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Criterion Details

PD-21 Earthwork Balance

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Project Development Scorecard

  • Rural Extended
  • Urban Extended


Reduce the need for transport of earthen materials by balancing cut and fill quantities.

Sustainability Linkage

Triple Bottom Line

Balancing cut and fill quantities in a project supports the environmental and economic sustainability principles by reducing the environmental and economic costs associated with the transport of earthen materials.

Background & Scoring Requirements

Scoring Requirements

Requirement PD-21.1

3 points. Balance Cut and Fill Volumes within 10 Percent

Balance earthwork cut (excavation) and fill (embankment) volumes such that the percent difference between cut and fill is less than or equal to 10 percent of the average total volume of material moved. For purposes of this criterion, it is recommended that the owner use the following method and definitions, or equivalent, to compute cut and fill volumes. Include miscellaneous additional cut and fill such as outlet ditches and muck excavations, and account for moisture and density as well as shrink and swell. Note that for purposes of this criterion, all volumes are positive quantities.

One of the following scoring requirements may apply.

  • Requirement PD-21.1a

3 points. Balance Cut and Fill Volumes without Construction Banking

Show that that design volumes (for projects that haven’t been constructed) or actual construction volumes (for projects that have been constructed) meet:

Include the following materials in the calculations: (1) Soil stabilizer materials or other soil additives, (2) Removed topsoil materials, and (3) Unused cut or imported fill materials placed in stockpiles.

Exclude the following materials from the calculations: (1) Mechanical stabilizers such as rock bolts and geotextile fabric materials, (2) Structural aggregate for base courses in pavements, foundations, or superstructures such as bridges, (3) Structural backfill and drain rock specifically intended for utility trenches and stormwater infrastructure, and (4) Rock (Stable Rock, defined by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration) cuts sourced within the project boundary that are intended for use as structural aggregate within the project boundary.


  • Requirement PD-21.1b

1 point. Balance Cut and Fill Volumes Using Construction Banking

Show that the design volumes (for projects that haven’t been constructed) or actual construction volumes (for projects that have been constructed) meet the Requirement PD-21.1a only if construction banking is used and the following requirements are met:

  • Construction banking may be accomplished using adjacent projects or other phases of the same project.
  • Trucking distance from banking stockpiles to project limits must be less than 10 miles.
  • Banking stockpiles must be used and earthwork balanced within a period of 24 months.
  • All stockpiles must have a temporary erosion and sedimentation control (TESC) plan in place and appropriate measures must be installed. Maintenance for TESC methods must be accounted for in the project being evaluated or the adjacent project sharing earthwork banking and maintenance must be completed and documented.

Requirement PD-21.2

1 point. Earthwork Management Plan

Establish, implement, and actively manage an Earthwork Management Plan for earthwork activities that focuses on reducing hauling, labor, and fuel costs

  • Positioning and stockpiling – plan how fill is moved around the site to decrease dump truck travel trips.
  • Actively manage available soil stockpiles with project earthwork needs.
  • Provide guidance on how to manage cut and fills, for example:
    • Balancing “cuts and fills” per construction stage so that traffic can be maintained on the existing pavement during construction.
    • Off-siting of construction staging areas in previously developed area to eliminate land disturbance outside of the constructed project limits.
    • No land use or staging outside of that required for the proposed project footprint.
    • Reuse of top soil onsite (non-hazardous only).

Requirement PD-21.3

1 point. Preserve or reuse topsoil or spoils.

Show that the contract design requires the Contractor to preserve or reuse topsoil or spoils as noted in one or more of the practices below:

  • Topsoil Preservation. Topsoil depth is maintained or increased in planting areas, appropriate for the proposed plant community.
  • Topsoil Preservation. Design minimizes or eliminates the requirement for fertilizer nutrients.
  • Reuse of Topsoil. Allow the reuse of top soil removed for grading and reuse of this material on site as long as it is determined non-hazardous material. This can include the use of soil to create berms elsewhere within the corridor, thereby eliminating the need for trucking or disposal.
  • Reuse Spoils within Project Corridor. Utilize spoil material as fill as specified in plans and specifications within project limits or at locations specified in the plans.


None referenced.

Case Studies & Criterion Examples

Arizona DOT - Roundabouts and Local Partnerships: The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) used all three INVEST modules to validate strategic directions, increase knowledge across core functions, and advance a decision-making framework around sustainability best practices. This case study focuses on ADOT’s use of the Project Development module to score and improve the sustainability of twenty roundabout construction projects as well as ADOT’s use of INVEST training workshops to facilitate collaboration internally and with local governments. Roundabouts have seen increased application across the United States and in Arizona due to their safety and congestion reduction benefits. Using INVEST, ADOT scored twenty planned or under construction roundabouts. 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.

Arizona DOT - Using INVEST to Integrate Sustainability: The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) decided to use all three modules of INVEST – System Planning, Project Development, and Operations and Maintenance – to help the agency meet its sustainability goals across the transportation life cycle.  ADOT used INVEST to integrate and advance existing sustainability efforts and to push forward new efforts.  INVEST’s comprehensive sustainability framework and criteria helped ADOT institutionalize sustainability across the agency and with local partners through inclusion in manuals, trainings, and awards.  This case study focuses on ADOT’s use of the Project Development module.

Ohio DOT - George V. Voinovich Bridge/Cleveland Innerbelt Corridor : When building the largest bridge project in its history, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) turned to INVEST to make sure they made this massive project as sustainable as possible. ODOT replaced the Cleveland Innerbelt Bridge on I-90, now called the George V. Voinovich Bridge in 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 and finished in 2017. ODOT used FHWA’s sustainability self-assessment tool, INVEST, to score the first phase to see if the project was meeting its goals. ODOT found the process so valuable that for the second phase of the project they included sustainability, as measured by INVEST, as one of the criteria for scoring contractor proposals for the design-build contract. This provided a strong incentive for bidders to incorporate sustainability while keeping costs competitive. In fact, the winning bidder committed to an “INVEST Platinum” level of sustainability with a bid $19 million below the ODOT engineer’s estimate.

Scoring Sources

The project is considered to have met this criterion if the requirements above can be reasonably substantiated through the existence of one or more of the following documentation sources (or equal where not available):

  1. Grading plan, reporting total cut and fill quantities and total miscellaneous cut/fill.
  2. Inspector or Contractor’s actual construction earthwork volumes for the project, including actual cut and fill, volume of unused embankment materials, and volumes of imports to and exports from site.