Green Highways Partnership Collaborating for Progress
The Green Highways Partnership is a revolutionary approach to achieving sustainable transportation infrastructure and improved environmental compliance, protection, and preservation. The approach provides for predictable pathways to streamline the delivery of transportation projects through incentives and recognition including, innovative market based solutions… a unique “silo-smashing” initiative. The Green Highways Partnership (GHP) is a voluntary, public/private network focusing on effective, green transportation partnering, innovation and collaboration. The GHP is shaping the development of transportation infrastructure in the Mid-Atlantic.
For many years, because of disparate missions, it was thought that the environmental and transportation communities could not coexist and that their relationships were destined to always be adversarial. In the planning, design and construction of highways, Departments of Transportation have to address hundreds of local, state and federal environmental regulations. Likewise, protecting and restoring environmental quality, such as water quality, and environmental services, can be affected by the construction of transportation and other public infrastructure. These competing missions can result in the delay of both construction of needed public infrastructure and the protection and restoration of essential environmental resources. However, the increasing demand and expectations from the public for both improved transportation systems and protection of our natural environment set the stage for a shift in the adversarial paradigm. As this demand increased, the players also found increasingly complex environmental problems. Increasing cost of doing business and ever shrinking resources drove the formation of this partnership to encourage the recognition of common goals and the need to leverage not only resources but also the knowledge and experience found in government, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.
What makes the GHP different from other transportation/environmental collaborations is the scope of participation in the Partnership. The Partnership includes transportation experts from private consultants, contractors, industry, academia, trade organizations, environmental groups, as well as government agencies. By leveraging the knowledge and experience of these experts, we are together developing innovative approaches for planning, designing, constructing, as well as, operation and maintenance, and regulatory compliance of transportation facilities. Involving such a broad array of interests provides the opportunity to uniquely incorporate the concepts of marketability, regulatory consistency, and integrated planning into our new and existing approaches. The end result is that transportation infrastructure will address both societal needs and environmental sustainability. The focus of GHP is to leverage partnerships, recognition, and opportunities to promote, develop, and demonstrate sustainable solutions.
The Green Highways effort was initiated by Region 3 of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Green Highways concept was originally vetted through key EPA Headquarters programs, the Federal Highway Administration, as well as with trade organizations, the Transportation Research Board, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and private transportation consultants. This coordination launched a June 2005 Executive Planning Charette held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to establish a definition and vision and to get feedback from Senior Executives of these organizations. Over 50 leaders and senior-level executives from the public and private sector participated in this productive session. The EPA was represented by senior officials from the EPA Regional Office and Headquarters Program Offices. Several Division Administrators, Division environmental staff, and senior Headquarters officials represented FHWA at the charette.
The initial organizing efforts culminated in a Green Highways Forum held November 10, 2005, in College Park, Maryland. The Forum, for the first time, brought together several hundred practitioners including State, Federal and local transportation and environmental officials, as well as professionals from various private sector companies, and trade associations. The Forum, funded by FHWA, EPA and the Maryland State Highway Administration and sponsored by leading private sector transportation firms provided a unique opportunity to forecast business trends, debate key policy issues, and hear directly from top policy makers concerning the future of the GHP. “The Green Highways Forum is a turning point toward the creation of good will relationships and partnerships for the advancement of transportation and the environment,” explained FHWA’s Former Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty Associate Administrator Cynthia J. Burbank.
As a follow-up to the Forum, over 40 people from both the Green Highways Leadership and invitees from the transportation and resource agencies, industrial organizations and non profits met in St. Michaels, Maryland in March 2006. The purpose of the retreat was to frame the future of the Green Highways and refine the “road map” for the Partnership. The broader group divided into three Theme Teams to turn the Green Highways vision into pilots, projects, and measurable outcomes.
The early action Theme Teams were identified as: Watershed-Driven Stormwater Management; Recycling and Reuse (Industrial By-Products Uses/Implementation); and Conservation and Ecosystem Management. These areas are ripe for focus because of the alignment of public/private resources and advancements in environmental science and technology. Significant collaboration is needed to align the wide variety laws, regulations, policies, specifications, and procurement methods. A functioning partnership is essential to develop sustainable solutions when obstacles arise.
The GHP strives to integrate public/private interest among federal/state transportation and regulatory agencies, contractors, the materials industries, trade associations, academic institutions and non-governmental agencies (NGO’s/MPO’s)–0ver 100 organizations—to develop and advance green highways goals.
It also integrates goals of existing initiatives such as, Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) Environmental Stewardship, and Sustainability. Partnership teams in the Mid-Atlantic region have organized around the following focus areas:
GHP Steering Committee – Champions overall effort, provides direction and support; Consists of key assignees of the partner organizations; and Identifies and resolves resource and sustainability issues
GHP Management Team – Champions and manages activities; Ensures accountability for partners and activities; Enables progress of efforts through resource support and removal of barriers; Identifies opportunities through which to achieve GHP goals and objectives; and Provides support to GHP Action Teams
Theme-Oriented Action Teams/ Leaders – Responsible for advancing the issue as per the business plan and action plan; Involves the right people and coordinates with their team; Communicates progress, barriers and breakthroughs to core coordination group and their team.
Core Operations/Coordination Group – Staff level group to maintain operations and keep the logistics active; Manages grants, contracts, and other support vehicles; Staffed by EPA and FHWA, and supported by a paid coordinator/facilitator; Distributes periodic progress reports to the entire GHP
Communications, Outreach & Recognition Coordinator – Supports regular communication and reporting among the Steering Committee, Management Team, and Theme Teams; Supports information networking through electronic tools – GHP website and Digest; Coordinates GHP planning meetings and recognition Forum; Assists issue teams with workshops, and cross-cutting GHP workshops: Facilitates support for GHP activities through private sponsors.