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May 22, 2018, 3:31 pm EST

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Article : Roads for Landscape Architects

Over the last two decades the number of vehicle miles traveled by the nation's cars has doubled. Today some 250 million motor vehicles transport Americans two trillion miles a year, an increase of 50% since 1970. It is generally acknowledged that non-motorized travel modes are not being used as extensively as they could be. Today it is reported there are nearly 100 million adult bicycle riders, or about 42% of the adult population. Bicycling and walking, however, are viewed primarily as recreational activities. Yet for bicycle trips under five miles and walking trips of less than two miles, these are highly efficient, inexpensive modes of travel, revealing the need for increased funding for safe and enjoyable on- and off-road bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

Professional Landscape Architects possess a unique blend of abilities that place them in a strong position to become involved in providing solutions to a wide variety of transportation-related problems. Today's roadways are being designed with increasing emphasis on human and aesthetic considerations. The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) has created great opportunities for Landscape Architects to become involved in the design of pedestrian, bicycle, and other modes of non-automotive transport facilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and an increasing public demand for more pedestrian and bicycle friendly facilities and more liveable communities has significantly changed the professional requirements of today's transportation designers. Technical training in construction, grading, drainage, stormwater retention, horticulture, and environmental sciences as well as in the more humanistic and aesthetic skills of site design, community planning, and zoning make Landscape Architects ideal transportation team professionals.

Corridor Planning and Design

New and modified corridor design and analysis requires the full range of landscape architectural talents. Landscape Architects, as physical planners, are trained to look at the big picture while appreciating the many technical aspects of roadway construction. Landscape Architects' wide-range of skills make them ideally suited as team leaders in such projects. Landscape Architects design for people rather than for cars. This humanistic approach to design emphasizes aesthetics, pedestrians, bicycles, and the overall impact on the environmental and urban fabric, which produces roadways that are fully integrated into the natural and man-made systems.

Sector Planning/Master Planning

One of the primary factors of the transportation equation which is often overlooked by the transportation design team is land use planning. Recently, emphasis has begun to refocus on the role land use designations have on the efficient utilization of the transportation system. Mixed-use development is increasingly being heralded as a means to reduce the total number of vehicular trips (TVT's) as well as the number of vehicular miles traveled (VMT's). By accomplishing a reduction in the TVT's and VMT's, a type of demand management strategy occurs which frees up reserve capacity on roadways lessening the need for road widening or new roads. Mixed-use land use planning has recently been associated with Neo-Traditional neighborhood design.

Prior to the nation's rapidly increasing dependency upon the automobile for primary transportation, residential neighborhoods were developed in close proximity to mass transportation nodes and shopping centers. Recreation, religious facilities, and schools were, by necessity, within comfortable walking distance of the population base they served. Subdivisions were generally fashioned into a grid pattern by further subdivision of sections, lots, and blocks. This pattern resulted in a transportation system which offered many alternative routes to any particular destination. The result is less traffic pressure on any single intersection or road segment. Responsible land development now includes integrated mass transit, private automobile, bicycle, and pedestrian transportation coupled with land use planning which strives to reduce the pressure of excessive commutation and automobile usage.

Computers & Landscape Architects

The success of any project today is in the ability to use the latest state-of-the-art computer technology. This allows a multi-discipline project to share data during all stages of design, from surveying with electronic total- stations or global positioning systems (GPS) through the utilization of terrain modeling in design to the presentation of the project using 3-D animation (giving the client a bird's-eye view of the final design). With this ability to share data using high speed modems and the capability to translate data to any drawing format for CADD use, projects are being completed in less time and with more attention to detail.

Landscape Architects are now able to work hand-in-hand with other disciplines to design and prepare projects with aesthetics and pedestrian needs in mind. The latest software has been proven to assist the Transportation Planner. Planners of today have the capability to simulate the movements of many types of vehicles using "AutoTurn". This allows the Planner to design with vehicular limitations in mind.

Roadway Improvement Projects

Existing transportation problems are often resolved by widening and/or modifying roadways. Early in the design process, Landscape Architects can provide invaluable input in preliminary assessment of the impacts of a proposed roadway improvement. Often, minor adjustments in the proposed alignment and/or design can translate into significant savings in right-of-way acquisition costs and reduction in impacts to adjoining properties. In addition, the evaluation of properties impacted by roadway widening is also an area in which Landscape Architects are qualified. Site planning, grading, drainage, zoning, environmental, landscape, and aesthetic con-siderations must be analyzed to assess the impact of any proposed roadway encroachment. Landscape Architects' involvement in roadway work can also include expert witness testimony as part of the condemnation process.

Transportation Enhancement

Highway beautification has been one area of transportation design that Landscape Architects have excelled in for many years. The ISTEA's new funding source, along with the expanded requirements for the use of hardy, low maintenance, drought tolerant, native and naturalized plant material and wildflowers provides many opportunities for Landscape Architects. Participation in the design of attractive sound abatement and retaining wall structures that incorporate plant material is a specialized area in which Landscape Architects can play a significant role in softening urban roadways.

Special Roadway Designation

Many cities have adopted ordinances that allow for special roadway designation. These are established to preserve significant scenic corridors, historic roadways, canopy roads and other unique transportation corridors. Landscape Architects can take the lead in preserving and enhancing corridors of unique scenic or historic value by introducing special roadway designation ordinances in their communities. Such designation can be combined with pedestrian and/or bicycle pathways to maximize use of the resources.

Opportunities in transportation related projects abound for Landscape Architects who possess the skills necessary to integrate roadways into the natural and man-made environment. This is precisely what is required in today's more sensitive transportation design environment. LASN

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