State Highway Access Manual - PLAN REVIEW PROCESS


This Chapter describes the SHA plan review process for construction proposed under an Access Permit. AM functions as a plan review "clearing house", distributing plans to the appropriate SHA offices for review and compiling their comments. Depending on the scope of improvements and site-specific design aspects, a considerable amount of technical engineering work may be necessary in the preparation of acceptable plans, supporting studies, and designs. In general, access for large-scale development and highway capacity improvement projects will require a substantial lead time prior to permitting for plan review and approval. On the other hand, it may be possible for minor entrance work to be permitted based on a single plan submission that complies with the requirements outlined in this manual.

7.1 General Requirements for Plans

Applicants shall submit detailed plans for review, indicating the true relationship between their planned improvements and SHA's existing right-of-way and pavement. Plans shall be prepared by a registered land surveyor or registered professional engineer unless this requirement is waived by AM. Only complete plans that reflect compliance with SHA design standards and acceptable engineering practices may be approved for permitting.

The following subsections identify information that is typically required in order for AM to process a plan review for a basic project, consisting of entrance work and localized highway improvements for site access. Technical content and standards are discussed elsewhere in the Manual.

7.1.1 Site Plan or Subdivision Plat

The site plan or subdivision plat for the property, reflecting the current status of review or approval by the local jurisdiction, shall be provided. All parking, interior traffic patterns, roads, drainage and stormwater management systems, access points, property boundaries, lot lines, interparcel access, easements, building restriction lines, etc., shall be clearly shown. All SHA right-of-way lines, controls of access, and easements shall be accurately depicted based on SHA plats and available land records.

7.1.2 Highway Access/Improvements Plan

Plans showing the existing conditions and the proposed improvements on and along the State's right of way shall be provided for SHA's review and approval. Requirements are as follows.

  • Survey Reference.  When possible, the applicant's plans should be referenced to SHA surveys and previously established controls. If this is not possible, all construction shown on the plans shall be located with respect to a recoverable project control line established along the highway centerline or other suitable location that will not be disturbed by the proposed work.
  • Plan Scale.  Plans shall be prepared on an engineering scale of not less than l inch = 50 feet. Recommended scale is l inch = 20 feet. When acreage is of such a size that the plot plan must be to a smaller scale, it would be appropriate to make a separate plan for the entrance construction.
  • Typical Section.  The typical section through the SHA right-of-way shall show the existing and proposed: pavement slopes and widths; lane configurations; roadside grading; cut and fill slopes; drainage ditches; curb and gutter; and sidewalk. The scope and dimensions of full depth paving, widening,
  • Dimensions.  Complete dimensions of existing and proposed travel lanes, shoulders, medians, entrances, radius returns, tangents, etc. shall be provided.
  • Topographic Information.  Complete topographic coverage of the work area(s) shall be provided, including all relevant existing highway features, structures, signs, utility poles, traffic barriers, and other appurtenances.
  • Contours. Existing and proposed contours at 2' intervals or less are required.
  • Proposed Highway Improvements.  Plans shall provide clear delineation of proposed road improvements such as widening, pavement replacement, trench repair, patching, resurfacing, curb and gutter, medians, islands, sidewalk, pedestrian ramps, etc.
  • Sight Distance Profile.  A sight distance profile for the access point(s) may be required by AM, in accordance with the requirements discussed in 10.4.2.
  • Drainage.  Existing and proposed storm drain systems, ditches, culverts, and stormwater management facilities shall be shown including all pertinent construction details as approved by SHA, the local jurisdiction, or both.
  • Structures.  Existing and proposed structures, such as retaining walls, culverts, bridges, etc. shall be shown.
  • Traffic Control Devices.  Existing and proposed signs, lighting, pavement markings, and traffic signals shall be shown.

7.1.3 Vicinity Map

A general location map shall be provided, showing all other public road connections within 1 mile of the proposed access.

7.1.4 Work Zone Traffic Control Plan

Plan submission shall include a maintenance of traffic plan or reference the appropriate SHA Standard Work Zone Traffic Control Typical Application. Where work is required in the traveled way or where work will disrupt the normal traffic pattern, a formal traffic control plan shall be developed by professional representatives of the applicant and approved by the SHA Assistant District Engineer, Traffic.

7.1.5 Pavement Marking and Signing Plan


A separate pavement marking and signing plan is required for projects that propose changes in the alignment of existing travel lanes to accommodate the improvements. A separate plan is not required for pavement markings for proposed deceleration lanes, acceleration lanes, and bypass lanes that do not affect the through lanes.

7.1.6 Other Plans Required

Depending on the scope and complexity of the proposed improvements, detailed plans may be required for structures, drainage and stormwater management systems, traffic signals, permanent signs and pavement markings, lighting systems, streetscape work, or any other element of the project, at the discretion of the appropriate SHA division(s). Each division establishes its own technical and format requirements for review and approval.

