Massachusetts and California DOTs endorse NACTO streets guide

By Eric Sundquist

The move away from “stroads”—urban streets designed to rural road standards—received new support this month, as Massachusetts and California DOTs endorsed new design guidance that treats urban streets as livable places as well as multimodal transportation facilities.

The National Association of City Transportation OfficialsUrban Street Design Guide previously had been endorsed by the Washington State DOT. All three DOTs are SSTI participants.

“The Urban Street Design Guide provides essential design principles which can create safe, multimodal urban street designs around the Commonwealth,” MassDOT Secretary Richard A. Davey said in his endorsement letter. “MassDOT is pleased to share in NACTO’s commitment to improving urban streets and creating sustainable street designs.”

“California’s transportation system must be multimodal and support bicycles and pedestrians as well as automobiles,” Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said in a statement. “Caltrans’ endorsement of these innovative street design options is an important part of modernizing our approach to improving transportation for all Californians.”

Caltrans’ announcement may have more impact because MassDOT’s Highway Design Manual already permits designs and concepts described in the NACTO guide, including 10-foot lanes and designing to relatively slow urban target speeds.

In contrast, Caltrans’ design manual, followed not only by the department but by many local governments as well, often requires exceptions in order to produce NACTO-style designs. As such, the endorsement represents a greater departure from current practice, and the announcement was greeted enthusiastically by stakeholders.

Following the endorsement, Caltrans is reviewing its HDM, MUTCD, and other guidance to better embrace concepts that create multimodal, livable streets.

Eric Sundquist is Managing Director of SSTI.