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Section 4: General Design Guidelines

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Overview

The Preliminary Engineering and Design phase of both construction and non-construction projects includes the development of design guidelines that include requirements specified by state and federal statutes. This phase also includes the development of design layouts for non-construction projects and design schematics for roadway projects depicting the geometrics proposed for the project.

This section of the LGPP Manual and Local Government Project Management Guide (LGPM Guide) describe general design guidelines that should be addressed in the early stages of the project design. The required practices and general procedures are covered in detail in the LGPM Guide, while this Manual provides the supporting state and federal laws and statutes regulating these practices.

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Environmental Permits, Issues and Commitments

General

Preliminary Design must include an identification of the environmental issues and commitments that must be considered during the project development. Chapter 5 – Environmental Compliance contains guidelines for the local government (LG) to ensure environmental issues are addressed appropriately during the project. Commitments are often included in the project environmental documents, including those related to a categorical exclusion (CE), environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS). These commitments are listed in the Environmental Permits, Issues and Commitments (EPIC) sheet and must be carried through the project development, design and construction stages to assure full compliance with state and federal environmental regulations. More information pertaining to TxDOT’s environmental policies is provided in Chapter 5 – Environmental Compliance.

Federal Requirements

  1. 23 CFR 635.309(j) – Specifies the plans, specifications and estimates (PS&E) may not be approved until the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) or TxDOT has determined appropriate measures have been included in the PS&E to ensure conditions and commitments made in the development of the project to mitigate environmental harm will be met.
  2. 23 CFR Part 771 – Contains the FHWA regulations concerning environmental actions.
    1. 23 CFR 771.105(d) – Requires measures necessary to mitigate adverse impacts identified during the environmental process to be incorporated into the project.
    2. 23 CFR 771.109(b) – Provides that the applicant for federal funds is responsible for implementing those mitigation measures stated as commitments in the environmental documents prepared pursuant to this regulation.
    3. 23 CFR 771.109(d) – Mandates TxDOT responsible for ensuring the project is constructed in accordance with and incorporates all committed environmental impact mitigation measures listed in the approved environmental documents.
  3. 23 CFR 772.13(h) – States the PS&E will not be approved unless those noise abatement measures that are reasonable and feasible are incorporated into the plans and specifications.

State Requirements

  1. 43 TAC §2.43 – Provides that, unless otherwise approved by TxDOT, a public or private entity requesting state or federal funds is responsible for compliance with environmental regulations. Included in these regulations is the requirement for the LG to submit documentation to TxDOT showing all issues identified in the EPIC are complete or will be completed including copies of permits or other approvals required prior to construction.
  2. 43 TAC §26.33 – Assigns full responsibility to the regional mobility authority (RMA) for ensuring all EPIC are addressed in the project design for projects connecting to the state highway system.
  3. 43 TAC §27.56 – Assigns full responsibility to the LG for ensuring all EPIC are addressed in the project design for projects where a public or private entity (LG) is eligible to request financial assistance for toll facilities.
  4. 43 TAC §§ 5.59, 15.56, 26.33 and 27.56 – Requires projects to be designed in accordance with TxDOT procedures, standards and guidelines. For RMA, toll and pass-through financed projects, preliminary design information must be sent to TxDOT for review and approval when the design is approximately 30 percent complete.

Required Practices

In general, the LG must coordinate with the TxDOT district to determine the environmental compliance issues and include the EPIC in the plans. Chapter 5 – Environmental Compliance of this Manual provides additional information on this topic. The LGPM Guide describes the required practices and the responsibilities of the LG and TxDOT district for this process.

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Design Concept Conference

General

The Design Concept Conference is a meeting of key individuals to establish fundamental aspects of a project. The conference facilitates agreement to basic project features by concerned parties and enhances relationships between those parties.

Federal Requirements

  1. There are no federal regulations specifically requiring design conferences.
  2. 23 U.S.C. 139(h)(4) (as added by MAP 21, §1306) – The project sponsor must convene a meeting of all participating agencies to resolve issues that could delay completion of the environmental review process.

State Requirements

  1. There are no state regulations requiring design conferences.

Required Practices

A design concept conference should be held as early in the project development process as feasible and should include all parties that provide information for the project and have the ability to influence the project development schedule. The LGPM Guide provides the required practices and responsibilities of the LG and TxDOT with respect to the design concept conference.

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Coordination with FAA

General

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for assuring the safety of air traffic. One major concern is interference with navigational airspace, such as possible encroachments in take-off and landing patterns. The LG is responsible for identifying potential conflicts with navigational airspace early in the project and for coordinating project design with the FAA. Documentation of satisfactory coordination with FAA must be provided before a project may be authorized for construction.

