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Project Management and Preliminary Design

Highway Project Management and Preliminary Design Highway Project Classification
Capital Improvement Projects Safety Projects Asset Management Projects Maintenance Projects
1. Introduction x x x x
2. Alternative Study, Screening and Selection x x x
2.1 Interchange Justification Study (IJS)/Interchange Modification Report (IMR) x x x
2.2 KYTC Complete Streets, Roads, and Highways x x x x
2.3 Environmental and Permitting Considerations x x x
2.4 Identify Right-of-Way Issues x x x
2.5 Identify Utility Impacts and Preliminary Joint Utilities Meeting x x x x
2.6 Identify Rail Involvement x x
2.7 Preliminary Geotechnical Recommendations x x
3. Evaluation and Comparison of Proposed Roadway Alternatives (Impacts on the Environment, Right-of-Way, Utilities, and Budget) x x
4. Public Involvement in Preliminary Design x
5. Preliminary Line and Grade Meeting/Identify Selected Alternative (Milestone) x
6.0 Breaking a Project into Smaller Constructable Sections (If required) x
7.0 Design Executive Summary (DES) Submittal and Approval (Milestone) x x x x
x = Information from the topic may be applicable for the project classification.


The full definitions for terms included in this article (listed below) can be found in the HKP Glossary.

  • Interchange Justification Study (IJS)
  • Interchange Modification Report
  • Multimodal Facilities
  • Public Utilities
  • Private Utilities
  • Stakeholder Meetings

1. Introduction

Sound project management underpins highway project delivery. The Project Manager (PM) assumes responsibility for moving the project through the design process after the following occurs:

  • The project appears in the Enacted Highway Plan
  • Existing data is gathered
  • A purpose and need is drafted
  • A scope is defined
  • An estimated schedule (with milestones) is established
  • Funds are authorized

The first phase of this process is Preliminary Design (Phase I Design). Sometimes this is referred to as preliminary engineering and environmental. The second phase of this process is Final Design (Phase II Design).

A PM must collaborate with divisions across KYTC as early as possible in project development (see the HKP article, Organizing a Team, coming soon). The Project Development Team (PDT) consists of subject-matter experts (SME) from different functional areas throughout the Department of Highways. The PM should solicit their input throughout project development. Early SME involvement facilitates:

  • Identification of potential environmentally sensitive areas
  • Utility coordination, including railroad involvement
  • Right-of-way (ROW) acquisition
  • Structures
  • Geotechnical
  • Construction

On projects with federal oversight, early coordination with FHWA is critical to anticipate potential project risks and develop possible solutions. This helps ensure that the project stays on schedule and within budget.

The goal of preliminary engineering and environmental is to produce a list of feasible alternatives that fulfill the project purpose and need. Alternatives go through a screening process to identify which ones balance impacts on the environment, ROW, utilities, and budget. Those which balance these elements move forward.

The primary focus of Phase I Design is to develop, study, and document the performance and impacts of different alternatives within the project corridor. A Preliminary Line and Grade (PL&G) Meeting is held at the end of this phase. At this meeting alternatives are presented and discussed by the PDT to determine a recommended alignment. This alignment is carried forward into Phase II Design. Documentation of the engineering and environmental work is key to this phase.

This article reviews the process of guiding a project through Phase I Design.

2. Development of Preliminary Alternatives

Before the PDT studies alternatives, it must map key existing features within a corridor that represent potential project risks, including those related to:

  • Environmental considerations
  • Topographic constraints
  • ROW needs
  • Utilities in the area

A project risk is “an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on a project’s objective.” Project risks can affect quality (solutions or deliverables), schedules, and budgets.

Because they may result in positive or negative outcomes, it is important to specify the direction of influence when defining risks. Negative risks threaten a project’s successful completion if not managed properly.

By identifying potential risks, assessing their impact, developing mitigation plans, and continuously monitoring the emergence of new risks, PMs can minimize the likelihood of project failure and ensure the project is delivered on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.

