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Future Canadian Roads to be Greener

Written by; Joy Smithers / TCCN Staff Writer
Added on: Mon Sep 07 2009


Construction of new Canadian highways result in increased greenhouse gas emissions during construction and maintenance work, and also after the roads have been built.

The full "life cycle" emissions of a road must account for emissions due to mining and transporting the materials used to build the highway, emissions caused by regular maintenance and repair of the highway, and of course, emissions from vehicles that drive on it.

The Sightline Institute did a study of CO2 emissions caused by one mile of one single lane of a new highway. Amortized over 50 years, CO2 emissions are estimated to be between 116,000 and 185,600 tons once all these factors are taken into account. This is the equivalent of putting nearly 50,000 Humvees on the road. Canada wants to do much better than that.

In other parts of the world, China's five-year plan for road building includes construction or repair/renovation of 1.2 million km of new roads, and other rapidly emerging economies like India, Brazil, and Russia also have very ambitious road building plans. A few years ago, an organization called the Green Highways Partnership was formed.

Though it's primarily American in emphasis, a network of public and private partnerships for putting into practice much "greener" road building practices has spread to other countries including Canada. These practices include reuse and recycling programs, ecosystem protection, and watershed management.

Canadian industries associated with road building have taken some steps to reduce their environmental impact for several years now. The Canadian cement industry, for example, reduced energy consumption by nearly 40% between 1972 and 2006. Warm-mix rather than hot-mix asphalt has enjoyed success, and soil stabilizers and asphalt binders with less environmental impact are also becoming more prominent factors in road projects.

The Green Highways Partnership realizes the value of new roads. Particularly in the developing world, roads have social benefits like reduction of poverty, increased access to health care, and better prenatal care. Income and employment opportunities increase with better roads, as does entrepreneurial investment.

In Canada, the Green Highways Partnership hopes to balance the social benefits of new highways and roads with the need to protect the environment from unnecessary impact.


Copyright: 2009

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