Federal Requirements

  1. 14 CFR Part 77 – Contains rules for objects affecting navigational airspace.
    1. 14 CFR 77.9 – Lists scenarios requiring notification of the FAA before construction or modification.
    2. 14 CFR 77.7 – Specifies minimum timing of notification and use of FAA Form 7460-1.
  2. 23 CFR Part 620 Subpart A – Requires coordination of highway and airport developments between FHWA and FAA to ensure airway-highway clearances are adequate for the safe movement of air and highway traffic and to ensure the expenditure of public funds for airport and highway improvements is in the public interest.
  3. Vertical Clearances - Highway Development and Coordination with Other Agencies (formerly non-regulatory supplement to 23 CFR Part 620 Subpart A) – Recommends any federally funded project within two miles of an airport to be carefully examined to determine if there is a possibility for conflict and if coordination is required.

State Requirements

  1. There are no state regulations requiring coordination with FAA.

Required Practices

The LGPM Guide describes the practices that should be used by the LG and TxDOT to coordinate with the FAA.

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Accessibility Guidelines and Compliance

State and federal statutes protect the rights of individuals with disabilities, and the LG must consider the requirements of these statutes during the project development and design. For transportation purposes, the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (ADAAG) and the Texas Accessibility Standards (TAS) provide the majority of criteria on which compliance is based. The U.S. Departments of Justice and Transportation are responsible for enforcement of the ADA. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) is the regulatory agency charged with monitoring compliance with the TAS.

All projects, regardless of cost, must comply with the provisions of ADAAG and TAS. Public meetings, hearings and project websites must be accessible and ensure effective communication with members of the public with disabilities. The LG is responsible for submitting plans and specifications for review and approval to the TDLR or a registered accessibility specialist (RAS) for public right-of-way projects with pedestrian elements estimated to cost at least $50,000, building or facilities projects and hike/bike trail projects. More information on the application of accessibility requirements during the design and construction phases are provided in Chapter 7 – Plans, Specifications and Estimates (PS&E) Development.

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Design Surveys

Professional land surveys are often required by LGs or TxDOT as part of the design process in order to identify site conditions and limitations for the project. Surveying may be required for both construction and non-construction projects but is most commonly a part of construction projects. Requirements for design surveys are discussed in the corresponding Design Surveys section of the LGPM Guide, while requirements for right-of-way surveys are discussed in Chapter 6 – Right of Way and Utilities of both the Manual and Guide.

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Landscape Development

General

The transportation system is a network of highways, trails, railroads, airports, transmission lines, pipelines, canals and waterways set in the landscape. The goal of the transportation designer is to fit the highway or other facility into the adjacent landscape in a way that is complementary to, and enhances, the existing landscape. Achieving this goal requires consideration of natural, ecological, aesthetic, economic and social influences related to the landscape.

Federal Requirements

  1. 23 CFR 752.4 – Requires landscape development to be in general conformity with accepted concepts and principles of highway landscaping and environmental design. In urban areas, new and major reconstructed highways and completed interstate and expressway sections are to be landscaped as appropriate for the adjacent existing or planned environment. In rural areas, new and major reconstructed highways should be landscaped as appropriate for the adjacent environment. Landscaping projects shall include, but not be limited to, the planting of native wildflower seeds, seedlings or both, unless a waiver is granted.

State Requirements

  1. 22 TAC, Part 1, Chapter 3, Subchapter G – Prohibits the practice of landscape architecture by someone who does not hold a certificate of registration issued by the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners.
  2. 43 TAC, Chapter 11, Subchapter D – Requires TxDOT to develop a Green Ribbon Master Plan (landscaping and aesthetics) for cities with a population greater than 100,000. A LG may provide resources for the program.
  3. Texas Government Code §2166.404 – Requires the use of xeriscape practices on state-owned facilities.

Required Practices

The LGPM Guide provides the required practices for both the LG and TxDOT for design of landscape aspects of the project. In general, the LG must develop a landscape plan under the supervision of a registered landscape architect, is required to use TxDOT guidance documents for projects on the state highway system (SHS) and is encouraged to use TxDOT guidance documents for projects off the SHS.

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Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans

General

Water pollution degrades surface waters making them unsafe for drinking, fishing, swimming and other activities. As authorized by the Clean Water Act, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program controls water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States. Point sources are discrete conveyances such as pipes or man-made ditches. Individual homes that connected to a municipal system, using a septic system or not having a surface discharge do not need a NPDES permit; however, industrial, municipal and other facilities must obtain permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters. To obtain a NPDES permit, the LG must submit a storm water pollution prevention plan (SW3P). A SW3P is required for all projects that may discharge storm water into waters of the United States. These will primarily be construction-type projects, but may be other types of projects as well. The LG should coordinate early with the TxDOT district to determine if a permit is required.

Federal Requirements

  1. 23 CFR Part 650 Subpart B – Requires control of erosion, abatement of water pollution and prevention of damage by sediment deposition from all federally funded construction projects.
  2. 40 CFR Part122 – Implements the NPDES. Requires a permit to be obtained that includes a SW3P.

State Requirements

  1. 30 TAC, Chapter 205 – Authorization for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to implement the Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES) as administrator of the NPDES.

Required Practices

The LGPM Guide provides procedures for the development and review of a SWPPP by the LG and TxDOT district, respectively.

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