During Phase I design, the PDT develops a reasonable range of competitive alternatives that satisfies the project’s purpose and need. To arrive at the best project solution, SMEs should identify potential risks, constraints, issues, and possible solutions. For each viable alternative, the PDT must pay close attention to fiscal and engineering constraints. A viable alternative should fulfill the operational, safety, and other performance goals outlined in the purpose and need statement. When evaluating alternatives, it is also important to:

  • Assess constructability and how traffic can be maintained during construction.
  • Include at least one alternative that has to be within 15% of the total project budget.
  • Consider a no-build alternative. This is required by the NEPA process and should be a part of the evaluation of alternatives.

The chosen template/typical section (traveled way and roadside), horizontal, and vertical alignment are key factors that influence the impacts of each alternative and dictate a roadway’s operation, safety, and performance.

To determine an alternative’s typical cross section, designers should use the seven basic design controls listed in Section HD-702.10 of the Highway Design Guidance Manual:

  • Functional classification
  • Context classification
    • Rural, rural town, suburban, urban, urban core
  • Project Type
    • New construction, reconstruction, construction of existing roads (spot improvements)
  • Multimodal considerations
  • Volume of traffic (and traffic makeup)
  • Design speed
  • Overall project context

Developing, studying, and screening alternatives helps the PM and PDT select a preferred alternative based on environmental impacts, engineering, economics, anticipated performance, and public input.

A key product of Phase I Design is the transportation decision and rationale. This is described in the environmental document and reflected in the preliminary line and grade plans. Another important product is the Design Executive Summary (DES), which reviews/documents the project’s highway design criteria (used to layout and evaluate the roadway) and is typically submitted after the PL&G Meeting.

Some transportation agencies are moving towards Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) Plans. TSMO is a set of strategies that aim to optimize the safe, efficient, and reliable use of existing and planned transportation infrastructure for all modes. The goal is to get the most performance out of existing transportation facilities and implement comprehensive solutions that can be implemented quickly at relatively low cost. KYTC is in the process of developing a TSMO Plan, including a training program for staff and partners. The plan is anticipated to implement TSMO strategies for all areas of the cabinet including performance-based flexible design, ITS (Intelligent Transportation System) projects, and work-safety improvements in a construction work zone.

For more information about TSMO, refer to the FHWA article Organizing and Planning for Operations.

  • For more information on preliminary design, see Section HD-203 of the Highway Design Guidance Manual.
  • For information on project templates and alignments, see Section HD-700 of the Highway Design Guidance Manual.
  • For information on project risk, refer to the HKP Article Managing Project Risks.

2.1 Interchange Justification Study (IJS)/Interchange Modification Report (IMR)

Interchange Justification Study (IJS)Required for a project that proposes to provide a new interchange to an existing interstate facility. is required when a project establishes a new access (interchanges and ramps) on an interstate highway. Modifying access at an existing interchange constitutes a change in the interchange configuration and requires an Interchange Modification Report (IMR)Required when a project proposes to revise/reconfigure an existing interchange on an interstate facility.. All IJS/IMR’s should be developed in a manner consistent with FHWA’s Interstate Access Policy and KYTC guidance. It is crucial to involve the FHWA early in this process to keep a project on schedule.      

FHWA approval is a federal action and, as such, requires that transportation planning, conformity, the congestion management process, and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures be followed and their requirements satisfied. Final FHWA approval of requests for new or modified access cannot precede the completion of these processes or necessary actions. However, to offer maximum flexibility, KYTC can submit proposed changes in access to the FHWA Division Office for a determination of safety, operational, and engineering acceptability prior to final approval. This gives agencies the option of obtaining this acceptability determination earlier in the process, prior to completing the environmental approval process.

  • For more information on this process, see Section HD-203.3.10 of the Highway Design Guidance Manual.

