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Examining Large Vehicle and Freight Movement at Intersections and in Context Zones


The planning and design of highways and streets continues to evolve in complex ways, as State highway and local road agencies strive to do a better job of meeting stakeholder needs and expectations. Overarching challenges include reducing all types of traffic related injuries and deaths, increasing convenience and options for walking and biking, and improving the ability to move freight in affordable and reliable ways. The convergence of these challenges is seen in how intersections and context zones can affect the movement of large vehicles and freight into, around and through cities and communities. The competing priorities of improving safety, providing facilities for walking and biking, and ensuring that large vehicles such as semi-trucks can access customers, are seemingly at odds with one another. Furthermore, the degree to which trucks and large vehicles can or should maneuver an intersection is not always obvious. During the design process for an intersection, there are ranges of accommodation that may be considered based on road hierarchy (State highway versus local road or street), State or local traffic laws (concerning lane use or lane discipline), dictates based on adjacent land use, and allowances for encroachment in to other lanes or areas of the roadway. This research will systematically examine how to integrate large vehicle and freight movement into proposals of intersections (site/corridor level) and context zones (corridor/network level).

This research will complement National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Project 15-62 (Design and Access Management Guidelines for Truck Routes), which is scheduled to be completed in October 2018. That project will provide guidance on access management strategies, geometric design elements, and operational impacts for truck routes, taking into account land use and zoning; shipper and customer needs; freight companies’ needs and requirements; and, balancing the competing priorities and needs of transit and non-motorized users. The final deliverables of Project 15-62 will include recommended language to incorporate into or supplement the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Access Management Manual, as well as to inform local land use decision-making policies.

Understanding the project context and the overall intent of an improvement are important factors for prioritizing design needs and considering trade-offs between competing needs. The ongoing research through NCHRP Project 15-52 (Developing a Context-Sensitive Functional Classification System for More Flexibility in Geometric Design), scheduled for completion in 2016, will identify potential improvements to the traditional functional classification system to better incorporate the context, user needs, and functions of the roadway facility. The outcome of this research may also help inform designers to either “design for” or “accommodate” trucks.


This research would supplement and build upon the broader tasks of NCHRP Project 15-62 by systematically examining how to accommodate and integrate freight and large truck movements at intersections and as part of context zone schemes.

The final deliverable of this research will be a report that provides a framework approach to logically integrating freight and large vehicle movements at intersections and in context zones that is based on agency best practices, feedback from key stakeholders, statutory and political influences and other aspects of performance.


Better guidance on mutually beneficial strategies and practices as they relate to intersections and context zones will help States achieve cross-cutting goals.

Related Research:

The following related research projects, reports, manuals or guidance documents were found in a literature search using TRID:

Adams, T., Synthesis of Best Practices for Agency-wide Freight Data and Information Management, Project DTRT12-G-UTC05, NEXTRANS Center (Purdue University), West Lafayette, IN, Research In-Progress.

Lamm, C., NCHRP Project 08-96 Integrating Goods and Services Movement by Commercial Vehicles in Smart Growth Environments, Transportation Research Board, National Research Council, Washington, DC, Research In-Progress.

Elizer, M., NCHRP Project 15-48 Guidelines for Designing Low- and Intermediate-Speed Roadways that Serve All Users, Transportation Research Board, National Research Council, Washington, DC, Research In-Progress.

Mulvihill, S., et al, Complete Streets Policy OP004, Minnesota Department of Transportation, St. Paul, MN, 2016 [accessed on August 12, 2016, at http://dotapp7.dot.state.mn.us/cyberdocs_guest/quickstart.asp?show=view:1524478&noframes=yes]

Perk, V., Capturing the Benefits of Complete Streets, Florida Department of Transportation, Tallahassee, FL, 2015 [accessed on August 12, 2016, at http://www.nctr.usf.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/BDV26-977-04-Final-Report.pdf]

Nicholls, J., et al, Washington’s Complete Streets and Main Street Highways Program: Case Studies and Practice Resource, Washington State Department of Transportation, Olympia, WA, 2011 [accessed on August 12, 2016, at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/research/reports/fullreports/780.1.pdf]

Smart Transportation Guidebook – Planning and Designing Highways and Streets that Support Sustainable and Livable Communities, New Jersey Department of Transportation and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, 2008 [accessed on August 12, 2016, at http://www.state.nj.us/transportation/community/mobility/pdf/smarttransportationguidebook2008.pdf]


Possible tasks to accomplish this work include:

· Explore to what extent context zones would influence the strategies, geometric design elements and operational impacts with respect to truck routes. The concept of context zones, often introduced in conjunction with Complete Streets policies and initiatives, continues to gain traction within the transportation and urban planning professions. This effort would identify, describe and define Context Zones based on a literature review of recently completed research and other influential publications, with emphasis on freight and large vehicles.

· Conduct a multifaceted outreach effort to key stakeholders affected by decisions about freight movement to inform strategies and expectations for freight and large vehicle movements along corridors in context zones and at intersections. Key stakeholders to include as part of this effort: major service provider companies, freight/trucking associations and networks, local and regional business and merchant associations/chambers, metropolitan planning organizations and elected and appointed officials.

· Explore the influences, impacts and trends of local building and zoning regulations, land use ordinances, and enforcement strategies on provisions for and policies pertaining to freight and large vehicle movement.

· Evaluate the influence and role of commercial driver education and training programs in preparing professional drivers to understand context zone environments and how to maneuver innovative intersections.

· Gather information about existing freight and large vehicle planning and design practices and tools employed by State highway and regional and local transportation agencies.

· Examine any unique aspects related to innovative intersection designs.

· Analyze available traffic safety data and describe relationships between large vehicle and truck movements and their safety effects on pedestrians and bicycles.


The target audience for the research findings and recommendations of this project are: (1) the AASHTO design community, including the Subcommittee on Design and its respective technical committees responsible for producing AASHTO design documents; (2) planners and specialists working to implement Complete Streets and/or intersection projects in cities and communities where freight and large vehicle movement provisions are necessary; and, (3) stakeholders affected by Complete Streets and/or innovative intersection projects.


This research need was identified at the July 19-20, 2016, joint meeting of TRB committees AHB65 and ANB10 and AASHTO Technical Committee on Geometric Design; it was rated as the #2 priority topic (out of 6) in the Streets and Intersections category. This research overlaps several high-priority initiatives within the AASHTO community, including intersection safety, freight network management, Complete Streets and non-motorized users.

Sponsoring Committee:AKD10, Performance Effects on Geometric Design
Research Period:12 - 24 months
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Jeffrey Shaw, Hermanus Steyn, Brian Toombs
Source Info:Developed as part of the 2016 mid-year meeting of the TRB Committee on Geometric Design (AFB10), TRB Committee on Operational Effects of Geometrics (AHB65), and AASHTO Technical Committee on Geometric Design.
Date Posted:10/26/2016
Date Modified:11/14/2016
Index Terms:Crash injuries, Fatalities, Highway design, Freight traffic, Intersections, Trucks, Land use planning, Context sensitive design, Walking, Cyclists,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Freight Transportation

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