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KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

Kirkland Has The World’s Greenest Road

Northeast 120th Street Extension in Kirkland, Washington, received the highest rating from The Greenroads Foundation.
The Greenroads Foundation
Northeast 120th Street Extension in Kirkland, Washington, received the highest rating from The Greenroads Foundation.

  A short street in Kirkland has earned the honor of being the greenest road in the world -- at least by one measure.

Earlier this month, Northeast 120th Street Extension earned the highest rating in the history of The Greenroads Foundation, scoring 46 out of 118 possible points.  

The street, 880 feet long, doesn’t look remarkable at first glance. It’s a new road, lined with young trees. It’s an urban road, at the heart of Totem Lake, with car dealerships, a college and small businesses nearby.

But those trees are planted over storm drain inlets. The dirt in which they are planted filters the storm water on its way to Lake Washington, Steve Muench, a civil engineer at the University of Washington told KUOW’s Kim Malcolm.

The street lights are LED, and the road itself is partly recycled, Muench said. Twenty percent of it contains recycled asphalt. It was created using a warm-mix asphalt, as opposed to a hot mix. That resulted in 15 to 30 percent lower emissions at the time of production.

Added bonus, Muench said: “You can’t smell it.”

On a practical level, by connecting two streets the road reduces wait times at a nearby intersection. And it has bike lanes and wide sidewalks for walking, which should go without saying, given that it’s a green road.

But is it possible to have a green road if it serves single-occupancy vehicles that produce carbon emissions?

“Roads aren’t going away any time soon,” Muench said. “To ignore that is missing a huge opportunity to improve the community and the environment around these things.”

The Greenroads Foundation, based in Seattle, evaluates roads worldwide – including in Taiwan, New Zealand and the United Emirates. Washington state looks good on the foundation's site, with five of the six “silver-certified” projects located here. 

Produced for the Web by Isolde Raftery.