Diagonal parking prevents speeding along Main Street, thereby ensuring a safe and vibrant downtown. photo credit: AJM Studios, Bingen, Washington via Flickr (CC)
Roundabouts foster a calm steady flow of traffic, which reduces driver conflict points and ensures a safe environment for motorists and pedestrians. photo credit: WSDOT, Anacortes, Washington via Flickr(CC)
Because destinations in rural areas are spread over large areas, residents of rural communities must travel long distances to access everyday activities. The quality and safety of rural transportation routes – from country roads and high-speed highways to walking trails and bike paths - are essential to the basic health and prosperity of rural residents and businesses.
CSS highway design techniques can help communities make rural roadways safer without compromising their scenic value or pitting driver safety against that of other users. Bridges, for example, can be modernized while maintaining their rural scale and character. Sharp curves can be adjusted within the natural contours of the landscape rather than flattened completely, which tends to encourage speeding. Well-maintained shoulders can do double duty by providing room for cyclists and reducing roadway maintenance costs. And intersections can be reconfigured to reduce conflicts among drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists, especially around schools, parks, recreational areas, and neighborhoods.
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>
Houghton Streetscape and Brick Street Re-Installation Houghton, MI
<p>The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Ishpeming Transportation Service Center (TSC) and its partners took an innovative approach on the US-41 Houghton, Michigan, downtown streetscape project by, among other things, actually drawing traffic and business into the work zone during construction.
US-41 runs through the city of Houghton on a one-way pair, with northbound traffic on two-lane Shelden Avenue, and southbound on two-lane Montezuma Avenue. Originally, MDOT proposed a simple resurfacing project for downtown Houghton. However, when MDOT approached the city with its proposal, the city volunteered to help make it much more.</p>
<p>By coupling funding from traffic and safety, road preservation, and Transportation Enhancement grants with city-secured monies from Michigan's Vibrant Small Cities Initiative and a Rural Development loan, a simple resurfacing project became a $4.6 million end-to-end and storefront-to-storefront reconstruction. The ratio of funding, with the city putting up more than two-thirds of the money, was atypical for a state trunkline project.</p>
<p>Since the project then included complete reconstruction of the roadway, the city took the opportunity to replace the underground utilities (water, sewer, storm sewer and electricity). Together, MDOT, the city, and the project design engineer, U.P. Engineers and Architects, developed a plan that included concrete brick pavers (another unique choice for a segment of state highway) for the roadway, new decorative sidewalks, and new streetlights matching historical lights from Houghton's past.</p>
<p>Routing traffic away from downtown was bound to cause concern for businesses and their customers, planned mitigation notwithstanding. The city and MDOT went to great lengths to make sure the negative impact of the detour on drivers, businesses and their customers was minimized. Special events, held during the project, drew thousands of people to downtown Houghton right in the middle of this complete reconstruction.</p>
The Danville Project Montpelier, VT
The Danville Transportation Enhancement Project is a partnership among the Vermont Arts Council, the Vermont Agency of Transportation [VTrans], and the Town of Danville, Vermont designed to integrate artistic enhancements into the redevelopment of a portion of U.S. Highway Route 2 through the village center.
Highway through Mutzig, France Mutzig,
"Mutzig is one of the many beautiful towns in Alsace, and the conversion that was made of the main street in the 1980s lives up completely to the inherent charm of the town."
Town Center in Buxtehude, Germany Buxtehude,
"During the 1980s a large full-scale study has been conducted in Buxtehude, including extensive rebuilding in the town center and in an adjoining urban area, and in-depth initial and follow-up studies of the traffic and the environment. The principles developed in this connection became one of the models for the 'Tempo 30' programme now in force in German towns."
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>
Highway through Sdr. Sejerslev, Denmark Hojer,
"By establishing seven circular humps on the highway through Sdr. Sejerslev the country of Southern Jutland has achieved a considerable speed reduction. An inquiry among the town inhabitants reveals widespread satisfaction with the scheme."
US Route 101-Lincoln Beach Parkway Lincoln County, OR
U.S. Route 101 is one of the most scenic highways in the United States; not surprisingly, it serves high local, regional, and tourist travel demands. A major conflict facing the entire Route 101 corridor was the need to provide better access to resort-oriented communities to enhance economic development while balancing the impact of capacity improvements, an issue was particularly acute in Lincoln Beach. Jurisdictions along the highway eventually approved the concept of a Pacific Coast Scenic Parkway to "increase the aesthetic experience, assist in access control, and develop community identity," despite its deviation from typical ODOT design concepts.
