The American Association of State and Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) competed for and has been awarded $3.1 million in funding from the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act--a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) over the next three years for a Center for Environmental Excellence.
SAFETEA-LU provides that the goal of the center is "to provide technical assistance, information sharing of best practices, and training in the use of tools and decision-making processes that can assist states in planning and delivering environmentally sound surface transportation projects."
The existing AASHTO Center for Environmental Excellence serves as an important resource for AASHTO member states and their partners seeking technical assistance, training, information exchange, partnership-building opportunities and quick and easy access to environmental tools.
With the SAFETEA-LU funding, AASHTO will build on the success of the center to actively promote environmental excellence in transportation by providing a wide variety of services aimed at defining the state of the art in environmental protection, restoration, and enhancement, and promoting innovative techniques that maximize the efficiency, reliability, and consistency of delivering environmentally sound transportation projects and programs.
AASHTO, which was awarded the funding on June 13 effective July 2, will work with the Federal Highway Administration to develop a strategic work plan that provides innovative ways to assist state transportation agencies and their partners in improving public trust, environmental performance and program delivery. Focus areas for the work plan include:
- Improving planning and environmental processes to achieve better results and timeliness;
- Advancing awareness of SAFETEA-LU environmental provisions and good practices;
- Advancing use of technology, geospatial tools, and decision-support tools to support integrated decision-making;
- Integrating Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) throughout all aspects of planning, project development, construction, maintenance and operations;
- Advancing environmental review process innovation to support congestion relief and public-private partnerships;
- Promoting commitment tracking methods and environmental management systems;
- Advancing and showcasing exemplary ecosystem and human environmental initiatives;
- Increasing availability and access to information-sharing/problem solving activities;
- Building partnerships to leverage and coordinate the center's activities and other related research efforts; and
- Advancing National Environmental Policy Act cost estimating and project oversight tools.
"The Center for Environmental Excellence will continue to be an essential resource for state transportation departments to efficiently deliver environmentally sustainable projects," said AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley. "We're pleased to be able to work with the Federal Highway Administration to provide these important tools and services to the states."