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Integrate Sustainability into Projects and Programs

Improve the Sustainability of Specific Transportation Projects

The INVEST Project Development (PD) module provides guidance in improving the sustainability of individual transportation projects. Users of INVEST can take a prospective approach and evaluate projects that are planned or currently under development or take a retrospective approach and learn from projects already completed. Both types of evaluations can help agencies identify areas for improvement, while at the same time highlight areas in which the project or agency excels.

Arizona DOT Example

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) used INVEST to score twenty planned or under construction roundabout projects. Roundabouts have seen increased application across the United States and in Arizona due to their safety and congestion reduction benefits. ADOT found the scoring process helpful both in improving the sustainability of the individual roundabout projects and in understanding the sustainability of the state’s roundabout program as a whole. As a result, ADOT has committed to assessing of up to 30 other 5-year construction projects using INVEST to help identify meaningful process improvements.

Keep Projects on Track to Meet Your Sustainability Goals

While many transportation agencies use INVEST either proactively or retroactively to assess the sustainability of particular projects, INVEST can also be an effective tool to monitor and evaluate the progress of a project in development. Initial use of INVEST has led some users to establish a “sustainability schedule” or set of milestones at which points the project progress toward sustainability is evaluated. In the examples below, the agencies have institutionalized these practices to ensure ongoing tracking of sustainability goals in projects moving forward.

Illinois Tollway Example

The Illinois Tollway institutionalized the use of INVEST in its processes by identifying key decision points, responsible parties, actions, timelines, and templates for implementing INVEST. These processes are explained in the Illinois Tollway's INVEST Project Development Manual. At the project level, the Illinois Tollway's INVEST-related activities and submittals are organized around six key milestones highlighted in the figure below, Figure: Six Key Project Milestones for Illinois Tollway.

The planner, design engineer, and construction manager use an INVEST score sheet and INVEST tracking form to keep track of progress towards sustainability goals at each milestone. The Illinois Tollway has found this approach to greatly improve the sustainability of in-progress projects and ensure that the agency keeps on track to deliver its fifteen-year, $12 billion capital program to improve mobility, relieve congestion, and reduce congestion.

Ohio DOT Example

INVEST also helped the Ohio Department of Transportation (Ohio DOT) improve the sustainability of the largest project in Ohio DOT history, the replacement of the Cleveland Innerbelt Bridge on I-90, now called the George V. Voinovich Bridge. The project has two phases – the first was construction of the westbound bridge, completed in 2013; the second phase, design and construction of the eastbound bridge, began in 2014. Ohio DOT used INVEST to score the first phase to see if the project was meeting its goals. Ohio DOT found the process so valuable that the agency stipulated in its Request For Proposals (RFP) for the second phase of the project that the contractor use INVEST to demonstrate sustainability.

The Ohio DOT design-build team is delivering on the goals and managing the project with sustainability in mind. The team uses an INVEST task force consisting of experts in various aspects of the project (e.g., viaduct, pavement, stormwater, etc.) for the scoring process. The expert task force meets every two weeks to integrate INVEST criteria into day-to-day decisions on design, planning, and construction. As the project progresses, members of the scoring team not on the expert task force will meet every six months to re-score the project and track progress towards sustainability goals. The team uses the INVEST website, as well as an activity report, to track scoring, documentation, issues that must be resolved, and action items needed for the team to move forward in evaluating and resolving each criterion.

Some INVEST criteria require early consideration during design (such as PD-10 Pedestrian Access). By contrast, others require on-going tracking for the duration of construction (such as PD-29 Construction Waste Management Plan). To ensure that each criterion is addressed at the optimal time, the Ohio DOT contractor team developed a sustainability schedule intended to overlie the project schedule. The schedule highlights action items and key dates to ensure that the team makes efficient use of time and that windows of opportunity to fulfill INVEST criteria are not missed. This is particularly important for a large project in which decisions will be spread out over a long period of time.

Provide Contractors with Incentives for Maximizing Sustainability

To ensure they achieve their sustainability goals, some INVEST users have successfully embedded INVEST into contract documents and design-build processes. An agency clearly expresses a commitment to sustainability to potential bidders from the beginning by including INVEST criteria or requirements to use INVEST to demonstrate sustainability in procurement requests and contract mechanisms. The expectations are set early that the work to be done will be held to a high standard for sustainability.  Examples from Ohio, Texas, and Oregon show that incorporating INVEST into project contracts provides contractors with incentives for maximizing sustainability and keeping costs low.

