MESA has been designing and building roads for thirty years. A lot of new design criteria have been established in that time. Today, the world of transportation design has taken another turn. We work with communities and environmental organizations to evaluate and comment on critical issues in environmental impact statements and public review processes and prepare composite graphics to help communities understand what their future “transportation improvements” would look like (see here).
Strongly increasing costs have made road construction astronomically expensive and the gas tax hasn’t been increased in 22 years, so road construction is far behind. Thankfully, driving behavior is decreasing rapidly or the problem would be far worse than it is.
Driving behavior is falling so rapidly, some of our top transportation experts are saying that generally, we don’t need any new lanes, only bottleneck fixes. As illogical as this sounds, it may be real. Increasingly, DOTs have started using these bottleneck fixes to get by. Instead of adding new lanes, they are building superstreets and continuous flow intersections to decrease congestion.
But a DOT with momentum is a hard thing to stop. Mega-road projects continue to be proposed.
Wealthy land developers support these project as they would deliver much more traffic to their properties. Commuters support these because they would presumably decrease the commuter’s drive time.
And in reality, they do—at least for a few miles until they come bumper to bumper with bottlenecks that have yet to be addressed.
The cost of driving is growing far faster than most other things. Our population is increasingly reorienting itself to close-in urban living. Young people lead these trends and in the 18 to 25 year age group, driving has decreased 25 percent in the last ten years.
Our work in transportation these days has shifted away from traditional road design and moved into the evaluation of hundred million dollar DOT projects. Our departments of transportation have a lot of old inertia built into them—old habits die hard. They need help with environmental issues. They need help with social issues and equity and justice issues. And increasingly, they are reviewing their own Environmental Impact Statements (EIS).
What we do is EIS evaluation. We look at the project and its critical EIS components: endangered species, stormwater, light, and noise pollution; and social justice. We begin with the scoping process and carry on through alternatives identification and selection then on to the final record.
Our specialty is identifying alternatives that limit elevation, minimizes tolling, increase local access, and decrease environmental and community impacts.