2.2 KYTC Complete Streets, Roads, and Highways

Consistent with KYTC’s Complete Streets policy, the PDT needs to consider including transportation facilities on a project that meet the needs of all users. Multimodal FacilitiesAll modes of transportation are considered (automobiles, commuter trains, public transit, bicycles, and pedestrians. should be discussed during project planning and early design phases. Discussions should address:

  • Highway access control
  • Local transportation plans
  • Comprehensive plans
  • Other plans (e.g., Safe Routes to School plans developed by schools and school districts)
  • Roadside environment
  • Existing and projected pedestrian volumes
  • User age group(s)
  • Continuity of local walkways along or across the roadway
  • Potential need for multimodal facilities near areas with low income housing

The design process must consider all existing and planned modes. To accommodate non-vehicle users (e.g., pedestrians, bicyclists), the design process often requires flexibility in applying conventional roadway design criteria for the vehicle travel way. Chapter 5 of the KYTC’s Complete Streets, Roads, and Highways Manual addresses some elements of travel way design that may require flexibility and creativity. The manual also provides detailed information on pedestrian facilities.

2.3 Environmental and Permitting Considerations

Environmental investigations should be completed early in project development, preferably before alignment studies begin. The PM needs to coordinate investigations with the District Environmental Coordinator (DEC) as soon as practical. To initiate environmental investigations, the PM submits to the DEC preliminary boundaries of areas potentially impacted by each alternative so environmental constraints along the corridor can be identified.

The DEC communicates the results of environmental investigations to the PDT. Results help the PM and PDT understand possible environmental and permitting issues along the corridor that could affect the project budget and timeline. Knowing where these issues are early on lets the PDT develop alternatives that avoid or minimize impacts. Phase I Design Funds are utilized for these investigations.

A Scope Verification Meeting (SVM) must be held for all Federal-aid projects requiring a Categorical Exclusion Level 3 (CE3), EA/FONSI, or EIS. This meeting brings together key members of the PDT — including FHWA — to ensure that all team members agree with the environmental classification and work to be undertaken.

If a consultant is used on the project, the SVM is normally held during the period between the Advertisement for Consultant Services and the Pre-Design Meeting. The meeting should be timed to ensure all parties agree on the scope of work to be assigned to the consultant before the Pre-Design Meeting. The PM schedules the SVM, provides information to meeting attendees, and documents meeting outcomes.

The following resources provide detailed information on environmental and permitting considerations:

2.4 Identify Right-Of-Way Issues

Procuring sufficient ROW to accommodate construction, drainage, and maintenance is integral to project development. Several factors influence the amount of ROW that needs to be acquired:

  • Traffic requirements
  • Topography
  • Environmental issues
  • Utilities
  • Land use
  • Land costs
  • Intersection design
  • Extent of ultimate roadway expansion

Potential ROW issues and challenges should be identified and analyzed when preliminary alternatives are developed. Determining the amount of ROW needed for a project is a roadway design function but requires close coordination with other SMEs. Project development must be advanced far enough in Phase I Design to generally describe a project’s ROW needs (typically around 30% plans).

Once ROW needs have been identified and areas of fee simple and easements estimated, the District ROW section provides the PM with cost estimates. This amount should be used to evaluate/update the ROW estimate initially established for the project. Design staff and ROW personnel must coordinate throughout project development to ensure all property concerns are addressed. For more information on the ROW process, see Section HD-1300 of the Highway Design Guidance Manual. The following are also valuable resources:

Red Flag

ROW acquisition and supporting activities normally occur during Phase II design. But in some cases, when a project has a lot of right-of-way impacts, and the project schedule is tight, the PM and ROW Supervisor may decide it is advantageous to start title report work at the end of Phase I Design. Securing title reports as a preliminary ROW activity may save time during Phase II Design and is an acceptable Phase I Design activity if it does not influence the objective consideration of alternatives. Section ROW-403-2 of the Right of Way Guidance Manual provides directions for requesting title reports.

Red Flag

Relocation of existing utilities normally occurs during Phase II Design. However, the PM and PDT should analyze existing utility data and begin identifying potential project risks early in the design process. If an initial assessment reveals potential conflicts between existing utilities, easements, or other physical features, the PM and PDT should consider sites where utilities may be relocated. By identifying existing areas of significant concern for utilities, ROW property needs can be assessed for potentially complex utility facilities.

