Development Planning: Why a Traffic Engineer Should Be Part of the Project Team from the Start

In the land development process, the traffic consultant is often brought onto the project team late in the game, often times after key decisions have been made, which can lead to costly changes. The level of focus that an architect, civil engineer or land planner has when developing a site is often limited to the boundary of the property and what the finished building will look like. A traffic engineer can bring a fresh perspective and provide key insights to the team while addressing some of the common issues that arise on development plans. Some of the more frequent problems include:

Too Many Access Points – The proposed land use, the adjacent roadway classifications and the existing access points surrounding the site all contribute to the number of access points that will ultimately be permitted by reviewers. Eliminating an access point late in the design process can have a cumulative impact on other aspects of the layout.

Poor Location of Access Points – In general, access points should be placed as far from adjacent signalized intersections as possible. This layout would limit the chance that street traffic would block access to the site, but consideration must be given to existing access points or streets on the opposite side of the road.

Insufficient Auxiliary Lanes – Once a certain number of trips is generated by a site, an acceleration, deceleration or left turn lane may be required. These improvements could have a significant impact along site frontage as not only does widening need to be provided for vehicular turning movements, but bicycles as well.  Both width and length requirements can vary by jurisdiction.

Deficient On-Site Circulation – Does a major site access driveway direct all incoming traffic past a major pedestrian crossing?  Is the driveway long enough to accommodate queuing demands? If customers cannot safely and efficiently access a site, they may choose to go elsewhere or costly improvements might have to be made after opening.

Inadequate Budgeting for Off-Site Road Improvements – As part of the Traffic Impact Study process, a traffic engineer can determine if off-site improvements are required to satisfy adequacy requirements, and also provide insight into mandatory contributions and impact fees required in certain jurisdictions to offset traffic impacts.

Every site has its own unique challenges. A fully assembled team from the earliest conceptual stages will help ensure that the development process is as efficient and economical as possible.

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