Best planning and implementation toolbox

Thoroughfare Planning:

Purpose of Tool:
Thoroughfare planning provides a long term vision of the major street network necessary to meet future travel needs. A thoroughfare plan classifies major streets by access to adjacent land use, mobility for through traffic, and context; it may include proposed roadways. The Institute of Transportation Engineers suggests that thoroughfare planning should also provide design standards by thoroughfare type. The thoroughfare plan guides future investments and provides the public with information about the long term plan for the road network. Implementation of a thoroughfare plan is accomplished through highway construction projects, funded either by the public sector or the private sector through the land development process.

Benefits of Using Tool:
According to the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and the Greenville Urban Area MPO , a thoroughfare plan:
  • Provides for orderly development of an adequate major street system as development occurs or as traffic increases
  • Reduces travel and transportation costs by ensuring that thoroughfares effectively serve both through and local traffic;
  • Reduces the cost of major street improvements through coordinated public and private improvements;
  • Minimizes disruption and displacement of people and businesses by providing a long range plan for major streets;
  • Reduces environmental impacts on air-quality, wetlands, historic sites, parks and other publicly used recreational areas, archeological sites, endangered species, and neighborhoods;
  • Provides opportunities for bicycles and pedestrians to safely share the right-of-way.
    In summary, thoroughfare planning balances travel and land use impacts of the street network to meet community objectives.

    Steps Involved to Use Tool:
    Thoroughfare planning involves first understanding the long term travel needs of the study area. A thoroughfare plan should be compatible with future land use plans, including the context of each corridor. Because a thoroughfare plan involves community planning, transportation planning, and engineering, a multidisciplinary team should guide the planning process. The public should be involved in reviewing proposed thoroughfares and their classifications, as well as associated design standards. In general, the steps in thoroughfare planning include:
  • Compile information on the existing roadway network and transportation system, desired development patterns, projected travel needs, environmental and cultural resources, and current plans for the transportation system.
  • Define, or reiterate, the community vision and goals.
  • Define thoroughfare types, such as limited access thoroughfare, major arterial, minor arterial, major collector, and minor collector. Define appropriate context categories, such as rural, suburban, urban, urban center, and regional center. Rather than using functional classification terms like arterial or collector, thoroughfare types could also be boulevard, avenue, or street. These types, along with context, determine a classification system that can be applied to each thoroughfare.
  • Map existing and planned roadways along with their thoroughfare types.
  • Define standard right-of-way widths, target speeds, number of lanes, medians, interSpecials Resources Needed to Use Toollements, and bicycle and pedestrian facilities for each thoroughfare type. Typical sections should also be developed for each thoroughfare type.
  • Assess current and projected system performance and allow for public review.
  • Update the thoroughfare plan as part of the continued transportation planning process.
  • Develop designs for proposed thoroughfares, including exact alignment and environmental review, as need arises due to growth or increased traffic.

    Special Requirements to Use Tool:
    Thoroughfare planning requires coordination with other plans for the future of the study area, including comprehensive plans and long range transportation plans. A community vision and goals must be known, or developed, for the thoroughfare plan. Technical analysis of road network performance and a public review of the proposed plan and design standards are both necessary components of thoroughfare planning. Adoption of the plan by regional and local jurisdictions is essential to implementing the plan. The plan should be included in the development code and review process by regulating jurisdictions; the plan must also serve as a basis for the Transportation Improvement Program or Capital Improvement Program.

    Specials Resources Needed to Use Tool:
    Representatives of planning, engineering, design professions, and stakeholders must be part of the thoroughfare planning process. There are several examples and ITE recommendations available to assist in thoroughfare planning. Once the plan and accompanying design standards are adopted, implementation will require staff resources to review both roadway designs and development proposals for consistency with the plan.

    Communities / Agencies that Have Used Tool:
  • City of Houston, Texas: The city updates its Major Thoroughfare and Freeway Plan annually.  Contact:   
    611 Walker
    Houston, TX 77002

  • Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization: The Thoroughfare Plan adopted in 2004 serves as a basis for the MPO’s transportation planning activities.  Contact:

    Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization
    Bob Cook, 
    600 E. Fourth Street
    8th Floor
    Charlotte, NC 28202-2853

  • Greenville, North Carolina: The Greenville Urban Area Thoroughfare Plan was adopted in December 2004 and incorporated into codes and regulations as well as improvement programs.  Contact:

    City of Greenville Public Works Department
    Wesley B. Anderson, Director 
    200 West Fifth Street
    Greenville, NC 27858

  • City of Fort Worth, Texas: The City has a Thoroughfare Plan and Street Development Standards that were updated in 2009.  Contact:

    City of Fort Worth Transportation and Public Works
    Don Koski 
    1000 Throckmorton St.
    Fort Worth, TX 76102

    Metrics to Use to Monitor Tool Effectiveness:
    Measures of effectiveness include both system-wide performance measures as well as site specific improvements based on design standards. For example, crash rates, speeding violations, level of service, mileage of pedestrian facilities, and the cost of roadway improvements all indicate how a thoroughfare plan might impact the system performance. Improvements in sight distance, interSteps Involved to Use Toolapacity, vehicular delay, pedestrian crossing distance, average speeds, or reduction in heavy-vehicle or cut-through traffic, may indicate the effectiveness of design standards for specific thoroughfare types, depending on community goals.

    List of Resources to Obtain Additional Info:
  • Institute of Transportation Engineers, Context Sensitive Solutions in Designing Major Urban Thoroughfares for Walkable Communities
  • Greenville, North Carolina. Greenville Urban Area Thoroughfare Plan
  • City of Fort Worth Major Thoroughfare Plan and Street Development Standards

    ITE recommends that thoroughfare planning include thoroughfare types and functional classification for each major street in the road network. Source: Institute of Transportation Engineers, Context Sensitive Solutions in Designing Major Urban Thoroughfares for Walkable Communities