Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Shucet Solution: Develop Access Management Plans

The second of Philip Shucet's proposed transportation reforms focuses on a topic that has received virtually no attention, either by politicians or pundits, in the debate over transportation. But an opportunity exists to significantly improve efficiency of major thoroughfares, Shucet suggests, by rethinking the way that state and local authorities provide access to limited-access highways.

By way of background, Shucet argues that the purpose of a transportation network can be broken down into two broad categories: mobility and access. By "mobility" he means the efficient movement people and goods on longer trips between general areas; by "access" he means moving people in and out of specific destinations like malls and shopping centers. (For concrete examples of the atrocious access in a major thoroughfare in Henrico County, see my most recent column, "Lost in Suburbia.") Preserving mobility comes at the price of access. To achieve efficient traffic flows, highways can have only a limited number of places where motorists can enter and get off.

Property values generally increase at points where Interstates/highways intersect with local roads because those points provide convenient access to commercial properties located nearby. As a consequence, developers apply intense pressure to increase the number of access points, or to create "access breaks," along limited access highways. Under current legislative authority, these "access breaks" are considered on a case-by-case basis. Because the stakes are so high -- a developer who gains access from a highway to his commercial property reaps a windfall in property values -- such cases are often characterized by furious behind-the-scenes lobbying and politics.

As Shucet observes: "There is no requirement for an access management plan to protect and preserve access along these roads. Perhaps there should be." By fending off the creation of new access points that interfere with the flow of traffic, he says, access management plans can squeeze more capacity out of the existing transportation network -- "holding off (or maybe eliminating) the need for certain improvements."

Shucet cites research by the Transportation Research Board indicating that effective access management programs on certain roads can increase capacity by 25 percent to 45 percent, reduce travel delay as much as 60 percent and reduce crashes by as much as 50 percent.

Reforming the creation of access points will never resonate with voters -- it's just too hard to explain. It can't be expressed in a sound bite. But it just makes sense.


At 7:45 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Limited access should mean limited access. On the other hand, there may be locations where an exit only interchange is a good idea.


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