Park and 1,077 lane miles of state highway to maintain. Residency GreenLITES Highlights: The residency became GreenLITES Certified in 2010. In 2011 St. Lawrence County was awarded GreenLITES Evergreen status by undertaking the following sustainable initiatives: The Potsdam and Ogdensburg Shops retrofitted existing sodium vapor fixtures in the shop area to a more energy-efficient, brighter T5HO linear fluorescent fixture; Millings were recycled and used as shoulder backup and as sub base on washouts, saving money buying quarry materials as well as reducing the carbon footprint associated with the mining and hauling involved with these materials. All vendor paving projects contained asphalt that had recycle asphalt product in the mix designs.
• Kew Gardens Interchange, Contract 2A– Queens, New York — This $113 million project addresses numerous operational and safety deficiencies along the Northbound Van Wyck Expressway from the Kew Gardens Interchange to Jewel Avenue. Kew Gardens Contract 2A is a combined highway and bridge reconstruction/replacement project in Queens which includes reconstruction of the NB Van Wyck Expressway Viaduct and replacement/reconstruction of three associated bridges, 0.75 miles of NB VWE highway, retaining walls, overhead sign structures, a new arterial maintenance building, multiple utilities, and associated landscaping. The design team selected the new alignment to increase operational efficiency and safety while balancing the need for environmentally sensitive solutions in an urban environment. Operational improvements on the Van Wyck Expressway will reduce fuel consumption and air pollution. Areas of planting were introduced along the expressway to beautify the area with native species.
For more information on the GreenLITES program, visit www.dot.ny.gov/programs/greenlites.