Section 5: Adjacent PropertiesAnchor: #i1009905
A critical part of understanding the context of design is the character of adjacent properties. The visual relationship between a transportation corridor and the adjacent properties is critical when making landscape and aesthetics decisions. The aesthetic quality of a transportation facility and adjacent structures must be considered from the viewpoint of the vehicle operator and adjacent property users. Regardless of the land use, the objective is to achieve an appropriate visual fit between the transportation facility and its surroundings.
Aesthetic design decisions should be based on information from two primary sources. The first consideration is the character of the existing properties adjacent to the corridor. Base information should be gathered in the field such as dominant colors, materials, and scale. The second source of information is the public participation process. Very often public objections, particularly regarding expansion projects, relate to aesthetic concerns. It is essential that the public participation process be used to identify these concerns and, to the extent possible, address them in making landscape and aesthetics decisions.
In most cases, aesthetic issues will involve one of the following design objectives:
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- blend the highway with the surrounding landscape Anchor: #RHRCUKNS
- contrast the highway with the surrounding landscape Anchor: #SPBBGWBR
- screen the highway from the adjoining properties
Blend the Highway
The goal of context sensitive design is to visually blend the highway with adjacent properties. This option is generally the least expensive and simply requires attention to detail, landform, and issues of scale. Several design tools can be used to accomplish this objective:
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- Employ materials similar to those in the adjacent landscape. This is particularly important in urban centers where the built landscape is dominant. For example, if the adjacent neighborhood is single-family brick veneer houses, brick or pavers will help blend structures into the setting. Anchor: #PFTPMDRL
- Use similar colors. Quite often it is impractical to use or attempt to match the materials of the adjacent landscape. In these cases color becomes the single most important tool. Anchor: #PSAOUFGM
- Use similar plant materials to blend the landscape. In the rural setting landscape materials can be used to supplement and link existing landscape features. Considerations of cost and maintenance prevent more large-scale changes to the dominant landscape. In urban centers use plants to accent and visually connect with other landscape elements near the highway. For example, if there are street trees adjacent to the right-of-way repeat the same trees to help blend the highway setting. Anchor: #YPTQIKPC
- Be sensitive to the visual character of the landform. Landform can be a dominant element of the roadway, particularly in hilly or mountainous terrain. Exposed rock faces, steep cut slopes, and high fills can be dramatic in scale but are often objectionable if they bisect existing landscape features considered visually pleasant or socially significant. It is important to consider the landform in the alignment stage of the design process, and be sure that there will be no adverse reaction to the resulting landform. Cuts through white, limestone, or tall cut slopes that are silhouetted against the skyline will contrast sharply with the surrounding landscape and are usually objectionable from a visual standpoint. Dealing with these issues early in the design process will avoid costly aesthetic remediation activities later. Anchor: #FBNIQHIU
- Use complementary street furniture. The street furniture should be selected to blend with the architectural qualities of the adjacent properties, as in Figure 4-20. Remote regions tend to be less sensitive to the details of guardrails, traffic barriers, signs, light standards delineators etc. However, in urban areas there is often a need to develop details that will blend with surrounding architecture. This can be particularly important in sections of highway that go through special or historic districts of the city. In these situations, additional expense may be justified to achieve the desired results.
Figure 4-20. Appropriate architectural details complement the urban context and help blend the highway with its surroundings.Anchor: #i1009993
Contrast the Highway
There are occasions where the design objective is to have the highway contrast with its surroundings. There are cases where there is a lack of variety in the surrounding landscape or the surroundings may be so visually confused that there are few redeeming qualities to the views from the road. In these cases it may be desirable to manipulate the aesthetic qualities of the road so that it becomes the dominant visual feature. Tools that can be used to achieve this objective include the following.
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- Use curbs and concrete traffic barriers to visually and physically delineate the driving lanes. This is particularly effective on urban streets. Where practical, use colors to achieve contrast. See Figures 4-21 through 4-26 for examples. Anchor: #OOUCNAGF
- Vegetated medians offer excellent contrast to the travel lanes, making their edges more clearly evident. Additionally, turf areas offer visual relief and glare reduction in large expanses of pavement in multilane highways. Medians with turf also hide small litter objects better than bare pavement, helping to keep the roadway neater in appearance. Anchor: #EMYSHAKR
- Materials and textures can be manipulated more economically on small paved surfaces such as walks and drive aprons. Likewise, the colors and textures selected can be used to reinforce the contrast between the highway right-of-way and the surrounding properties.
Figure 4-21. Gore areas should be paved so that maintenance is reduced around signs and delineators.
Figure 4-22. Exit ramps provide entry into communities from the highway. Treating the gore areas can enhance visibility and aesthetic character.
Figure 4-23. Gores with the same colors and textures as the travel lane may not be readily distinguished from the travel lanes.
Figure 4-24. Add color to increase contrast and improve visibility of lane separations.
Figure 4-25. Color and texture highlights at crosswalks improve safety and aesthetics.
Figure 4-26. Adding color to traffic islands improves visibility and delineates travel lanes.Anchor: #i1010080
Screen the Highway
Screening adjacent properties from view is usually the most expensive alternative depending on the length of the corridor that needs to be screened. Before the screening objective is adopted be sure that the goal can be effectively met. Many times it is impossible to completely screen an objectionable view and attempts to create a screen simply call more attention to the problem.
Keep in mind that the experience of a highway is a cumulative impression rather than an impression of a single point in time. In most cases the most realistic screening scenarios are when the view of the highway needs to be screened from an adjacent property.
When screening is the design objective the following design tools should be considered:
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- Place the screen material as close as possible to the viewer. The closer the screen is to the viewer the greater the area screened from view. Anchor: #DFHIYCKH
- Be sure that screens observe setback and sight triangle requirements. Anchor: #QHTKOYKN
- Use appropriate choices of structure and vegetation. Architectural solutions such as walls and fences generally require less frequent maintenance than the use of plant materials (see Figure 4-26). Established trees with natural understory have favorable maintenance properties after establishment (see Figures 4-27 and 4-28). However, this solution requires sufficient space and may not be acceptable in tight urban conditions. Anchor: #LOLGTEMJ
- Consider time constraints. Where time is a consideration, architectural solutions give the most immediate results. Planting by itself will take time to develop but is more visually appealing when mature. Where possible, combining architectural features with planting will produce the most favorable long-term result.
Figure 4-27. Brick is compatible with residential areas but can be visually dominating. Vegetation in front will help reduce the apparent height of architectural structures.
Figure 4-28. Plants reduce the scale of walls and prevent long, continuous sections from becoming monotonous.
Figure 4-29. Vegetation with low maintenance properties is a good choice for screening.