ICT Researchers Identify Green-Friendly Practices for IDOT Rest Areas

4/16/2015 Peggy Currid

Study identifies green upgrade measures for Illinois interstate rest areas.

Written by Peggy Currid

Yeh Center
Yeh Center

Rest areas selected for on-site assessment based on highest annual energy cost and/or annual energy cost per square footage

By Peggy Currid

Illinois has 53 interstate rest areas and welcome centers that provide restroom facilities, vending machines and tourist information for the traveling public. These rest areas are open every day of the year and are used by nearly 35 million people annually. The facilities, which are maintained by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), range from 10 to 50 years old and many need upgrades, especially to improve their environmental and economic performance.

The need to upgrade these rest areas and to meet the requirements of Illinois’ “Green Building Guidelines for State Construction” prompted IDOT to initiate a project to investigate and recommend best management practices (BMPs) for environmentally-friendly improvements to interstate rest areas. In 2010, a project titled “Green-Friendly Best Management Practices for Interstate Rest Areas” was undertaken by researchers with the Illinois Center for Transportation (ICT). The research team consisted of principal investigators Khaled El-Rayes, professor, and Liang Liu, associate professor, in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The final report and recommendations for that project are available here.

That was followed by a Phase II study, which began in 2011 under the direction of a TRP chaired by Matt Sunderland, Project Evaluation Technician for IDOT’s Bureau of Design and Environment. In that study, El-Rayes and Liu looked at the six interstate rest areas in Illinois with the highest levels of energy consumption—Coalfield, Cumberland Road, Turtle Creek, Great Sauk Trail, Willow Creek and Mackinaw Dells—and recommended green-friendly improvements.

The researchers conducted on-site assessments and investigated the feasibility and costs of LED and solar tube lighting, photovoltaic lighting, motion sensors, solar water heaters, double-pane glass and other environmentally conscious measures. They analyzed the economic and environmental impacts of those measures by conducting life-cycle cost analysis and a carbon footprint assessment. The researchers then identified promising upgrade measures for the selected rest areas. They also developed a decision support tool to help determine which upgrade measures would meet the requirements for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The final report and recommendations for the second-phase study are available here.

El-Rayes said that the projects presented a unique opportunity to recommend cost-effective upgrades for highly visible and frequently used facilities. He explained that the research is intended to help decision makers identify improvements that maximize the green performance of IDOT rest areas, reduce energy and water consumption, and comply with limited budgets for upgrades.

Sunderland said that as rest area facilities undergo rehabilitation, IDOT will refer to the project report’s recommendations.

“It’s imperative that the department continue to investigate and implement energy cost-saving measures for these facilities to ensure continued service to our patrons,” he added. “By implementing more sustainable technologies at IDOT facilities, the department is able to pass along savings to the taxpayers of Illinois while, in keeping with IDOT’s mission statement, demonstrating respect for our environment.”

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This story was published April 16, 2015.