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Practical Design
For years, the Highway Division has been designing under fiscal constraints – actively seeking opportunities to achieve improvements at lower cost and improve the overall transportation system by stretching available funds and fully utilizing available resources. We have worked with our business partners (i.e. FHWA) and regulatory agencies (i.e. ODF&W) to identify ways to package business practices/processes. We have also reduced wait times for approvals while assuring no reduction in the quality of oversight. We have designed and implemented templates/checklists to ensure consistency in practice/performance where needed, and developed technical guidance that defines major design considerations leading to desired end products/outcomes. Practical Design is the next logical step as ODOT continually refines its design and delivery processes/practices.
Practical Design is not a silver bullet. It is a way to provide flexible parameters so that design teams can be confident that a particular solution is sufficient to improve the transportation system, without being excessive. In short, Practical Design is a way to let engineers engineer.
It is important to understand that Practical Design does not, as some may fear, throw out engineering guidance and/or standards. Rather, flexibility in design typically requires more information and a higher level of analysis when deciding on the most effective design value to apply to a particular location. It requires maintaining focus on the project’s purpose and need and a clear process for approving and documenting the rationale for important decisions. It requires good use of engineering judgment to assess the severity of adverse consequences, evaluate design tradeoffs, and to mitigate risks to the extent practical.
Practical Design in Oregon will be used to take a systematic approach to deliver the broadest benefit to the transportation system, within existing resources, by establishing appropriate project scopes to deliver specific results.

Q:  What's different with ODOT's Practical Design effort?                
A:  Four key concepts:

1) Our emphasis on doing what's needed for specific results.

2) Our emphasis on making the whole system better, while stretching our funding so that it goes further.

3) Our decision-making toolkit - which helps us achieve our goals and live our values when making system improvements.

4) Our emphasis on utilizing different perspectives and all available information about a project, early, to frame up appropriate problem statements and cost-conscious solutions.

By taking a more systematic approach, we will put projects in a system context. This will require thinking about the transportation system as a whole, rather than just on a project by project basis.  Applied to a corridor for instance, there would be little point in having one section of the corridor wide and straight when the rest of the corridor will never be anything but narrow and curvy. The system context will shape the design.
Results must be tangible to the traveling public. Simply meeting current standards is not in and of itself a tangible result that the public will recognize. Results expressed in terms of improvement to safety, mobility, asset condition, modal choice, livability, economic growth and the environment are tangible to the public. As we describe what a project will be in order to achieve improvement, we can open the discussion as to the benefit achieved for the cost involved.
Design teams have to get to project details at some point, and can’t spend all of their time thinking about the system or even a corridor overall. However, when applying Practical Design concepts to their individual projects, awareness and understanding of past system and corridor work must be taken into consideration by the team when framing appropriate solutions.
In our approach to Practical Design, we will continue the use of multi-discipline project teams.  Collaboration between members of multi-disciplinary teams contributes to a broader evaluation of data and measures of success, ensuring that the community’s vision is well represented. The different perspectives brought by the team to a problem or solution helps with the evaluation of assumptions and constraints. Through the internal and external partnerships developed on multi-discipline teams, issues can be anticipated and worked while reducing the need for escalation to achieve resolution.  For example, by utilizing local (stakeholder) partnerships, such items as network improvements and alternatives not located within the right-of-way can be implemented more easily. 
ODOT’s success with Practical Design will rely heavily on ensuring that design teams have better and sufficient information to frame up solutions for individual projects that are aligned with corridor/system usage. We have identified three key indicators to help us understand whether we are achieving this goal:
1. Better problem descriptions and purpose and need statements, 
2. The availability of information to the design team about the vision for the overall corridor, and 
3. Demonstrated confidence by the design teams that it is OK to do something different when exercising their project related decision making capabilities. 
ODOT has had past success when applying values based filters (i.e. P.L.U.S. Model) to guide our work-related decision making. We typically embrace these filters and integrate them into both complex and simple deliberations. We want to achieve a similar level of recognition and integration with the five key values associated with Practical Design.
Our acronym for the primary Practical Design values is S.C.O.P.E.  Each S.C.O.P.E. value is supported by a number of tools/aids currently available to designers and project teams.
  • Safety – Overall system safety will not be compromised. Our goal is to make the system as safe as practical. This does not mean that we are settling for a lower level of safety. It does mean that we will continually make choices around safety and use sound engineering judgment when making safety decisions (i.e. look for high value add-ins with minimal cost). Individual projects may look different. Every project will either make the facility safer or will maintain the existing safety level for that facility. No individual project will degrade the overall system safety. 
  • Corridor Context In Practical Design we take the concept across a system, down to a corridor level, and apply it to each project. A corridor approach should be used in establishing or evaluating design criteria and then be applied consistently throughout the corridor. Roadways should respect the character of the community, and consider the current and planned land uses. We must strive to understand and work within the intended corridor use. We consider the unique features of the project and how this “fix” fits with other parts of the corridor and with the natural and built environment surrounding it. 
  • Optimize the System Adopting more of an asset management approach to managing pavements, bridges and roadway safety features allows us to assess the current state of an individual infrastructure asset and to develop specific maintenance, repair, rehabilitation and replacement strategies that optimize the lifecycle investment in that particular asset. This, in turn, can allow available funding to be allocated on a priority basis to those assets and/or combination of assets which ensure that the entire highway system is optimized for safety, mobility and financial investment. 
  • Public Support We recognize that public trust is a cornerstone of success. We do business in partnership with the local communities and want system improvements to be visible to the traveling public. We provide opportunities for the community to shape the chosen solution, and consider needs for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, freight and mobility. A key guide when working with community interests is clarity around purpose and need and the alignment of the proposed project with the overall plan for Oregon’s transportation system. 
  • Efficient Cost We have limited funds to apply to our projects and we strive to stretch these funds as much as we can. We strive to develop projects that meet the desired purpose, but are open to considering incremental improvements. Practical Design requires applying the appropriate standards to the critical elements in order to meet the project specific purpose and need. This allows for a redistribution of funds that were previously used on other items that may not have been as high of a priority on one project, to be used where they will produce the most benefit to the system.
Practical Design Strategy
Use the following link to view the Practical Design Strategy PDF document. Then feel free to share your thoughts or comments with us using the online Comment Form provided below on this page.         
Practical Design Strategy (March 2010)   
Tools and Related Resources
ODOT Practical Design Tools:        
Oregon Jobs & Transportation Act (JTA) 2009 (Enrolled House Bill 2001) 
          Practical Design -Sections 19 & 20, JTA:     
  • Directs ODOT to follow design practices that incorporate the maximum flexibility in the application of standards to reduce cost while preserving and enhancing safety and mobility. 
  • Requires ODOT to report to the interim House and Senate Transportation Committees by November 2010 on the new design practices that it has implemented.          

