Colorado State University - Pueblo study provides sustainability data for CDOT rest areas

Colorado State University - Pueblo study provides sustainability data for CDOT rest areas

PUEBLO – Colorado State University-Pueblo recently completed work for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) on a one-year research study to assess CDOT rest areas for sustainability improvements and highway corridors and facilities for alternative energy source use.  A team of CSU-Pueblo graduate students and administrators worked with two subcontractors from Denver and Boulder over the last year and submitted their recommendations earlier this spring. 

In July/August, 2010, a research team consisting of Dr. Rick Kreminski, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics (CSM), Art Hirsch of TerraLogic Sustainable Systems, and graduate students from CSM and the College of Education, Engineering, and Professional Studies  (CEEPS) (in partnership with CEEPS Dean Dr. Hector Carrasco) -- Kerwin Nance, Benjamin Schleich, Kimberly Schott, and Ayman Hama -- performed on-site evaluations at the following six rest areas (selected as being representative of all 30+ Colorado rest areas):

• Sterling Rest Area (Visitor Center in Region 4),
• Poudre Rest Area (Visitor Center in Region 4),
• Vail Pass Rest Area (Recreational Rest Area in Region 1),
• Hanging Lake Rest Area (Recreational Rest Area in Region 3),
• El Moro Rest Area (Basic Services in Region 2), and
• Sleeping Ute Mountain Rest Area (Basic Services in Region 5).

For this part of the study, students conducted a sustainability assessment that focused on existing site conditions, materials recycling and reuse, existing environment, air quality, water quality/usage, energy, and public/motorist/trucking outreach, and services.  They calculated rest area carbon footprints and developed carbon reduction strategies, including addressing the issue of long-term idling trucks. The research team provided a variety of cost-effective, sustainable recommendations that focused on efficient use and consumption of natural resources. 

A second element of the study, undertaken by Kreminski and Jane Boand of David Evans and Associates, along with Hama and graduate student Lionel Toba, evaluated the potential use of CDOT Right-of-Way (ROW) for alternative energy applications, including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower sources.  The students calculated the total potential for energy production for CDOT Regions as well.

CDOT maintains 9,144 linear miles of roadway right-of-way and numerous other properties including rest areas, maintenance yards, remnant parcels and offices complexes.

Colorado’s unique characteristics – more than 300 days of sunshine per year; productive wind areas; locations of geothermal activity; areas with grasses, timber and crops; and mountainous areas with fast-moving streams – are conducive to alternative energy production from solar,
wind, geothermal, biomass and hydropower systems. Little data existed on the amount and locations of the ROW that is potentially suitable for alternative energy production, so the study addressed that gap in information about ROW for alternative energy production purposes.

Among the cost-effective strategies recommended to CDOT Highway Maintenance Managers to reduce rest area operational costs while conserving finite natural resources were:

• Implementing a variety of water conservation practices, including waterless urinals, rainwater harvesting as a pilot project (subject to legislative approval), improved irrigation, energy conservation and alternative energy practices
• Beginning to re-use and recycle solid waste to reduce the amount of solid waste being managed at the rest area and ultimately being transported to a landfill
• Transitioning toward xeriscape landscaping practices that use native plant, drought tolerant species. 
• Instituting truck idling restrictions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and noise.
• Making regular rest area operational data, including reviews of water and electrical consumption, more available to CDOT Maintenance Management to monitor and manage water, electrical and waste management costs and to  identify specific rest area functions that may not be operating correctly and need to be modified or replaced.

Using the sustainability scoring method developed for this project, the Vail Pass Rest Area was identified as the most sustainable rest area based upon existing practices. Unique to rest area research studies was the development of rest area carbon footprints, which provide a way of reviewing and assessing overall energy consumption and resulting emissions. The method used by the CSU-Pueblo research team was consistent with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHGP) established by the World Resources Institute.

The team determined that the rest areas have significant potential for using alternative energy to power facility operations and reduce the overall carbon footprint.  Many rest areas are located in identified priority areas for solar energy (direct and passive) and wind. Geothermal energy, using local groundwater as a heat pump, can potentially reduce energy consumption. Wind energy has the potential of providing energy to rest areas especially in the plains regions. The use of alternative energy at rest areas could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and could save CDOT financial resources in the long run.

For the ROW component of the research project, the research team prepared a geographic information system (GIS)-based mapping of alternative energy resources in Colorado; overlaid ROW mapping to identify areas of low, moderate or high potential for alternative energy production within ROW; and estimated the net energy produced under technology, safety, and site constraints. Researchers calculated the potential for energy production and identified suitable areas of ROW for alternative energy production. 

The complete report, with all details, is available on the web in various locations, including the CDOT website   

Colorado State University - Pueblo is a regional, comprehensive university emphasizing professional, career-oriented, and applied programs. Displaying excellence in teaching, celebrating diversity, and engaging in service and outreach, CSU-Pueblo is distinguished by access, opportunity, and the overall quality of services provided to its students.