Transportation and Environmental Conservation
Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) is harnessing the power of digital technology to proceed with transportation projects while supporting important environmental services. One of SHA's core goals is to strategically plan and manage our right-of-way in ways that better support Maryland's ecosystems and communities for generations to come. Natural ecosystems are the basic building blocks of human welfare. However, they are disappearing rapidly due to development. SHA recognizes the value of natural lands for their stormwater management, sediment and erosion control services. Natural ecosystems also increase recreational opportunities, as well as overall quality of life.
Integration of Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Maryland Department of Natural Resources mapped the state’s ecological network by pulling together existing information such as land use cover maps, satellite and aerial imagery, and environmental and biological databases. Identification of the Green Infrastructure network in Maryland utilized principles of landscape ecology and conservation biology together with robust GIS analysis of detailed statewide resource data. The resultant Green Infrastructure Assessment provides a consistent and scientific-derived approach for evaluating priority land conservation and restoration needs in the state.
The Green Infrastructure Approach is a collaborative decision making process. Multi-resource ecological information is integrated with transportation assets and plans to help SHA develop optimal paths for transportation improvements while addressing environmental and community mitigation and stewardship needs.
The Maryland Green Infrastructure Assessment is part of an Enterprise GIS (eGIS) that SHA developed to better inform our decisions about how and where to build roadway networks. At its heart, eGIS is a base map over which multiple data sets can be layered. Data can include population density, traffic patterns, existing structures, and traffic signal locations. Taken together, this mapped data provides our engineers, planners and designers with a very clear picture of what is happening in a particular area of the state.
SHA is one of the agency partners that developed the Watershed Resources Registry, an online GIS tool that includes the Maryland Green Infrastructure Assessment along with the results of eight preservation and restoration suitability analyses that help identify the best opportunities to protect, restore and conserve high quality resources, and improve stormwater management. The WRR screens for preferred actions helping SHA analyze and score areas on a scale of one to five stars based on multi-resource benefits for restoration and/or preservation. Local, State and Federal agencies as well as other stakeholders are able to work from the same data and priorities using the Watershed Resources Registry. It is transparent, predictable and reliable. All users, including the public, can use the interactive features, producing site maps and other tools for critical decision-making.
U.S. 301 Case Study
SHA adopted an environmental stewardship goal of creating a net benefit to the environment as part of their U.S. 301 Waldorf Area Transportation Improvements project. This goal focused on leaving the environment in better shape than existed prior to the implementation of the project by going "above and beyond" compensatory mitigation in addressing environmental issues within the project study area. The Green Infrastructure Approach was necessary to achieve transportation improvements in an area of expanding community development among high quality natural resources.
Field inspection and data collection were conducted on wetlands, streams, forest cover, rare species and habitat. The information was used to supplement the existing Green Infrastructure data layers. Core areas, hubs, and corridors were identified, evaluated and given an ecological rank based on a set of factors at multiple scales. The results of the Green Infrastructure Assessment identified high priority conservation target areas. Within these conservation focus areas, individual stewardship opportunities were identified based on Green Infrastructure area, ecological score, and proximity to existing protected land.
For more information, please visit the Maryland Green Infrastructure Assessment and Approach website.