Through the use of new technologies, innovative project design and construction techniques, cleaner-burning fuels, and intensive recycling of waste materials, the transportation sector has been a major driving force behind much of the dramatic improvement in the U.S. environment over the past 40 years. That’s the key message the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) delivered on “Earth Day 2013.”
In “Transportation & the Environment: Greener & Cleaner,” ARTBA consolidates a variety of federal government data and private sector sources to spotlight the many improvements to environment. Among them:
- Since the 1970s, emissions from motor vehicles considered harmful to human health and the environment have declined dramatically: carbon dioxide emissions are down 38 percent, carbon monoxide emissions are down 62 percent, and particulate matter emissions are down 50 percent. These achievements are even remarkable given a more than doubling of population and motor vehicles traveled and continued economic growth.
- Wetlands mitigation at a rate of nearly three acres of wetlands restored for every one acre impacted.
- The entire U.S. construction industry, which includes the transportation sector, accounts for a mere 1.7 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
- The U.S. transportation construction industry annually recycles more than 100 million tons of asphalt, along with 15 million tons of fly-ash which would otherwise be stored in landfills.
With continued focus on innovation, new technologies, and more fuel efficient motor vehicles and heavy construction equipment, more future improvements to the environment are on the way, ARTBA says.
There is no question that America’s transportation network — particularly the road system — is extensive. But the relative size of its environmental footprint usually surprises people when they hear it. Far from “paving over America,” after two centuries of road building, the Federal Highway Administration reports public roads occupy less than one-half of one percent of the total U.S. land area.