Sustainable Transportation Program

Sustainable Transportation Program

Total Systems Thinking

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) respects the unique features of Arizona’s natural resources and how the natural and built environments impact Arizona’s people, culture, and economy. ADOT has teams dedicated to addressing air quality, wildlife conservation, noise, water resources, hazardous material, and cultural resources, to ensure overall environmental stewardship. In addition to these groups, ADOT works to address local, regional, and state transportation issues with the added understanding of the larger role agency policies, plans, and projects play in Arizona’s global responsibility efforts.

Linking Complete Transportation Systems and Sustainable Transportation at ADOT

The development of the 2016 ADOT Complete Transportation Guidebook is intended to open a dialogue about where our stakeholders and project development teams can engage on design elements of a complete transportation system. It is a guidebook on the major multimodal forces impacting transportation and a discussion of potential solutions. The Guidebook is a reference tool for integrating sustainable practices into transportation planning, scoping, and design throughout the ADOT project development process. ADOT understands how transportation infrastructure shapes our communities and quality of life. The Guidebook provides strategies and techniques for identifying transportation choices that provide mobility to connect communities and economic opportunity to maximize a limited set of resources, time, and money.


ADOT Sustainability Process Identification

The three primary principles of sustainability revolve around achieving an efficient, well-balanced use of economic, social, and environmental resources commonly known as the triple bottom line. In theory, this will allow for proper use of funding while attaining all potential project needs. A sustainable highway, for example, will not only incorporate the need for mobility and transportation alternatives but also consider safety, accessibility, livability, asset management, and environmental protection (1).

As seen in figure 1, achieving sustainable development may become a challenge, especially on a daily basis. The window of opportunity to fulfill all that is desired before a project’s completion requires extensive coordination not only within a core group of individuals delivering the project but also those who are considered stakeholders during the project development process. With multiple driving forces influencing any given transportation project, fiscal responsibility, coupled with ensuring all essential aspects within the context of the project are addressed, is ultimately the desired outcome. This requirement to achieve so much with so little should encourage sustainable transportation aspects to be implemented (2).


As stated in the Guidebook for Sustainability Performance Measurement for Transportation Agencies,

Often, a goal will support more than one principle. Yet no one goal in itself is sufficient to achieve sustainability - it takes multiple goals, pursued in concert, to promote sustainability. When a final set of goals is defined, it’s important to crosscheck the package of goals to ensure that all of the principles are well addressed. In doing so, take care not to force-fit the goals to make them map to the principles. A balanced goal set, however, achieves comprehensive coverage of the basic principles of sustainability… (3)

Figure 1: Sustainable Development across all disciplines

FIGURE 1 - Sustainable Development across all disciplines


FHWA Sustainable Transportation Initiative

What is the Sustainable Highways Initiative?

The INVEST self-evaluation tool, a sustainability working group, and the creation of a Sustainable Pavements Program are among the efforts underway at FHWA to help State and local agencies document and improve the sustainability of the Nation's roadways. For years, FHWA has supported research, development, and implementation efforts at the forefront of the sustainability movement. The sustainable highways initiative supports the various activities conducted across FHWA to facilitate balanced decision-making among environmental, economic, and social values—the triple bottom line of sustainability. In the summer of 2010, FHWA convened a sustainability working group to build capacity and encourage communication and coordination on sustainability concepts and practices within the agency. The group consists of engineers, scientists, planners, and economists with expertise in planning, design, construction, pavement, stormwater management, natural resources, and livability. It meets regularly to coordinate activities, foster increased application of sustainability principles, and provide guidance to FHWA on developing best practices and establishing standardized sustainability measures.

What is the INVEST self-evaluation tool for practitioners?

FHWA's INVEST identifies characteristics of sustainable highways and provides information and techniques to help agencies and organizations integrate sustainability best practices into highway and other roadway projects. The tool is intended to provide a method for practitioners to evaluate their transportation projects and to encourage progress in the sustainability arena. Called the “Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool,” INVEST is a practical, web-based collection of best practices. It is not required and it is not intended to encourage comparisons across transportation agencies and projects. The tool has been developed with ongoing input from State and local transportation agency officials and staff and professional organizations such as AASHTO and ASCE. FHWA plans to continue to update this tool as the transportation sustainability field advances.

To learn more or to use the tool, visit the Sustainable Highways INVEST Website.

Subit further comments or questions by emailing Sustainable Transport.




[1] FHWA. (2012d, October 2012). INVEST - How Does INVEST Measure Sustainability? Retrieved July, 2015, from

[2]  Olmsted, S., Lester E. The Collaborative Benefits of Using FHWA’s INVEST - A State Department of Transportation Sustainability Implementation Case Study. Paper for presentation, TRB Annual Meeting, Pres. # 15-4262. January 2015.

[3]  A Guidebook for Sustainability Performance Measurement for Transportation Agencies. Transportation Research Board. Washington, DC: National Cooperative Highway Research Program, NCHRP Report 708, 2011, p. 20, p. 47.


[1]  Lester, E. Customized diagrams based on INVEST application. November 2014.