Ohio DOT Example

The Ohio DOT experience with INVEST started with use of the PD module for the westbound part of the George V. Voinovich Bridge Project. Following the success of this application, Ohio DOT incorporated a requirement to use INVEST to demonstrate sustainability into the RFP for the eastbound bridge’s design-build contract. The RFP required the contractor to develop a sustainability plan and use INVEST to demonstrate sustainability achievements. Ohio DOT asked contractors to state in their proposals how many INVEST points they could deliver and to commit to achieving a certain sustainability level.  In Ohio DOT’s process of selecting the contractor, the contractor’s sustainability commitments and plans were scored along with traditional criteria such as project management and design.

By including a requirement on INVEST in the RFP for the design-build contract, Ohio DOT provided a strong incentive for bidders to incorporate sustainability practices in their proposals while keeping costs competitive. The winning bidder committed to achieve a Platinum INVEST rating and bid below the Ohio DOT official engineering estimate. An eco-charrette with the winning contractor, Ohio DOT, and FHWA allowed all parties to further improve the project. 

Texas DOT Example

Another example of an agency integrating INVEST as part of the design-build process comes from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). TxDOT used INVEST on the $750 million Harbor Bridge Replacement Project in Corpus Christi, which will be the longest cable-stayed bridge in the United States. TxDOT applied INVEST to the procurement phase of the project to ensure that sustainability principles are considered during its project development.

In July of 2014, FHWA hosted a workshop for TxDOT, the City of Corpus Christi, and the Corpus Christi MPO. The workshop provided an overview of the tool and a hands-on opportunity to work with the web-based modules. A representative from Ohio DOT attended the workshop and provided lessons learned from the Voinovich Bridge Replacement Project, including details regarding Ohio DOT’s RFP process. This workshop was instrumental in illustrating how INVEST could be used to achieve the triple bottom line of sustainability throughout its project development and design phases.

After the workshop, TxDOT moved forward in developing an RFP for the Harbor Bridge Replacement Project. The RFP required bidders to provide a Sustainability Plan that describes their approach and commitment to sustainable design, construction, and operational and maintenance practices to optimize and balance the environmental, social, and financial performance of the project. As part of the Sustainability Plan, bidders were required to demonstrate how they would achieve the Platinum level for the INVEST PD module and the Silver level for the OM module. TxDOT evaluated Sustainability Plans based on the demonstrated ability to achieve the performance targets for the PD and OM modules. Additionally, incorporation of sustainable design and construction practices was also part of the evaluation, with special emphasis on demonstration of sustainable project features and programs, and inclusion of community engagement and outreach practices (including environmental justice commitments and practices). TxDOT ultimately selected a team that committed to achieve the Platinum level for both the PD and OM modules.

TriMet Example

Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) used INVEST to evaluate the Portland Milwaukie Light Rail (PMLR) Transit Project. The PMLR scored well in terms of the application of INVEST philosophy and criteria. For instance, the project demonstrated strong sustainability performance with features such as pedestrian / bicycle paths on the new river bridge, planted trackway, wetland restoration, recycling, LED lighting, context sensitive development, regenerative braking, solar power, and ITS. However, the project lacked sufficient supporting documentation, contractual language, and systems in place to efficiently and holistically collect and interpret performance data in the context of specific metrics. Construction contracts did not include requirements to measure performance or ensure sustainability practices would be implemented. For example, contractors were not legally obligated to provide reports documenting recycled material practices, nor were they responsible for implementing alternative or innovative sustainability practices such as donating removed materials or deconstructing buildings.

As a result of using INVEST in its analysis of the PMLR project, TriMet identified several key factors for application to future projects, which included embedding the RFQ and RFP processes with sustainability language/ expectations and scoring mechanisms, and establishing related contract language. Including sustainability priorities and practices in all contractual language will help to ensure contractor compliance with sustainability practices, data collection, and monitoring. New contract requirements will increase accountability, as well as consistency and uniformity of reporting procedures. Additionally, requiring staff and contractors to begin collecting and reporting on key sustainability practices from the beginning of a project will help to build momentum and ownership in capturing TriMet’s sustainability story.

Improve the Planning Process

The System Planning (SP) module contains criteria focusing on the scoring of an agency's long range transportation plan (LRTP), which includes the agency's transportation planning process, project selection criteria, the TIP/STIP process, and project programming. The criteria can also be applied to other transportation planning documents, such as a unified planning work program (UPWP), corridor plans, modal plans, and visioning plans. As illustrated below, numerous MPOs have taken advantage of INVEST to improve regional planning processes and inform updates to LRTPs.