2.5 Identify Utility Impacts and Preliminary Joint Utilities Meeting

Existing utility facilities must be identified early in the design process. After knowing their locations, avoidance, minimization, and mitigation opportunities should be considered when addressing utility conflicts.

When a project begins, the District Utility Supervisor notifies public and private utilityPublic Utilities: Public utilities may include common carriers as well as corporations that provide essential services such as Electric, Gas, Communications, Sewer, and Water to the general public. companies of proposed activities and their potential impacts to utility facilities. Early coordination may be appropriate so ROW can be acquired to relocate facilities. Utility companies and the PDT can identify conflicts with existing facilities, avoid facilities, or plan for the relocation or adjustment of facilities to a new location on the highway ROW or private easements. During collaboration, companies should be encouraged to identify methods that will speed up relocations or allow relocation plans to be included with roadway plans.

When developing preliminary alternatives on more complex road projects or projects with a complex network of multiple facilities, the PDT needs to pay careful attention to details for utility planning. Conversely, on a small bridge rehabilitation or replacement, the District Utility Supervisor and PM should not invest much time planning around utilities. On smaller projects, recommended steps for utility planning include identifying existing facilities and conflicts with those facilities. Conversely, on a major road widening in an urban area with many utility facilities, a detailed utility plan should be established.

Detailed utility plans show the following information:

  • Facility locations
  • Subsurface utility engineering (SUE) notations
  • Identified conflicts
  • Proposed relocation placements

On more complex projects, Preliminary Joint Utilities Meetings may be held early in Phase I Design to foster early and frequent communication between utility owners and the PDT. The following are good resources:

For more information on utility plan development, see Section UR-1002 of the Utilities and Rails Guidance Manual. Refer to Section HD-304 of the Highway Design Guidance Manual for information on subsurface utility locations.

2.6 Identify Rail Involvement

Unlike most fixed objects in the highway environment, railroad facilities are not owned or directly operated by state or local highway agencies. As such, rail coordination is a critical aspect of project development when a railroad is present.

Coordinating with railroads early in project development fosters effective communication and collaboration between KYTC and railroad companies, minimizes effort needed later in the project or during construction, and helps avoid costly and time-consuming unexpected issues. This includes projects that are at‐grade, over, or under railroad tracks as well as projects impacting railroad-owned property.

When rail involvement is possible, the PM should contact the Railroad Coordinator in the Division of Right of Way, Utilities, and Rails as soon as possible, but no later than selection of the preferred alternative at the end of Phase I Design. While preliminary alternatives are under development and discussion, the Railroad Coordinator can give valuable information to assist in decision making. The Railroad Coordinator can attend the PL&G Meeting when needed and share the following details with designers:

  • Railroad requirements
  • Type and number of trains per day
  • Train speeds
  • Railroad company contact information
  • Estimated rail-related costs for each alternative

The selection of an alternative may be influenced by how each alternative will impact a railroad during and after construction. Some of the factors examined during early rail coordination include:

  • Track signalization
  • Communications services
  • Track geometry
  • Plans for additional tracks in an area
  • Sight distance issues
  • Horizontal and vertical clearances
  • Drainage considerations (railroad property)

The PM and PDT can use knowledge of these factors to understand the potential impacts of alternatives on existing railroads. Proactive coordination also helps the Railroad Coordinator obtain future approvals from railroad companies. For more information on railroads, see:

 Side Note

KYTC prefers to consolidate railroad crossings, close crossings, or provide grade-separated crossings.  When these options are not feasible, the Cabinet’s Rail Safety Program (Section 130 Program) may be utilized to install warning devices for vehicle traffic (e.g., warning bells, lights, gates). PMs should contact the Utilities and Rail Branch’s Railroad Coordinator to see if Rail Safety Program funds could be used on their project.

2.7  Preliminary Geotechnical Recommendations

Identifying the types and locations of geotechnical features is essential to roadway design and construction. Typically, the PM submits a request for detailed geotechnical analysis after Phase I Design is complete.

At the beginning of a project, the PM should collect existing geotechnical data. A good source is the KYTC Geotechnical Database, which contains the results of completed investigations.