The Oregon Highway Plan –  Establishes long-range policies and investment strategies for the State Highway System

Highway Division Emails
Here are informative emails from Deputy Director Tindall concerning Practical Design:
Message - 11/09 
Message - 12/09
Message - 1/10         
Practical Design Presentations
Presentations from FHWA “Understanding Practical Design & Solutions Peer Exchange Workshop,” in Portland, Oregon, July 28, 2009:
Speaker Biographies 
Practical Solutions, ODOT Peer Exchange.
Other Slides - Principles 
Dr. Nick Stamatiadis, Professor of Civil Engineering/Transportation, University of Kentucky
Flexibility in Design, MoDOT’s Approach to System Delivery. 
Kathy Harvey, State Design Engineer, Missouri Department of Transportation
The Design of a Practical Context 
Jeff Jasper, Director, Division of Highway Design, Kentucky Department of Transportation
Design Flexibility in Minnesota 
Jim Rosenow, State Geometrics Engineer, Minnesota Department of Transportation
Smart Transportation 
Brian D. Hare, Director, Bureau of Design, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
Strategic Research Considerations in Support of Flexible/Practical/Smart Context Sensitive Design and Solutions 
Brian L. Ray, Chair, TRB Geometric Design Committee
Coming soon: 
A summary of the Practical Design peer exchange.
A DVD of the morning session. Contact Michelle Gauthier at
Michelle.M.GAUTHIER@odot.state.or.us to reserve a copy.
Comment Form

If you have questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions, we are very interested in hearing from you. 
Current Feedback Process
Please use the link below to access a fillable PDF form to submit your comments. Once you complete the form, simply click the "Submit by email" button and the form itself will send us a copy of the completed document using your email program. 

Practical Design Comments
Future Blog        
We are in the process of creating a new Practical Design site to facilitate a more robust real-time communication process using a Blog/Discussion Group and a document collaboration system. This will enable you to participate in discussions, make suggestions, share documents, and stay informed of all entries made by group members, if you so desire.