APRIL 16 | 2018

Roadside vegetation design characteristics that can improve local, near-road air quality.

Baldauf, R., V. Isakov, A. Venkatram, P. Deshmukh, B. Yang, K. Zhang, R. Logan.

Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment. Elsevier BV, AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, 52:354-361, (2017) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trd.2017.03.013


As public health concerns have increased due to the rising number of studies linking adverse health effects with exposures to traffic-related air pollution near large roadways, interest in methods to mitigate these exposures have also increased. Several studies have investigated the use of roadside features in reducing near-road air pollution concentrations since this method is often one of the few short-term options available. Since roadside vegetation has other potential benefits, the impact of this feature has been of particular interest. The literature has been mixed on whether roadside vegetation reduces nearby pollutant concentrations or whether this feature has no effect or even potentially increases downwind air pollutant concentrations. However, these differences in study results highlight key characteristics of the vegetative barrier that can result in pollutant reductions or increase local pollutant levels. This paper describes the characteristics of roadside vegetation that previous research shows can result in improved local air quality, as well as identify characteristics that should be avoided in order to protect from unintended increases in nearby concentrations. These design conditions include height, thickness, coverage, porosity/density, and species characteristics that promote improved air quality. These design considerations can inform highway departments, urban and transportation planners, and developers in understanding how best to preserve existing roadside vegetation or plant vegetative barriers in order to reduce air pollution impacts near transportation facilities. These designs can also be used to mitigate impacts from other air pollution sources where emissions occur near ground-level.