Downtown Revitalization, Safety & Congestion Improvements, SR-14 - Bingen Bingen, WA
The purpose of this project was to reduce traffic congestion through this section of SR-14, which improved safety and traffic flow (mobility). The city of Bingen needed economic revitalization of the downtown corridor, and anticipated that their efforts to improve the transportation system would result in improved economic vitality.
Bridgeport Way - University Place, Washington University Place, WA
Bridgeport Way is a major urban arterial and it could be considered as a "Main Street" of University Place. The project involved reconstruction of an existing five-lane road into a four-lane divided roadway over a distance of approximately 1.5 miles. The purpose of this project was to address the safety concerns due to the high number of crashes over the past years. At the same time it was viewed essential to the vision statement of the City Council that aimed in improving the quality of life in the community by creating a town center. The goal of the project is to develop Bridgeport Way as a corridor that will improve traffic safety, increase the mobility and cohesiveness of the community, enhance the appearance of the corridor, and control traffic growth.
Paris Pike - Kentucky Lexington-Paris, KY
Paris Pike is a US urban/rural primary route between the northern limits of Lexington and the southern limits of Paris, serving commuters as well as through travelers on a segment officially designated as a scenic route. The project involved reconstruction of an existing two-lane road into a four-lane over a distance of approximately 13.5 miles. The need for this improvement is based on Paris Pikeﾒs importance in the regional transportation system, i.e. its system linkage, its lack of sufficient capacity to adequately serve not only projected travel but also existing traffic demands, inadequate existing roadway geometrics and design features, safety considerations, and social demands. A wide range of context sensitive issues were addressed as part of the construction, impacting both the natural and human environments.
SR 179, Village of Oak Creek to Sedona AZ
The goal of the SR 179 project was to plan, design and build improvements that could achieve a consensus in the community while providing enhanced safety and more reliable travel times for everyone.
Maryland Route 108 Olney, MD
Since the mid-1980's, land development around this suburban Baltimore highway has lead to drastic increases in traffic volume. Officials sought to maximize Route 108's capacity and relieve its congestion just as Maryland was developing their "Thinking Beyond the Pavement" approach. As a result, this project contributed greatly to MD's knowledge of Context Sensitive Solutions. The reconstruction of Route 108 resulted in lessons learned about the CSS process and its benefits.
Maryland Route 355 Montgomery County, MD
Significant regional traffic growth and localized development has resulted in traffic increases along Route 355, a two-lane highway in rural and suburban Maryland. Completion of this mobility-enhancing project required a comprehensive approach involving design creativity, stakeholder involvement, and agency coordination. Stakeholders learned that converting a two-lane highway into a six-lane arterial in a built-up area is no small feat, especially when the conversion is done in a manner in which the finished product fits with the surrounding area.
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.
Article / Paper / Report
Improving Small City Highways: New Techniques for Improving Safety and Livability Through Technology Transfer
Highways provide needed access to destinations in small cities in addition to allowing through travel to other places. Many small city highways are very wide and traffic speeds excessively high. Extensive paved areas, narrow sidewalks, and little greenery has resulted in a dangerous, unpleasant environment for residents and visitors. Increasing traffic volumes and resulting highway reconstruction often make problems worse. City residents recognize these problems and would like to see design solutions that improve the safety and livability of their communities.
-- Greg Pates, Landscape Architect, Minnesota Department of Transportation
Article / Paper / Report
Street Design and Community Livability
"In this paper, we will evaluate the system of highway classification that is used in the USA and in Germany. Our goal is to develop guidelines concerning how the American system can be modified so that community livability issues are integrated in the overall approach to the system of highway design."
-- Norman Garrick, Tobias Kuhnimof
Article / Paper / Report
Main Street ... when a highway runs through it: A Handbook for Oregon Communities
When Main Street also serves as a state highway, communities are faced with significant challenges. The biggest challenge is to strike a balance between the needs of pedestrians, shoppers, employees, business owners, and residents with the needs of through traffic - both auto and freight - to move safely and efficiently over longer distances.
Main streets that are also state highways are found throughout Oregon: from small, rural ranch downtowns to segments of large cities. some of these main streets have kept their historic character, with a classic, small town, "Mayberry USA" appearance that is typified by a mix of uses and multi-story buildings fronting a wide sidewalk. Other main streets may have lost much of their historic appearance to strip development, parking lots, and expansion of multi-lane highways.
Whatever the character of your main street, this handbook recognizes that good highways and main streets are both critical to the health of the state's communities. It describes the many tools available to identify the problems and figure out good solutions for Main Street ... when a highway runs through it.
-- Oregon Department of Transportation
Web residing general information documents generated by the Clallam County Washington Rural Roads Design Standards Advisory Committee which I chaired.
from Bill Hennessey, M.D.
