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Design Principles and Guidelines for Transportation Projects; Getting Projects Built
By Jeffrey Grob

The Role of Transportation in Society
Since the earliest times of road building, it has been through both the science and art of engineering that we have assumed the role of moving people and goods from place to place. Roads bring us closer together; their connections permit us to grow as a people and a society. The primary goal in the planning and design of these arteries of commerce is the safe and efficient movement of the materials of daily life. This is not the only goal however. Beyond mere functionalism, it is also the designer's obligation to see to it that these roadways are integrated into the land through which they travel.

The Role of Designers in Transportation Planning
Until around the middle of the 20th century, civil engineering was a discipline that embraced both art and science. Historically, engineers also received classical training in the elements of art and architecture. Aware that what they did would have a huge impact on the land, engineers recognized and believed that context, line, mass, style, and grace were as important as simple functionalism. How things looked meant as much as how they worked. In recent years, I believe we have, unfortunately, moved away from that concept. Now, it is time to restore aesthetics as a high priority in the design of highways.

The Importance of Highway Aesthetics
I use the term "highway aesthetics" in the broadest sense possible - it is the definition of all the elements that comprise the total look and feel of the roads and bridges we design and build. It includes the broad elements of design, such as horizontal and vertical alignment, as well as the specific elements of the highway including its structures, bridges, retaining walls, noise barriers, signs, fencing, guide rails, and other appurtenances. All are part of the total visual quality of the roadway system.

Because highways and the pieces that make up our roadway network constitute a large presence on and across the land, they leave a legacy by which we will be remembered over a long period of time. It is important therefore that we develop our roads and bridges with sensitivity to the areas through which they pass and the context in which they exist.

Making it Real: Including the "Five C's" of Transportation Projects
Safety, of course, is the primary criteria in the design of a highway, but safety and aesthetics are not mutually exclusive ideals. The successful inclusion of highway aesthetics can be achieved for any project by giving consideration to these five "C's" of design: context, comprehensiveness, cost, constructibility and community.

Context: All projects, from a simple two-lane local road to the largest highway interchanges, must first be considered with a view to the context in which they are located. Without a complete understanding of the local conditions in which a project will be built, it is premature to begin developing solutions for it. Among the factors to be taken into account are the site's existing conditions, the roadway's adjacencies, its history, its values and culture, any unusual circumstances, and its existing aesthetic and design vocabulary.

These factors are sometimes overlooked when designers are anxious to formulate a solution and get the project under.

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