An official road-building rating system similar to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for buildings may be coming soon. While the Federal Highway Administration prepares to select a team to create national guidelines, the University of Washington and engineering firm CH2M Hill have already compiled a comprehensive system called Greenroads.

Greenroads Category Weights: Shows the distribution of voluntary credit points in each of the categories.
Source: ACP
Greenroads Category Weights: Shows the distribution of voluntary credit points in each of the categories.

The performance metrics system, officially unveiled this month at the annual Transportation Research Board meeting in Washington, D.C., outlines minimum requirements to qualify as a green roadway, including noise mitigation, storm-water management and waste management. It also allows up to 118 points for voluntary actions such as minimizing light pollution, using recycled materials, incorporating quiet pavement and accommodating non-motorized transportation.

“It’s LEED-inspired, of course,” says lead author Steve Muench, UW assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. “In general, LEED has done a lot of good for the building industry. It’s created a market. It seems that the transportation industry is ready to adopt these kind of things,” he says. “We’d like this to be the go-to standard. Whether or not it will be, who knows? But, ultimately, there will be something.”

Greenroads was inspired by one of Muench’s graduate students three years ago and then became a joint project with CH2M Hill. “Several of us have been working with sustainability research, helping clients gradually address the issue,” says Tim Bevan, west region technology manager for CH2M’s transportation group. “This industry is a little bit behind” the buildings world, but now the wide-scale interest is there, he adds.

The full document, more than 400 pages, is available at The system can be used to evaluate new projects and upgrades. The Greenroads team will evaluate and rate projects for a fee, from Certified to Silver, Gold and, ultimately, Evergreen. “We view it as a living document,” says Muench. “Really, our goal for this year is to get it out there and get people to look at it.” The Oregon Dept. of Transportation, which helped fund the study, and the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Highways plan to try rating test-case projects.

Scott Snelling, a structural engineer with Hardesty and Hanover LLC, New York City, is reviewing the document. Snelling has written papers on adopting a “Greenbridges” standard. “I will be providing comments for how [Greenroads] can be expanded to bridges,” he says. He notes that the FHWA recently issued a request for quotations to create a national “Green Highways” rating system. “It will be very interesting to see how this all shakes out,” he says.