Jump to main content or area navigation.

Contact Us

Water: Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments

F. Management Measure for Road, Highway, and Bridge Runoff Systems

Develop and implement runoff management systems for existing roads, highways, and bridges to reduce runoff pollutant concentrations and volumes entering surface waters.


  1. Identify priority and watershed pollutant reduction opportunities (e.g., improvements to existing urban runoff control structures; and
  2. Establish schedules for implementing appropriate controls.

1. Applicability

This management measure is intended to be applied by States to existing, resurfaced, restored, and rehabilitated roads, highways, and bridges that contribute to adverse effects in surface waters. Under the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990, States are subject to a number of requirements as they develop coastal NPS programs in conformity with this management measure and will have some flexibility in doing so. The application of management measures by States is described more fully in Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program: Program Development and Approval Guidance, published jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce.


2. Description

This measure requires that operation and maintenance systems include the development of retrofit projects, where needed, to collect NPS pollutant loadings from existing, reconstructed, and rehabilitated roads, highways, and bridges. Poorly designed or maintained roads and bridges can generate significant erosion and pollution loads containing heavy metals, hydrocarbons, sediment, and debris that run off into and threaten the quality of surface waters and their tributaries. In areas where such adverse impacts to surface waters can be attributed to adjacent roads or bridges, retrofit management projects to protect these waters may be needed (e.g., installation of structural or nonstructural pollution controls). Retrofit projects can be located in existing rights-of-way, within interchange loops, or on adjacent land areas. Areas with severe erosion and pollution runoff problems may require relocation or reconstruction to mitigate these impacts.


Runoff management systems are a combination of nonstructural and structural practices selected to reduce nonpoint source loadings from roads, highways, and bridges. These systems are expected to include structural improvements to existing runoff control structures for water quality purposes; construction of new runoff control devices, where necessary to protect water quality; and scheduled operation and maintenance activities for these runoff control practices. Typical runoff controls for roads, highways, and bridges include vegetated filter strips, grassed swales, detention basins, constructed wetlands, and infiltration trenches.


3. Management Measure Selection

This management measure was selected because of the demonstrated effectiveness of retrofit systems for existing roads and highways that were constructed with inadequate nonpoint source pollution controls or without such controls. Structural practices for mitigating polluted runoff from existing highways are described in the literature (Silverman, 1988).


4. Practices

As discussed more fully at the beginning of this chapter and in Chapter 1, the following practices are described for illustrative purposes only. State programs need not require implementation of these practices. However, as a practical matter, EPA anticipates that the management measure set forth above generally will be implemented by applying one or more management practices appropriate to the source, location, and climate. The practices set forth below have been found by EPA to be representative of the types of practices that can be applied successfully to achieve the management measure described above.


  • a. Locate runoff treatment facilities within existing rights-of-way or in medians and interchange loops.

  • b. Develop multiple-use treatment facilities on adjacent lands (e.g., parks and golf courses).

  • c. Acquire additional land for locating treatment facilities.

  • d. Use underground storage where no alternative is available.

  • e. Maximize the length and width of vegetated filter strips to slow the travel time of sheet flow and increase the infiltration rate of urban runoff.

5. Effectiveness Information and Cost Information

Cost and effectiveness data for structural urban runoff management and pollution control facilities are outlined in Tables 4-15 (26k) and 4-16 (25k) in Section III and discussed in Section IV of this chapter and are applicable to determine the cost and effectiveness of retrofit projects. Retrofit projects can often be more costly to construct because of the need to locate the required structures within existing space or the need to locate the structures within adjacent property that requires purchase. However, the use of multiple-use facilities on adjacent lands, such as diverting runoff waters to parkland or golf courses, can offset this cost. Nonstructural practices described in the urban section also can be effective in achieving source control. As with other sections of this document, the costs of loss of habitat, fisheries, and recreational areas must be weighed against the cost of retrofitting control structures within existing rights-of-way.


6. Pollutants of Concern

Table 4-31 (11k) lists the pollutants commonly found in urban runoff from roads, highways, and bridges and their sources. The disposition and subsequent magnitude of pollutants found in highway runoff are site-specific and are affected by traffic volume, road or highway design, surrounding land use, climate, and accidental spills.


The FHWA conducted an extensive field monitoring and laboratory analysis program to determine the pollutant concentration in highway runoff from 31 sites in 11 States (Driscoll et al., 1990). The event mean concentrations (EMCs) developed in the study for a number of pollutants are presented in Table 4-32. The study also indicated that for highways discharging into lakes, the pollutants of major concern are phosphorus and heavy metals. For highways discharging into streams, the pollutants of major concern are heavy metals cadmium, copper, lead, and zinc.




Return to Previous Section


Continue to Next Section


Return to the Table of Contents



Jump to main content.