A freight train running through Clinton, IA is essential for moving goods across the state. photo credit: rockythegoat via flickr(CC)
A contextually sensitive road allows this tractor to move goods seamlessly in Frederick County, MD. photo credit: podolux via flickr(CC)
Smooth, efficient goods movement is essential to thriving “production” communities (those which depend on a single industry, such as agriculture, manufacturing or mining), which comprise roughly half of rural America. (source NCHRP 582 Table A page 32) Trucks, rail cars, barges, and cargo planes move millions of tons of food and manufactured products from rural areas to regional, national, and global markets. Infrastructure that allows freight to move quickly and efficiently is critical to economic success. However, it is equally critical to preserve the critical natural resources that support a production economy, and, in many cases, the cultural and historic assets that present opportunities for diversification in a rapidly changing global marketplace.
In order to sustain long-term prosperity, rural communities must make the most of all their current and potential assets. When planned and designed contextually, high-speed roads, railways, and expanded bridges will not inadvertently damage natural or cultural resources. CSS approaches can help rural communities to improve and ensure the quality of critical transportation routes while also enhancing and preserving the character and integrity of historic towns and natural assets.
Vibrant Rural Communities: Clinton, Iowa Clinton, IA
<p>In 1996, the City of Clinton, Iowa, set out to improve a stretch of US Highway 30 that runs through the heart of town. The road forms a segment of historic Lincoln Highway— dedicated in 1913 as one of the nation’s first transcontinental highways. It also serves as an entryway to Clinton and the State of Iowa. As such, city officials wanted to reconstruct the road in a way that meshed with the local context. With the cooperation of several State and Federal agencies, the community created a corridor that respects existing development, presents a welcoming gateway to the community, and sustains adjacent neighborhoods’ economic vitality.</p>
The Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Transportation have partnered in the development of the recently released Smart Transportation Guidebook. The goal of the landmark Guidebook is to integrate the planning and design of streets highways in a manner that fosters development of sustainable and livable communities. The Guidebook has equal applicability to rural, suburban and urban areas.
Both DOTs feel that transportation needs will always outweigh available resources. Smart Transportation proposes to manage capacity by better integrating land use and transportation planning. The Guidebook states that the "desire to go 'through' a place must be balanced with the desire to go 'to' a place." Transportation investments must be tailored to the specific context and needs of each project.
The Guidebook advocates the use of a multi-disciplinary team to work closely with communities and develop a wide range of solutions. It defines Smart Transportation as also including consideration of network connectivity to help ease the burden on the major highways, thereby allowing the DOTs to develop solutions which are more sensitive to context.
Smart Transportation can be summarized in six principles: tailor solutions to the context; tailor the approach; plan all projects in collaboration with the community; plan for alternative transportation modes; use sound professional judgment; and scale the solution to the size of the problem.
Other trend-setting concepts promoted in the Guidebook are:
1. Right sizing of projects to achieve a high value to price ratio, instead of constructing projects to achieve optimum Levels of Service performance measures;
2. Defining wide ranging measures of project success;
3. The need to understand place in transportation planning, design and construction;
4. A roadway typology that is not based solely on functional classification, but also takes into account land use and place;
5. The idea that high design speed does not automatically equate to high design quality.
Route 50, Loudoun-Fauquier Counties - Virginia Lenah, VA
<p>This project is a national demonstration project, funded under TEA-21 and VDOT's (Virginia Department of Transportation) Virginia Transportation Development Plan. The project is described as "Traffic Calming Measures for Route 50 in Loudoun and Fauquier Counties." </p>
The report explores how different types of rural communities can integrate land use and transportation planning. The report also highlights programs and investment strategies that are designed to support community development and livability in rural areas while providing adequate transportation capacity.
Rural communities throughout the United States are facing a wide and complex range of challenges that both affect and are affected by the transportation system. These include economic shifts away from traditional employment in local farming and manufacturing toward industries such as agribusiness and tourism; changing demographics such as rising percentages of elderly residents or new levels of racial and ethnic diversity; rapid growth in some rural areas and population decline in others; and a lack of adequate capacity and/or commitment to engage the public in transportation and land use planning. These trends are further complicated by funding challenges associated with operating, maintaining, and building transportation infrastructure.
