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
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
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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