7.2 Classification of Projects for Review Purposes

For purposes of clearly identifying review and approval requirements for projects of different scopes, the following definitions are used:

7.2.1 Routine Projects

For purposes of definition, the following types of projects are considered "Routine" projects:

  • Commercial entrance construction or modification.
  • Subdivision street connection construction or modification.
  • Site access improvements required for access to a specific development.
  • Minor geometric adjustments and intersection channelization modifications that do not relocate the through lanes or involve significant pavement widening.

Approximately 85% of Access Permit Projects currently fall into this category. AM makes contact with various other SHA units and obtains their review and approval as appropriate for the design elements involved in the project. The review elements identified in 7.3 below will apply, as applicable.

7.2.2 Intermediate Projects

Projects that are greater in scope than Routine projects shall be considered “Intermediate” projects. These projects, examples of which are given in Table 7.2.2 below, typically involve widening that is controlled by a typical section improvement, without reconstruction or substantial realignment of the highway. Many localized highway capacity improvements fall into this category.

Table 7.2.2 Examples of Intermediate Projects

  • Widening that will add a through lane or continuous auxiliary lane (center turn lane, curb lane, etc.) to the typical section of a 2 to 4 lane State highway.
  • Widening that will relocate existing through lanes or shift the centerline, usually to accommodate one or more new left turn lanes.
  • Intersection widening, realignment, and/or approach grade modifications to accommodate a site access point or satisfy a required capacity improvement.
  • Widening and resurfacing that involves wedge/leveling for the purpose of shifting the highway centerline.

7.2.3 Major Projects

Major projects are large-scale highway infrastructure improvements as may be required to support access to regional land development or implement master-planned regional transportation improvements. Examples are given in Table 7.2.3. These projects are similar in many respects to SHA's highway projects; however, they are implemented by others through the permit process.

Table 7.2.3 Examples of Major Projects

  • New construction, realignment, reconstruction, or extension of a State highway.
  • Interchange construction, reconstruction, or modification.
  • Substantial reconstruction, realignment, and reconfiguration of a major intersection and approaches.
  • Substantial widening, geometric improvements, reconstruction, resurfacing, and/or streetscape on State highways.
  • Construction of a new major intersection with a State highway.
  • Access and regional transportation infrastructure improvements for large scale, regional development projects (e.g. sports arenas, shopping malls, mixed use PUDs, etc.)

7.3 Plan Review for Routine Projects

Plan review for routine projects includes the reviews discussed in this Section.

7.3.1 Access Management

AM reviews the plans for:

  • Conformity with previously accepted access concepts or, if no concept plans were submitted, with respect to the Access Point Standards of Chapter 10.
  • Conformity with the Entrance Standards and Street Connection Standards of Chapters 11 and 12, respectively, as applicable.
  • Conformity with the Site Access Improvement Standards of Chapter 13. 
  • Conformity with the Highway Infrastructure Improvement Standards of Chapter 14.
  • Conformity with the Technical Design Standards outlined in Chapter 15.
  • Compatibility with future highway needs as identified in the State's Consolidated Transportation Program and/or SHA Highway Needs Inventory.
  • Coordination with programmed SHA improvements (in planning, design, or construction).

7.3.2 Other Reviewing Offices

For routine projects, SHA’s standard distribution of the engineering plans for review and approval is as follows:

  • District Office – Reviews plans for conformity with accepted access concepts and proper coordination with construction projects and the District program.
  • Resident Maintenance Engineer – Reviews plans with respect to long-term maintenance service life, compatibility with routine maintenance operations, and logistical or inspection issues.
  • Assistant District Engineer - Traffic – Reviews plans for conformity with accepted access concepts, approves proposed signing and pavement markings, approves proposed traffic control measures and/ or plans.
  • Highway Hydraulics Division – Reviews and approves proposed highway drainage facilities, impacts to State highway drainage conditions, and compliance with pertinent stormwater management and sediment control requirements.
  • Regional and Intermodal Planning Division – Reviews plans for conformity with local and/or regional master plans and consistency with corridor access management plans, where applicable.

In addition to the above, review and approval from the following specialized technical divisions may be required, depending on the type of improvements included in the design:

  • Traffic Engineering Design Division – Reviews and approves design plans for pre-approved new traffic signals, traffic signal modifications, and street lighting.
  • Bridge Design Division – Reviews and approves plans for all highway bridges, culverts with a span 60" or greater, pedestrian bridges, retaining walls, non-standard drainage structures such as box culverts, and other structural designs.
  • Pavement Division – Recommends site-specific pavement sections where unusual pavement conditions or questionable sub-grade conditions are observed at the project site or where proportionately high truck traffic volumes are anticipated. With Geotechnical Explorations Division, reviews and approves geotechnical studies prepared to support non-standard slope and grading designs.
  • Landscape Design Division – Reviews and approves the design of streetscape and landscape designs. Coordinates on noise abatement issues.
  • Landscape Operations Division – Reviews and approves vegetative plantings proposed along the property frontage.

The technical design requirements of various review offices are referenced in Chapter 15.

