ASLA Applauds FHWA’s Easing Design Standards


This fall, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a proposed rule that would dramatically ease federal design standards for many neighborhood streets and roads, thereby making it easier for communities to design Complete Streets. Currently, FHWA imposes 13 design criteria that local communities and states must adhere to when building or reconstructing certain roads. If communities want to design outside these criteria by, for example, reducing lane width to add a bike lane, street trees, and other traffic calming devices, they must apply for an exception, which can be an arduous and time-consuming process. After a thorough review of the criteria, FHWA is proposing to eliminate 11 of the criteria on streets and roads with speed limits under 50 miles per hour. The investigation revealed that the criteria had minimal influence on the safety and operation of these streets and are more useful for designing freeways, highways and higher speed arterials. 

During the comment period, which closed December 7, ASLA applauded FHWA’s efforts in removing barriers that may prevent transportation planners and designers, like landscape architects, cities and communities of all sizes from designing and building transportation networks that are safe and accessible for all users. ASLA also noted that the proposed rule would allow for flexibility to create narrower lanes, which provides greater opportunity for bike lanes, pedestrian walkways, and integrated vegetation management projects. Along with supporting the proposed design criteria changes, ASLA also urged the agency to go further by incorporating the Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) paradigm into design criteria. The CSS approach leads to preserving and enhancing scenic, aesthetic, historic, community, and environmental resources, while improving or maintaining safety, mobility, and infrastructure conditions. 

Learn more about FHWA’s proposed revisions to the design of transportation projects and read ASLA’s comments here


Kevin Fry
Director, PR and

JR Taylor
PR Coordinator