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Version 1.3

Improve Education and Understanding of Sustainability

Change the Perception of Sustainability

INVEST is helping agencies and stakeholders define in new ways what sustainability means for the transportation sector. The application of INVEST helps to mature the topic of sustainability by taking it beyond standard environmental considerations. Using the triple-bottom-line concept, INVEST makes sustainability more relevant at DOTs and other transportation agencies in that it highlights social and economic benefits, expanding the perception of what it is to be “sustainable” and how these practices can be incorporated into daily practices. Agencies commonly found that the longer they used INVEST, the more engrained it became in their culture. For instance, through the concepts instilled by INVEST, project managers know which sustainability considerations to look for at the beginning and throughout a project, plan, or program.

Federal Lands Example

FLH also found that INVEST helped them to further develop their definition of sustainability. FLH reported that their use of INVEST is intended mainly for training to encourage internal considerations of livability, sustainability, and context-sensitive solutions. FLH’s goals are to make sustainability part of standard procedures, and to emphasize that sustainability is not just environmentally or safety related, but also includes economic and social impacts. The focus of INVEST on the triple bottom line is helping FLH achieve this goal as they use the tool.

Utah DOT Example

At Utah DOT (UDOT), using INVEST helped to broaden the agency’s definition of sustainability and how staff view and understand sustainability as it relates to transportation. A member of the UDOT INVEST team recognized that staff members did not formally consider the agency as “sustainable.” However, the way INVEST presents the three principles of sustainability resonated with the state and illustrated that agency practices are already sustainable in various aspects. Using INVEST helped UDOT take sustainability from a purely environmental concept to a broader, more inclusive concept that addresses social and economic issues. INVEST has also helped the agency to realize the benefits of sustainability, and gain traction on initiatives like active transportation and health in transportation.

Many users of INVEST have found the materials associated with the tool to be valuable and easy-to-use for planning, programming, and project development. Some agencies—including the Illinois Tollway and state DOTs in Utah and Washington—used INVEST to inform updates to their planning guidelines and standard operating procedures, while other agencies used INVEST materials as a day-to-day reference for sustainability considerations. Additionally, many agencies identified the INVEST case studies as helpful in illustrating how best practices are obtainable by any agency. Ultimately, INVEST could become a one-stop-shop of sustainability references for DOTs and transportation agencies throughout the country.

District of Columbia DOT Example

District of Columbia DOT (DOT) appreciated the ability of INVEST to provide a consistent reference for sustainability practices. The agency recognized that the best aspects of using the self-evaluation tool were the ability to quantify sustainability and the consistency of these quantification methods. Staff members at DDOT noted that sustainability can often harbor philosophical debates; whereas, the INVEST tool allows the agency to illustrate sustainability benefits through quantifiable measures and “bring everyone onto the same page” since the tool leaves little room for interpretation. Going forward, the agency plans to create a baseline of new projects and then score these projects over time as they move through project development process. DDOT staff members are looking forward to seeing the longitudinal results afforded by INVEST being used as a consistent reference.

Motivate and Encourage Innovations

Agencies specifically laud INVEST for motivating project managers to go the extra mile to achieve higher scores for their project, program, or plan. This motivation generates innovation, by inspiring staff to find ways to add sustainable elements and practices to their work while staying within budget. INVEST can also encourage staff by recognizing and acknowledging existing sustainability efforts that push the envelope and go above and beyond typical requirements.

Arizona DOT Example

Western Federal Lands Example

WFL rewards innovation using the PD module to score, rank, and select the recipient of its Annual Sustainability Award. Starting in 2012, WFL instituted the award to better market and showcase WFL sustainability efforts. During the first year, WFL compiled a list of 17 eligible (under-construction or recently constructed) projects including new construction and rehabilitation projects. As part of the scoring process, WFL met with each of the project managers to discuss the scope of the projects and identify sustainability features. In 2013, WFL scored and ranked all of their existing large scale projects to determine the Annual Sustainability Award winner. An added benefit of the award was that project managers were interested to learn what the award winner had done and what they could do better. Now project managers are trying to better incorporate sustainability throughout the entire project development process. Overall the Annual Sustainability Award is contributing to a culture of sustainability at WFL and increasing awareness by providing a quantifiable way to define and measure sustainability.

Emphasize Outcomes Over Score

While INVEST is a tool meant to evaluate the sustainability of a particular project or program, its inherent value is not the score it produces, but the outcomes it achieves and the recommendations it generates. A recurring theme in the feedback FHWA received on INVEST is that agencies care more about the benefits of INVEST through generating conversation, enhancing sustainability practices, and establishing benchmarks, and less about their final scores.

Kittery MPO Example

The Kittery Area Comprehensive Transportation System (KACTS) used INVEST to broadly improve sustainability principles and outcomes in their long range transportation plan (LRTP). They used 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. The scoring committee solely evaluated the content of the plan and did not award points for existing activities or programs that were not specifically mentioned. This approach to scoring led to the 2010 LRTP receiving a total score of 17 out of 250 possible points. 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. Their use of INVEST was therefore a means by which they could improve their plan, rather than focus solely on their final score.

Washington State DOT Example

Similarly, Washington State DOT (WSDOT) approached application of the INVEST tool without the desire to obtain a specific score; rather, members at the agency wanted to identify the next incremental steps to becoming more sustainable. Performing the evaluation process served primarily to facilitate conversations and learn about sustainability.

Build Intellectual Capacity

Users of INVEST have also applauded its educational benefits and its ability to help build intellectual capacity within transportation agencies. In addition to framing the topic of sustainability and encouraging internal communications across disciplines, INVEST trainings and workshops promote staff understanding of sustainable practices and provide concrete examples of how to better integrate and implement innovative elements into projects, plans, and programs.

Eastern Federal Lands Example

The Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division (EFL) within FLH has provided training on sustainability and livability for a number of years, and more recently incorporated INVEST into that training. EFL decided to embed concepts from INVEST’s PD module into their Construction Winter Training Program, the aim of which is to increase awareness and facilitate greater discussion about sustainability while further integrating sustainability considerations into project planning, design, and construction. As part of the training, EFL provides project teams with design alternatives and innovative approaches to better address context-sensitivity issues, apply livability principles, and incorporate sustainable highway practices featured in INVEST. As a result of these trainings and the need to better inform staff of the environmental process and CSS, in 2012, EFL implemented an Environmental Sustainability review. The review is now completed for each project during the initial scoping meeting to identify opportunities for reducing environmental impacts and for improving long-term sustainability. This review reflects INVEST criteria and serves as a checklist to ensure that sustainability is considered by project teams early and often during the project development process.

Central Federal Lands Example

The Central Federal Lands Highway Division (CFL) is using INVEST as a knowledge transfer tool to better inform staff of sustainable highway practices and as a mechanism to share lessons learned to help identify improvements for future projects. In 2013, CFL used the PD module to carry out INVEST evaluations for three separate under-construction or recently constructed projects. Scoring team members gathered for kickoff meetings, were assigned criteria based on their area of expertise, wrote how their project addressed each criterion, and developed scoring summaries. These summaries described how the team carried out the scoring process, identified any issues they encountered, and recommended several criteria to focus on for future projects. CFL has shared the lessons learned from the scoring process with its staff members and will use the knowledge imparted through the scoring summaries to select and prioritize sustainability improvements in the future. By sharing information and lessons learned, CFL is increasing intellectual capacity and exposing more staff to sustainability concepts, approaches, and applications. To further learn and grow from their involvement in using INVEST, project teams made several recommendations on ways to enhance and improve the sustainability of future projects.