The Department of Transportation is doing its best to improve green energy use across the country with several initiatives to save taxpayers millions of dollars.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials is using Earth Day as a reason to increase environmental awareness in the country in order to reduce the United States’ carbon footprint. States have already begun to identify and undertake comprehensive methods of minimizing their carbon footprints in order to save resources and protect sensitive ecosystems.
“State transportation departments are finding ways to strike a balance between building the highways, bridges and mass transit systems America desperately needs, while being responsible environmental stewards,” said John Horsley, AASHTO executive director. “Earth Day is an excellent time to draw attention to the many state DOT success stories that might otherwise go untold.”
Among the leaders in this effort is the Golden State, which saw California solar installations double from 2010 to 2011. The California Department of Transportation is planning to continue dramatically reducing energy usage while improving safety, recently installing 40,000 LED street lights to replace existing fixtures over a two-year period. The cost of the lights are estimated to be between $25 million and $30 million, with rebate not included. The energy-saving units are expected to require 60 percent less electricity than the lights used previously and reduce lighting demand by 4.5 megawatts.
“LED lights are just one example of how we are using new technology to improve California’s roadways,” said Acting Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “These cost-effective and earth-friendly lights are also brighter and long-lasting, which increases safety for motorists who can see better, and workers who now have less exposure to traffic because they don’t have to replace the lights as often.”
Louisiana also recently announced it is doing its part by testing solar-powered airport lighting. In May 2010, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development launched a pilot program that used new LED solar-powered airport lighting systems at the False River Regional Airport in New Roads. The system is expected to reduce the airport’s taxiway energy consumption by more than 90 percent, allowing the state to spend less on energy and more on other areas needed.
The solar panels also charge a bank of batteries that are able to supply the taxiway lighting system with power for up to 14 days with little or no sunlight.
“In Louisiana, we are always striving to find and implement methods that not only enhance our infrastructure, but also are environmentally sensitive,” said LDOTD Secretary Sherri H. LeBas. “Utilizing these innovative solutions isn’t just smart; it’s the right thing to do.”
Arizona is also playing a major part in reducing dependence on traditional sources of energy. The Grand Canyon State’s Department of Transportation recently repurposed more than 15 million recycled tires as part of a technique called “Quiet Paving,” which improves the environment and quality of life for Arizona residents.
According to Timothy Tait, ADOT assistant commutations director, rubberized asphalt paving allows the public to enjoy quieter and safer rides, also giving the Arizona Department of Transportation more reliable and longer-lasting roadways that keep old tires out of landfills.
Colleges around the country are also celebrating Earth Day, including Sierra College in Nevada County, California, which recently recognized the day with events such as fashion shows featuring recycled clothing, according to local news source The Union.