Florida DOT hits milestone in context-based design
As part of its Complete Streets Implementation, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) recently adopted eight context classifications to guide road design decisions. Under this new system, planners and engineers will consider existing and future characteristics such as land uses, building configuration, and street connectivity to ensure that roads are designed for the right vehicle speeds, road users, and trip types.
This new approach acknowledges that state roads often serve important local needs, such as when they run through town centers. According to FDOT, “the context classification provides an important layer of information that complements functional classification in determining the transportation demand characteristics along a roadway, including typical users, trip length, and vehicular travel speeds.” These classifications help determine whether an arterial roadway might need accommodations for pedestrians, bicycles, and transit users and whether it should have on-street parking, for example.
FDOT’s State Complete Streets Program Manager Dewayne Carver notes that “FDOT’s Complete Streets policy created a need to define context in a new way. After starting with the ITE/ CNU context zones, FDOT adopted a refined version of the draft AASHTO classifications, once those became available. The Department recognized early in our program that to provide ‘the right street in the right place’ we needed a more specific description of land use context.”
Florida is among the first states to incorporate it into formal decision-making processes. The classifications, which include “rural town,” “suburban commercial,” and “urban core,” will apply in design decisions for new or modified roads by determining allowable design speeds, lane widths, and other design controls and geometrics within the new draft Florida Design Manual.
Florida’s approach may provide a model other states can use to consider land use context in decision making. A version of this blog previously appeared on the SSTI website.