In partnership with advisory board member Amy O’Leary, Ph.D., Associate Director for Environment, Planning and Economics Research at the Virginia Transportation Research Center (VTRC), VA’s LTAP is pleased to present a series of on-going research spotlights. Every few months, we’ll bring you updates about research being put into action to increase efficiencies and provide sustainable transportation solutions.

 

This month’s Research in Action features a comprehensive review of solutions to address main street/highway conflicts. Highways are critical for cross-state travel, commuting and freight movement, usually with expectations for high speeds and limited stopping. Many of these highways, however, pass through long-established and developing communities where the corridor provides access to homes and businesses, essentially functioning as the community’s main street. To address safety concerns related to slowing, stopping and turning vehicles, speeds along the corridor must be reduced, and mobility becomes constrained.

In Virginia, Corridors of Statewide Significance (CoSS) range from limited access freeways to two-lane roads. Examples include the I-66 corridor in Northern Virginia, the north-south I-95/U.S. 1 corridor, U.S. 17 from Virginia Beach to Winchester and U.S. 29 through Charlottesville.  While VDOT prioritizes mobility along these routes, local governments ultimately have jurisdiction over the type and intensity of development, which affects the location and number of residential driveways and commercial entrances.

Peter Ohlms, AICP, a research scientist with VTRC, is interested in multi-modal transportation planning, public transportation planning and operations, and transportation policy. Members of his project advisory panel, lead by Culpeper and Fredericksburg District Planners, encouraged Ohlms to study ways to resolve the main street/highway conflict from both transportation planning and land use planning perspectives. Is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach feasible and, if so, how can existing regulations, interagency coordination and public input be leveraged to mitigate problems arising from the main street/highway conflict?

Ohlms and research assistant Kayleigh Roy tackled the issue from several angles. The team searched the Transport Research International Documentation database for publications on access management, land use and transportation, freight planning, collaboration, and public participation. They reviewed relevant regulations in the Code of Virginia to understand requirements for access management, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, land use planning, and traffic impact analysis.  The researchers undertook a case study review of several localities exemplifying successful incorporation of planning solutions to address the main street/highway conflict (New Hampshire: Route 16; New Jersey: Route 31; Illinois: U.S. 51; Virginia: Arterial Management Plan in Goochland County; Maine: I-95 and U.S. 1).

An area of Route 17 in Gloucester County, Virginia. This area exhibits a reverse frontage development pattern. Businesses are visible from the major regional corridor (Route 17) but have vehicular entrances only on Fox Centre Parkway. Imagery © 2017 Google, map data © 2017 Google.

Based on the literature, case studies and analysis of existing regulations, the research team identified several planning solutions for VDOT to encourage, facilitate or implement, including:

  • Engaging in local zoning, development review processes and planning efforts to help local planners evaluate possible solutions such as reverse frontage development patterns or well-connected street networks
  • Providing training for local government planners; integrating VDOT policies into local comprehensive plans; performing public outreach and creating advisory committees; and organizing design workshops, charrettes and facilitated stakeholder meetings
  • Considering unconventional intersection designs to facilitate through traffic while addressing community concerns
  • Using context-sensitive urban thoroughfare design including the evaluation of how pedestrians, bikes, transit and drivers interact in these multimodal corridors.

Importantly, the team concluded that cooperation and coordination between state DOTs and local jurisdictions is needed early and often, and sharing clear indicators on outcomes can help decision makers and the public choose wisely.

The study’s recommendations are being implemented as part of VDOT’s ongoing corridor preservation efforts, particularly Arterial Management Plans (http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/arterial_management_plans.asp). VDOT also has design guides on various forms of alternative intersections available at http://www.virginiadot.org/info/alternative_intersection_informational_design_guides.asp.

The final report is available at http://vtrc.virginiadot.org/PubDetails.aspx?id=298263.

Ohlms may be contacted at Peter.Ohlms@VDOT.Virginia.gov.

 


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