Thursday, June 30 2016 @ 12:04 PM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
by Mark Plotz
-> Thirty years ago the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) designated 13 controlling criteria for roadway design for the purpose of ensuring the efficient and safe operation of the National Highway System (NHS). State DOTs were also encouraged to adopt these standards and many did so because, well, bureaucracies are conservative and risk-averse. As a result, the 13 Controlling Design Criteria (CDC) became the law of the land, and whenever a designer wished to deviate from them, he/she had to enter into the process of requesting a formal design exemption, the outcome of which was uncertain—other than knowing it would add delay and cost to a project. The effect is that we got one-size-fits-all designs regardless of context or community wishes.
The Federal Highway Administration is revisiting the 13 criteria and is requesting comment on a proposal to eliminate all but 2 (Design Speed and Structural Capacity) for NHS roadways under 50 mph. Under this proposal it will be
Easier for designers to choose narrower lanes to find space for bicycle facilities or to reduce crossing distances for pedestrians.
Possible for designers to use narrower right of ways to avoid the high costs of land acquisition.
The likely beginning of the end of our wider, straighter and faster design paradigm (Horizontal Alignment, Vertical Alignment, Grade, Superelevation and Lateral Offset) that has yielded deadlier roads and enabled sprawl.
Should the proposed rule change become policy, the percentage of roads affected will be small. That said, the ripple effect could be huge if/when state DOTs follow suit—and why shouldn’t they, as these proposed changes could yield significant cost savings and myriad other benefits.
Be sure to tell FHWA what you think by December 7, 2015. You should write in. This is big. http://1.usa.gov/1KnCm3V
"Evaluation of the 13 Controlling Criteria for Geometric Design," NCHRP Report 783, 2015. (http://bit.ly/1qsr8Rz
"FHWA Reduces Barriers to Flexible Street Design," Project for Public Spaces, 2015. (http://bit.ly/1NTcIeZ
"Design Flexibility for Stronger Communities," USDOT Fast Lane, 2015. (http://1.usa.gov/1Qmv3yA
"When Livability Projects Meet Eisenhower-Era Design Standards," Streetsblog, 2012. (http://bit.ly/1W3npeb
A final thought:
For the moment the 13 Controlling Design Criteria remain the de facto law of the land, but remember that under the status quo design exemptions are still a possibility. The Michigan DOT, which has embraced Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS), grants around 600 exemptions annually. The CSS process, which is endorsed by FHWA and AASHTO, is a collaborative, interdisciplinary and holistic approach to the development of transportation projects. For more detail, see http://bit.ly/1MIcBT1
from CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking.