New York State Department of Transportation is pioneering an effort to measure its own performance on sustainability and is also creating a powerful incentive for its employees to go green. NYSDOT’s Green Leadership in Transportation and Environmental Sustainability (GreenLITES) program, launched in September 2008 and continuing to evolve, is a certification program that recognizes projects and operations that incorporate sustainable practices. The more green practices performed, the higher the certification level that can be achieved.
The first program of its kind in the nation used to rate all DOT projects, GreenLITES is modeled after the building industry’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program for green building practices and the University of Washington’s Greenroads program. GreenLITES applies a similar approach to recognize and encourage environmentally sustainable practices in transportation. The GreenLITES rating system tracks specific sustainable practices and awards credits based on the degree to which such practices are implemented. The system recognizes varying certification levels, with the highest level going to those efforts that go above and beyond standard practice and “clearly advance the state of sustainable transportation solutions.” Depending on the cumulative score acquired by incorporating sustainable choices into project design or operations, one of the following GreenLITES certification levels may be assigned:
- Certified: Certification is awarded for incorporation of a number of sustainable choices.
- Silver: Silver certification is awarded for incorporation of a number of sustainable choices with several of these choices having a high level of impact, or having advanced the state of practice.
- Gold: Gold certification is awarded for incorporation of a substantial number of sustainable choices with many of these choices having a high level of impact, or having advanced the state of practice.
- Evergreen: Evergreen certification is awarded for incorporation of the highest number of sustainable choices with many of these choices having an extremely high level of impact. Additionally, these efforts may advance the state of practice or are innovative in the way environmental sustainability is approached.
Scoring Projects and Operations
For Project Design, each project is tracked on a “scorecard” that lists and scores more than 170 practices in categories including sustainable sites, water quality, materials and resources, energy and atmosphere, and additional innovations and other actions. For each category, a list of activities is provided along with the number of credits that may be earned.
Because of the different nature of its work, the Operations Program takes a slightly different approach, incorporating GreenLITES sustainability measures into its existing annual maintenance and operations planning process. The long list of 130 operations and maintenance practices includes GreenLITES measures and other “green” practices available for credits in the following general categories:
- Snow and Ice
- Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)
- Guiderail & Fencing
- Walls and Rock Slopes
- Multimodal & ADA
- Signals & Lighting
- Roadside Environmental
- Fleet Administration
- Communications Technology & Emergency Preparedness
The scoring is conducted each year at the end of March at the close of NYSDOT’s fiscal year. For both Operations and Project Design, the Department presents Evergreen and Gold awards each April on Earth Day.
The program has been implemented in stages, starting with the September 2008 GreenLITES Project Design Program, followed by the April 2009 GreenLITES Maintenance/Operations Plan Spreadsheet, the March 2010 Regional Sustainability Assessment tool and the Planning, Project Solicitation tool. The Department has also launched a Local Projects Certification Program that allows other state agencies, authorities, municipalities, and non-governmental organizations to use the GreenLITES project design tool.
The GreenLITES project design tool and operations tool have proved to be good for evaluating projects that are part of an existing construction or maintenance program. However, the Department also needed a way to select the “right projects.” This led to the development of the 2010 Project Solicitation Tool and the Regional Sustainability Assessment Table.
The project solicitation tool is a questionnaire that helps determine how closely a project is consistent with seven identified sustainability goals. Points are awarded for each goal criterion in the proposed project. Project scores may then be used as a discussion point when deciding what projects to include in long-term capital program submissions.
The Regional Sustainability Assessment Table is used by NYSDOT regions to develop and assess regional long-term sustainability goals from a more holistic perspective, across program areas and using the triple bottom line realms of economy, environment and communities. The table is used to identify current states, desired future states, and plans for accomplishing future states in all three sustainability realms as they relate to specific NYSDOT goals.
All these tools are continually being updated and refined. For example, the Department is currently using the 2.1.0 project design scorecard, and after each round of operations awards the operations plan spreadsheet is updated. Also, NYSDOT is currently working on how to better integrate sustainability into the Department’s asset management and program update processes.
“The Department of Transportation is more than concrete, asphalt and steel. We are, in fact, a vital connection to and part of the path toward economic recovery,” NYSDOT Commissioner Joan McDonald said in announcing the 2011 awards. “As we plan for the future, our transportation investments must be done in a manner that is both environmentally sensitive and sustainable. GreenLITES is the Department’s nationally recognized program which keeps us focused on making transportation decisions that support a sustainable society.”
For more information, link to NYSDOT’s GreenLITES website, which includes links for the Project Design Certification, Operations Certification Program, GreenLITES Regions, Local Projects Certification, GreenLITES Planning, and links to awards. Information also may be obtained by contacting the program staff via e-mail at [email protected].