UPDATED – “Greenroads” for ODOT? Maybe

A sign of things to come?

Will a new LEED-like road certification program help the Oregon Department of Transportation do more for biking and walking access?

According to the Daily Journal of Commerce, the ODOT is considering whether they should adopt The Greenroads Sustainability Performance Metric. Greenroads is a joint effort by the University of Washington and CH2M HILL, a large project consulting firm with offices in Portland and around the world.

According to the Greenroads website, the program gives points to road projects (new and rehab) and then gives them a rating from honorable mention to “Evergreen.”

The DJC reports that ODOT is evaluating the Greenroads program in coordination with a professor from UW on two pilot projects. For people who’d like to see ODOT projects be more bike-friendly, the Greenroads system gives points for how well a project deals with non-motorized access. In the “Credit Checklist”, Greenroads includes a line item for “Bicycle Access” and “Pedestrian Access” — project managers can get 2 points for each.

To put the relative importance of non-motorized access into perspective with other things on the list, the system also gives 2 points each to “cultural outreach” and “scenic views.” If a project fulfills the requirements for “vegetation” or “light pollution” they’re awarded 3 points.

In the Greenroads system, the goal for bicycle access is to “Promote bicycling in communities by providing new (or by upgrading existing) dedicated cycling facilities within the project Right‐of‐Way (ROW).” Here’s how the documentation describes the requirements for the bike access credit:

Implement new (or improve existing) operations or technologies for bicycle facilities. This includes (but is not limited to) added signage or minor access improvements for bicycles, such as installing bicycle detectors in driving lanes or granting signal priority, adding bike‐friendly stormwater drains, code‐required dimension upgrades, resurfacing existing bike lanes, or adding new streetside bicycle storage facilities (lockers, racks, etc.).

Implement physical or constructed changes to the roadway structure, dimensions, or form that provide bicycle‐only facilities with dedicated access within the ROW, such as a bicycle lane, dedicated pathway or bridge structure. Shared use lanes do not meet this requirement.

Greenroads takes a holistic view of projects — and is much more comprehensive than LEED because it includes impacts of the project on surrounding things like communities, vegetation, ecology, and so on.

In one pilot project, ODOT will earn bonus points for their efforts to preserve a local market. ODOT researcher told the DJC that “Under normal procedures, (the market) could have been removed for access… But in our public hearings, the community said it was very important to them for the store to stay…”

More from the ODOT rep:

“The whole point of this (Greenroads) system is to get a broader perspective on transportation,” Cornell said. “If you add a bike path, will it reduce traffic on a road? How can we incorporate other modes of transportation on existing roads? These are questions we’ve been asking during the process.”

Can you imagine if the DOTs from Washington and Oregon were eager to get a Greenroads designation for their massive Columbia River Crossing project? I hope ODOT gives this program a serious look. They’ll study the system through 2011. Learn more in the DJC and at Greenroads.us.

UPDATE, 2:30pm: I heard back from Region 1 director Jason Tell. Here’s what he says about the Greenroads program:

“I’m watching with interest. What they’re doing is a test of this approach and before we apply that to Region 1 we’d first want to know that the outcomes are real and scientifically measurable, and if that’s the case I’m very eager to start applying it to Region 1. We want to make sure it accomplishes the results it purports to and that’s what we’re going to find out from these [pilot] projects down south.”

Notify of

newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Matt Picio
13 years ago

ODOT needs a big push. Region 1 has some really good people there, who are working to make sure that the agency is serving the entire community, including bicyclists and pedestrians, but the track record of the agency as a whole is spotty at best. What’s really needed is for more citizens to get involved at every level to insist to ODOT that they provide for ALL modes, not just the most common mode.

Let’s not count on our government to “do the right thing”, or we’ll end up with some impressing greenwashing. (I don’t think it’ll be intentional, but more a result of paring things to meet budgetary goals) Government only works when the citizenry steps up to its responsibility to speak up and be heard.

Portland is in ODOT Region 1:

Check out the current projects, and find a way to get involved in the process. You’ll find that a little bit of involvement goes a long way. We’re influential, and those who participate gain respect, and a seat at the table. Don’t rely on others to do it for you – 500 of us showing up for 1 or 2 meetings in a year (a grand total of maybe 4 or 5 hours a year) can be more influential than a 3,000 member advocacy orgnaization. Get out, get motivated, get active!

13 years ago

call me cynical but it just sounds like greenwashing to me…

13 years ago

LEED in and of itself is greenwashing, but I can remain optimistic for now, particularly if it means getting some of these mofos back to work. 🙂

david....no the other one
david....no the other one
13 years ago

When the century drive highway 97 was being constructed fences kept popping up along the way. I may be wrong but they looked like seven foot tall field fence. At least the section I was used to seeing. The distance to the fence was not far from the road. Ten or fifteen feet. Some people may not know that deer are crafty creatures, they will go over or under if they want and are not opposed to jumping over seven feet high. In fact one lovely summer afternoon about four a “mule deer” was seen lazily munching hay directly across the highway from the fence. Now I’m not saying it didn’t come from the other direction, or that it didn’t go around the fence where construction was going on about one mile away. But it sure is funny to see deer do what dumb creatures are not supposed to do, thanks to our supposed smart prevention. Green deeds are good, lets just not forget nature succedes because it adapts.