State Highway Access Manual - Practical Design in Access Management

Practical Design in Access Management


The State Highway Administration (SHA) is currently developing guidance on how to incorporate practical design into highway projects. These same guidelines will apply to access permit projects. This document provides a brief description of practical design in general and how it can be applied to access management projects. All access permit projects should use the practical Design philosophy. The focus of practical design in access management should be on safety, mitigation, context, and customer service. Each site should be reviewed independently based on the specific site characteristics and project purpose and needs. Design decisions must include proper justification and documentation.


The objective of Practical Design is to maximize improvements to the transportation system by focusing resources on improvements and project needs that deliver the highest return on investment. The Practical Design philosophy requires critical thinking and sound engineering judgment to achieve the best system improvements, while maintaining a safe and efficient transportation system. Important aspects include:

  • Developing the scope of work to meet the project’s Purpose and Needs.
  • Focusing improvements on safety first.
  • Utilizing design flexibility based on safety and operational performance.
  • Collaboration on a solution with all stakeholders

Purpose and Need

The basic purpose of any developer initiated highway project is to provide safe and reliable access to the development for all roadway users. While land use decisions have been delegated to the local governments, the SHA may require roadway improvements to mitigate the impact of the development on the safety and operation of the surrounding roadway network. Improvements should be roughly proportional to the proposed development’s impact. The SHA should work with the local jurisdiction to determine mitigation acceptable to both parties.

Scope of Work

The scope of work should be determined from the project purpose and need as further described below:
  • Reliable Access (Mobility)
    1. The developer should complete a TIS per SHA and local requirements to determine the impacts of the development on the existing roadway network.
    2. The developer should mitigate their impact to any movement that is determined to have a LOS of D or worse using methodologies acceptable to the Administration.
    3. The developer should analyze queues at each intersection in the TIS and mitigate any storage or blocking issues caused by the development.
  • Safety
    1. Access requirements and restrictions shall maintain or enhance safety.
    2. To minimize safety impacts to all access points, the developer should enhance safety by minimizing and separating conflict points, minimizing speed differentials, and providing adequate sight distance.
  • Pedestrian and Bicycle Access and ADA

    All improvements shall provide for increased safety and access for pedestrians and bicycle traffic in a manner acceptable to the Administration per COMAR All required roadway improvements must also be completed in accordance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

  • Design

    Once the basic scope of work has been determined the design work can begin. Within SHA R/W, all work and materials shall conform to AASHTO criteria as well as Administration specifications, standards, and addenda current at the time of the permit grant. The design work should focus on safety and operational performance and the project purpose and need. Design variations and exceptions may be necessary to support the project purpose and need based on safety and operational performance. Documentation must be provided to support these variations.

    Approach to Practical Design in Access Management

    Project is originated with a purpose and need
    • Safety
    • Mobility
    • Access to development
    Scope of work is based on the project purpose and need
    • Mitigation of development impacts (TIS)
    • Enhanced safety
    Design is based on safety and operational performance
    • AASHTO Criteria
    • SHA policy, standards, and guidelines
    Design variations and exceptions can be used when necessary to support the project purpose and need
    • Engineering judgment
    • Context sensitive
    • Cost effective
    • Design exceptions
    Final Design is selected addressing project purpose and need
    • Collaboration
    • Federal Law
    • Maryland Law
    • Local APF