Cape Cod MPO Example

The Cape Cod Commission (CCC), which is the MPO for Cape Cod, Massachusetts, used the SP module to evaluate their current Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and inform the development of their next RTP. The current RTP scored well on many aspects of the criteria as INVEST aligned well with the CCC’s goals. The CCC found that they scored lower on aspects of INVEST criteria that required defined performance measures. The CCC developed a number of recommendations for their next RTP based on the INVEST evaluation, such as developing quantifiable performance measures in multiple areas (e.g. land use and economic development), considering the use of a standing technical advisory committee of internal and external environmental interests, better addressing public health considerations, and analyzing vulnerabilities to climate change and extreme weather.

Kitttery MPO Example

The Kittery Area Comprehensive Transportation System (KACTS) is the MPO for the Maine portion of the Kittery-Portsmouth, Maine and Dover-Rochester, New Hampshire urbanized areas. KACTS utilized the SP module to score their approved 2010 LRTP and used the results to identify opportunities to better integrate and showcase sustainability principles in their 2014 LRTP. A committee was formed to score the 2010 LRTP with representation from KACTS staff, local municipalities, advocacy groups, Maine DOT, and the FHWA. The committee solely evaluated the content of the plan and did not award points for existing activities or programs that were not specifically mentioned. The scoring results highlighted numerous areas for improvement for future LRTP updates including the need for KACTS to better and more accurately reflect all of the programming that it completes every year.

KACTS used the results of the 2010 LRTP scoring process to guide and influence the development of the 2014 LRTP. KACTS recognized that the new plan should be more informative and useful for the public, and more clearly illustrate their practices, partnerships, policies, and programs that relate to sustainability. As a result, there was a marked increase in the number of points allocated to the 2014 LRTP compared with the 2010 LRTP. The considerable increase in points was mainly due to the addition of sustainability elements from the 2010 to the 2014 LRTP.

North Central Texas COG Example

The North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) serves as the COG for a 16-county region centered on Dallas and Fort Worth. NCTCOG assessed its adopted LRTP, Mobility 2035, using INVEST’s SP module to evaluate the update of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Transportation Plan and assure that all possible sustainability opportunities had been covered. The INVEST results showed that local agencies had done a good job on operations and maintenance efforts that extend the useful life of infrastructure. The INVEST score also validated the COG’s effort to manage travel demand by improving the link between transportation and land use. Through use of the tool, NCTCOG found that it needed to improve the connection between asset management and planning, and to address infrastructure resiliency. NCTCOG then used sustainability best practices from INVEST to improve in these areas and incorporate changes in the next iteration of the LRTP. With partner and stakeholder coordination, the NCTOG staff is currently working on efforts to link transportation asset management and planning on two regional freeway corridors: IH 35E and IH 20/IH 30. Additional pilot studies for several other corridors in the region are expected to begin in FY2015 and conclude later that year with a project prioritization list that will be recommended for incorporation into the upcoming Mobility 2040 plan. A final report will then be compiled to demonstrate the overall accomplishments and effectiveness of linkages between asset management and long range planning.

Cleveland MPO Example

The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), the MPO for Cleveland, Ohio, used the OM module to evaluate the effectiveness of its Regional Safety Program (RSP), improve its safety data analysis and reporting, and produce a Transportation Safety Action Plan (TSAP). The ultimate goal was to improve the region’s sustainability by reducing fatal and serious injuries. The INVEST tool allowed NOACA to assess sustainability of the current RSP and incorporate strategies into the development of the TSAP. The results were used to refine regional safety goals and objectives, evaluate and prioritize projects, and establish safety performance measures and targets.

Southern California MPO Example

The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), Southern California’s MPO, used INVEST to evaluate its 2012-2035 Regional Transportation Plan/ Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS) and to make improvements to the next RTP/SCS based on the results. As part of the scoring process for the current RTP/SCS, SCAG found that INVEST was accurate in pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of its current LRTP processes. Moving ahead, SCAG plans to begin translating the assessment of the 2012 RTP/SCS into recommendations and actions for the development of the 2016 RTP/SCS.

Conduct Programmatic Evaluations and Modify Agency Guidelines to Address Sustainability

While agencies can use INVEST to identify improvements for individual projects, the tool is also hugely informative and valuable for agencies looking to take a more holistic, programmatic approach to assessing a set of projects. This approach allows agencies to have a more complete picture of areas where the agency is excelling and where these is room for improvement. As highlighted below, multiple entities have capitalized on INVEST to help them carry out programmatic evaluations of agency construction practices.

