Life Cycle Assessment of Complete Streets: Case Studies

Funding to create complete streets is increasing in many parts of the U.S. As funding increases, the processes by which complete streets are located and funded has become more important. Issues that have come to the forefront include the equity of the investments in transportation infrastructure, including complete streets. Some of these issues exist in the processes that decide where complete streets projects get built, what goals they are designed to achieve, and whether they are beneficial or disruptive, including contributing to displacement of existing residents, particularly in disadvantaged communities.

Based on a preliminary study, it was identified that to date, the quantitative and context-relevant approach of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) has not been used to assess the conversion of conventional streets to complete streets. Thus, a framework for LCA of complete streets projects was recently developed. The framework addresses the gaps in performance metrics and is intended to answer questions related to funding of complete streets in terms of equity and other measures.

The purpose of this project is to test the complete streets LCA framework by using it to quantify the environmental and social impacts of complete streets. The results will be compared with the existing street models that are configured to be vehicle-centric. To test the framework, case studies will be solicited in different parts of the U.S. Advantaged and disadvantaged neighborhoods will be selected for the case studies so that the equity aspects of the framework can also be tested and evaluated. Metrics will be selected to define more and less advantaged communities, such as household income, employment, and access to essential services. Other types of metrics will include transportation/mobility-oriented metrics, metrics from the framework developed in the previous study, such as density of “opportunity destinations,” and ability to access opportunity destinations. The case studies will also include projects in rural areas in addition to urban and suburban areas, and comparison of rural projects with urban/suburban projects will be considered, as well as considerations within both of these types of projects. Case study evaluation will be based on project design for those that have not yet been constructed or completed. Where case study projects have been completed, projects will be evaluated based on the built projects and performance before and after project completion.


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