Adopt an overall strategic plan


State departments of transportation play a critical role in how cities and towns grow and develop, and where stores and residences, sports stadiums and manufacturing plants, and every other imaginable type of land use is located. How people travel from place to place influences what is built and where. As a result, state transportation departments should develop strategic approaches that encourage creation and maintenance of a balanced transportation system, offering residents and businesses a variety of transportation choices. In doing so, state transportation plans should take into consideration the State's fiscal capacity to provide the types of projects envisioned in the plan; the potential effects of transportation projects on air and water quality and other environmental resources; how transportation projects meet the long-range residential and economic development goals of their state; and how they can assure that specific projects fit the context and scale of the communities they are designed to serve.


Although state departments of transportation are already required under federal law to develop long-range transportation plans, requirements for what should be included in such plans are minimal. As a result, some states produce thick, detailed documents about every aspect of their transportation planning for the future, while others produce thinner, more conceptual plans. The Federal Highway Administration says state long range transportation plans generally fall into six categories or combinations of these categories: needs-based plans; vision-based plans; policy plans; project-based plans; corridor plans; and fiscally realistic plans.

Whatever the approach, transportation planners should fully integrate their work with state and local land use and environmental protection plans. State transportation agencies are uniquely situated to assess and address regional (if not statewide) transportation needs. To do so, planning must assess each project's effect on air quality; understand the effect specific projects will have on local plans for future growth and development; and whether transportation or other infrastructure can be built on a timetable consistent with the construction of new residential developments or redevelopment of older communities. Departments of transportation should be prepared to provide technical assistance and training, demonstrate effective land use planning examples, or do other work with local governments that may not have the planning capacity to effectively link transportation improvements with preferred development patterns. To the extent possible, state and local governments should strive to understand both the anticipated and potential unintended costs of transportation project decision-making.


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