Western Federal Lands Example

FHWA, through its Western Federal Lands Highway Division (WFL), has taken advantage of the PD module to evaluate the sustainability of its projects, increase awareness, and identify areas of improvement for current and future projects. Western Federal Lands has scored over 20 projects in the last few years. The experience helped WFL identify where they tend to score well and where they do not tend to score well. WFL has also identified areas for improvement for subsequent projects. These include adding a requirement for contractors to track waste, transitioning from hot to warm mix asphalt, and exploring how to increase reuse of rock material (particularly important in the context of parks since imported rocks must be heated and washed to avoid invasive species). Using INVEST to look across a set of projects to make adjustments programmatically to overall processes helped WFL maximize sustainability improvements.

In addition to programmatic evaluations, INVEST can also be a useful tool in steering the modification of internal policies and guidelines to better incorporate and solidify sustainable practices. This approach allows agencies to move beyond a project-by-project application of sustainability principles and practices to a more systematic way of integrating sustainability into agency processes and procedures.

Washington DOT Example

WSDOT used the SP module to score three corridor planning studies in the Seattle/Tacoma metropolitan area and then integrated the recommendations that came out of the INVEST evaluation into WSDOT's updated Practical Planning Guidelines. WSDOT planners across the state use these guidelines to develop corridor, sub-area, and modal plans. One of the greatest benefits of integrating INVEST into WSDOT’s updated planning guidelines will be to help planners view their work through a sustainability lens built upon a well-developed and nationally vetted framework. This provides a methodology for planners to begin implementing WSDOT’s sustainability values into their everyday work.

Maximize Sustainability of Operations and Maintenance Programs

Beyond its PD and SP modules, INVEST also offers agencies best practices to enhance the sustainability of operations and maintenance programs using the OM module. The OM module focuses on the scoring of an agency's internal system operations, asset management, and maintenance activities performed on the agency's infrastructure. The data collected from operations and maintenance and identification of new project needs can be used to inform the System Planning step to complete the lifecycle of projects.

Delaware DOT Example

The Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) used the OM module to score its Pavement and Rehabilitation Program and other OM activities. Even though DelDOT has actively employed sustainable practices (such as the use of recycled materials) for over 20 years, the agency had never quantified these efforts prior to INVEST. By using INVEST, DelDOT was able to measure the sustainability achievement of its Pavement and Rehabilitation Program and identify areas for improvement across many aspects of project delivery. Examples of opportunities to enhance the agency’s sustainability efforts included improving the tracking and monitoring of recycling, increasing the use of alternative fuels in fleet vehicles, and considering the use of performance metrics for traffic control plans.

Utah DOT Example

Utah DOT (UDOT) is another agency that has spearheaded the use of the OM module. UDOT initially used INVEST in the winter of 2011-2012 to develop specific recommendations for sustainability improvements to its OM Program. UDOT then performed a new self-evaluation in the summer of 2014 to measure progress and identify room for improvement. UDOT found that it had made progress in a number of areas. While UDOT’s most recent INVEST evaluation revealed that the sustainability of the agency’s operations and maintenance program is strong and improving, striving for even further improvement, UDOT developed six additional recommendations for future action.

Montana DOT Example

Montana DOT (MDT) evaluated the agency’s OM practices using INVEST criteria OM-2 and OM-3, focusing on sustainability areas that might save money, such as fuel and electrical efficiency. MDT also conducted a benefit-cost analysis related to OM-4 evaluating a potential pilot for incorporating recycling at MDT rest areas in MDT District 1. As part of this analysis MDT reviewed other states rest area recycling practices. MDT determined that while the direct monetary benefits to MDT are small, the costs of instituting a recycling collection system are also small, and such an effort would enhance MDT’s green image. Based on the INVEST evaluation and the related cost-benefit analyses, MDT is considering implementing improvements to its processes to better document MDT’s progress toward sustainability.

Pennsylvania DOT Example

Pennsylvania DOT (PennDOT) recently used INVEST to evaluate its OM Programs. PennDOT used all fourteen INVEST OM criteria plus SP- 14 (Transportation Systems Management & Operations), to evaluate and improve their sustainability practices. The INVEST team conducted interviews with subject matter experts for each OM criterion. They found that operations were quite decentralized. In order to make sure they did not miss any information, and that the final score was accurate and reflected current practices, the team needed to speak with a wide variety of staff from across the agency. PennDOT subsequently held a scoring workshop and finalized the INVEST results, which included opportunities for improvements going forward. PennDOT concluded that they will improve their INVEST scores and sustainability by addressing the following initiatives: Develop and implement a comprehensive sustainability plan; Formalize coordination or create a partnership with the Department of General Services; and Increase development and implementation of quantifiable performance metrics related to sustainable practices.