Depending on project topography and available geotechnical mapping, the PM may need more detailed information. In these cases, the PM requests a preliminary geotechnical overview from the Geotechnical Branch for proposed project areas or corridors. The PM or design consultant must submit project corridor information with this request.

During Phase I Design, sites are evaluated through field reconnaissance of surface conditions and reviewing available surface and geologic maps. Other information (e.g., previous geotechnical studies or investigations) may supplement these data.

Geotechnical overviews must address issues that may affect transportation decisions within the project area. Overviews should describe:

  • The project area’s topography, including regional and structural geology.
  • Impacts of different features and potential mitigation actions — including cost — if a feature is encountered during project work.

This information is used when studying alternatives to determine if a feature should be impacted, particularly in a situation when competing issues are present (e.g., historic, environmental, cultural).

Issues that may require discussion include:

  • Geologic formations that could complicate or hinder project work.
  • Presence of springs, landslides, mines, karst, faulted strata, acidic shale, mineral deposits, or other topographic or subsurface features that could affect construction and maintenance.
  • Foundation types for structures.
  • Possible issues with cut-and-fill slopes resulting from known soil and rock conditions (i.e., how they broadly affect a project area [e.g., flatter or steeper slopes than normal so that the cost of needing more earthwork or ROW can be considered]).
  • Possible issues with pavement subgrade and the need for modifying the subgrade.
  • Seismic zones for earthquake design and possible mitigation actions.
  • Availability of suitable excavated materials (i.e., rock from excavation) for use in the subgrade and embankments

Project area maps should include as many of the features listed above as possible. Areas of concern should be clearly noted. When possible, information should be provided in GIS layers so it can be visualized in combination with other features as well as to identify recommended corridors. If alternatives are available, the geotechnical overview should discuss each alternative with respect to geologic conditions — both beneficial and adverse.

3. Evaluation and Comparison of Proposed Roadway Alternatives

Understanding the environmental, ROW, utility, constructability, performance-based design, and budgetary impacts associated with each alternative is critical to the progression of alternatives analysis. Each alternative should be buildable, fit the project scope, be within the established budget, and have satisfactory predicted performance.

Performance measures for each alternative (including a no-build option), should be evaluated and compared relative to the project purpose and need. These performance measures include, but are not limited to:

  • Existing and expected crash frequency and severity
  • Capacity and traffic operation efficiency
  • Mobility, connectivity, and accessibility
  • Existing and potential development
  • Asset management (pavement and structures)
  • Cost
  • Environmental impacts
  • Community impacts
  • Freight

Not all projects require the use of every measure. Which performance measures should be addressed is governed by the project budget and the overall effect the improvement would have on a project.

During alternatives analysis:

  • Environmental SMEs should offer suggestions on the risks associated with each alternative and expected timeframes for resolving impact-related issues.
  • ROW and Utility SMEs should present their findings so the PDT can consider the possible impacts of property acquisition and utility location on the transportation decision.
  • Construction SMEs should evaluate each alternative for constructability issues and maintenance of traffic concerns. If roadway construction would excessively disturb a key existing feature(s), alternatives may be dropped from consideration with adequate supporting documentation.

When conducting their analysis, SMEs must adopt a corridor approach rather than focusing on a particular alignment. This lets adjustments be made to avoid or minimize impacts. SMEs should remain involved in the decision-making process to ensure impacts are considered and offer suggestions for minimizing or mitigating impacts when necessary. If a detailed SME study of a corridor is cost prohibitive (e.g., archaeology) during the early stages of roadway evaluation, an overview is normally completed to guide the corridor and alignment study. As development of the alignment progresses, detailed study may become necessary.

While a preferred alternative may stand out, the PDT should not make a recommendation until team members understand and evaluate all relevant impacts and issues in the study area.

For more information on Performance-Based Design refer to:

  • AASHTO 2018 Green Book (Section 1.9 Performance-Based Design)
  • Highway Design Guidance Manual Section HD-202.6.1 (Performance Measures).

