New development is a good thing, right? It typically means your town is growing and the economy is good. But what about all that TRAFFIC???
Well, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. Which do you want first? Click here. However, if you’re reading this in a non-digital format, you can stop making that clicking noise right now — it’s embarrassing (and creepy).
First, the good news: there is actually a process to quantify future traffic impacts of proposed developments. The process is called, a Traffic Engineering Impact Analysis. This means, no matter the development, it’s possible to forecast the associated traffic and evaluate the impact on nearby roadways, intersections, and neighborhoods. Once potential traffic impacts are quantified, appropriate measures are recommended to mitigate traffic impacts BEFORE they become problematic.
The bad news is all too common. We are all familiar with examples where apparently little thought was given to accommodating increased traffic. This is unfortunate since most developments actually benefit from efficient traffic patterns (especially for patrons entering and existing said development). If an area is congested or if it’s difficult to access, drivers tend to simply avoid it resulting in increased traffic on parallel roadways or worse yet, taking shortcuts through adjacent neighborhoods.
After performing literally hundreds, maybe thousands (but probably not hundreds of thousands) traffic impact studies, the ideal scenario includes these elements: 1) new development is proposed in an area previously zoned for that type of development, 2) discussion with developer occurs regarding proposed access, driveways, and other planned improvements or developments in the area, 3) an appropriate level of traffic analysis to quantify existing and future traffic concerns and determine if mitigation is appropriate. Mitigation generally includes turn lanes, traffic signals (or modification to existing signals such as turn arrows), converting 2-way stop to 4-way, pavement markings, or signage.
Traffic engineering analysis answers the question, “What about all that traffic?” Because new development, in an area designed for the type of development being proposed with the appropriate accessibility, can be a very good thing. And traffic analysis provides the basis for not only improving existing traffic safety and efficiency, but to logically incorporate a plan for future roadway and intersection improvements to maintain long term accessibility for not only vehicular access but bikes and pedestrians as well.
Chet Skwarcan has over 25 years of traffic engineering experience and can be reached at Chet@TrafficEngineering.com.