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Thread: Access management and potential opposition

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Access management and potential opposition

    I'm writing a comprehensive plan for a small, middle and upper-middle income exurban community. All that's left is the transportation element, and that's about 75% finished.

    One issue that I want to address is access management, or the lack thereof. There are very few commercial uses, but those that exist all have continuous curb cuts; no defined driveways, and no separation of the road pavement with the paved on-site, off-street parking area.







    Here's the draft text of the access management subsection of the plan. (The goals and objectives are at the end of the transportation element; they're not included here.)

    Access management is the planning, design and implementation of land use and transportation strategies that control the flow of traffic between the road and surrounding land; control of driveways and access points between streets and private property. Access management could be addressed in the roads subsection of a plan. However, access management is a critical issue facing ***** Township, warranting its own subsection.

    When access management is poor, there are increased conflict points areas where vehicle travel routes cross paths. A large amount of conflict points results in an unpredictable traffic pattern, lower traffic speeds, and an increased potential for accidents. The investment the public has made in roadways, and their careful design, is degraded

    Conflict points should be minimized and spaced as far apart as possible. Drivers can only mentally process one conflict point at a time. Separation of conflict points provides more time and space for drivers to react to unexpected events. Conflict points and other poor access features also increase speed differential the speed of the fastest traffic on a road versus the speed of the slowest traffic entering a road -- between through traffic and turning traffic.
    Greater speed differential results in more rear end collisions. According to the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, 50% to 60% of all vehicle accidents are access-related.

    ***** Township has no access management policy or requirements. In many communities, access management is a problem because there are individual driveways for each business, with many having multiple driveways. In ***** Township, the problem is worse; most businesses do not even have defined driveways or curb cuts. There is no separation of the street and private property; business parking lots touch the street along the entire property frontage.

    The continuous curb cuts, as such access is called by traffic engineers, creates an infinite amount of vehicle conflict points. Continuous curb cuts create a very unsafe pedestrian environment, because vehicles can cross a pedestrian path anywhere. Continuous curb cuts make it difficult for a driver to spot the correct entrance to a business. They also increase stormwater runoff, eliminate any visual buffer between the street and a building, and present an unkempt and makeshift appearance of a commercial district.

    ***** Township can adopt commercial access management requirements by an amendment to its zoning regulation, working in cooperation with the ***** County Engineer. A barrier to implementation, though, may be resistance from businesses who feel controlled access creates a perception of more difficult access among their customers they have to pull into a driveway from the road, instead of just veering off the road in front of the business so vehicle access is no longer "easy." Studies performed by many state transportation departments have concluded strong access management policies do not hurt local businesses.
    Has anyone encountered opposition from business owners or residents when access management reform is proposed or implemented? How are developed, non-conforming sites normally addressed; "grandfathered" and allow to stay that way, or given a timeframe to comply?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  2. #2
    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    My agency was met some opposition when we tried to consolidate entrances along a very busy stretch of an arterial in a Washington suburb. I really can't elaborate because the project is on-going.
    I am recognizing that the voice inside my head
    is urging me to be myself but never follow someone else
    Because opinions are like voices we all have a different kind". --Q-Tip

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I always fall back to the point that we are paid to make recommendations, not decisions. I would go in with a range of options, such as:
    - Require all property owners to install curbs and landscape buffers within a given time frame.
    - Identify priority locations (due to volume of traffic, or past accident history, or other criteria) and implement a capital improvements plan to intall access management over a period of years.
    - install access management only as streets are reconstructed or other work is done (like utilities).
    - Do nothing.
    The Plan Board makes the big money to make these decisions, so let them take the heat.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

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    Cyburbian munibulldog's avatar
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    I don't think that the individual property owners would be required to add curb in most cases. If curbing is added, it would be a public works road project. So you have to look at who has authority over the road (municipality or county road commission) and find out if they are adding curb to similar projects. Curb is more expensive, so you need to know if the road authority is going to back this up.

    Even if there is no curb, usually there are curb cut permits that have to be approved by the local road authority. No matter what you write in a planning/zoning plan, the local road authority is going to have the final say, so get their input first.

    Your text looks like a good way to introduce the concept of access management.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Working with pre-existing conditions is the challenge that keeps me going. One slant on the argument is that the business is excessively using the public right-of-way for a private purpose. One solution would be to include sidewalks/curbs the next time the road is reconstructed. Another, as mentioned, would be to develop priority areas with a redevelopment district. Good luck, let us know how it pans out.

  6. #6
    The way that I have seen this type of retro-fit project done is either in conjunction with a road improvement project by the DOT or local Public Works, or via regulations. If it is done via regulation, the best approach is to make the access management changes with changes to use at the site. Say for instance that the gas station in the picture above wants to expand into a gas station/mini-mart. As part of that they could be required via the planning process to put in adequate parking as well as an appropriate driveway/access that meets safety and traffic flow requirements. This would have to be accomplished via having the regulations in place, and a planning board willing to implement them.

    FHWA has a course on Access Management, Location and Design which is excellent. The two guys who taught it when I took it also wrote a book called "Transportation and Land Development" which is available through the Institute of Transportation Engineers and covers a lot of related issues that are not in the class.

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