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Chapter 1. Introduction

A properly designed roadway takes into consideration mobility and safety issues while addressing natural and human environmental aspects. To achieve such a balance, tradeoffs among these factors are routinely performed, either consciously or unconsciously

A properly designed roadway takes into consideration mobility and safety issues while addressing natural and human environmental aspects. To achieve such a balance, tradeoffs among these factors are routinely performed, either consciously or unconsciously. The passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) emphasized the importance of such roadway design. Practices that demonstrate such a design were compiled and documented in a report by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) titled Flexibility in Highway Design.(1) This document emphasized the existing flexibility in design criteria and encouraged the use of creative design in addressing site-specific project needs. Moreover, the need for project teams became apparent, because such creative solutions often require a cohesive effort among the planning, designing, and construction engineers. At the same time, the use of interdisciplinary teams and public involvement were also identified as integral components of successful solutions. This philosophy was coined in the United States as context-sensitive design (CSD) and represents an approach where a balance is sought between safety and mobility needs within the community interests. Both FHWA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recognize the flexibility that exists in the current design criteria, while acknowledging that the current focus on providing high levels of mobility may conflict with some community interests. There is increasing awareness of these CSD issues within the highway community; the Transportation Research Board (TRB) has initiated research to address CSD issues and several States have developed workshops. Moreover, there is a desire among the highway design community to improve roadway design practices and incorporate new elements to enhance established practices and address the community interest elements.

The CSD approach is current practice in several European countries, which use these roadway geometric design concepts and tools to address mobility, safety, and community issues. Therefore, European agencies can offer the United States valuable new insights and concepts from their experience with these issues and practices. Such concepts can be transferred or adapted to the U.S. environment to enhance the knowledge base regarding CSD and roadway geometric design. Recognizing the potential benefits from examining such international practices, a team of engineers was formed to observe and document practices that might have value to U.S. practitioners. Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, England, and Germany were identified as countries with innovative methods and procedures related to roadway geometric design and project development. In June 2000 the team traveled to these countries and met with transportation officials to exchange ideas and document European practices. This report presents the findings of the scan tour and includes recommendations of practices that have potential for implementation in the United States.

Trip Objective

The objective of this scanning tour was to review and document procedures and practices in roadway geometric design and CSD in five European countries. The goal of the tour was to identify practices in these countries that, if implemented in the United States, would enhance current procedures and promote roadway designs that equally address mobility, safety, and community issues. The team's objective was to meet with representatives of transportation agencies in these countries, discuss their approach on these issues and, thus, understand and identify the possible similarities and differences between U.S. and European approaches to roadway geometric design and CSD. The team also wanted to observe applications of these concepts within the existing transportation system and gather information on examples of successful and not-so-successful applications to allow for a broader understanding of these issues. Therefore, a mixture was sought between team meetings and visits to sites where some of the concepts have been applied.

Trip Approach

Panel Members

The International Scanning Tour for Roadway Geometric Design was jointly sponsored by FHWA and AASHTO, and the tour was coordinated by FHWA's Office of International Programs. American Trade Initiatives provided logistical support and guidance. The delegation included members representing FHWA, AASHTO, State departments of transportation (DOTs), the American Public Works Association (APWA), and academia. The delegation members offered expertise in many roadway geometric design and project development areas, including CSD practices and procedures, application and use of geometric design principles for enhancing traffic safety and enforcing speed moderation, and consideration and integration of bicyclists and pedestrians in roadway design. The team members and their affiliations are listed in Table 1, while a short biography of each member is included in Appendix A.

Table 1. Team members and affiliations.

Amplifying Questions

To provide the European hosts with an understanding of the objectives of the scan tour, the team developed a set of amplifying questions that focused on six major topics: project development, design and operating speeds, design solutions for high-volume rural roads, roundabouts, speed moderating techniques on rural roads, and accommodation of bicyclists and pedestrians. These questions were intended to clarify and expand on the team's topics of interest. The questions were grouped on the basis of major concepts within each of the six areas. The amplifying questions developed by the team are listed in Appendix B.

Trip Itinerary

The team toured the five countries from June 3, 2000, through June 18, 2000, as shown below (Table 2). The names of the European contacts for each country are listed in Appendix C. The team also met three times during this period to plan the trip actions and address areas of emphasis (June 3), to review findings and adjust focus if deemed necessary (June 11), and to identify key findings and develop a preliminary list of the team's recommendations (June 17).

Table 2. Scan program dates.
Country Dates
Sweden June 4, 2000
Denmark June 5-6, 2000
The Netherlands June 8-9, 2000
England June 12-13, 2000
Germany June 14-16, 2000
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