It used to be that the solution to practically every transportation problem was to build, build, build. As more drivers took to the road, testing the system’s limits, we mainly added more capacity to address those needs. Some good things came out of this approach, notably the Interstate Highway System, which encouraged urbanization and spurred unprecedented economic growth throughout the country.
These days, with agency budgets shrinking and construction and right-of-way costs rising, simply building our way to greater capacity isn’t always possible — or even desirable. Increasingly, concerns about the environmental impact of new construction and worsening pollution, primarily in urban areas, have begged the question: Can we meet today’s transportation needs while remaining responsible stewards of the environment?
The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) has a long tradition of recommending transportation solutions that take the environment into account. As you’ll see in this issue’s center spread, TTI‘s work in everything from vegetation management to erosion control to recycled materials pavement has advanced the field of environmentally sensitive research.
Initiated by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in 2002, the Drive Clean Across Texas campaign has helped raise awareness about vehicle-based pollution and influenced driver behavioral changes that benefit air quality. The Institute’s work in air quality modeling is poised to lead the nation as it transitions how compliance with national air quality standards is monitored.
Our work through the National Cooperative Highway Research Program is helping formulate best practices for establishing sustainable communities. And facilities like TTI‘s new Drive-In Environmental Research Chamber, which opens in January, are one of a kind and will yield important emissions data that will help in setting policy and developing new products.
But beyond our research and facilities, TTI has made an institutional commitment to “going green” whenever possible. From meeting the nationally accepted benchmark for high performance green buildings in the design, construction and operation of our new State Headquarters Research Building to our green housekeeping program, which guides how the Institute manages its facilities, TTI is a leader in The Texas A&M University System in efforts to become more environmentally friendly.
Innovations in transportation technology have always been driven by the need to do things “a better way.” Now we can add to that mantra the need to do things “a cleaner way.” Innovating green technologies, building testing facilities to help preserve the environment, walking the walk with institutional policy — at TTI we’re doing our part to help create a sustainable environment.
As you read this issue and discover what we’re doing toward that goal, I’d like to challenge you: What can you, one person, do to help improve the environment?