Raleigh, N.C., Division Manager for Roadway Design and Construction Chris Johnson knew the city's Sustainability Office used U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver to design and build structures. But, he wondered, was there something similar for roads?

Yes, in fact, there is. It was introduced in 2010 by two Washington State civil engineers who reasoned that, 50 years ago, when people used cars to get from Point A to Point B, municipalities spent as few taxpayer dollars possible on building streets. Priorities have changed since then. People want to walk or bike to work or, if that's not possible, bike or walk to public transit that will take them to work. Expanding an existing street's capabilities to safely accommodate those facilities requires a new definition of success. Greenroads is the only third-party, points-based system for doing that (click here for a free sample download).

A median was added and invasive plant species were removed and replaced with native and adapted species.
City of Raleigh A median was added and invasive plant species were removed and replaced with native and adapted species.

Projects are reviewed and approved by the organization, requiring teams to submit data and documentation throughout the process. “Bringing a LEED level of attention to transportation projects gave me the political support to recommend this project for certification and use it as a learning tool for our team," says Johnson.

A Baltimore artist was asked to create this sculpture, which retains and filters rain before discharge to adjacent retention basin.
City of Raleigh A Baltimore artist was asked to create this sculpture, which retains and filters rain before discharge to adjacent retention basin.

"This project" turned 2.6 miles of unlighted, two-lane asphalt into a corridor people would feel safe walking along as well as driving on. Installed in the 1970s, the pavement had deterioriated and residents had carved a walking path along the edge. More than a mile was widened to incorporate a vegetated median that lowers the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and hydrocarbons entering the city's watershed; center turn lanes; and 5‐foot bicycle lanes, 6‐foot sidewalks, and benches on both sides of the road. LED lighting ensures nighttime visibility. Signage in three spots along the corridor explain the project's sustainability features. The city worked with the Public Art and Design Board to have Baltimore artist Jan Rosen‐Queralt craft an 18‐foot‐tall stainless steel and copper sculpture that collects and filters water before releasing it back to the environment, much like the bioretention cell it adorns.

"The stormwater features treat all the increase in impervious area, which is atypical of transportation projects in North Carolina," says Jeff Meador, stormwater project manager for RK&K. It was the engineering firm's first Greenroads project. "The project also fits the community's character."

Raleigh’s Sandy Forks Road Widening Project is the highest-rated Greenroads project internationally.
City of Raleigh Raleigh’s Sandy Forks Road Widening Project is the highest-rated Greenroads project internationally.

An early assessment suggested by the process indicated an additional 1 inch of asphalt would extend pavement life by 15 years, saving up to 20% on long‐term maintenance and reconstruction. The city also used warm‐mix asphalt for the first time, which lowered carbon emissions and made construction a little easier for crews working in North Carolina’s July temperatures. The contractor, which had only recycled concrete pavement, reused existing asphalt to repave the road, reducing the amount of waste sent to the landfill. All team members found integrating the process into existing company or agency procedures relatively easy. In addition to the resources they got from Greenroads, they collaborated to ensure material tracking and project documentation were maintained throughout the project. Three people obtained credentials as Sustainable Transportation Professionals (STP) through the Foundation’s Education Program.

In addition to earning North Carolina’s first Greenroads Silver Certification, the $9.9 million Sandy Forks Road Widening Project project is the highest-rated project internationally.

Adding 1 inch of asphalt extended pavement life by an additional 15 years, saving up to 20% over the life of the project.
City of Raleigh Adding 1 inch of asphalt extended pavement life by an additional 15 years, saving up to 20% over the life of the project.

The Greenroads Foundation manages the third‐party certification program from design through construction using the Greenroads rating system. Project teams must satisfactorily complete 12 requirements and earn at least 40 points to meet the minimum threshold for certification, which is a formal score assigned by Greenroads staff and approved by a board of director based on review of documents in as‐built condition.

“The partnership with the art community to develop a functional element that compliments the filtration work of the bioretention cell is an example of community organizations working with public projects to bring additional sense of place to residents,” says Greenroads Foundation CEO Jeralee Anderson.

By the way, there is now LEED for Cities certification.