National Highways releases guide to good road design

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National Highway, the government enterprise responsible for upgrading, maintaining and operating England’s motorways and major A-roads, has published a guide to good road design.

People, Places and Processes: A Guide to Good National Road Design is a follow-up guide to National Highways’ first design vision, “The road to good design”, which was published in 2018 using advice from the company’s Strategic Design Committee.

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The new design guide highlights a series of built-in principles to improve network design quality. As well as ensuring that designs reflect the needs of road users, she emphasizes ‘place’, ensuring that the design is understated, environmentally sustainable and suited to its surroundings. The guide states that good design is also collaborative, thorough and innovative to generate lasting benefits for users and the wider community.

The guide indicates that good road design can help both minimize greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on the climate and adapt to actual or anticipated impacts of climate change to ensure future resilience.

There are dozens of practical suggestions for project teams working on upgrading England’s busiest roads.

  • Roads can help “enhance readability” with clues on how to drive and what to expect, adding that views of built-up areas, iconic buildings and structures, and distinctive natural features can help drivers navigate. localize, thus reducing reliance on direction signs;
  • Roadside “clutter” can affect the character of the environment and the safety of users. Excessive signaling can lead to information overload and should be designed at an early stage;
  • Teams should consider the view from the road to help improve the “physical feel of the journey”, adding that “monotonous tunnel-like corridors without varied views or interests should be avoided as they can increase driver fatigue”. ;
  • Good road design should seek to reduce potential noise in the local area, earth mounds and the choice of road surfaces being considered alongside changes in horizontal and vertical alignment;
  • Disruption of natural systems should be avoided, especially when crossing waterways to protect animal and plant life, adding that this can be achieved by crossing points or “green bridges” that match natural patterns and present local indigenous plantations;
  • Historic buildings and landscapes should be incorporated into designs, with site access being considered at an early stage.
  • Boundaries along roads should respond to the local character of an area, with opportunities to incorporate walking and cycling paths and to plant local native vegetation.

The design guide is one of three documents National Highways has just released.

A second report – On the Road to Good Design: Design Review at National Highways – provides an independent overview of road design and construction over a four-year period after the initial launch of the Strategic Design Committee. It is based on the findings of dedicated design reviews set up to examine projects and individual road standards in greater depth. The report says the additional scrutiny provided by the process has helped the programs “achieve positive impacts for local communities and better environmental outcomes,” while ensuring national highways share best practices and operate efficiently.

A third published document – Learning on the road to good design: case studies – captures examples from the UK and overseas highlighting the value and wider benefits of good design.

Images: National Highways, AdobeStock

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