Although urban areas may be facing many of the same or similar issues, the presence of such challenges in a rural setting poses a unique set of circumstances that requires a distinctly different approach. Although abundant research findings exist on strategies and measures to address the effects of growth and development on transportation systems and services in urban and metropolitan areas, there has been little corresponding research to address how rural communities can work with transportation agencies to set and reach mutual goals for livability and mobility.
Surveys for this project indicated that the number one challenge for rural communities is to provide access within the community to destinations such as jobs, shops, services, education, and healthcare. The particular type of accessibility need for each community varies based on the community's particular setting and economic base. For example, exurban communities are primarily concerned with providing access to jobs in adjacent urban centers; destination communities focus on bringing visitors into the community and providing access to tourist destinations; and production communities either attempt to improve accessibility between local products and their markets or to diversify the local economy. Other frequently cited challenges include maintaining or improving water and air quality, improving driver safety, protecting open space and environmentally sensitive lands, and providing access between the community and destinations around the larger region.
Best practices and strategies for achieving these results within various types of communities fall into three major activities:
Set the regional framework for where and how development should occur, through practices such as
Growth management and preservation strategies to guide development into suitable locations; and
Regional access management strategies promoting access to designated development areas as well as discouraging unwanted rural development.
Improve local accessibility to daily needs such as jobs, shopping, services, and health care, through practices such as
Development standards and plans to promote mixed-use, walkable community centers; and
Transportation investments focused on improving street connectivity, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, and transit service to community focal points.
Enhance community design, through practices such as
Context-sensitive roadway design techniques that complement natural and built environments; and
Local access management and community design strategies, particularly along key commercial corridors.
The Northwest Vermont Planning Project: Changing Land Use to Effect Rural Highway Improvements VT
<p>This case study was spurred by a controversy over indirect and cumulative impacts of the proposed Chittenden County Circumferential Highway road project (known by most as “the Circ”). Based on more than 20 years of difficulty advancing plans for the project, the state realized that much of the growth problem stemmed directly from a lack of resources for growth-related planning at the local and regional levels. VTrans was reacting to transportation issues caused in part by poor land use decisions at the local level. By providing planning support and sophisticated scenario modeling tools through five regional planning agencies, VTrans worked with a variety of rural communities to coordinate plans and resources towards a mutual goal of building efficient transportation infrastructure that helped them cultivate desirable development. </p>
Unity, Maine: Preserving Farmland Through Strengthening Community Character Unity, ME
<p> Located in one of Maine's poorest counties, Unity has a small liberal arts college that specializes in environmental programs; a concentration of senior and low income housing; a declining agricultural economy; a flaggin town center; and development of former farm fields for new homes, businesses and even the new Masonic hall. The Unity Barn Raisers group came together to revitalize the center, bring essential services back to Main Street, improve the local transportation system, and create a true sense of community in Unity. Through locally-driven building projects, land use ordinances, and pedestrian investments that foster compact growth, the organization is helping to restore the community's walkable scale and vitality. </p>
Western Piedmont Region, North Carolina: Managing Highway Corridors and Guiding Development Hickory, NC
<p>This regional case study examines innovative and cost effective transportation investments that enhance a rural region's livability and preserve its cultural and environmental assets. The region's' two major highways, Interstate 40 and US Highway 321, have increased the potential for economic development by providing increased access to the region and by providing opportunities for business locations (such as retail outlets for locally manufactured furniture). At the same time, corridor development has created challenges such as disrupting access to properties along the highways, threatening scenic landscapes and the natural environment, and disturbing traditional community character Over the course of nearly two decades, local governments and the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) developed three corridor plans along the two major routes, each aimed to promote safety, traffic efficiency, aesthetics, economic development, and compatible residential uses. All three plans supported common objectives (primarily access management and rationalizing land use), but in each case the planners adapted the research, public engagement, technical methods, and recommendations to suit local conditions and needs.</p>
This FHWA document is designed as a resource to rural planners, city and county engineers, stakeholders, local officials, and other decision-makers involved with developing rural transportation plans. It is intended to foster a better understanding of the characteristics, issues, and trends affecting rural transportation systems and the benefits of good rural system planning. It provides approaches and case study profiles for public consultation, environmental review, transit system planning, intelligent transportation system planning, and access management.