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Corridor & Project Planning

Article

Guiding principles Corridor/project planning is a structured, collaborative decision-making process. Successful transportation planning, in particular, results from an understanding of the needs of adjacent property and business owners, facility users, local residents, the facility owner, and the regulatory agencies. The needs and priorities of these stakeholders should be used to shape key decisions.

A successful great streets planning process must also involve professionals with a variety of technical backgrounds, including engineers, landscape architects, urban designers, and other specialists.

The infrastructure projects that result from the planning process should:

  • Address the transportation need
  • Be an asset to the community
  • Be compatible with the natural and built environment
  • Be cost-effective

Guiding principles While there are unique considerations involved in planning every project, successful plans have a number of common elements, outlined above. The process should always be collaborative, interactive and transparent to both participants and observers. The resulting Plan document serves as a useful record of the logic of the process and its outcomes.

There are five major steps involved in planning, including:

1. Endorsing the process

2. Developing the evaluation criteria

3. Developing and analyzing ideas, concepts, strategies, and alternative solutions

4. Defining, analyzing, refining, and selecting the preferred alternative

5. Documenting the process

Step 1: Endorsement of the process is often overlooked or shortchanged because of anxiousness to move forward with the project. During the endorsement stage, the team should begin by identifying stakeholders with an interest in the outcome of the corridor plan. Next, they should work towards understanding the context of the project and the existing conditions so the solutions take into account transportation, land use, economic development, and historic preservation issues, among others. Lastly, the team will finalize a document outlining the planning process approach and how the team will arrive at a preferred design solution.

Gaining stakeholder endorsement of the process used to select the preferred alternative prevents the perception that the solution or design was predetermined. At the outset of the process, it is important to set aside time to discuss the "rules of the game" with everyone affected by the solution. This step helps create stakeholder buy-in and builds trust in the process. See Public Engagement article for more information on effective practices in this regard.

Step 2: The second step in the planning process is to develop detailed evaluation criteria based on professional and stakeholder input, comments, concerns and values. Each criterion should be clear and measurable. Working with technical staff and stakeholders also deepens the team's understanding of the project context and the impact a facility will have in the community. Evaluation criteria should be developed prior to development of alternatives.

Step 3: At this point in the process, the team should begin analyzing ideas and strategies based on existing information, future projections, and discussions with stakeholders. The types of strategies utilized to create great streets will often involve motorized and non-motorized transportation improvements, and design/development ideas for adjacent properties, including new development and redevelopment. The proposed solutions may require public-private partnerships or agreements between multiple agencies. Ideas and strategies may be screened for feasibility, combined, or refined to better solve the problems identified in Step 1.

Step 4: In this step the team identifies the best strategies and determines a set of design alternatives for analysis. The alternatives are evaluated against each other and a preferred alternative is selected to move forward.

Step 5: In practice, documentation is often carried out concurrently with other steps in the planning process to ensure detailed, accurate, and compliant record-keeping.

While the steps prescribed above are logical and somewhat intuitive, they are often completed out of sequence or neglected entirely. As a result, sometimes projects are delayed, participants fail to reach consensus, or the issues standing in the way of unique, responsive solutions are not addressed. One way to prevent such shortcomings is with strong leadership from the very beginning of the project all the way through implementation. Leadership can come from an individual or a group, but it must be focused on the succesful execution of the ultimate plan through the application of the 5-step process. The "team" described above can be comprised of a variety of stakeholders and professionals, but it must be led by the individual or group responsible for the ultimate project vision. The leadership must help the team stay focused on the desired objective, and must have the resolve to stay the course in the face of obstacles to success.

Adapted from: NCHRP Report 480