SPRINGFIELD — Marking national Earth Week in Illinois, Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider today highlighted several innovative sustainability practices and programs under way across the state. Schneider underscored the department’s commitment to activities that build environmental awareness, preserve state funds, and make the most effective use of existing public resources.
“Under Governor Quinn’s leadership, IDOT remains committed to implementing and promoting environmental sustainability initiatives wherever feasible,” Secretary Schneider said. “We consistently support and employ sound environmental practices and look forward to positively impacting communities across the state.”
IDOT has implemented numerous green and sustainable initiatives in recent years including the Bus On Shoulders program after Gov. Quinn shepherded legislation to enact the pilot. Other impactful programs of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) include aluminum sign recycling, recycled asphalt shingles for paving materials, rubblization to re-use existing pavement materials for resurfacing, the addition of electric vehicles to the state fleet, Adopt-A-Highway programs, and other efforts aimed at beautification, awareness and education like the 10,000 Trees to Schools initiative.
IDOT continues to implement the successful Aluminum Sign Recycling program, which recycles about 338,000 square feet of old aluminum signs annually. This accounts for 70 to 80 percent of the aluminum needed for standard signs and saves approximately $669,000 per year over new aluminum at current prices.
Along state highways, IDOT has executed additional sustainability practices, some of which include increased utilization of blue logo signs to inform travelers where ethanol-based and other bio fuels are available, improved reflective highway signs to eliminate need for electric sign lighting at a savings of up to $700 per sign, replacing incandescent bulbs in traffic lights with LED lighting to save up to$10,000 annually per intersection in energy costs. Improved mowing, planting, tree replacement and plant conservation are other techniques IDOT utilizes to reduce roadside maintenance, save money and preserve ecosystems.
For a third consecutive year, IDOT is conducting the 10,000 Tree Giveaway of seedlings to school districts throughout Illinois. Many school districts have received oak tree seedlings, donated to IDOT by Living Lands and Waters. All nine IDOT transportation districts will participate and coordinate distribution to area school districts. Trees provide tremendous benefits to the environment by removing carbon dioxide, providing oxygen to breathe, cooling shade, protection from soil erosion, and more beautiful surroundings. This year IDOT will send trees to Harrisburg, which experienced a devastating tornado on February 29, 2012, uprooting or destroying many trees.
IDOT also announced the winners of the 2012 Rain Barrel Design Contest. Students from 3rd grade through high school were encouraged to submit an artistic design for the exterior of a rain barrel. A total of 45 designs were selected from submissions throughout the state. The schools that submitted the winning designs will receive a rain barrel within the next few weeks. The rain barrels were donated by the Illinois Department of Corrections. Submissions of designs from students depicting nature and sustainable scenes were accepted in three grade divisions. The divisions were 3rd through 5th grade; 6th through 8th grade, and grades 9 through 12. The winning students and schools are listed at http://www.dot.il.gov/.
IDOT is also participating in forums to promote environmental awareness and improvement. Last week, IDOT took part in an Electric Vehicle Forum in Springfield, hosted by the American Lung Association, to discuss opportunities and obstacles surrounding electric vehicles. IDOT supplied a display explaining electric vehicle highway signage. State agencies and advocacy groups also have partnered to offer a forum at Moraine Valley Community College on May 23 and Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville on June 19. IDOT also participated in the 2012 Earth Day Transportation Summit in Chicago on April 23.
IDOT policies and programs on sustainability have been recognized at the state and national level, including awards for Innovative Projects in three successive years, 2009-2011, from the Illinois Green Government Coordinating Council, the Governor’s Green Vendor Award in 2010 for use of plant-based inks and biodegradable supplies, and recognition by the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago and Citizen Action/Illinois in 2010 for construction management practices to improve air quality.
For more information regarding the agency’s green initiatives and sustainability efforts, please visit http://www.dot.state.il.us/green/index.html.