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FAQ

Why did FHWA develop INVEST?

Transportation projects and systems serve many different and sometimes competing objectives. The three principles of the "triple bottom line" upon which sustainability is based (social, environmental and economic) capture the broad range of transportation goals and objectives. "Sustainability" is an approach that enables decision-makers to make balanced choices around these different objectives in a way that takes into account long-term consequences along with short-term costs. It helps identify practices that can save money and generate multiple benefits. In times of diminishing economic and natural resources, using sustainable approaches in transportation will allow us to continue to enhance quality of life and serve the transportation needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

FHWA created INVEST for research, development, and collaboration on best practice documentation for sustainable highways in response to the needs and interests of highway industry members and other stakeholders. The principles of sustainability have been used in many other building and construction industries in order to demonstrate commitments to environmental goals and cost savings to society and organizational budgets. However, these principles have not been consistently and/or widely used in transportation project development and implementation. In light of these concerns and gaps, FHWA has taken the lead to develop the foundational work of a sustainable highways initiative. The purpose of INVEST is to provide best practice information to enable practitioners to incorporate sustainability into system planning, project development, and operations & maintenance programs. In addition to providing a method for self-evaluation, INVEST provides a platform for sharing successful practices. INVEST has been developed with input from state and local transportation agency officials and staff and professional organizations such as AASHTO and ASCE.

Where do I start?

New to INVEST?

Our website has a lot of information and can be a bit overwhelming when you are first getting started.  Here is what we’d recommend for first time users:

Need to brief others in your agency on INVEST?

Print out copies of the INVEST fact sheet or download a slide presentation you can use.

Contact your friendly FHWA staff at info@sustainablehighways.org with questions, requests for training, or further information. 

How do I use INVEST?

  • Select a lead staff member to conduct and lead the INVEST self-evaluation process.
  • Give the lead time to learn about INVEST, navigate through the INVEST website, and learn about the content and tool prior to beginning the evaluation.
  • Create a test program in order to navigate the score tab and practice scoring by entering sample data in the program registration fields.
  • Browse INVEST criteria. Use the Criteria tab to learn about the criteria. Each criterion contains a title, goal, point ranges, linkage to the sustainability triple bottom line principles, background, scoring requirements, resources, and scoring sources.
  • Assemble a cross-discipline scoring team of individuals who are knowledgeable about the project or program to be evaluated and/or about the subject matter areas in the criteria.
  • Gather information in preparation for a scoring workshop. To prepare for the scoring workshop, every member of the scoring team should review the INVEST website. Once they have become familiar with the criteria required by their specific discipline, they should collect the appropriate information for each criterion. This information can usually be found in the Scoring Sources section of the criteria write-ups. By developing a draft list of information needed for each criterion, scoring team members can be assigned to collect the relevant documentation materials for specific criteria. In this way, everything needed for scoring will be available during the workshop.
  • Conduct a scoring workshop. Convening a workshop has several advantages. Team knowledge surpasses those of individuals, the process starts the conversation regarding incorporating sustainability into agency actions, and the workshop fosters discussion and reflection through a sustainability lens. The agenda can be focused on stepping through the scoring for each of the criteria and discussing areas where the agency has the greatest opportunities to improve.

TO LEARN MORE:

FHWA’a INVEST has an extensive series of tutorials under the Learn tab on the INVEST home page. To go there directly, visit www.sustainablehighways.org/120/learn.html.

How much time does it take to use INVEST?

For more information on how much time it takes to use INVEST, check out the INVESTing Time page.

Who else is using INVEST?

To learn more about who else is using INVEST, click here.

How does INVEST relate to other sustainability rating systems or guidelines?

The research and input used for developing INVEST have been based upon ideas from the other rating systems and guidelines. During the development process, more than twenty other systems were reviewed to identify best practice ideas. Over time, with continued input from stakeholders, we will continue to incorporate the best ideas available into INVEST. FHWA has taken steps to coordinate with some of the sponsors for other ratings systems, in particular the Envision(TM) sustainable infrastructure rating system. FHWA will continue coordination activities with the developers of other tools and ratings systems.

How is INVEST different from other tools?

FHWA is primarily concerned with sustainable highway practices, whatever tool is used to help agencies implement them. We recognize that there are other tools available that address different aspects of the highway profession, such as Greenroads, the Envision(TM) sustainable infrastructure rating system, GreenLITES, Sustainable Sites, and I-LAST. That said, INVEST has some unique features that might be of interest to practitioners:

  • It is focused on highways & transportation, while some of the other tools cover broader topics, such as general civil infrastructure or site development.
  • It is based upon ideas from the other tools, and input from the highway industry. It can serve as a U.S. national tool and resource with coordination and input from the whole industry.
  • INVEST is a voluntary, self-evaluation tool. Some of the other rating systems, involve third party certification reviews, and would require payment of fees for reviews and certifications. FHWA is free to use, and is primarily for sharing information and enabling project owners to begin to evaluate use of sustainability best practices on highways.

