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New York DOT encourages green designs

ALBANY, N.Y.—The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) announced a first-in-the-nation initiative to encourage designers of department projects to minimize impacts to the environment and promote sustainability in public transportation design. The new design program—Green Leadership In Transportation and Environmental Sustainability (Green LITES)—calls for the department to certify transportation project designs based on the extent to which they incorporate sustainable environmental choices. The initiative, which formalizes internal directives and implements a recognition program, started in September with the review of all project designs completed after Sept. 25, 2008.

Although the concept of green certification is not new, NYSDOT said that no program to promote these goals has ever been successfully implemented for transportation design. New York’s program involves all state road and bridge project designs and is being implemented through a self-certification process. The Green LITES certification program is intended to better integrate sustainability into project designs by increasing awareness of them and expanding innovative design alternatives. The new program provides a management tool for measuring the department’s performance, recognizing good practices, and making improvements where needed.

As with the LEED program for buildings, Green LITES uses a rating system to score project designs and to certify them in four increasingly stringent tiers, ranging from certified to silver, gold, and evergreen, which is the highest rating.

Designs are rated in categories covering site selection, water- and air-quality protection, minimization of waste, and innovation. Examples of design elements scorers might rate highly include selection of a project site that minimizes impacts to the environment and a project design that follows existing geographic contours. Other examples include designs that protect, enhance, or restore fish and wildlife habitat, minimize stormwater runoff, improve traffic flow, reduce energy and petroleum consumption, improve bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and minimize noise and stray light.