Earlier this week, the New York State Department of Transportation (“NYSDOT”) unveiled its Green Leadership In Transportation and Environmental Sustainability (“Green LITES”) design program. While NYSDOT has utilized sustainable elements in its transportation designs previously, Green LITES is an attempt to standardize the entire process and place New York State at the head of the pack when it comes to sustainable transportation design; the program, which is based on LEED, is the first in the country of its kind. “This effort is only the latest example of New York setting the standard for environmental sensitivity in transportation planning,” said Federal Highway Administrator Thomas J. Madison. “They don’t just set the gold standard, they set the green standard.” NYSDOT will review all designs submitted after September 25 under the Green LITES program, prior to the project going out to bid. Ratings under Green LITES will range across four levels of certificiation – Certified, Silver, Gold and Evergreen.
What makes a transportation design environmentally friendly? A few factors that are considered under the program are water and air quality protection, efforts made to minimize light pollution, traffic flow improvements, storm water runoff reduction, and reduced energy consumption. Other more complex considerations include whether or not a new site conforms to natural landscape features and if the project disrupts fish or wildlife habitats. The program is primarily intended as an internal tool for NYSDOT to identify best practices, measure its performance, and track how designs for different projects are incorporating sustainable features. NYSDOT plans on publishing results of the Green LITES program annually on Earth Day beginning in April of 2009.