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Section 7: Policy and Authorities Impacting Landscape and Aesthetics Design

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Overview

Subsections in this section introduce the topics of:

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Regulations

This section identifies the body of regulation and policy that establishes departmental responsibilities in the area of landscape and aesthetics design. It also provides basic information on the programmatic tools available to affect landscape and aesthetics responsibilities. For more information on the individual regulations listed here, see Chapter 5, Section 4, 5280: Design landscape/aesthetic plans of the Project Development Process Manual.

There are a variety of federal, state, and departmental acts and directives that mandate TxDOT design and maintenance activities related to landscape and aesthetics design. While there are numerous citations, the combined impact of these requirements can be summarized as follows:

  • The landscape and visual aesthetic qualities of a transportation corridor are an environmental characteristic that, by law, must be considered in the design process and, where possible, enhanced.
  • The landscape disturbed by the construction of a highway must be reestablished for environmental and aesthetic reasons. The revegetation process is to be accomplished with appropriate native and adapted species.
  • To the extent possible, plants used for revegetation of rights-of-way should be low water use (xeric) plant materials.
  • Where a transportation project must disturb an environmentally sensitive landscape, wetland, historic site, established residential neighborhood, or scenic landscape, appropriate actions must be taken to mitigate visual and adverse environmental impacts.
  • TxDOT recognizes the need for developing highways with acceptable visual quality and has developed several proactive programs that encourage and assist the development of such transportation corridors. These include the Transportation Enhancements Program, Construction Landscape Program, Cost Share Program, the Governors Community Achievement Awards, Green Ribbon Landscape Improvement Program, and Landscape Partnership Program.
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Federal Regulations

Federal Highway Administration. Code of Federal Regulations Title 23-- Highways, Part 752 Landscape Development. Establishes landscape development policy and guidelines on federally funded or federally participating construction projects.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. This act establishes a national policy that requires all federally funded or federally participating projects to give proper consideration to the relationship between humans and the environment, and to assure for all Americans safe, healthful, productive, and aesthetically and culturally pleasing surroundings. (Sec. 101.b.2 [42 USC Sec. 4331])

Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. These acts establish guidelines for accessibility of facilities. Under their provisions, TxDOT is required to follow guidelines established by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board. The Board publishes Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (www.access-board.gov/bfdg/adaag.htm) that are the framework for administration of the provisions of the acts: The Architectural Barriers Act (42 U.S.C). The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. Section 504).

Executive Memorandum: Memorandum on Environmentally Beneficial Landscaping, April 26, 1994. This memorandum establishes policy regarding landscape design and management on federally funded or assisted projects. It stresses use of regionally native plants, minimal impact to habitat, reduced used of fertilizers and pesticides, and efficient water use and runoff reduction practices.

Executive Memorandum: Memorandum on Invasive Species, February 3, 1999. This memorandum establishes federal policy with respect to the enforcement and administration of several acts that are intended to prevent or control the introduction and spread of invasive plant species. The focus of efforts is on the encouragement to reestablish native species. The related acts are 42 U.S.C. 4321, 16 U.S.C. 4701, 18 U.S.C. 42, 7 U.S.C. 2801, 7 U.S.C. 150aa, and 16 U.S.C. 1531.

Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, 1991 (ISTEA)

Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, 1998 (TEA-21)

Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, 2005 (SAFETEA-LU)

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State Law and Regulations

State of Texas, State Purchasing and General Services Act, Section 2166.404 of the Government Code. This act requires that TxDOT use and require the use of xeriscape practices in the practice and maintenance of landscapes associated with state-owned property or facilities.

Title 43, Texas Administrative Code Section 2.4, Comprehensive Policy on the Environment. This policy establishes guidelines for consideration of environmental issues within the context of highway planning, design, construction, and maintenance within the Texas Department of Transportation.

Title 43, Texas Administrative Code Part I, Subchapter D, Section 2.63, Adopt-a-Highway Program. This section sets forth policies and procedures to be used in establishing and maintaining Adopt-a-Highway public participation programs on Texas roadways.

Title 43, Texas Administrative Code Part I, Subchapter D, Section 2.64, Adopt-a-Highway for Landscaping Program. This section sets forth policies and procedures to be used in establishing and maintaining Adopt-a-Highway for Landscaping public participation programs on Texas roadways.

Title 43, Texas Administrative Code Part I, Chapter 11, Subchapter E, Statewide Transportation Enhancement Program. This section prescribes the policies and procedures for implementation of the enhancement provisions of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA).

Title 43, Texas Administrative Code Part I, Chapter 11, Subchapter D. This section sets forth policy and procedures for the department to prepare landscape and aesthetic master plans for cities with a population over 100,000 and to emphasize the planting of vegetation, the use of public art, and respect for local neighborhoods in designing and building highways in urban areas.

