The picture shows a concrete highway interchange 

Fig. 1. INVEST can help transportation professionals better integrate sustainability into bridge planning, development, and management (Photo courtesy of FHWA).

Evaluating Sustainability with INVEST
Alexandra Oster, FHWA

For the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), a sustainable approach to highways means helping decision makers make balanced choices among environmental, economic, and social values—the triple bottom line of sustainability—that will benefit current and future road users. Launched by FHWA in 2012, INVEST is a practical, web-based collection of best practices to help transportation agencies integrate sustainability into their programs and projects. Agencies, such as State Departments of Transportation, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Councils of Government, public works departments, and their consultants and partners, can voluntarily use INVEST to evaluate the sustainability of their programs and projects. The tool is intended to identify and recognize efforts that go above and beyond standard practice toward the goal of sustainability. This article focuses on how the scoring system works and how INVEST is being used to achieve sustainable outcomes that go above and beyond statutory requirements.

How is INVEST structured?

INVEST allows users to evaluate the transportation life cycle using the system’s three modules: System Planning, Project Development, and Operations and Maintenance. Each module is based on a specific set of criteria and can be used separately. System Planning evaluates the sustainability of system-level planning and programming policies, processes, procedures and practices. Project Development incorporates sustainability into project planning, from design to construction. And Operations and Maintenance focuses on integrating sustainability into system-level operations and maintenance activities. Within each of the modules, the decision of when to evaluate a program or project is up to the user. Typically, the earlier in the development of a program or project a self-evaluation is performed, the more ability the user has to positively influence sustainability.

How does scoring work?

After users select a module they begin scoring a project or program based on the criteria in that module. Each INVEST criterion describes a particular sustainability best practice and assigns it a point value according to its relative impact on transportation sustainability. The points associated with each criterion are then added together to give a total score.

How does INVEST address bridge projects and long-term bridge management and preservation?

INVEST provides several criteria that can help transportation professionals integrate sustainability into bridge planning, development, and management. For example, as part of the Project Development Module, numerous criteria could apply to the development and construction of a bridge project. Certain criteria focus on reducing the life-cycle costs of both roadway and bridge projects through reducing, reusing, and recycling materials and designing long-lasting pavement structures. Other relevant criteria address the impacts of construction activities to the surrounding neighborhoods and environments, such as Construction Environmental Training and Construction Noise Mitigation.

Transportation agency staff may also be interested in using the Bridge Management System criterion included in the Operations and Maintenance Module to assess and achieve sustainability for their bridge networks. A sustainable bridge management system will extend the life and function of bridges while balancing impacts to the human and natural environment. This criterion focuses on developing a Bridge Management System, collecting and leveraging relevant data, tracking bridge network performance, setting bridge system performance goals, and monitoring progress toward those goals.

Users may find other criteria useful for bridge planning, development, and management and should explore the tool to learn more.

INVEST across America

There are more than 50 projects in 25 States using INVEST. These projects are spread across 29 agencies at the Federal, State, and local levels. If your agency is using INVEST and would like to be included in this tally please contact

FHWA’s Sustainable Highways Initiative in the Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty encourages everyone interested in sustainable transportation—from the public to transportation professionals—to take advantage of the INVEST tool.

*Because INVEST is not based on third-party validation of scores or certifications, scores are not considered recognition by FHWA that a program has met the achievement level of sustainability. Rather, it is recognition that the user has self-evaluated their program and met the indicated achievement level.