WSDOT Endorses Design Guide To Rethink Streets As More Than Just Roadways

Dec 19, 2013

It used to be that streets were about moving cars from point A to point B.

“Most of our design guidance historically has been focused on freeways and limited access highways,” said Nancy Boyd, an engineer with the Washington state Department of Transportation.

To help think of streets as more than just roadways for cars, WSDOT has become the first state agency in the nation to adopt a new set of urban design guidelines. 

The Urban Street Design Guide aims to help engineers think about streets as public spaces with potential for more than just cars. The guide explores ways to make greener and more bike-friendly streets, and looks to create public gathering places.

The set of guidelines, which was drafted by the National Association of Transportation Officials, is based on designs proven successful in urban areas, including Seattle. One local example includes “activated” alleys in Seattle, like Canton Alley in the International District.

The guide will allow state engineers more flexibility and creativity when designing projects. It’s also expected to be especially useful in smaller cities where state highways sometimes mimic main streets, running through communities. 

The 2-month-old guide has been endorsed by 23 cities, including Seattle.