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Assessing and Managing the Ecological Impacts of Paved Roads
Managers have a number of opportunities to improve environmental conditions after design and construction phases of road projects. As roads are built and used, new and unforeseen effects often appear. Some of these effects can be addressed during ongoing maintenance operations on the roadbed and roadside.
This chapter discusses opportunities for ameliorating the effects of roads. It begins with a discussion of mitigating effects organized by scales of administrative organization; the largest scale pertains to national or regional perspectives, the medium scale includes state or highway corridor planning, and the smallest or finest scale applies to the decisions and opportunities associated with individual transportation projects. The chapter ends with a section on opportunities for increased environmental stewardship during routine maintenance operations after construction.
SCALE-BASED CONSIDERATIONS OF ENVIRONMENTAL MITIGATION
National or Regional Perspectives (Broad Scale)
At the national and regional scales, opportunities for ameliorating the environmental effects of transportation come in the form of broad public policy for governmental agencies. Environmental issues are often treated as a permitting issue rather than a dimension of project design. Environmental regulations and permits are intended to protect certain types of natural resources, such as wetlands or threatened and endangered species, but this system does not always promote the best, most comprehensive treatment of environmental issues. Actions at the federal level can help to improve the process in the following ways:
Provide policy, guidance, and funding for transportation design and decision making that take ecological processes into account.
Expand the knowledge base for assessing potential effects of transportation activities through nationally funded research projects.
Encourage cross-disciplinary dialogue between engineers, ecologists, and other environmental professionals to raise mutual awareness of each other’s expertise, needs, and challenges.