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Transportation Corridor Preservation: A Survey of Current Practice by Local Government Planning Departments

May 2000

The Survey

In January 2000, the American Planning Association conducted a survey of subscribers to its Planning Advisory Service to gather information on current practice in the area of transportation corridor preservation by local governments. The Planning Advisory Service is a subscription research service with approximately 1,500 subscribers, approximately 1,000 of which are local government planning departments. APA received 307 returned surveys. Although nongovernment agencies were not directly asked to ignore the survey, the vast majority of the returned surveys were from government agencies, meaning the effective response rate was approximately 30 percent.

On the accompanying table, Transportation Corridor Preservation: A Survey of Current Practice by Local Governments, the composite results from all jurisdictions can be found in the column marked "Total." The results of the survey were also categorized by jurisdiction size (e.g., zero to 50,000 pop., 50 - 250,000 pop.) in attempt to determine if corridor preservation activity varies depending on jurisdiction size. The summary presented here is grouped according to the questions on the survey and describes the general findings from all jurisdictions.

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Are Governments Involved in Corridor Preservation?

Ninety percent of all respondents indicated that their jurisdiction is actively involved in corridor preservation. The only significant variation was in jurisdictions between 50,000 and 250,000, wherein 78.7 percent indicated that they are working on this issue. A safe hunch is that the jurisdictions that are actively involved in corridors responded to the survey, while those that are not likely did not respond.

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Primary Responsibility

By and large, local government planning departments are primarily in charge of corridor preservation (72.6%). To varying degrees, all size jurisdictions indicated that responsibility for corridor preservation is shared among agencies and departments. Overall, 23.4 percent of respondents indicated that responsibility is shared. Almost half of jurisdictions with 250,000 to 500,000 indicated that responsibility is shared.

The list of other agencies and organizations that were cited as being primarily responsible for corridor preservation (as indicated in response 2e) is impressive in length. Engineering departments got at least 12 nods, and state planning departments, highway departments, parks departments, engineering and planning consultants, citizens all were named as the primary agent by at least one respondent.

Selected supplemental responses to "Which of your departments has primary responsibility for corridor preservation?"

Springfield, Mo.: "Planning does the initial studies and public works then has primary responsibility for preservation."

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Collaboration Among Agencies and Organizations

Recognizing that corridor preservation is most often a collaborative effort, we asked respondents to indicate what agencies and organizations they worked with on the issue. The most common response (70 percent) was the state department of transportation, followed by the Metropolitan Planning Organization (46.5 percent). Nongovernmental citizens' organizations appear to have a fairly regular role in the process, with 14.6 percent indicated that they work with such groups on this issue. Just 8 percent of respondents indicated that they were work special districts on corridor preservation. As with the issue of primary responsibility, the list of agencies and groups with which the respondent agency has collaborated is very long (as indicated in response 3e). Regional planning agencies, counties, private consultants, landowners, councils of governments, developers, and county or regional transportation agencies all got multiple nods.

Selected supplemental responses to "Which governmental or nongovernmental agencies has your jurisdiction worked with regarding transportation corridor preservation?":

Jerome County, Idaho: "A citizens' committee appointed by the Board of County Commissioners."

Wheeling, W.V.: "There has been no connected effort at all."

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Comprehensive Planning

On an encouraging note, almost two-thirds (64.8 percent) of respondents indicated that corridor preservation is addressed in the most recent version of the comprehensive plan. Further, of the jurisdictions where it has been incorporated it into the plan, almost half had adopted the plan in the last 10 years. Although not indicated in the survey results, a review of the surveys showed that many of the plans had actually been adopted since 1997. This suggests that corridor preservation may be becoming a commonly addressed element in local government comprehensive planning.

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The Impetus for Corridor Preservation Planning

There are myriad reasons why local jurisdictions undertake corridor preservation. The primary reason, according to the survey, is to avoid conflicts in the right of way (62.2 percent). Other common reasons included, to implement the comprehensive plan (46.2 percent) and to minimize land acquisition costs (44.2 percent). Meeting state planning requirements was less common but still significant at 14 percent. Other reasons provided by respondents for doing corridor preservation include aesthetic concerns, such as landscaping, view protection, and sign control; and many safety issues, including traffic conflicts, pedestrian safety, and mitigation of dangerous roads and intersections (see responses to 5e).

Selected supplemental responses to "What prompted your jurisdiction to institute a corridor preservation program?":

Yorba Linda, Calif.: "Sales tax turnbacks for transportation projects."

Yuba City, Colo.: "Common sense."

Marysville, Mich.: [The need to] "establish compatible zoning across jurisdictional boundaries and establish design and landscape standards to be enforced by the different jurisdictions."

