The Hidden Costs of Roads

Lloyd has called for sustainable and sound infrastructure. One way to start creating sustainable and sound infrastrucutre might be to show the actual costs of building a bad infrastructure. A new 'green roads program' at the University of New Hampshire aims to establish the criteria for what makes a roadway green.

"A lot of the infrastructure in this country needs to be re-built," says Gardner, University of New Hampshire associate professor of civil engineering and director of the Environmental Research Group. "We have a real opportunity to re-build the infrastructure the right way with sustainable materials and socially sensitive designs that protect air, water, land, and human resources."

The program is part of the Recycled Materials Resource Management Center started by Gardner with funding from the Federal Highway Administration, state highway funds, and grants from the Environmental Protection Agency.

"The cost of building a road is not reflected fully in the price of materials," Gardner adds. "The total cost of mining virgin materials, for instance, involves not only the cost of materials and labor, but also the environmental cost at the mining site, the environmental costs (such as air pollution and its associated health care costs) of transporting these materials to the building site, and the environmental costs of building the equipment to mine and transport material and build the roads."

Their particular focus looks at materials recycling and how this can impact the true cost of road construction. To fully assess what makes a road green however, I would expect considerations beyond the materials, that would also delve into the use, disassembly, and adaptability of the road.

Ultimately the first criteria should likely ask if we need a road at all. Would a bike path, or rail line fit better with the community, ecology, and economy of the area? Perhaps the spotlight they shine on the externalized costs of roads will put road construction into a new, sustainable, perspective.

::UNH Media Relations

Tags: Air Pollution | New Hampshire | Recycling

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