Road to Adoption

The release of the Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach in 2010 was a culmination of several years of work. The recommended practice advances the successful use of context-sensitive solutions (CSS) in the planning and design of major urban thoroughfares for walkable communities.

In 2013, the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) released a memorandum officially endorsing the manual, recommending that is serve as a complement to AASHTO's "Green Book" in transportation planning nationwide. In addition to endorsement at the federal level, several states and municipalities have taken steps to endorse the manual:

  • The City of El Paso, Texas has formally adopted the manual as the guidelines for design of thoroughfares in all city projects
  • Texas DOT has incorporated the RP into its project development manual as an approach to be used for planning and designing roadway projects
  • Rhode Island DOT (RIDOT) officially endorsed the manual, issuing a notice indicating that  "designers should apply the recommended practice where prudent and feasible on all RIDOT projects."
  • The State of Minnesota has included the manual as one of only two resources for technical guidance in its complete streets policy (Bill HF2801)
  • Broward County, Florida MPO adopted the manual by resolution for projects to receive higher-priority funding
  • The City of Buffalo, New York and the City of Portland, Maine identify the manual as a best practice in thoroughfare design
  • The Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Council of Governments in Washington and the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization recommend the manual for its design guidance
  • The City of Piqua, Ohio, the Waco, Texas MPO, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Council, and the Minnesota Complete Streets Coalition list Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares as a resource for street design

Steps to Adoption

Participating in a training is a great step toward helping your community adopt the manual. Additional steps are important to ensure the manual lives and is the guide for creating safe and walkable streets.

  • Find an elected official or public figure to be a champion for improving streets.
  • Build grassroots support by seeking unlikely allies such as school board members, cycling advocates, or public health officials to help with the cause.
  • Hold a training for practitioners and advocates and continue to invest in education for your team through CNU accreditation.
  • Attach yourself to projects already in motion to push for adoption.
  • Know the details of the street design process in your community and work toward regulatory change.
  • Keep your champions and advocates informed at each step in the process.
  • Focus on short term wins that can be achieved at a low cost.
  • Let CNU know how they can help!

The El Paso Story

In 2005, El Paso, Texas was tasked with planning for the influx of 28,000 troops to the area. The city responded by rewriting its outdated comprehensive plan and incorporating new policy and economic development strategies. Plan El Paso focused on the traditional core of the city as a way to fight sprawl. The city council looked to the manual to make El Paso’s streets safe and welcoming for all modes of transportation. The City of El Paso adopted Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Solution as a recommended practice to ensure all construction would be ITE compliant. To overcome language gaps between different city departments, over 200 people passed the CNU-A exam. Adopting the manual helped the city to design the kind of streets they wanted and encourage smart growth in El Paso.

"In terms of implementation, you can’t just focus on private developers," explains Mathew McElroy, Director of the City Development Department for the City of El Paso. "We’ve spent a year and hundreds of staff hours getting 60-plus city staff to study for and pass the CNU-A exam so that they understand what they’re getting into when they crack the ITE manual. Culture change in government is difficult enough, so having your own house in order is critical if you’re ever going to get the development community on board.  We did it—and are working to get 70 more private engineers and architects to pass the exam starting in February—but you can’t treat it as just the manual. There’s a body of work people need to be exposed to to make implementation work right for everyone. Once you invest in the education, people get it, so adoption gets a lot easier."