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1 The urban freeway roadsides (UFRs) for this synthesis are those roadsides associated with high visibility urban freeways with limited pedestrian access, such as wider medians, inter- changes, and overpasses. State departments of transportation (DOTs) recognize their road- way systems are assets that need management and acknowledge that pavements and other infrastructure routinely require resurfacing, restoration, and rehabilitation because their integrity degrades over time. However, the UFR and its respective urban freeway systems may not receive the same routine restoration. The vegetation installed at the time of road- way construction ages with the surrounding infrastructure. Decades after initial installation within the UFR, transportation agencies have mature landscapes that may be near the end of their life cycle. The inability to adequately access and maintain these areas can result in failure of planted vegetation, loss of investment, and public criticism of state DOTs. The UFR is part of state DOTsâ highway system investment facing many challenges as freeway renovations and expansions encroach on limited right-of-way (ROW) areas available for landscape development. As the size of these areas decreases, so does the ability of mainte- nance workers and equipment to safely access and maintain them. This report documents current practices used by state DOTs to design and manage the UFR environment. The UFR is part of a greater urban environment with broad social, politi- cal, economic, and environmental implications for management. There are numerous UFR stakeholders, such as their respective municipalities, residents, adjacent landowners and businesses, traveling public, and state DOTs, and each has specific requests, requirements, and considerations. Among these are an acceptable level of maintenance and stakeholder expectations for aesthetics. The report presents and describes the synthesis study tasks that include a literature review for the UFR, a survey of state DOT practices, and case examples of successful state DOT implementation. The literature review and survey of practice focused on sustainable land- scape development and maintenance practices, the use of cooperative agreements for land- scape development and maintenance, management of illegal or unauthorized use of the ROW, and maintenance worker safety. Thirty-three state DOTs completed the survey for a response rate of 66%. Efforts to obtain optimal survey results included email invitations to participate with follow-up email reminders and telephone calls. Three detailed case exam- ples of the current state of the practice for UFR landscape development and management practices came from the literature review and survey results. The selected case examples are California DOT (Caltrans), Texas DOT (TxDOT), and Washington State DOT (WSDOT). All case examples included follow-up interviews with these DOTs. The literature review, survey results, and case examples indicate that few states specifi- cally address the UFR in their planning, design, construction, and maintenance documents. S U M M A R Y Landscape Development and Management Practices for Urban Freeway Roadsides
2 Landscape Development and Management Practices for Urban Freeway Roadsides While many state DOTs address urban design and maintenance, it is generally in the context of urban arterials, collectors, complete streets, and streetscapes that do not involve the UFR or do not specify the difference. The majority of survey respondents have statewide prac- tices, policies, or protocols for roadside design and maintenance meant to address issues in a comprehensive statewide level. Of the 33 responding states, 11 stated their DOT has published policies, practices, programs, or protocols that specifically apply to, refer to, or directly pertain to urban freeways, particularly to limited access freeways. Eighteen of the respondents stated they have statewide plans and 15 have plans that include an urban com- ponent. Seven states replied that their DOT has both urban specific and statewide docu- ments in some of the survey questionnaire categories. California and Washington are the only two state DOTs indicating a policy, practice, or protocol for the UFR for every survey question. Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, South Carolina, and Texas were the only states indicat- ing documentation of published policies, practices, programs, or protocols that specifically apply to, refer to, or directly pertain to the UFR for more than one survey question. From the survey results is appears that the majority of state DOTs do not specifically address UFR landscape development and management practices in their planning, design, construction, and maintenance documents. Managing the UFR for illegal or unauthorized uses of the ROW is relevant for many state DOTs and is one of the key issues for this report. Planning, design, and maintenance tech- niques can discourage illegal occupancy. These deterrent techniques and countermeasures include, but are not limited to, changes in bridge designs, landscape development that dis- courages illegal or unauthorized uses, changes to fencing and signage, regular identification of habitually occupied areas, and cooperative agreements with local agencies. Although this is an issue in the urban ROW environment, a review of state DOT documents and websites found very few have described a solution through a publicly available official policy or proce- dure. Rather than solely relying on enforcement and removal of those illegal or unauthorized uses through state or local law enforcement, a state DOT can implement policies, procedures, and designs that deter illegal ROW usage. Using trespass law is a practicable method for dis- couraging trespassing within the state DOT-owned ROW. However, cleanup related to illegal or unauthorized use of such sites usually lies with the state DOT. Many state DOTs use cooperative or partnering agreements with local governmental agencies, private parties, and volunteer groups for landscape development and maintenance of the UFR. The use of cooperative and partnering agreements for perpetual maintenance is a method used by 61% of the state DOTs responding to the survey. Some state DOTs have agreements with local partners for UFR development that cover project costs from development through maintenance. A few require an agreement in place with a local entity for perpetual maintenance prior to installation of a UFR project. Some state DOTs reported the lack of published policies, practices, programs, or proto- cols that specifically apply to, refer to, or directly pertain to the UFR within their respec- tive DOT. However, further investigation of these state DOT websites and other sources found some relevant documentation for some DOTs, but not all. Reasons for the lack of available documents may be that some documents listed by survey respondents are inter- nal ones not publicly available. Other documents not listed by the DOT may be internal to the respective division within the organization and therefore not readily used or known to other divisions. Management of the UFR is most effective when state DOT planning, design, environmental, construction, and maintenance collaborate to achieve effective designs and management strategies that meet stakeholder expectations and needs in this unique urban setting.
Summary 3 There are remaining knowledge gaps identified over the course of the synthesis project that further research could address. The following are suggested topics that would benefit state DOTs and stakeholders in the landscape development and management practices of the UFR: â¢ Investigate the impacts of increasing intelligent transportation systems (ITS) within the UFR. This includes planning, design, and maintenance, and the potential effects to ITS components by illegal or unauthorized ROW usage. â¢ Further investigation of planning, design, and maintenance techniques used to deter the illegal or unauthorized use of the ROW. This may include best practices for implement- ing dedicated crews tasked with debris removal and cleanup of vacated areas. There are numerous social, political, community health, environmental, and state DOT personnel safety concerns associated with illegal or unauthorized uses/occupants within the ROW and accompanying potential hazards. â¢ Identify work zone safety practices for maintenance workers specific to the UFR (e.g., safe ingress and egress, time of day, lane closures) strategized in the planning stage of project development. â¢ Develop a best management practices guide specific to the UFR.