Practical Solutions for Highway Projects
N Stamatiadis, University of Kentucky, US
To meet the challenge of increasing transportation demands with limited financial resources, Practical Solutions assists in developing appropriate and contextual solutions for projects while addressing more problem areas of the system.
Due to the increasing age of the transportation infrastructure, in conjunction with the increasing demand for travel, the need for ongoing road preservation along with safety and mobility improvement projects has continually increased. However, due to the present economic conditions, the relative availability of funds for such improvements continues to diminish. In order to meet the challenge of increasing demands with limited financial resources, the planning, prioritization and design of transportation infrastructure must be critically examined to deliver the most effective transportation system to the system users. Typical planning and design approaches may prioritize projects at the planning and programming stage in order to best address system needs; however, infrastructure designs are then developed with the intent to deliver the best or optimum project. Developing a procedure that yields up to the maximum margin of return for the investment requires an approach that takes into account specific safety issues and the commensurate design elements for each roadway. The concept of "Practical Solutions" has been recently developed which sets its goal toward reducing costs throughout the project development process extended into operations and maintenance of all highway facilities. This operationally defines a design procedure within the context of practical solutions and sets up the guiding principles of the approach. The most critical component of Practical Solutions in planning and design is the definition and clarification of the initial project concept (its specific goals and objectives), since it is the corner stone of the project and used to significantly contain the cost and impact of a project. Traditional design tends to seek as high a design speed as reasonable with the aim to reduce travel time while practical design requires that to be reconsidered along with the concept that levels of service should not be taken as absolutes, but rather be viewed as starting points. Each project should be viewed as an investment and as such requires an understanding of the marginal returns to be realized. As in any financial situation, there is always a point of diminishing returns, i.e. greater investment will have no or little effect on increasing the return. The system based evaluation of practical design in this study examined the safety and operational performance of various cross section alternatives, based on Highway Capacity and Highway Safety Manual procedures. The various alternative cross sections ranged from an improved two-lane section representing a practical solution approach to a four-lane divided highway. Practical Solutions aims to develop appropriate and contextual solutions for projects considering the entire spectrum of options and balancing the various project requirements during the planning and design phase. Moreover, Practical Solutions is a system sensitive approach where reasonable project solutions are sought in order to address more problem areas of the system within constrained financial resources.
Association for European Transport