Flexibility in Highway Design
A guide about designing highways that incorporate community values and are safe, efficient, and effective. It is written for highway engineers and project managers who want to learn more about flexibility available to them when designing roads and illustrates successful approaches used in other highway projects. The guide aims also at provoking innovative thinking for fully considering the scenic, historic, aesthetic, and other cultural values of communities, along with safety and mobility needs.
Federal Highway Administration
Cutler-Orosi, California: Community-Based Transportation Planning Orosi, CA
<p>The two agricultural communities of Cutler and Orosi, CA were struggling with high poverty rates, inadequate water and sewer capacity, and a dangerous traffic problems on the main street/ state highway. Through an innovative design charrette, community residents (many of whom speak only Spanish) and business leaders made context sensitive design recommendations to improve pedestrian and bicycle uses, lighting and sidewalks, which supported goals for traveler safety and economic development. Since the 2001 workshop Caltrans has repaved entire stretches of the study area, using reflective materials for foggy seasons and visibility. All intersections now have crosswalks. ADA compliant ramps have been added, and tree wells have been put in to make way for plantings to be contributed and maintained by community and civic groups. New traffic lights are being added or upgraded, as well as new and upgraded signage to alert drivers that they are in downtown and school areas. </p>
Hutchinson, Minnesota: Implementing a Transportation Plan to Accommodate Regional Growth Hutchinson, MN
<p>Home to Hutchinson Technology, Inc. and consumer products manufacturer 3M, Hutchinson MN is a manufacturing town that is also attracting exurban development based on its proximity to the Twin Cities. The town used a context-sensitive solutions approach to revitalize flagging downtown businesses and reduce the impacts of rising regional highway traffic. Key projects from a highly coordinated local and regional planning process include a bypass for high-speed regional traffic in conjunction with multimodal modal improvements to the original Main Street highway. </p>
Lincoln City, Oregon: Taft Village Redevelopment Plan
<p>This case study examines what can be done to revitalize a small urban village in a rural setting, with a state highway running through it. Lincoln City spans eight miles along the Pacific coast. Taft is one of the city's five villages, all of which are bisected by State Highway 101,a heavily trafficked coastal road. The Taft village plan resulted in a special ODOT designation that allowed officials to treat Highway 101 differently than most state highways because of its joint function as a main street. Using the STA modified design strategies, more than $10 million in roadway and streetscape improvements has helped to develop the local economy, improve traffic flow, and enhance the downtown. More than 15 new businesses have opened, many older businesses grew or remodeled, and many new jobs have been created. For more information about Special Transportation Area (STA) designation, see Main Street-When a Highway Runs Through It: A Handbook for Oregon Communities, ODOT, 1999. </p>
The value of our County roads is found in the unique visual experience they offer. The appeal to a large tourist population accounts for a substantial portion of the County's economy. The guide emphasizes that the aesthetic criteria and engineering requirements can be mutually beneficial. The goal of these guidelines is to implement rural road modifications which provide user safety, long range reduction of maintenance costs, and a roadway that is attractively integrated with the roadside and surrounding landscape.
San Juan County Scenic Design Manual places emphasis on design that is aesthetically pleasing and contextually sensitive
photo credit:San Juan County
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.
Older roads in rural areas are often 16 to 18 feet wide. However, modern road standards routinely require wider specifications in response to increased speeds and liability
concerns. Local roads are straightened and widened,clearing away all vegetation, destroying stone walls and other historic features, and making unnecessary rock cuts and uniform slopes. Even off of narrow, naturally graded roads, new driveways are often required to be much wider
than the main road, with curbing and storm drains that are out-of-place in rural areas.
The results of wider roads in rural areas tend to be faster vehicle speeds, more serious crashes, and higher construction and long-term maintenance costs. Excessive speeds help make the death rate per vehicle mile for rural areas much higher than the rate for urban areas. Rural roads should be context sensitive, designed to reflect the character of the surrounding countryside, and compatible with slower farm equipment, nearby vegetation, and crossing wildlife.
-- John Clarke
U.S. Route 62 Village of Hamburg Hamburg, NY
<p>The purpose of the project was to coordinate highway improvements and revitalization efforts in accordance with the Department’s Context Sensitive Solutions philosophy and Environmental Initiative. The intent is to incorporate the Village’s desire for change, improvement and a rebirth of the community into the Department’s basic mission for improving the transportation corridor. </p>
<p> Route 62 in the Village of Hamburg is not only the center of local business, but also a major truck route. As such, the project addressed, safety, capacity,aesthetic context concerns, and infrastructure deficiencies. The New York State Department of Transportation project encouraged collaboration and community engagement, which resulted in in well-informed and community-valued design alternatives.</p>