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Section 7: Geometric Schematic Approval

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Overview

Before providing the opportunity for a public hearing, schematics are reviewed by district staff and stakeholders to ensure that design criteria, project needs, and commitments are met. Schematics may be changed based on public input. The same stakeholders involved in earlier review should review the changes made.

Geometric schematic approval should be requested of the Design Division for new location, controlled access, added capacity projects, or projects requiring an environmental impact statement before beginning detailed design.

The following tasks are part of schematic approval:

20700. Circulate geometric schematic for district review

20710. Review geometric schematic with stakeholders

20720. Design exceptions or waivers

20730. Revise geometric schematic based on public input

20740. Obtain approval of final geometric schematic

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20700: Circulate geometric schematic for district review

Description. The project schematic should be distributed to the district for review and approval.

Pertinent Project Types. New location, added capacity, or controlled access projects or projects requiring an environmental impact statement.

Responsible Party. Project manager

Critical Sequencing.

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  • District staff must review and approve the schematic before showing the schematic to stakeholders and the public.
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20710: Review geometric schematic with stakeholders

Description. When local entities, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and local government officials are stakeholders in a project, it is advisable to obtain their review and approval of the project schematic and changes to the schematic. The review will allow for discussion and consensus building on final decisions. The review can be useful if project changes involve significant funding changes.

Stakeholders should be kept involved throughout project development. The project manager may coordinate this task with the advanced project development engineer and roadway design engineer.

Pertinent Project Types. New location, added capacity, controlled access projects or projects requiring an environmental impact statement.

Responsible Party. Project manager

Critical Sequencing.

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  • This task should be completed after district schematic review and approval.
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20720: Design exceptions or waivers

Description. Prior to final design, the need for a design exception or design waiver may be identified.

Design exceptions or waivers are required any time designs do not meet the minimum or limiting TxDOT or AASHTO design criteria. Form 1002, PS&E Submission Data, page 3, is the official place where project design criteria are documented. Design exceptions locations and issues are noted on this page with an approval date and authorized district signature.

An explanation of why design exception(s) are needed should be sent to the district design exception committee for approval. Documentation of the Design Exception Record of Decision should be retained in district design exception files. Furnish a copy of all documents to Design Division.

All design exception documentation should contain the following to demonstrate compliance with accepted engineering principles and the reasons for the decision:

Design speed and Structural capacity are fundamental criteria of project design. Design exceptions should be extremely rare. Documentation for this design speed design exception should address:

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  • Length of section with reduced speed compared to overall length of project
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  • Measures used in transitions to adjacent sections with higher or lower design speeds

Design exception for design loading structural capacity must be handled according to procedures in the TxDOT Bridge Project Development Manual. Exceptions to design loading structural capacity criteria can have an impact on freight, emergency, and military transport, as well as the traveling public. If the structure is on the NHS, additional coordination with FHWA will be required. The design exception must address:

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  • Verification of safe load-carrying capacity (load rating) for all State unrestricted legal loads or routine permit loads, and in the case of bridges on the Interstate, all Federal legal loads.

TxDOT district design exception committee provides decisions on requests for design exceptions for all categories, except interstate. FHWA acts on requests for interstate design exceptions.

For interstate design exceptions, the Design Division will coordinate with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). A federal submittal request must include a completed Form 1002, page 3, plan sheets to illustrate the request, and a completed Request for Design Exception form covering the information listed above.

Controlling criteria requiring design exceptions and waivers are shown in the TxDOT Roadway Design Manual, Chapter 1 for the following projects:

For park road projects off the state highway system, deviations from the “Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Design Standards for Roads and Parking” must be coordinated with TPW for approval. Documentation of this approval should be retained in district design exception files. Furnish a copy of all documentation to the Design Division.

Requests for variances to the Texas Accessibility Standards (TAS) must be coordinated with the contracted Registered Accessibility Specialist.

Documentation related to the approval or denial of design exceptions, variances, and/or waivers are permanently retained for legal reference. Design Exception files are stored in a designated filing location used exclusively for these files.

Pertinent Project Types. All projects

Responsible Party. Roadway design engineer

Subtasks.

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  • Identify design exceptions and waivers.
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  • Thoroughly document why design exceptions and waivers are needed.
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  • Evaluate the safety, operational and other impacts of the proposed and alternative designs.
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  • Prepare design exception and waiver requests.
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  • Process design exceptions and waivers at district level.
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  • During schematic development, the Design Division will submit district design exception requests to the FHWA for projects on the interstate.
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  • Design waiver documentation approved by districts should be permanently maintained and documented on Form 1002, Page 3.
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  • Obtain district or FHWA approval of design exception requests or revise schematic or plans.
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  • Identify and submit additional design exceptions or waivers as the project progresses.

Critical Sequencing.

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  • Prior to final design and soon after identifying their need, complete design exceptions or waivers. Denial of a design exception request will affect final design.

Resource Material.

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20730: Revise geometric schematic based on public input

Description. Schematics are finalized after incorporating appropriate comments received at the public meetings or a hearing.

Pertinent Project Types. Projects requiring control of access, added capacity, ramp revisions, new location, reconstruction, ROW acquisition, or an environmental impact statement.

Authorization.

Responsible Parties. Project manager

Subtasks.

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20740: Obtain approval of final geometric schematic

Description. FHWA approves schematics associated with an IAJR or a design exception. If a project exceeds one million dollars it could become a federal Project of Division Interest (PoDI). PoDIs usually have elevated risks associated with them and FHWA would have responsibility for oversight and approvals.

Design Division approves schematics for added capacity, ROW acquisition, new location, and EIS projects. This includes projects on the interstate and NHS that do not have access changes.

All approvals are considered “pending” prior to NEPA completion.

Pertinent Project Types. New location, added capacity, or controlled access projects or projects requiring an environmental impact statement.

Responsible Parties. Roadway design engineer

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