A highway improvement project that runs through a national park is serving as a test case for formalizing a road rating system similar to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building rating system.

The U.S. 97 Lava Butte-South Century Drive project in Oregon may be the first roadway to be officially rated “green.”
Photo: David Evans and Associates
The U.S. 97 Lava Butte-South Century Drive project in Oregon may be the first roadway to be officially rated “green.”

The 3.8-mile, $16-million U.S. 97 Lava Butte-South Century Drive upgrade in central Oregon runs through the Newberry National Monument. It is the furthest along of three projects the Oregon Dept. of Transportation will evaluate to determine if it will adopt standards set by Greenroads, unveiled by the University of Washington and CH2M Hill earlier this year.

The existing highway consists of four non-separated lanes. The project will create two lanes in each direction, separated by a grassy median. Two undercrossings for wildlife are being built.

The existing lanes will be used only for southbound traffic, while Knife River Corp., Bismarck, N.D., builds the new northbound lanes. “Crossover accidents were a big problem, as were wildlife crashes,” says Mike Hohbach, project manager for designer David Evans and Associates Inc. (DEA), Portland.

ODOT’s decision to compare the project against Greenroads occurred after final design, but DEA already had conducted environmentally crucial tasks, such as wildlife and plant surveys, says Scott Richman, DEA environmental task leader. Black-wire-mesh fencing will guide elk and deer toward the underpasses. The new lanes also pass over a cave, a local tourist attraction.

ODOT project manager Stephanie Serpico says that, when completed in 2012, “we will go back and grade it and see how it would have done if we’d had no idea of Greenroads.” Cut-down trees are reused on slopes, and reclaimed water from a sewer plant is used to control dust.

Greenroads outlines minimum requirements to qualify, and it allows up to 118 points for voluntary actions such as minimizing light pollution and recycling materials. The full Greenroads document is available at http:/www.greenroads.us.