7.3.3 General Review Timeframes for Routine Projects

The following review timeframes should be anticipated for submittals associated with routine projects:

  • AM review and comments on tentative access concepts – Approx. 3 – 4 weeks.
  • Preliminary Access Plan Review – Approx. 3 – 4 weeks.
  • Engineering Plan Review – Approx. 3 – 4 weeks.
  • Traffic Impact Study Review – Approx. 4 weeks.
  • Signal Warrant Analysis Review – Approx. 4 weeks.
  • Hydraulic/Hydrologic Review – Approx. 3 weeks.
  • Pavement/Geotechnical Review – Approx. 4 weeks.

The number of reviews and the timeframes required in order to obtain approval will vary with the complexity of the project and the extent to which the engineer has successfully applied and/or anticipated SHA requirements.

7.4 Plan Review for Intermediate Projects

The review and approval process for Intermediate Projects is essentially the same as that for Routine Projects. However, their greater scope of improvements often introduces additional design issues, planning coordination, property impacts, and environmental impacts. Applicants must demonstrate that the proposed improvements are compatible with master-planned concepts, future highway improvements, corridor preservation plans, and conditions of development approval, as applicable. For these reasons, applicants are strongly advised to arrange a pre-design coordination meeting with AM representatives. The purpose of this meeting is to review the anticipated project scope and preliminary design parameters, such as alignment and typical section, with SHA before significant investment is made in project design work.

Additional elements of plan review typically include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • AM may determine that a detailed geometric review is necessary, by the Highway Design Division or AM's consultant.
  • Site specific pavement recommendations may apply. Refer to the pavement design guidelines in Chapter 15 for information.
  • Plans for extensive signing and pavement markings, particularly on high volume primary highways, are subject to review and approval by the Traffic Engineering Design Division. This review is in addition to the review by the Assistant District Engineer – Traffic.
  • Formal bicycle and pedestrian facilities are subject to review by the Office of Traffic and Safety and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator.

The review timeframes are consistent with those for Routine projects.

7.5 Plan Review for Major Projects

Major projects are complex highway improvements, with a considerable amount of detailed engineering work required. This warrants agency review at a number of different levels, from concept development stage through construction. A great deal of cooperation between the applicant, SHA, and local government is required for the successful and timely permitting of these projects. The design shall conform to SHA requirements and be consistent with all relevant planning concepts, conditions of development approval, and project-specific agreements.

7.5.1 Multi-Stage Plan Review

Major projects, like comparable SHA projects, receive a detailed design review at multiple stages of plan development. AM requires plan submissions at appropriate intervals during the design phase, generally at the 30%, 65%, and 100% completion stages. These are considered “Preliminary”, “Semi-Final” and “Final” project reviews. At each review stage, plans are distributed to the appropriate SHA offices for review and comment. Office meetings are typically scheduled with the applicant to review SHA’s comments on the plans. This review process allows key issues to be identified at the early stages of the project and helps to ensure that the design progresses in a manner that is consistent with SHA requirements. It also allows for both SHA and the applicant to establish a realistic schedule for design preparation, review, and approval, against which progress can be monitored.

7.5.2 Review Distribution

SHA offices that may be included on the review distribution for major projects are identified in Table 7.5.2 on the next page. AM compiles and edits the comments received from them and prepares a single letter to the applicant. AM will strive to minimize review timeframes while resolving conflicting comments that often occur within the agency. All comments are screened for relevance, appropriateness, and consistency with applicable State, local, and developer agreements and conditions of approval.

7.5.3 Review Timeframes and Schedule Considerations

Due to the number and complexity of issues that frequently arise in the development of major projects, it is difficult to anticipate review timeframes. A timeframe of approximately 4 - 6 weeks should be anticipated for AM to distribute the plans, obtain all comments, and prepare a unified set of comments from SHA. Plans must be received by the applicant at least 3 weeks prior to any scheduled project review meeting, to allow for distribution time and 2 weeks review time before the meeting. Applicants are strongly advised to meet with AM prior to the design phase of these projects to assess the scope of review required and work out an approximate schedule.

Table 7.5.2 SHA Plan Review Distribution for Major Projects
SHA Unit/Division # Plans Applicable for
District and Maintenance Operations
District Engineer   All Projects
ADE-Construction   All Projects
ADE-Maintenance   All Projects
ADE-Traffic   All Projects
Engineering Systems Team Leader/Special Projects   All Projects
District R/W Chief   All Projects
District Utility Engineer   All Projects
Resident Maintenance Engineer   All Projects
Permit Inspector   All Projects
Deputy Director, Project Planning Division   All Projects
Chief, Regional and Intermodal Planning Division   All Projects
Project Planning - Project Manager   All Projects
Project Planning - Environmental Section   All Projects
Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator   All Projects
Chief, Director's Senior Engineering Staff   All Projects
Chief, Traffic Engineering Design Division   All Projects
Chief, Traffic Development & Support Division   All Projects
Chief, Traffic Operations Division   All Projects