Presque Isle, Me.: "To minimize sprawl traffic conflicts, pedestrian safety, and to maintain the integrity of the speed limits on major arterials."

Jeffersonville, Ind.: "We are currently updating the zoning code and comp plan and felt it was a good time to address these issues."

Valparaiso, Ind.: "To create positive entrances to the city."

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Corridor Preservation Techniques

The survey provided respondents with a choice of 13 techniques grouped under the following categories: land acquisition; landowner agreements; land-use regulations; and access management. Respondents were asked to check off as many techniques as applied. The most common technique overall is limiting curb cuts (68.7 percent) followed by subdivision reservations, which are mandatory dedications of portions of subdivided lots that lie in the future right-of-way (61.2 percent). Official maps are also used by almost half of the respondents (48.5 percent). Other common techniques include development agreements and development exactions (both with 41.2 percent).

Full title purchase of future rights of way was the most common land acquisition technique indicated (30 percent), followed by purchase of easements (27 percent), and eminent domain (20.8 percent). Among the eight options provided under landowner agreements, subdivision reservations was the most common (61.2 percent). And, finally, under access management, limited curb cuts was the most common tool (68.7 percent).

Selected supplemental responses to "Which . . . corridor preservation techniques has your jurisdiction implemented?:

Winchester, Va.: Development exactions are used for "frontage improvements or escrow funds for deferred improvements"; setback ordinance applies to the "building, parking, signs--multiple zoning ordinance provisions."

Grand Terrace, Calif.: "The city requests donations of rights-of-way in exchange for street improvements."

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Criteria Used to Set Corridor Priorities

The most common criteria used by governments in choosing which corridors to apply preservation techniques is the existing or projected traffic levels (58.9 percent). This is a positive finding that suggests that the roadways to which a higher degree of planning and preservation may be called for are the ones that are getting the attention. The second most common response was that the state department of transportation or Metropolitan Planning Organization sets the priorities (31.5 percent). Presumably, such agencies are also monitoring existing and projected traffic levels and are making planning and preservation decisions on that basis. Availability of funding is also a criteria for determining which corridors are subjected to planning and preservation (23.1 percent). A number of respondents indicated that the corridor priorities are established in the local comprehensive plan, or in local redevelopment, growth management, regional transportation, or bicycle and pedestrian plans. (The latter responses are indicated at 7d). Community input was also given as a method of setting corridor preservation priorities.

Selected supplemental responses to "What criteria does the jurisdiction use to select future corridors or set priorities for preservation of those already identified?"

Greeley, Colo.: Priority setting for corridor selection or preservation occurs "in response to development proposals as long as they are consistent with our 5-year capital improvement program and are in the projected growth area."

Jerome, Idaho: "Development pressure."

North Kingston, R.I.: "Targeting growth into existing developed areas."

Winchester, Va.: "Comprehensive plan goals and recommendations for economic development, housing, environment, and quality of life all relate to this."

Transportation Corridor Preservation: A Survey of Current Practice by Local Governments

