Hawaii Road and Highway Design Legislation

In 2005 State of Hawaii passed S.B. No. 1876, legislation that directs the Department of Transportation to establish new guidelines that take into account the need for flexibility in highway design, and limits liability of State and counties in the application of flexible highway design standards. Hawaii's rural communities are the heart and soul of the islands, reflecting the aloha spirit and natural beauty that are the essence of our State. As urbanization spreads throughout Hawaii, our rural communities are at risk of losing their unique identities. The imposition of uniform, conventional highway design can significantly alter and detract from the historical identities of these communities.

During the past decade, highway design has undergone significant change. Today, engineers and planners are employing greater flexibility in the way they design road projects through context-sensitive solutions and design. Through the use of the Federal Highway Administration Flexibility in Highway Design book, and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Green Book, and A Guide for Achieving Flexibility in Highway Design (May 2004), engineers and planners are able to consider more than safety and efficiency when building new roads or reconstructing old roads. These additional design considerations include the environment, scenic and historic preservation, community effects, and aesthetics.

Congress expressly acknowledged the importance of flexible highway design sensitive to the surrounding environment, especially in historic and scenic areas. Section 1016(a) of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 allows approval of projects designed to allow for historic and scenic value preservation, while ensuring safe use. Highway design under the National Highway System Act (other than interstates) may consider the constructed and natural environment of the area, and the environmental, scenic, aesthetic, historic, community, and preservation impacts of the project. The National Highway System Act authorizes states the flexibility to develop and apply criteria they deem appropriate for federal-aid projects not on the National Highway System. This federal policy framework recommends early identification of critical project issues and encourages thorough consideration of community concerns and input prior to any major decision that could limit other options.

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