Transportation Insights of 2017

Posted in: Bridges, Municipal, Transportation

Let’s recap and take a look at how transportation trends of 2017 will affect the future. It’s important to assess where we’ve been to figure out where we’re going. With the trends we’ve seen, 2018 looks like it will be an influential year.

Building Tomorrow’s Infrastructure

Some of the most exciting transportation news to come out of 2017 are the steady updates about technological advances. Self-driving cars, smart roadways and advanced infrastructure offer drivers fast and easy commutes. This is especially true of the Hyperloop, which has shortlisted 10 routes to be the home of the first mass high-speed land transportation system by 2021.

What does transportation technology mean for cities, though? From a planning perspective, the built environment must serve people before technology. In the meantime, we still must work with our current transportation system. This includes a reliance on oversize-overweight freight trucks to carry our economy. Most roads and bridges aren’t built to handle these large vehicles, though. State Departments of Transportation are investing in roadway upgrades to accommodate the trucking industry. Additionally, the Federal Highway Administration is requiring all state DOTs to evaluate their bridges’ weight capacity.

Designing with Context in Mind

Designing for roads isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation, and roadway engineers need a variety of ideas to meet their clients’ needs. Continuous Flow Intersections and Reduced Conflict U-turns are two unconventional intersection options. While each solves a very different problem at very different types of intersections, both alternatives help reduce conflict points and create safer junctions for drivers.

Engineers need to consider more than motorist safety, though. Environmental consciousness and pedestrian access are both important factors to state and local governments. Bringing eco-friendly roundabouts and ADA-compliant tactile paving strips to the discussion can give your design added value. These small details bring increased benefits that your clients and their communities will appreciate.

Changing the Industry Landscape

To achieve a more dynamic industry, engineers need to push the boundaries on design quality and processes. Cultivating a culture of quality within project teams allows both projects and young engineers to thrive. The design-build method is an excellent test for fostering problem-solving approaches at each stage of the project. This is important because the talent we nurture today will help usher in new ideas and opportunities. Not only will team members strive to create a stronger industry, but their efforts will impact communities as well.

This is evident in South Carolina as SCDOT looks to update their utility coordination practices. In addition to proposing changes to the SCDOT Utility Accommodations Manual, the Department is adopting the utility coordination matrix as a regular practice. Mead & Hunt is assisting SCDOT with these efforts. We’re excited to see how these new policies streamline infrastructure projects, increase worker and public safety, and decrease utility outage periods.

With 2018 already underway, Mead & Hunt will be keeping an eye on these and other emerging trends. Our transportation engineers are dedicated to providing their clients with current designs, standards and processes that deliver sound projects.

Rick Plymale, PE, PLS

About the Author

Rick Plymale, P.E., PLS, oversees the operations of our southeastern offices performing transportation services. Rick is a problem-solver and a planner. He stays in front of challenges by taking care of important things first. He enjoys getting things done and checking them off the list. Before taking action, though, Rick thinks about the impact on others and the future. “We like to have fun,” he says, “But we don’t like surprises.” Our clients appreciate that and enjoy working with us.

Read more posts by Rick Plymale, PE, PLS

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