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Feds May Drop 'Highway-Inspired' Rules for Streets

The Federal Highway Administration may put an end to rules mandating wide lanes and "clear zones," making it easier to implement complete streets.
October 16, 2015, 8am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Eric Sehr

A set of "outdated" rules currently guides street construction, taking inspiration from what works on highways. "In what appears to be a major breakthrough, yesterday the Federal Highway Administration [FHWA] proposed rule changes that will allow cities and towns to more easily design streets in a way that's consistent with an urban setting," according to Angie Schmitt.

The existing rules are a source of delay and frustration when it comes to implementing safer complete street designs. "The FHWA may drop 11 of the 13 design requirements that currently apply to streets in the National Highway System designed for speeds below 50 miles per hour. In place of requirements that dictate things like street width and clear zones, FHWA is encouraging engineers to use judgment and consider the surroundings."

"If the proposed changes are approved, local governments would no longer have to deal with a ton of red tape any time their plans deviate from the highway-inspired standards. As it stands, exemptions are often required if planners want to plant street trees, for example, or reduce vehicular lane widths to fit in bike lanes."

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Published on Thursday, October 8, 2015 in Streetsblog USA
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