Improving Our Understanding of Approaches to Integrate Watershed and Habitat Fragmentation Considerations into Transportation Planning and Development, with an Emphasis on Highways
Wildlife & Ecosystems
Research Idea Scope
This research project will build on research grounded in environmental science to identify
and evaluate approaches for improving water quality and watershed performance and to
reduce habitat fragmentation and its effects on wildlife health and population. It will also
explore the tradeoffs associated with these approaches and applicability in different
environmental contexts. A necessary component of this research will be exploration of
measures to reduce the secondary and cumulative impacts of transportation on wetlands,
wildlife and ecosystems.
a) Using results from recent and ongoing research that assess the relationships between
highway transportation and watersheds—including research on the factors that influence the composition of highway runoff, how runoff affects surrounding water resources, and how runoff effects accumulate through a watershed—identify and evaluate approaches for improving water quality and watershed performance during development of highway capacity projects.
b) Develop and execute a research approach, grounded on environmental science and existing research on the effects of habitat fragmentation on wildlife populations, to 1)identify approaches for assessing the extent to which highway capacity presents a legitimate danger to wildlife and fragile habitats, and 2) identify and evaluate planning and project design approaches for reducing habitat fragmentation and its effects on wildlife health and population.
c) Assess the tradeoffs and implications of potential approaches to improve environmental performance identified in Tasks a) and b) on safety, mobility, accessibility, aesthetics, cost, and other engineering, environmental, and financial considerations, and determine applicability for different environmental contexts (e.g., suburban, urban, rural areas with different types of habitats).
d) Based on the findings of earlier tasks, develop guidance on 1) integrating watershed considerations and 2) integrating habitat fragmentation considerations into systems planning and project development. The guidance will focus on methods to improve environmental performance under specific environmental contexts, including an assessment of potential co-benefits and trade-offs in terms of mobility, accessibility, safety, community, and financial considerations.
Urgency and Payoff
The product of this research will be guidance materials on integrating watershed and habitat fragmentation considerations into systems planning and project development. The guidance will be developed so that state transportation agencies and other agencies will have a “toolbox” of strategies and approaches for addressing watershed and habitat fragmentation concerns, both at the initial planning stages and within more detailed project design, including assessments of tradeoffs given a range of engineering, environmental, safety, and financial considerations. The result is intended to enable states to draw from a wider and more appropriate and effective set of measures to minimize and mitigate against adverse impacts and to enhance the environment.
Interim Planning Activities for a Future Strategic Highway Research Program: Study 4 - Capacity, Transportation Research Board (2003)