Though most motorists driving by probably don't notice, sod, shrubs and trees are nearly as important to an ODOT project as concrete and asphalt. Like a conscientious camper, the agency tries to leave a work site better than it was before construction.

The bridge program's environmental performance standards call for restoring project sites with a diverse array of native species, which are better for an ecosystem and easier to care for.

An Interstate 5 project in Salem widened both the freeway and seven replacement bridges. As construction drew to a close, work crews planted 35,000 trees, shrubs and ground covering to replace greenery removed to make way for construction. Many of the plants are native to the state, such as Oregon white oak, big leaf maple, snowberry and Oregon ash.

The trees and plants do more than just look nice on the side of the highway: They also provide a noise and visual buffer for the surrounding properties as well as help stop erosion.

Locally appropriate plant selection is a key consideration. Two Ashland-area interchanges benefited from ODOT's partnership with a local landscape architect who ensured that mass plantings of flowering bulbs, pear and evergreen trees, and shrubs were selected both for visual appeal and for their ability to thrive in Jackson County's challenging climate.

By taking into account hydrology, wetlands, wildlife, vegetation, soils, erosion control, grading and storm water management, then carefully selecting trees and plants suitable for soil and climate conditions, and finally monitoring plantings for as long as five years, ODOT's bridge program has, at project sites across the state, left a truly green legacy for passing motorists.