4. Public Involvement in Phase I Design 

The amount of public involvement required varies significantly between projects. More public meetings are needed on projects where several alternatives are under consideration or projects with heightened controversy. In some cases, stakeholder meetingsOn projects that are anticipated to be controversial, it is a good idea to assemble a group of people from the area and form a group of Stakeholders for the project. This could include property owners along the corridor, local officials (county judges, magistrates), and Local Planning and Zoning personnel, along with KYTC representatives. These are sometimes referred to as Citizens Advisory Groups or Committees. These groups can help with the effort by KYTC to be transparent in the project development process. may be necessary. On small projects (e.g., small bridge replacement) no formal public involvement may be needed.

Public involvement should begin early — perhaps before alignments are considered — and continue throughout Phase I Design. Early public involvement lets community members offer insights about the project’s goals, needs, and effects on the community. Information obtained from these meetings should be summarized, discussed with the PDT, and when appropriate, taken into consideration when developing alternatives.

For more information about public involvement, see

5. Preliminary Line and Grade Meeting (Milestone)

After SMEs have studied the project’s range of alternatives and comments are collected at public meetings, the PDT holds a PL&G Meeting. The primary goal of the PL&G Meeting is to select a preferred alternative and document the rationale for the decision. When selecting a preferred alternative, the PDT factors into its decision making each alternative’s social, economic, and environmental impacts.

At the PL&G Meeting, the PDT needs at least the following information to compare alternatives and select the preferred alternative:

  • Draft environmental assessment or categorical exclusion
  • Preliminary alternative plans
  • Comparison of each alternative’s performance relative to the purpose and need (e.g., alternative impacts, expected safety performance, compare travel times).
  • ROW and utility impacts with associated costs
  • Potential mitigation measures
  • Corresponding project costs and schedule impacts

Plans for individual alternatives should be developed to a stage where a decision can be made about each one presented (usually referred to as the 30% stage).

For more information on the stages of plan development, see the HKP Article Project Schedule and Development of Milestones.

Red Flag

PL&G Meeting invitations, and preliminary plans and information for each of the alternatives developed, should be distributed to the PDT far enough in advance of the meeting so each team member can thoroughly review them before the meeting. Preferably, this information should be provided at least two (2) weeks prior to the scheduled meeting.

At the PL&G Meeting PDT members discuss each alternative and briefly summarize alternatives eliminated earlier in the process. Conversations focus on impacts, performance, impact mitigation, and a timeframe for resolving identified issues.

  • Environmental SMEs describe how each alternative will impact the study area’s environment.
  • Construction SMEs evaluate temporary traffic control and construction phasing for each alternative. They also judge whether the proposed ROW is sufficient based on issues such as equipment access, construction phasing, and possible staging areas.
  • ROW and Utility SMEs present their findings along with estimated ROW and Utilities cost estimates for each alternative. This allows the PDT to consider the possible impacts of property acquisition and utility location on the transportation decision.
  • The PDT also discusses diversions, including their construction and ROW impacts.

Although no formal drainage submittal is required at this stage, for each alternative the PDT needs to identify and discuss key drainage issues and concerns. Consultation with the Division of Structural Design may be necessary if bridges and/or culverts are involved.

To determine a preferred alternative, the PDT must work through the decision-making process for highway projects. This includes avoidance, minimization, mitigation, performance measures, and possibly enhancement of each alternative’s impacts. Decisions are recorded in NEPA documentation and the Design Executive Summary (DES). The Environmental Analysis Guidance Manual (EA-400) and Highway Design Guidance Manual (HD-400) provides guidance on these documents.

Red Flag

When the PM, in consultation with the PDT, determines that public and resource agency involvement has been sufficient, the PDT may identify a preferred alternative in the environmental document before conducting a public hearing. A selected alternative may not be chosen prior to the hearing, when applicable.

The PDT selects a preferred alternative based on:

  • Environmental, economic, and engineering issues
  • Performance measures
  • How well it meets the purpose and need of the project
  • Public input
  • Professional judgement

Once the preferred alternative is chosen, the final environmental document is prepared, reviewed, and approved. The output of the PL&G meeting is the final approved environmental document and the alternative selected to proceed into Phase II Design.

