Considerations While Designing a Road

Association of Construction and Development
September 11, 2012 — 3,498 views  

It's easy to take roads for granted. Major new thoroughfares are rare, and the primary infrastructure used today was set in place during the 1950s and 1960s. When a new road is needed, however, careful considerations must be made prior to construction. An improperly-built road can cost human lives and millions of dollars in wasted taxpayer funding. Before finalizing a highway or country lane's design, engineers must first determine its necessity and find a solution to any negative environmental impacts or physical barriers.

The estimated amount of traffic a road will receive plays a major role in its likelihood of being built. There must be a proven demand to get from one location to another that another highway cannot meet, and the size of that demand dictates the type of road. For example, a one-lane dirt trail between Los Angeles and San Francisco would be disastrous, and a freeway between two residential neighborhoods would be a waste of resources. If the need is deemed high enough, engineers can move on to the next step in the design process. 

Environmental scientists are called in to walk through the road's proposed path and identify any consequences for local wildlife. Sometimes, like when the road crosses a known migration route, it proves to be a hazard to both animals and drivers. At other times the road might disturb the ecosystem of an endangered species and put an entire threatened population at risk. When such conflicts occur, a compromise must be reached. The project may be moved or forced to circle around the prohibited area, or special structures can be built to protect animals living nearby. 

If everything else is acceptable and the road still has funding, the logistics of construction finally come into play. Cars and trucks can only handle a certain incline before they lose traction, and flooded rivers, dramatic hills and tight corners can all become a danger to vehicles. There are many safety regulations in place to ensure adequate turning and braking times even when a car is speeding. Intersections must also be built when the road meets another, along with freeway ramps and entrances to building lots. 

Finally, there are quality standards for the asphalt, signs to be installed and lines to be painted. With so much to consider and so many rules to follow, it's no surprise that new roads are something of a rarity within the United States. And yet, when they are undertaken, drivers can rest easy knowing that their commute has been planned, scrutinized and implemented with the utmost care and attention to detail.

Association of Construction and Development