Title 43, Texas Administrative Code Part I, Chapter 12.1-12.11, Subchapter A, Public Participation in Landscaping and Litter Removal. This section sets forth policy and procedures for the department to allow local governments, civic organizations or private businesses an opportunity to support the aesthetic improvement of the state highway system by donating 100% of the development, establishment, and maintenance of a landscape project on the right of way.

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Departmental Policy and Programs

Administrative Orders

Texas Department of Transportation. Administrative Order No. 7-60, Jan. 20, 1960. Preservation of Native Growth on Highways. Mandates consideration of preservation of native growth along highways during construction and reconstruction.

Texas Department of Transportation: Administrative Order 80-63, June 4, 1963. References Highway Research Board’s Committee on Geometric Highway Design Report entitled Requirements of an Obstacle-Clear Roadsides, dated Jan. 7, 1963.

Texas Department of Transportation: Administrative Order 51-63, Oct. 9, 1963. Restates AO 7-60 and references Administrative Circular No. 80-63 for roadside clearances.

Construction Landscape Program

Texas Department of Transportation: Minute Order 106713, Jan. 25, 1996. Establishes funding for Construction Landscape Program. Allocates a percentage of construction funding for roadside landscape development projects.

Cost Share Program

Texas Administrative Code: Landscape Cost Sharing Program, Title 43, Part I, Subchapter D, Sec. 2.65. Sets forth policies and procedures to be used in establishing and maintaining Landscape Cost Sharing public participation programs on Texas roadways.

Governors Community Achievement Award

Texas Department of Transportation: Minute Order 84702, July 23, 1986. The Governor’s Community Achievement Awards Program was initiated in 1986 by the Texas Transportation Commission as a statewide annual awards program in cooperation with Keep Texas Beautiful. Keep Texas Beautiful sponsors a competition each year among its member cities throughout Texas. The competition recognizes communities for local environmental improvement through litter prevention, solid waste management and recycling, beautification, public education and litter law enforcement. One winning city is chosen in each of nine population categories.

The department participates in the program by designing and installing a landscape development project along the highway right-of-way in each winning city. Projects range from $60,000 for populations of 1,000 or less, to $265,000 for populations greater than 250,001 with an annual funding amount of $1,000,000.

Green Ribbon Program

Texas Administrative Code: Green Ribbon Program, Title 43, Part I, Chapter 11, Subchapter D. The Green Ribbon Program was implemented to expand the Houston District’s Green Ribbon Project concept to other areas of the state. The department will accomplish the requirements of Title 43, Part I Chapter 11, Subchapter D by initiating two specific actions. The first action is to establish public/private partnerships within specific cities and regions to develop Landscape and Aesthetic Master Plans in districts with cities that have populations of 100,000 or more. The second action allocates funds for district with non-attainment counties to plant and establish trees and plants on the state highway system that help mitigate the effects of air pollution.

Landscape Partnership Program

Texas Administrative Code: Landscape Partnership Program, Title 43, Part I, Chapter 2, Subchapter D, Sec. 2.67. The program was created to allow local governments, civic organizations or private businesses an opportunity to support the aesthetic improvement of the state highway system by donating 100% of the development, establishment, and maintenance of a landscape project on the right-of-way.

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Landscape and Aesthetics Assessment

As part of the advanced planning process an assessment of landscape and aesthetic issues should be prepared. Because the visual and aesthetic and landscape qualities of a highway corridor are important to a project’s success and by law must be taken into account, an effort to identify landscape and aesthetics issues will assist in meeting these requirements and ensuring that appropriate consideration is given during the detailed design process. This statement should address the issues outlined in Landscape and Aesthetics Assessment.

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Landscape and Aesthetics Master Plans

Because the visual and aesthetic and landscape qualities of a highway corridor are important to a project’s success and by law must be taken into account, it is recommended that a Landscape and Aesthetics Masters Plan be prepared for communities that have a population of 100,000 or more. The plan is a means to:

  • demonstrate that the landscape and aesthetic qualities of a corridor have been considered and appropriate actions have been prescribed
  • coordinate architectural features and details
  • coordinate materials palettes
  • coordinate colors and color schemes
  • establish regionally appropriate design themes
  • control the level and complexity of development
  • provide a vehicle for developing cost sharing agreements
  • provide a means of estimating development and maintenance costs

Title 43, TAC, Part I, Chapter 11, Subchapter D requires that the planning process include public/private participation that will reach out to constituents and interested persons. Possible participants include Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) officials, elected officials, citizen advocacy groups, district landscape architects, engineers or planners, Design Division landscape staff, city or county officials and other interested stakeholders.

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