Will using INVEST, or required achievement levels/scores, be a pre-requisite for Federal funding?

No. INVEST is to provide information regarding sustainable best practices, and to further industry dialogue about evaluating sustainable highways. In addition, FHWA has no intention of requiring project owners or agencies to use this tool, or to require use of the tool for compliance with environmental requirements and/or regulation.

Why don't we get credit for complying with environmental and other applicable laws and regulations?

While many laws and regulations are mentioned or referenced within this tool, (e.g., National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act), and the importance of compliance should not be minimized or overlooked, FHWA believes that a sustainability tool should challenge agencies to go "above and beyond" compliance. The FHWA tool was created to encourage stewardship and enhanced sustainability practices beyond what is required.

How Can I Use the Results of my Evaluation?

While FHWA cannot “certify” agency and project scores, FHWA encourages using the results of self-evaluations to communicate achievements with stakeholders and to be used in public outreach.

How does INVEST effect the tradeoffs agencies must make with regard to transportation investments?

Highway and road projects are built and operated for many different reasons and are designed to accomplish many different goals. Decisions about projects should also consider the balancing of the principles of sustainability (treating them equally) but there is no requirement to do so for each and every decision. Recall that sustainability is a system characteristic. No single decision defines the entire system. INVEST provides an opportunity to quantify sustainability and put it on an equal footing with other performance measures in the decision making process but does not in any way attempt to mandate values or choices. INVEST can help users better evaluate sustainability tradeoffs. Every highway project involves tradeoffs; although, decisions become more difficult when two or more items are not directly comparable. INVEST can help with these decisions, as criteria are assigned points based on their sustainability impact. Evaluating tradeoffs should be part of any decision-making process involving sustainability.

Importantly, a sustainability performance metric should not dictate design or trade-off decisions. Rather it should provide a tool to help evaluate such decisions. As existing regulations evolve the performance metric should be updated to keep its compatibility intact.

Does a Sustainable Highway cost more?

Not necessarily. Many sustainable highway practices are ones that promote cost savings and also benefits to social, environmental and economic systems. For example, items such as quality construction, designing pavement for long life, lifecycle concepts, recycled materials and improved safety can all show an overall lower lifecycle cost as well as benefits to society. The goal of this initiative is not to "gold plate" projects, but to instead encourage sustainable principles to be applied to largest extent practicable on highway projects.

To help inform decisions about the use of sustainable transportation practices FHWA has generated dollar equivalents to estimate benefits and cost savings of specific practices that have been implemented by transportation agencies. These savings or benefits were classified into agency savings, economic benefits (to the users), environmental benefits and social benefits. These can be viewed on the Cost Savings page.

How do I provide input or feedback on INVEST?

The FHWA welcomes input and feedback regarding the tool, criterion explanations and the website itself. Your input and feedback can be provided through the Provide Comments sidebar link on the website. By registering, you can submit comments, questions, proposed a criterion or provide other feedback or ideas. The feedback information automatically gets sent to FHWA support staff and is then used for consideration in making further updates to the tool.

What happens to the data that gets entered relating to self-evaluation scoring using the tool?

That data is stored only for use by the registrant, and can only be accessed using the user email address and password. The FHWA is not accessing or using that data.

Is the tool meant only to measure sustainability performance for projects that are constructed?

There are several ways that the tool can be used. One way INVEST can be used is to evaluate performance after projects are completed or constructed. In that case, reviewing constructed projects assures that the proposed items were actually included in the project. Another way INVEST can be used is to provide ideas to be considered in a project during project planning and development. This can be done at each phase - concept design, preliminary design, or final design and construction phases. Considering best practice ideas early will generally allow inclusion of more sustainable solutions because it is often easier or more effective to incorporate the ideas while developing the overall project planning, design and construction processes, including contract documents and specifications. The farther a project is in the development process, the less likely the sustainable highway ideas can be incorporated.

Is INVEST intended for ranking projects and comparing performance between State DOTs and agencies?

No. INVEST is not intended to serve as a means for ranking or comparing performance between State DOTs or other agencies. INVEST has been developed to provide a sustainable highways best practices and to enable project owners to self-evaluate their sustainability performance.

How does INVEST relate to other FHWA programs such as Every Day Counts, Livability and Eco-logical?

INVEST includes many program elements that are common with other FHWA activities such as Every Day Counts. For example, part of the EDC initiative is encouraging the deployment of Adaptive Signal Control and Warm Mix Asphalt. PD-14: ITS for System Operations includes Adaptive Signal Control and PD-23: Reduced Energy and Emissions in Pavement Materials includes WMA as a scoring component. Also, the criteria regarding Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Transit & HOV Access are consistent with the Livability program objectives and activities.

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