Red Flag

During the PL&G meeting, the PDT considers and discusses for each alternative potential strategies to maintain traffic operations during construction. This discussion is summarized in the PL&G meeting minutes. For some alternatives, problems related to maintenance of traffic and constructability may be insurmountable. These issues must be examined when developing alternatives.

PL&G meeting minutes are a critical part and serve as the main body of the DES. These minutes should document most, if not all, of the design decisions prior to moving into final design. For more information, see Section HD-203.05 of the Highway Design Guidance Manual. 

6. Breaking a Project into Smaller Constructible Sections (If required)

Sometimes the Enacted Highway Plan does not allocate enough funding to construct the entire length of a proposed project, or it only sets aside enough funds for Phase I Design. This happens most often on longer project corridors. When this is the case, the PM and PDT must decide if breaking the project into shorter constructable sections is necessary.

Sections must have independent utility, and to satisfy NEPA requirements each section must have a Logical Termini. Logical Termini for project development describes the beginning and ending points of a project and whether or not the selection of these points has a rational basis, considering the project’s purpose and need.

FHWA notes three criteria for logical termini:

  • The project should have rational endpoints that are long enough to address broad environmental concerns.
  • The project should have independent utility (i.e., be usable and constitute a reasonable expenditure even if no additional transportation improvements in the area are made) and should not force additional improvements elsewhere.
  • The project should not restrict the consideration of alternatives for other reasonably foreseeable transportation improvements, either connecting or nearby.

Logical termini can be locations with major traffic generators or changes in traffic volumes, major crossroads, or system intersections, and/or locations where there are changes in development patterns (e.g., transition from an urban area to a suburban or rural area).

For more information on Logical Termini, refer to FHWA Document The Development of Logical Project Termini.

Red Flag

The decision about breaking a project into smaller sections usually takes place at the end of Phase I.

Alternative alignments are evaluated in their entirety during Phase I Design so that the overall impacts to the project corridor are discussed and documented. Once the PL&G Meeting has been held and an alternative chosen, the PDT must divide the project into shorter constructable sections prior to starting Phase II Design. Each breakout section should include descriptions and cost information for D, R, U and C, and this information should be submitted to the Central Office for programming the sections into the next Enacted Highway Plan.

7. Design Executive Summary (DES) Submittal and Approval (Milestone) 

The DES is the record of engineering decisions related to the project. At the end of Phase I Design— typically after the PL&G Meeting and selection of an alternative — the PM drafts a DES and submits it to the Division of Highway Design for review and approval.

PL&G meeting minutes serve as the main body of the DES. The DES justifies the preferred alternative as well as design exceptions or variances. Projects administered by the Division of Highway Design require a DES unless the division’s director grants an exemption.

Since the DES documents the decision-making process, including preferred alternative selection and design exceptions or variances, it is important for the DES to contain all pertinent information used in the decision process. The Division of Environmental Analysis (DEA) typically adopts language from the discussion of alternatives in the DES when preparing the environmental document.

  • Section HD-203.6 of the Highway Design Guidance Manual provides information on DES contents, approval processes, and examples.
  • DES forms are available on the Division of Highway Design Forms Page.
  • Also see the HKP Article — Identify Selected Alternative (Section 4).

Red Flag

The DES approval process is tiered — more complex projects require additional review and approval. For example, final DES approval on the most complex projects requires signatures from the Location Engineer, Roadway Design Branch Manager, and Director of the Division of Highway Design. As project complexity increases, the time required for DES review and approval increases as well.

On FHWA oversight projects (Risk-Based Projects [RBPs]), the DES must be provided to FHWA by the PM, and its approval for design exceptions must be solicited separately from Division of Highway Design approvals. FHWA approval of design exceptions are included in the project record.

After the DES has been submitted and approved, in some instances design decisions are reevaluated and changes made. When this occurs, the DES must be amended. HD Section 203.6.2 describes procedures for amending the approved DES.

8. Associated Articles

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