As long as we have to invest in rebuilding our highway infrastructure, why not take the opportunity to also make it an environmental asset? That's the motivating premise behind a new government and industry group calling itself “The Green Highway Initiative.”

Declaring its mission to be “promoting sustainable development, environmental stewardship and streamlining in transportation,” the group says it intends to “develop a self-sustaining award and voluntary certification program to formally recognize activities under a variety of ‘Green Highway’ categories such as integrated planning, design, construction, and maintenance.”

Ultimately, the goal is to develop a certification program that will make it easier for highway projects meeting its environmental criteria to satisfy regulatory requirements that now must be met on a cumbersome case-by-case basis.

Initiative members, which include the Federal Highway Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the American Assn. of State Highway and Transportation, the Wetlands and Watersheds Work Group, and the American Coal Ash Assn., are sponsoring their first forum later this month on Sept. 26 to 29 in College Park, MD. The group's web site (www.www.wetlandsworkgroup.org/GreenHighways) indicates that it expects to come away from the forum with an award program in place as well as an outline for a certification process.