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Government and business leaders to promote Green Highways idea for environmental good

Release Date: 11/8/2005
Contact Information: Roy Seneca 215-814-5567

Contact: Roy Seneca 215-814-5567
PHILADELPHIA - Top officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Transportation are meeting with leaders and experts in the transportation industry this week in College Park, Md., to develop a roadmap for achieving environmentally-friendly highway improvements.

The first-ever Green Highways Forum is taking place Nov. 8-10 at the Marriott Inn and Conference Center on the campus of the University of Maryland, and aims to invigorate dialogue about ways to protect public safety and the environment when designing and building highways.

The three-day conference will attract executives and staff in the fields of transportation planning, engineering, construction and operations, and environmental planning and policy from all levels of government, private corporations, and non-profit organizations.

Transportation is essential in our lives, and EPA is committed to working with our partners to show that environmental protection and economic success can, and do, go hand in hand,” said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. “Green Highways is the vehicle to coordinate environmentalism and transportation – we are literally taking environmental stewardship on the road.”

The mid-Atlantic forum discussions will help shape a national Green Highways Initiative, intended to increase visibility about projects and actions demonstrating highway safety and environmental stewardship. Plans include establishing a Green Highways Clearinghouse as a non-profit organization that will serve as the primary source of information about the initiative and all its related activities.

Highways and other transportation infrastructure such as parking lots and bridges are linked to water and air pollution problems. In addition to tailpipe emissions, dust and dirt from highway construction and maintenance operations can affect local air and water quality, and stormwater runoff from parking lots and roadways can carry pollutants into streams and rivers. There are negative consequences for wildlife habitat when wooded areas are cleared for new roads or widening of highways. Destruction of critical wetlands has been another major consequence of road-building.

Last June, EPA’s mid-Atlantic regional office hosted a meeting in Philadelphia where executives from various federal and state agencies and industry groups discussed the principles and elements they would promote as part of a Green Highways initiative. About 80 people attended that meeting and provided input that has led to the three-day forum.

“We know that there are state agencies and local governments who are committed to using environmentally-conscious practices as they improve their infrastructure; and the work they're doing shouldn’t be overlooked,” said Donald S. Welsh, EPA’s mid-Atlantic regional administrator. “With the expertise and innovation our industry partners bring, we have an opportunity to showcase projects and programs that will benefit many communities and the environment for years to come.”

The forum’s sponsors envision one day seeing signs posted along major streets and highways labeling those that are green for their environmental benefits: The next 90 miles is a Green Highway made with 80 percent recycled materials; restoring 4,000 wetland acres, naturally-cleansing stormwater runoff; offering alternative fuels at truckstops.

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