Transportation Professional Practice Network Annual Meeting Recap

by Christine Colley, ASLA, RLA, and the Transportation PPN Leadership Team

The view toward the Philadelphia Museum of Art down Benjamin Franklin Parkway / image: EPNAC
The view toward the Philadelphia Museum of Art down Benjamin Franklin Parkway / image: EPNAC

The Transportation Professional Practice Network (PPN) meeting at the 2018 ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Philadelphia last month was well attended and chock-full of content. Incoming PPN Co-Chair Jean Senechal Biggs, ASLA, opened the session by introducing the PPN leadership team (read more about the team here). She described the PPN’s mission and referenced associated practice networks and ASLA initiatives, including the New Mobility and Emerging Technologies Subcommittee (previously Autonomous Vehicles) of ASLA’s Professional Practice Committee. The PPN’s Online Learning sessions, newsletter, and website were also discussed.

In keeping with the Transportation PPN’s annual tradition, ASLA’s Director of Federal Government Affairs, Roxanne Blackwell, Esq., Hon. ASLA, provided a legislation update. Roxanne was pleased to report no threats to funding for major federal programs relevant to landscape architects at this time. She noted that the very popular TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program had been renamed. The new BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) Transportation Discretionary Grants program maintains the TIGER program’s singular focus on surface transportation infrastructure investments by offering competitive grants that favor projects with significant local or regional impacts. The funding level for the BUILD grants has been set at $1.5 billion dollars.

Another promising legislative action is H.R. 5158. This bill was unanimously approved by the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in September. The bi-partisan bill directs the Secretary of Transportation to reopen the nomination process for National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads. Roxanne reminded those in attendance that live social media alerts on H.R. 5158 had been sent out to members. She urged everyone to contact their Representative(s) to express support for the bill. The goal is to get as many co-sponsors in this Congress as possible—a show of bipartisan support—before Congress transitions in 2019. ASLA members continue to report using funds from the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) Scenic Byway program. ASLA would consider it an incredible coup if program funding was re-established.

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FHWA Updates to CSS/CSD Practice

by Christine Colley, ASLA, RLA

ASLA 2013 Professional Analysis and Planning Honor Award. Townscaping an Automobile-Oriented Fabric: Farmington, Arkansas. University of Arkansas Community Design Center / image: University of Arkansas Community Design Center

Context Sensitive Design (CSS) is having a moment. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has recently released three new publications on Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) and Context Sensitive Design (CSD). The documents are excellent resources for seasoned and novice transportation landscape architects:

Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) and Context Sensitive Designs (CSD) are not new. The concept was first introduced in the 1997 FHWA publication A Guide for Achieving Flexibility in Highway Design and further defined during the May 1998 workshop Thinking Beyond the Pavement: A National Workshop on Integrating Highway Development with Communities and the Environment. CSS is a decision-making tool that emphasizes multidisciplinary, collaborative approaches to the planning and design of transportation infrastructure. Ideally, when following a CSS decision-making process, the result is a transportation facility uniquely suited to its setting. CSS is achieved by maintaining and enhancing scenic, aesthetic, historical, community, and environmental resources while simultaneously improving or maintaining safety and mobility.

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Transportation Research Board Call for Posters

ASLA 2011 Professional Analysis and Planning Honor Award. Monumental Core Framework Plan, Washington, DC. AECOM, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the U. S. Commission of Fine Arts / image: McCann Illustrations

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) Standing Committee on Landscape and Environmental Design (AFB40) is now accepting application submissions to present poster displays at TRB’s 2018 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC (January 7-11, 2018). This year’s annual meeting theme is Moving the Economy of the Future. The submission deadline for poster displays is September 15, 2017. Additional information can be found on the TRB AFB40 website.

Posters should detail research and projects that included innovative transportation landscape and environmental design practice. Examples of relevant research include:

  • technical approaches used during resource assessment, impact analysis, or similar environmental processes,
  • technical approaches used for integrating natural resources and transportation,
  • unique planning, regulatory compliance, and permitting approaches,
  • successful mitigation and enhancement applications,
  • environmental stewardship,
  • lessons learned and other landscape design-related aspects of project development, including visual impact assessment and documentation methods,
  • technical approaches used for integrating social, economic, or environmental considerations into transportation projects.

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Musical Roadway in New Mexico

Highway, Death Valley / image: tsaiproject via Flickr

Who doesn’t love to drive down the highway listening to music, especially patriotic music around the 4th of July? Well, the folks at the New Mexico Department of Transportation are helping motorists enjoy this pastime by incorporating music into the road! National Geographic’s show Crowd Control initiated the project (with funding from Allstate Insurance) to help drivers focus on the road and drive the speed limit.

The installation is similar to rumble strips, the pavement grooves that alert drivers when they are drifting out of the drive lanes and onto the roadway shoulder. However, NM DOT’s musical highway has pavement grooves placed within the drive lanes. Vehicle tires emit a sound as they pass over the grooves. This sound varies in pitch according to the groove spacing. The correct sequence of grooves and spacing cause the vehicle’s tires to emit sounds that mimic a song, in this case, a famous, well-known, patriotic song, “America the Beautiful.”

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TRB Committee on Landscape and Environmental Design Mid-Year Meeting

Roundabouts - Routes 82 and 85 in Salem, CT / image: Connecticut Department of Transportation
Roundabouts – Routes 82 and 85 in Salem, CT / image: Connecticut Department of Transportation

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee on Landscape and Environmental Design (AFB40) is holding their mid-year meeting in Hartford, Connecticut August 6th through the 9th. The meeting’s theme, Retro-fitting for Resilience, focuses on the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s (CT DOT) efforts to restore the state’s transportation infrastructure. The subject matter has been deemed appropriate for continuing education hours for landscape architects licensed to practice in Connecticut. Refer to the conference website for additional information.

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FHWA’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Strategic Agenda

ASLA 2010 Professional Analysis & Planning Honor Award. Transit Revitalization Investment District (TRID) Master Plan / image: Interface Studio LLC

In September 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published the Strategic Agenda for Pedestrians and Bicycle Transportation. The report updates DOT’s 1994 National Bicycling and Walking Study and informs FHWA’s focus for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure for the next three to five years. The Strategic Agenda reinforces FHWA’s commitment to innovate on pedestrian and bicycle transportation issues by encouraging multimodal transportation options that are practical, safe, and efficient.

The Strategic Agenda was developed by US DOT practitioners and experts, with assistance from a Technical Working Group (TWG), pedestrian and bicycle practitioners, and the public. Intensive public involvement and research were used to develop the Agenda’s “core areas of focus, key consideration issues, opportunities and potential actions.” The Strategic Agenda identifies two main pedestrian and bicycle goals being pursued by FHWA:

  • To achieve an 80% reduction in pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and serious injuries in 15 years and zero pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and serious injuries in the next 20 to 30 years.
  • To increase the percentage of short trips represented by bicycling and walking to 30% by the year 2025. Short trips are defined as trips of 5 miles or less for bicyclists and 1 mile or less for pedestrians.

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