Stages of Highway Development

In This Article We Covers “Stages Of Highway Development” And Planning One By One Briefly.

Stages of Highway Development

Although the names may vary by State, the five basic stages in the highway development process are: planning, project development (preliminary design), final design, right of way, and construction. After construction completed, ongoing operation and maintenance activities continue throughout the life of the facility.


The initial definition of the need for any highway or bridge improvement project takes place during the planning stage.

This problem definition occurs at the State, regional, or local level, depending on the scale of the proposed improvement. This is the key time to get the public involved and provide input into the decision making process.

The problems identified usually fall into one or more of the following four categories:

  1. The existing physical structure needs major repair/replacement (structure repair).
  2. Existing or projected future travel demands exceed available capacity, and access to transportation and mobility need to increased (capacity).
  3. The route is experiencing an inordinate number of safety and accident problems that can only resolved through physical, geometric changes (safety).
  4. Developmental pressures along the route make a reexamination of the number, location, and physical design of access points necessary (access).

Factors To Consider During Planning

It is important to look ahead during the planning stage and consider the potential impact that a proposed facility or improvement may have while the project is still in the conceptual phase.

During planning, key decisions made that will affect and limit the design options in subsequent phases.

Factors To Consider During Planning

Project Development

After a project has planned and programmed for implementation, it moves into the project development phase. At this stage, the environmental analysis intensifies. The level of environmental review varies widely, depending on the scale and impact of the project.

It can range from a multiyear effort to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (a comprehensive document that analyzes the
potential impact of proposed alternatives) to a modest environmental review completed in a matter of weeks.

Regardless of the level of detail or duration, the product of the project development process generally includes a description of the location and major design features of the recommended project that is to further designed and constructed, while continually trying to avoid, minimize, and mitigate environmental impact.

Final Design

After a preferred alternative has selected and the project description agreed upon as stated in the environmental document, a project can move into the final design stage.

The product of this stage is a complete set of plans, specifications, and estimates (PS&Es) of required quantities of materials ready for the solicitation of construction bids and subsequent construction.

Depending on the scale and complexity of the project, the final design process may take from a few months to several years.

The following paragraphs discuss some important considerations of design, including:

  • Developing a concept
  • Considering scale and
  • Detailing the design

Developing a Concept

A design concept gives the project a focus and helps to move it toward a specific direction.

There are many elements in a highway, and each involves a number of separate but interrelated design decisions.

Integrating all these elements to achieve a common goal or concept helps the designer in making design decisions.

Some of the many elements of highway design are,

  1. Number and width of travel lanes, median type and width, and shoulders
  2. Traffic barriers
  3. Overpasses/bridges
  4. Horizontal and vertical alignment and affiliated landscape.

Considering Scale

People driving in a car see the world at a much different scale than people walking on the street. This large discrepancy in the design scale for a car versus the design scale for people has changed the overall planning of our communities.

For example, it has become common in many suburban commercial areas that a shopper must get in the car and drive from one
store to the next. The design element with the greatest effect on the scale of the roadway is its width, or cross section.

The cross section can include a clear zone, shoulder, parking lanes, travel lanes, and/or median. The wider the overall roadway, the larger its scale; however, there are some design techniques that can help to reduce the perceived width and, thus, the perceived scale of the roadway.

Limiting the width of pavement or breaking up the pavement is one option. In some instances, four lane roadways may look less imposing by designing a grass or planted median in the center.

Detailing The Design

Particularly during the final design phase, it is the details associated with the project that are important.

Employing a multidisciplinary design team ensures that important design details considered and those they are compatible with community values. Often it is the details of the project that are most recognizable to the public.

A multidisciplinary design team can produce an aesthetic and functional product when the members work together and are flexible in applying guidelines.

Right-of-way, Construction, And Maintenance

Once the final designs have prepared and needed right-of-way is purchased, construction bid packages made available, a contractor selected, and construction initiated.

During the right-of-way acquisition and construction stages, minor adjustments in the design may be necessary; therefore, there should be continuous involvement of the design team throughout these stages.

Construction may be simple or complex and may require a few months to several years. Once construction has completed, the facility is ready to begin its normal sequence of operations and maintenance.

Even after the completion of construction, the character of a road can changed by inappropriate maintenance actions. For example, the replacement of sections of guardrail damaged or destroyed in crashes commonly utilizes whatever spare guardrail sections may be available to the local highway maintenance personnel at the time.

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