Sustainable Transportation Design

Posted by on Jun 24, 2014

luke morenus familyAfter working at Sain Associates as a transportation engineer for about 10 years, I returned home to New York to be closer to my family in 2001. Today, I am a Senior Managing Engineer at Barton and Loguidice, P.C. in Syracuse. One of our services is sustainable transportation design, a trend we’ve become very familiar with and one I think we’ll start to see more of since it strives for a balance between long-term costs, sustaining resources and providing a better quality of life.

The State of New York has a program called the Green Lights program that we are involved with. It focuses on highway and transportation jobs. It’s very similar to the LEED program for building design, engineering and construction where sustainability in several areas is the goal. Many of the transportation elements of the program focus on environmental sustainability through storm water, reducing pollutants that drain off the roadway, and reducing fuel consumption and air pollution through better management of traffic.

Sustainable transportation design can also involve making transportation better through a multimodal point of view so that pedestrians, bicyclists and public transportation can share the road with standard passenger vehicles and trucks. Our goals are to make roads safer, slow speeds, calm traffic and make for better communities overall. There are many ways to do this, and we’ve completed several projects that have included elements of each of these recently.

One of the interesting projects we’ve done is the Connective Corridor in the City of Syracuse that’s a partnership between the City of Syracuse, Onondaga County and Syracuse University. It involves a full reconstruction on a corridor of city streets that connects the University campus, which is up on a hill, to the downtown business district. It includes dedicated bicycle lanes, enhanced pedestrian accommodations with lighting, pedestrian furniture, routing signs and other interactive, high-tech features. We also added environmentally sustainable features such as porous concrete on the sidewalks and next to the sidewalks. The stone underneath acts as a filtration system that allows run-off to go right back into the groundwater system without requiring a sewer system. With features like this, it actually saves money because there’s no need for drainage structures, pipes and filtration systems.

The most interesting project I have been involved with yet is Beach Road in Lake George, NY, which is located on the edge of the Adirondack Mountains. Here, we used porous asphalt on the entire road. Rain soaks directly into the road and doesn’t run off into storm water systems or into Lake George, which is directly next to the road. It absorbs up to 5 inches of rain and infiltrates it down through a stone reservoir where it drains. It has helped clean up the lake, because there aren’t oils or road salts running off into the water. Road salts are a big problem in this area with so much ice and the snow in the winter. But with porous asphalt, salt isn’t needed because snow and the rain goes right down into the road, so there’s no icing.

All of these elements of sustainable transportation design add up and make a difference when it comes to the big picture. Even if it costs a little more up front, the design lasts longer and saves money in the long run. For example, in New York and surrounding areas, one of our biggest enemies to a highway is water getting under it. If we can do things to eliminate this, the road will last longer, which ultimately saves money, time and resources.

Sustainable transportation design also helps make for a better community. Roadways that are put to good use by allowing vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians to share the corridor make quality of life better for everyone. If traffic can flow more efficiently, that makes the air cleaner and will require spending less on environmental problems in the future. It’s a balance between long-term costs, making design elements last longer and providing a better quality of life.

From what I’ve seen, it’s hard to put your finger on a lot of actual construction projects that involve sustainable transportation design right now. When you are dealing with highways specifically, a lot comes down to the cost and the fact that many people are reluctant to change the model they are used to. It takes the right kind of client, funding, and designers to successfully implement sustainable transportation design, but it’s something I hope we start to see more of in coming years.

Luke Morenus is a Senior Managing Engineer at Barton and Loguidice, P.C. in Syracuse New York. We were happy to have had Luke and his wife Carolyn as members of the Sain Associates team for several years before they returned home to New York. They have two sons, Jacob and Ben, and the entire family visited us in Birmingham last fall.

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