Sustainable Design and Maintenance for Urban Freeway Roadsides
Air Quality, Environmental Process
Under 1 year
Research Idea Scope
One of the greatest challenges to state transportation agencies is maintenance of roadsides along urban freeway corridors. In many cases plantings in such corridors are designed to be more ornamental or park-like in nature due to public desire for an enhanced reflection on local quality of life. The cost in on-going maintenance for these areas is high compared to non-urban roadsides due to factors such as: maintenance requirements of ornamental plants particularly where permanent irrigation is required, challenges to site access because of high traffic volumes, increased weed pressures in urban environments, and in some cases illicit use of these areas by transient populations. In many places across the country, state or local transportation agencies cannot provide for or fund maintenance of roadside plantings along urban freeways resulting in failure, loss of investment, and public criticism for wasting taxpayers’ money. The proposed synthesis study would gauge the national magnitude of the problem and determine what individual states have found as solutions to this problem. This proposal is consistent with the following two TRB Critical Transportation Issues: *Resiliency: Sustainable maintenance practices for urban roadsides will ensure the right vegetation is planted in the right place and will not fail/fall during a storm and complicate emergency transportation operations or post-storm recovery efforts. The study offers the opportunity to identify sustainable vegetation maintenance practices so that drought does not destroy or diminish the roadside landscape. *Public Health: Defective or poorly maintained vegetation poses a threat to traveler health and safety if tree or brush trunks and limbs fall into travel lanes or fall onto vehicles. Practices to protect roadside vegetation health can minimize this direct health and safety threat. Work to be performed would include: 1. Locating and analyzing existing documented information, 2. Surveying State or local DOTs to identify and document details of the problem and any solutions in urban areas across the country, 3. Identify all ongoing research relating to urban freeway roadsides, 4. Learning what parts of the problem remain largely unsolved, and 5. Highlighting examples to demonstrate the extent of the current and future problem, and examples to show where the most sustainable solutions are being applied. It should be possible to accomplish the proposal in 200-300 hours of professional time. Information Sources: • State transportation agencies experts on roadside design and roadside maintenance • Any local governments involved in partnerships for maintenance of freeway rights of way • Roadside vegetation management contractors such as DeAngelo Brothers Incorporated • University of Washington/WSDOT Research Document 774.1 – Sustainable Roadside Design and Management for Urban Freeways in Western Washington, July 2011 – http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Research/Reports/700/774.1.htm
Urgency and Payoff
In many places across the country, state or local transportation agencies cannot provide for or fund maintenance of roadside plantings along urban freeways resulting in failure, loss of investment, and public criticism for wasting taxpayers’ money. The proposed synthesis study would gauge the national magnitude of the problem and determine what individual states have found as solutions to this problem. The results will be useful to state DOTs to address economic and environmental sustainability and public safety issues.
Raymond Willard Washington State DOT