Monday, February 2, 2009

Building Roads in Context of the Surroundings

ACHD has a few citizen committees, one of which has lost all members but one and another of which is generally representative of most of the cities in Ada County. This latter one is called the Neighborhood Advisory Committee (NAC). (One thing you immediately realize about ACHD is they are really big into acronyms.)

I wasn't going to ever attend any of the NAC meetings, but a member asked me to go to the one in January, and I was glad I did.

Rocky Bogert presented context sensitive road design solutions as a way of making our roads and our speed limits match up.

Currently, ACHD builds roads that are big enough to have cars go 50 mph but then tells drivers they may only go 30 to 35 mph. Police from the cities are expected to enforce the speed limit but they cannot be around 24 hours every day on every road. Therefore you have areas where cars are speeding through neighborhoods, some drivers get tickets, and no one is happy.

Rocky's suggestion, which comes from a national organization so it's been done in other places, is to narrow the driving lanes of the roads down to accomodate the type of traffic that is usually on the road, ie cars. His suggestion was specific to the new 30th St in Boise, but it has great application anywhere in Ada County. For example, 30th St will be mostly used by cars. Therefore, there is no need to have the streets wide enough to be used by semis, they can be accomodated by the narrower lane, they just might have to go a little slower. The road itself will be designed for cars in a neighborhood and not a freeway.

Context senstive design makes a great deal of sense. We need to start looking at our transportation system in respect to the uses that border the roads. Roads need to fit the surroundings. If we do that, we'll have a great start to making land use drive the transportation and not transportation determine land use.


At February 12, 2009 at 11:24 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sounds like a good idea. Cities keep saying they want transit, but then approve auto-oriented land uses incompatible with transit. At least with context-sensitive design, the road agency can say they're building streets more conducive to transit (i.e., narrower, better sidewalks and crosswalks). It will remain to be seen if cities, for their part, start mandating transit-ready development (smaller parking lots, buildings that come to the sidewalk, combined office/residential, comprehensive sidewalks).


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