Want to fix DOTD? Here’s how, say smart growth advocates

    The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development isn’t the only state transportation agency regularly fielding complaints.

    State transportation departments across the country are often criticized for being too highway-centric, Governing reports. But as urban areas become more popular, so-called smart growth advocates who want walkable neighborhoods and vibrant shopping districts are frustrated with transportation departments prioritizing fast vehicles instead.

    While the ongoing so-called road diet work in Baton Rouge aims to make Government Street more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly, it’s still frustrating some business owners who worry about how much longer DOTD’s construction will continue. Nationally, researchers found that many of the flaws in agency decisions start even before projects begin, specifically with how engineers define problems and how—and when—they engage with the public.

    Here are a few suggestions, among eight total, national experts have for state DOTs and the communities they serve:

    • Keep it simple: Many problems state DOTs create come from “over-engineered solutions.” Engineers should target problems differently, identifying the underlying conflict rather than the type of infrastructure they’re trying to build.
    • There are drawbacks to “on time, under budget”: If state DOTs judge their employees solely on how fast and cheap projects get done, they risk getting projects that may not fit their communities well and, ironically, may be more expensive.
    • You’re measuring success wrong: “Level of service”—a measure of how freely traffic flows on a road—isn’t an appropriate metric of success for many places. Grades also don’t take into account whether congestion lasts 30 seconds or three hours.

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