R2T Speaker Profile

Interview with Dr. Milena Rangelov

IRF: What are the theoretical merits of including environmental sustainability considerations within TAMPS?

Every decision that an individual or an organization makes has environmental repercussions. Accordingly, more environmentally friendly and sustainable decisions can be made on multiple levels. In the context of transportation decision-making, environmental considerations can inform decisions on multiple levels: material selection, pavement design, reduction in congestion, to mention a few. Asset management practice considers a broad overview of the entire transportation system and as such, represents a potent decision-making phase to integrate environmental sustainability into, while considering multiple system elements, their interactions, and tradeoffs associated with different choices. Even though improved decisions can be made at all decision-making points, system-level analysis is the most comprehensive (as well as the most complex) and thereby the most promising to meaningfully assess impacts, reductions, as well as influence environmental policy and specifications.

What is the role of environmental labels, such as EPDs, in advancing these sustainability considerations? How could their role be expanded within TAMPS?

The creation of EPDs has been initiated based on material manufacturers' initiatives. The development of eco-labels such as EPDs gives producers a competitive advantage in the market and helps them communicate their sustainability aspirations to their customers. However, the role of EPDs can extend beyond the marketing tool. Because EPDs follow standardized life cycle assessment (LCA) protocols, they can be used as building blocks for the broader LCA (e.g. project level, or system level). Currently, EPDs are being produced for the key pavement construction materials, such as asphalt, concrete, and aggregate. Implementation of EPDs in asset management necessitates the inclusion of new product categories, such as pavement preservation and maintenance materials and treatments. The streamlined EPD development in this context is beneficial for numerous reasons: it involves industry manufacturers in sustainability initiatives, it can help manufacturers demonstrate their production improvements, it leverages the existing efforts in EPD production, it provides agencies and other interested stakeholders with transparent and publicly available data that can be collected easily and integrated into a broader analysis. The interest of agencies to collect relevant EPDs for the purpose of asset management will create the impetus for the industry to develop and provide EPDs and actively participate in environmental pursuits.

As a researcher, what is the value of presenting your work at a Conference featuring a wide cross-action of actors from the public, private and academic sector?

Since my research is focused on environmental sustainability in transportation, which is a relatively novel and interdisciplinary topic, I see a great benefit of presenting at the IRF conference to a diverse group of stakeholders. The need for cross-functional and cross-disciplinary dialogue is a critical component needed to create reliable systems for environmental tracking and improvement. To that end, the IRF conference creates a diverse and collaborative space in which ideas can be shared and progress initiated and I am happy to be a part of this initiative.

IRF Global R2T Conference & Exhibition: November 17-20, 2020

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