New report urges broader look at ecological effects of roads

News AASHTO Journal January 27, 2006
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A report recently released by the National Research Council urges closer coordination between agencies that protect the environment and those that construct or maintain roadways. The 324-page study, Assessing and Managing the Ecological Impacts of Paved Roads, can be read on the National Academy of Sciences website.

The report, mandated under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), offers an overview of the potential effects of roads on the environment and explores ways of softening negative effects.

The study recommends a variety of approaches not only for mitigating the effects of new roadways, but also for addressing potential environmental impacts of current roads. There are technological, planning and data-driven approaches to these tasks, the report states.

The report’s authors also suggest that the current approach to assessing environmental impacts of roads is usually to leave decision-making to localized groups or agencies. It recommends that future assessments take a bigger-picture approach to such tasks, expanding the decision making to a zone as broad as the impact would be, even involving multiple states where necessary.

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