    Jurisdiction Size
Survey Question Total
n = 307
0 - 50K
n = 185
50 -250K
n = 94
250K-500K
n = 15
500K +
n = 13
1. Is your jurisdiction actively involved in corridor preservation?          
1a. Yes 90.0% 95% 78.7% 100% 84.6%
2a. No 10 2 20.2 0 15.4
2. Which department has primary responsibility for corridor preservation?          
2a. Planning/Community Development 72.6% 74.6% 71.3% 80% 46.2%
2b. Public Works 21.4 21 23.4 20 15.4
2c. Transportation 12.3 6 18 46.7 23
2d. Responsibility is shared 23.4 19.5 26.6 46.7 30.8
2e. Other (see below) 8.1 13.5 16 13.3 0
Other responses: Engineering Department (12), City Manager Office (2), Public safety (traffic safety), Judge/ Executive's Office State Department of Transportation Regional Planning Commission, State Planning, Local Government, Private Consultant, Citizen Participation, Engineering Consultant, Capital Project Engineer, DDA, Parks Department, Conservation, Highway Department, MPO with local government engineering and planning departments, Department of Development Services, County Commissioner, Corridor Holding Authority, Council of Government (COG), Transportation Committee, Rec. District & State Highway, State Highway Department
3. Which government or nongovernmental agencies has your jurisdiction worked with regarding corridor preservation?          
3a. State DOT 70.3% 64.9% 77.7% 86.7% 77%
3b. MPO 46.5 36 62.8 60 61.5
3c. Special Districts 8.1 6.5 7.4 26.7 15.4
3d. Nongovernmental citizen's organization 14.6 10.8 15 53.3 23
3e. Other (see below) 21.2 24 16 13.3 23
Other responses to 3e: Regional Planning Commission (7),County (8), Private Planning Consultants (4), Landowners (4), Council of Governments (COG) (3), developers (builders, subdividers) (3), Citizen Participation (2), State DOT (2), County DOT (2), Regional Transportation Commission (2), Rural Planning Organization, County Engineers, Stanford Univ. (landowner), FHwA, State Planning, Local Government,Army Corps, County Road Commission, County Highway Dept., US Congress, local transit agency, State Dept. of Community Affairs
  Total
n = 307
0 - 50K
n = 185
50 -250K
n = 94
250K- 500K
n = 15
500K +
n = 13
4. Is corridor preservation addressed in your jurisdiction's comprehensive plan?          
4a. Yes 64.8% 61% 68% 86.7% 61.5%
4b. No 29.6 35 22.3 13.3 30.8
What year was the plan adopted?          
1991-2000 44.2% 45.4% 45.7% 40% 23%
1980-1990 8.8 8.6 8.5 20 15.4
1970-1980 2 2 2 20 0
Before 1970 0 0 1 0 0
5. What prompted your jurisdiction to institute a corridor preservation program?          
5a. To avoid conflicts in the right of way 62.2% 59.5% 65% 80% 69.2%
5b. To minimize land acquisition costs 44.2 39.5 48 80 46.2
5c. To meet state requirements for planning 14 11.4 46.8 40 30.8
5d. To implement the comp plan 46.2 45 12.8 80 23
5e. Other (see below) 22.8 26 20.2 0 0
Other responses to 5e: Aesthetics (7), environmental benefits (2), Cooperative funding with state, limit expenditures for road improvement; connect roads to major destinations; alleviate traffic and inappropriate land use; minimize sprawl, traffic conflicts, pedestrian safety, and to maintain integrity of the speed limits on major arterials; establish compatible zoning across jurisdictional boundaries, including design and landscape standards; highway construction; determine best development alternative for corridor; transportation conflicts, avoiding dangerous roads and intersections; protect the utility of the road; response to a multi-jurisdictional corridor study for a principal arterial highway; access problems; scenic corridor protection; design of development (overlay zone); signage regulations (overlay zone); control curb cuts along high volume roadways; bicycle/pedestrian facility plan
  Total
n = 307
0 - 50K
n = 185
50 -250K
n = 94
250K- 500K
n = 15
500K +
n = 13
6. Which corridor preservation techniques has your jurisdiction implemented?          
A. Land Acquisition          
6Aa. Purchase of easements 27% 25.4% 25.5% 46.7% 38.5%
6Ab. Full title purchase 30 11.4 38.3 66.7 38.5
6Ac. Eminent domain 20.8 14 27.7 46.7 38.5
B. Landowner Agreements          
6Ba. Annexation agreements 15.6% 15% 17% 26.7% 0
6Bb. Development agreements 41.3 39.5 42.6 60 38.7
6Bc. Transferable development rights 3.6 3.2 3.2 6.7 7.7
C. Land-Use Regulations          
6Ca. Development exactions 41.3% 32.9% 32% 46.7% 38.5%
6Cb. Setback ordinances 60 60.5 60.6 66.7 38.5
6Cc. Official map 48.5 43.8 53.2 73.3 53.8
6Cd. Subdivision reservations 61.2 61.2 59.6 73.3 46.2
6Ce. Review decisions by adj. jurisdictions 21.8 21 23.4 26.7 15.4
D. Access Management          
6Da. Limiting curb cuts 68.7% 69% 69% 60% 69.2%
6Db. Reverse lot frontage 24.7 23.8 24.5 40 23
What criteria does the jurisdictions use to select corridors or set preservation priorities?          
7a. Existing or projected traffic 58.9% 59% 62.8% 46.7% 46.2%
7b. Availability of funding 23.1 21 27.7 13.3 30.8
7c. State DOT or MPO sets priorities 31.5% 25.4% 41.5% 33.3% 46.2%
7d. Other 19.2 19 19 13.3 30.8
Other responses to 7d: Comprehensive Plan (9), community input (2), thoroughfare plan, community priorities, Inclusion in Greenway Plan for trail development purposes; safety, land use, area served; focus is on arterials and collectors; economic development assessments; architectural and streetscape preservation study; county; commercial corridors; state/federal highways road classifications; arterial, collector, local tradeoffs between traffic demands vs. social/neighborhood impacts; land use within corridor; county charter for right-of-way prevails over city for certain roads; land use/circulation preferences; city redevelopment plans; regional association of governments; aesthetics; historic integrity; bicycle/pedestrian plan; growth management plan; regional transportation plan.
Updated: 09/05/2014
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