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A sustainable highway should satisfy lifecycle functional requirements of societal development and economic growth while reducing negative impacts to the environment and consumption of natural resources.

What is a Sustainable Highway?

FHWA views sustainable highways as an integral part of sustainable development. A sustainable highway should satisfy lifecycle functional requirements of societal development and economic growth while striving to enhance the natural environment and reduce consumption of natural resources. The sustainability characteristics of a highway or roadway project should be assessed and considered for implementation throughout its lifecycle, from conception through construction, operations, and maintenance.

Sustainability in highways should be addressed with the understanding that highways are one part of transportation infrastructure, and transportation is one aspect of meeting human needs. In addition to addressing environmental and natural resource needs, the development of a sustainable highway should focus on access (not just mobility), moving people and goods (not just vehicles), and providing people with transportation choices, such as safe and comfortable routes for walking, cycling, and transit.

Sustainable transportation may be described or defined in many ways that broadly address environmental, social and economic impacts, safety, affordability, and accessibility of transportation services. Transportation agencies address sustainability through a wide range of initiatives, such as ITS, Livability, Smart Growth, Complete Streets, recycling, Planning and Environment Linkages, Everyday Counts and addressing requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Transportation planning processes that incorporate these values and integrate the elements of sustainability should be the foundation from which to implement sustainability decisions as a project moves forward. Measures of project success include a wide range of indicators, such as travel performance, gains achieved through material selection, and construction methods.