USA Banner

Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Site Notification

Site Notification

U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation
September/October 2005
Issue No:
Vol. 69 No. 2
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Training Update

New Course Targets Highway Runoff

National Highway Institute(NHI)  

Stormwater runoff that results from development and urbanization is a significant source of pollutants that can have an adverse effect on nearby bodies of water and ecosystems. Highway surfaces and adjoining areas collect a variety of contaminants that contribute to runoff, including heavy metals, inorganic salts, aromatic hydrocarbons, and suspended solids that accumulate on the road surface as a result of regular highway operation and maintenance activities, such as deicing and herbicide applications. These pollutants can significantly affect the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of receiving waters.

In 1972 the United States passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act as the first national legislation to control pollution and manage the quality of water in the Nation's waterways. As amended in 1977, the law became commonly known as the Clean Water Act. To restore and maintain the integrity of the Nation's waters, the Act set a national goal that all U.S. waters should be fishable and swimmable.

The Clean Water Act regulates discharges into waterways through a permitting program known as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Stormwater discharges associated with urban areas and certain industrial activities, including transportation facilities, fall under the purview of the NPDES permitting program. Therefore, transportation officials and environmental specialists need to understand the legal responsibilities, terminology, and general roles of players in the regulatory process in order to properly plan, budget, and implement measures to manage water quality.

On this highway project, the Maryland State Highway Administration used a comprehensive maintenance program to locate, inspect, evaluate, remediate, and enhance all of the stormwater management facilities to improve water quality and protect sensitive wetlands and water resources. The retention pond is surrounded by a vegetated fringe that promotes ecological diversity, enhances water quality, and fits harmoniously with the local environment.

Federal, State, and local officials continue to refine watershed planning processes to characterize stormwater quality and evaluate the effectiveness of alternative best management practices and the impact they have on the receiving waters. To help transportation engineers, natural resource agencies, and others understand, identify, and mitigate the impacts of highway runoff on water quality and ecosystems, the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) National Highway Institute (NHI) recently developed a new course called Water Quality Management of Highway Runoff (#142047). Environmental stewardship-providing a safe, efficient, and environmentally friendly surface transportation system-is a major priority for FHWA.

Developed in concert with representatives from FHWA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and State departments of transportation, this introductory course provides a basic understanding of how highway runoff affects ecosystems and outlines Federal requirements for protecting water quality. In addition, the course highlights best management practices that the transportation community can implement during the project development process to mitigate the impacts of highway construction and maintenance on water quality.

After completing the course, participants will be able to identify and characterize the quantity and quality of highway runoff, select appropriate mitigation strategies from a watershed perspective, and describe design objectives and considerations to use when selecting and locating best management practices for controlling runoff. Further, attendees will learn the value of inspecting, monitoring, and evaluating the performance of mitigation strategies.

Each participant should bring a calculator that will be used in group exercises and case studies.

For more technical information, contact Patricia Cazenas at 202-366-4085 or To host a session of this course, contact the NHI Training Team via e-mail at or call 703-235-0534, or visit the NHI Web site at