Practical Solutions planning is an approach to making planning decisions that considers a variety of conceptual strategies to achieve the desired system performance targets for the lowest cost (WSDOT Design Manual, 2015, 1100.01(1) Practical Solutions).
Strategies provide a path to solutions. Strategy considerations can include the timeline for implementation, community context, and the critical nature of the current condition and system performance. Strategy assessments should include multiple partners and stakeholders to provide a holistic understanding of the corridor. At times, deeper planning may also be needed.
Grouping different types of strategies can create more effective solutions and minimize impacts associated with implementation. For example, developing demand management strategies along with operational improvements can reduce the need for capital improvement. Similarly, implementing capital improvements along with asset management and preservation tasks can reduce overall costs and reduce inconvenience to travelers.
The costs of strategies and solutions should be considered in terms of both the initial investment required and the ongoing cost of ownership and maintenance. In some cases, operations strategies may have lower upfront costs than capital investment strategies but generate ongoing management costs that result in higher lifetime costs.
WSDOT uses three key types of strategies: operational, demand management, and capital investments.
Operations solutions are oriented toward maximizing the performance of existing transportation infrastructure. Some operations strategies include traffic incident management, such as incident response trucks; driver guidance, such as variable speed signs; signal timing changes, such as use of a Leading Pedestrian Interval or a protected left turn phase; road reconfigurations to improve multimodal connectivity; and corridor management, such as dynamic lane assignments.
Transportation Demand Management, or TDM, solutions diffuse travel in both time and space. Some solutions include, carpool and vanpool programs, transit reliability, active transportation connectivity projects on or off the state system, and Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) programs. Another type of strategy is fixes and improvements that may be on or off the WSDOT system depending on location. These include improving arterials, improving shared-use paths and walk/bike access to transit stops and ferry landings, and expanding Park & Ride lots. Some demand management strategies, such as High Occupancy Vehicle and High Occupancy Toll lanes, may require capital investments such as signage, toll collection technologies, and potentially the construction of additional freeway miles.
Additional WSDOT resources on Demand Management include:
Capital investments consist of a wide range of solutions, including building infrastructure such as intersections, interchanges, roadways, or shared-use paths and trails. These are generally funded through WSDOT’s Capital Improvement and Preservation Program. Capital projects can be developed in concert with operational and demand management strategies. For example, a Bus-on-Shoulder solution, which is a TDM transit service improvement, may include a capital component of strengthening the shoulder surface and subgrade in order to accommodate the bus weight and size.
Assessing alternative strategies applies to certain performance measures and metrics, as summarized in the linked tables below: