Why can’t 18 wheeler tractor trailers drive on residential streets

  • Streets are too narrow for an 18-wheeler that designated highways
  • There are mailboxes, curbs, street signs …
  • Corners are too tight to remain on pavement.
  • Asphalt not designed for the weight and cracks and crumbles.
  • Possible damage to underground utilities due to the weight, rare but true
  • Overhead wires
  • Parked vehicles on the roads as hazards
  • No room to back up or turn.
  • Noise from engines and brakes
  • Ditches and bushes on the sides
  • Pets and children running into the streets.
  • Pavement designed to last 20 years wears out in seven.

“Highways are a very important part of our lives. Over the past several years, there has been increasing evidence that they are deteriorating at an accelerated pace. Unfortunately, sufficient funds are not available to meet either current needs of future requirements”…. read more here, https://www.churchillfuture.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/109954.pdf.

A fully loaded tractor-trailer weighs 80,000 pounds, 20 times more than a typical passenger car at 4,000 pounds, but the wear and tear caused by the truck is exponentially greater. One analysis contends freight-hauling trucks cause 99 percent of wear-and-tear on US roads, but only pay for 35 percent of the maintenance. Jun 22, 2017


How Trucks Destroy Our Roads

And how a fee on trucks could solve state’s transportation problem.

By Bruce Murphy – Jun 22nd, 2017 12:12 pmBottom of Form





It was back in 2000 that Milwaukee’s Hoan Bridge collapsed when steel girders cracked. “Several factors were blamed for the collapse,” an Associated Press story noted, “including a significant number of heavy trucks, some over the normal weight limit, that routinely traveled over the bridge.”

Seven years later came the famous collapse of Minnesota’s I-35W Bridge. Its destruction was blamed on a design failure, but also to the impact of trucks. The 1967 bridge “was built at a time when the bulk of the nation’s freight moved by rail and not by massive eighteen-wheeler trucks” writer Barry B. LePatner reported, and the heavier truck loads “represented a significant increase over the design load of the structure.”

Across America, including Wisconsin, roads and bridges are falling apart, so much so that President Donald Trump ran on a platform of passing a major infrastructure program. And a major reason for this deterioration is the impact of heavy trucks.

An off-quoted federal study once found that road damage from one 18-wheeler is equivalent to the impact of 9,600 cars. A fully loaded tractor-trailer weighs 80,000 pounds, 20 times more than a typical passenger car at 4,000 pounds, but the wear and tear caused by the truck is exponentially greater.

One analysis contends freight-hauling trucks cause 99 percent of wear-and-tear on US roads, but only pay for 35 percent of the maintenance.

Big trucks take a toll even on interstate highways designed to handle heavy loads, but the far bigger damage comes to state and local roads that aren’t designed for the massive impact of 80,000-pound trucks. One study estimated the average traffic by large trucks on non-arterial rural roads in the U.S. increased 16 percent from 2000 to 2012.

The result was noted by Cesar Quiroga, a senior research engineer with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute: “In south Texas,” he told the uber-specialty publication Roads & Bridges, “there are many farm-to-market roads, which were designed to handle the occasional combine or 18-wheeler. But now you have a massive influx of heavy loads, and many of these roads have been destroyed pretty quickly.”

And when the trucks are overloaded, “as quite a few of them are, the damage is exponentially worse,” a story in Governing magazine noted. “Increasing a truck’s weight to 90,000 pounds results in a 42 percent increase in road wear. Pavement designed to last 20 years wears out in seven.”

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation “proposed adding 24 new highway inspectors in the 2013 state budget, citing a DOT study that showed overweight trucks cause $41 million in pavement damage annually in the state,” as Wisconsin Public Radio reported. But the Republican-led Joint Finance Committee rejected the plan.

“Soon after, the full Legislature passed a new law increasing the weight limit for agricultural equipment on Wisconsin roads by 15 percent to 92,000 pounds,” the story noted.

In North Carolina, Governing mag reported, an analysis by the state transportation department found heavy trucks cost the state an extra $78 million per year.

As the maintenance costs for Wisconsin’s highways have grown, the state transportation fund has not kept pace and the state is now on track to borrow fully 25 percent of all money it spends on the roads, passing on a multi-billion debt to our children and grandchildren. The seemingly obvious solution — increase the gas tax — was championed in a past column of mine, but is opposed by Gov. Scott Walker and many Republicans. And in light of the data on the toll that trucks take, I’m beginning to wonder if simply hiking the gas tax is the right approach. As for toll roads, that requires approval from the federal government, and is a complex endeavor that could take years to create.

Into this stalemate has stepped Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton), who is pushing to add a new per-mile fee on heavy trucks. Four states have passed such a fee: Kentucky, New York, New Mexico and Oregon. Kentucky’s fee, she notes, is 2.85 cents per mile for vehicles over 59,000 pounds gross weight (including the load), and would raise $125 million per year in Wisconsin.

The fee is even higher in New Mexico (4.378 cents per mile) and New York (4.62 cents per mile) while Oregon has a sliding scale based on weight that charges up to 1.638 cents per mile.

Nationally, Loudenbeck notes, the fee has been referred to as a “third structure” (not a gas tax and not a registration fee). Since trucks are already registered and regulated, the fee would be easy to administer. She calls it “a revenue-generating element that is equitable and sustainable.”

“I feel a sense of urgency with regards to finding a solution as I represent a significant portion of the I-39/90 corridor which could be drastically impacted depending on the outcome of the transportation budget,” Loudenbeck says.

Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) last week told the Journal Sentinel they haven’t ruled out Loudenbeck’s idea. As things stand now, trucks are not paying their full share for their huge contribution to the maintenance needs of our roads system. Instead, all drivers and all businesses that don’t rely on truck transport are subsidizing the trucking industry.

This subsidy is distorting the economy, as the True Cost blog notes: “Since the trucking industry doesn’t pay the true cost of its road usage, it benefits relative to rail and other forms of transport. Freight rail lines are privately owned and maintained in the US, so they don’t receive a similar subsidy. As a result, more truck traffic ends up on highways than the market would dictate, leaving the taxpayers poorer, the air dirtier, and the roads more congested.” Not to mention falling apart and riddled with potholes which cause damage to cars.

It is the Republican Party that is supposed to favor solutions to allow an unfettered marketplace, so Loudenbeck’s proposal would seem to be a slam dunk. Except for all those lobbying and campaign donation dollars spent by the trucking lobby. The Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association, which is headed by former GOP Sen. Neil Kedzie, has contributed $1.2 million to Wisconsin politicians, including more than $700,000 to Walker, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has reported.

As Mantill Williams, spokesperson for the American Automobile Association, noted to Governing magazine, “The trucking industry… is very well funded and well connected, and they can usually outman any type of opposing effort.”

This a moment of truth for Republican leaders. Will they live up to their political philosophy, while standing up for all voters, or will they cave in to the truck lobby? The public, one hopes, will be watching.


Too Big for The Road

Massive trucks are tearing up fragile state highways. And more of them are out there every year.

August 16, 2010 •

Sarah Harney

In central North Carolina, there’s a lazy little stretch of state Highway 751 known as New Hill-Olive Chapel Road. It starts a few miles beyond the southwest suburbs of Raleigh, then winds past fields and trees, across cemeteries and over abandoned railway beds left from tobacco transport routes. But as you drive along, something else really catches your attention: It’s full of potholes. As of last year, this 4-mile ribbon of two-lane highway was averaging one pothole or patched piece of asphalt for every 40 yards of road.

The primary reason for the condition of the road isn’t age or weather or rush hour traffic. It’s 18-wheelers. All day and into the night, weighty big-rigs are roaring down a secondary route that was never meant to carry them.

The extent of this phenomenon on Highway 751 and other North Carolina roads was detailed last year in an in-depth series of articles in the Raleigh News & Observer. But it’s a scenario being played out across the country. A demand for cheap products and a national “just-in-time” delivery network has placed trucking companies under economic pressure to move heavier and heavier loads. The federal government mandates weight limits on the interstate system, but state legislatures often opt for more lenient weight rules, and so big carriers make their hauls on state highways and secondary roads.

Over the years many states, either through official policy or by taking no action at all, have actually encouraged freight trucks to carry heavier and heavier loads. The wear and tear being generated by heavy trucks is worsening maintenance needs at a time when states are already underfunding road maintenance by billions of dollars. With the nation’s truck traffic expected to increase dramatically over the next decade, it’s a problem that will only get worse. Some states have begun to enforce stricter weight limits, but in most, trucks continue to barrel through with increasingly heavy cargo.



The nation’s economy depends on trucking, but that method of shipment comes with a price. Engineers estimate that a fully loaded truck–a five-axle rig weighing 80,000 pounds, the interstate maximum–causes more damage to a highway than 5,000 cars. Some road planners say that the toll is even higher, that it would take close to 10,000 cars to equal the damage caused by one heavy truck. When the trucks are overloaded, as quite a few of them are, the damage is exponentially worse. Increasing a truck’s weight to 90,000 pounds results in a 42 percent increase in road wear. Pavement designed to last 20 years wears out in seven.

“If you have to treat a road in five years instead of eight, or in eight years instead of 12, there’s a real cost impact,” says Judith Corley-Lay, the chief pavement management engineer for North Carolina’s transportation department. At the request of state lawmakers, Corley-Lay recently analyzed truck traffic in the state to determine the cost of overweight trucks. What she found was startling: Heavy trucks are costing the state an extra $78 million per year. And that figure is really just a rough estimate, based on average road types and some guesswork to fill in gaps in traffic data.

The impact of these trucks is most dramatic in states that have allowed certain industries–coal, for example, or logging or steel–to use trucks loaded beyond even the state weight limits. In North Carolina, lawmakers have approved 10 measures in the past 13 years that allow heavier trucks on the state’s secondary roadways, according to the News & Observer. But that’s not unusual. More than 40 states permit some trucks to carry loads in excess of the 80,000-pound interstate limit. And legislators are under constant pressure to extend weight-limit permits to more categories of vehicles. “Every legislative session, some industry goes to the legislature and asks for an exemption,” says Corley-Lay. “Every one of those exemptions means the trucks on the road are heavier.”

Right now, 34 percent of the nation’s roadways have been estimated to be in poor or mediocre condition by the Federal Highway Administration, and nearly one-third of the country’s bridges are structurally deficient. It would take upwards of $200 billion this year simply to maintain the current state of the nation’s roads; actually improving them would take billions more. Those challenges will grow much more difficult if, as has been predicted, the total freight carried in the United States increases from 13.2 billion tons in 2003 to 17.4 billion by 2015. States will likely find themselves under growing pressure from trucking companies seeking to haul more goods and bigger loads.


Industry pressure certainly played a role in West Virginia a few years ago, when lawmakers were considering whether to raise weight limits there. Coal-truck owners foretold nothing short of the collapse of the state’s coal industry if legislators failed to raise the limit. A bill to establish an 80,000-pound maximum–and raise fines for violating it–was killed in 2002. The following year, the state passed a law that veered sharply in the other direction. It raised the allowable cargo weight to 120,000 pounds, on almost 2,000 miles of road in 15 southern West Virginia counties. In addition, the new law made it legal for 80,000-pound vehicles to travel on any road in the state, including many smaller roads that had never seen loads of that size before.

Neighboring Kentucky has taken a somewhat less permissive approach to trucking. To be sure, the state continues to be generous to coal trucks. Since 1986, coal freighters in Kentucky have been permitted to carry as much as 46,000 pounds of cargo over the 80,000-pound limit. But some coal trucks were exceeding even the higher ceiling, and in 2004, the state launched a crackdown on overloaded coal trucks, which seems to be holding more of them to the law. Last year, despite heavy lobbying from truckers and shippers, legislators defeated a bill that would have extended the coal weight-exemption to other industries, including gravel, sand, oil and natural gas. This January, state transportation officials closed a little-known loophole in the coal- exemption law that had allowed trucks to carry extra weight by adding extra axles.

Many states continue to see a competitive financial advantage in allowing the heavier vehicles, says Mantill Williams, director of public affairs for the American Automobile Association, which opposes any increases over the federal limit. “Part of it is economics. Trucking lobbyists usually present a very strong economic argument that exporting a certain product is good for a state’s economy. The trucking industry in general is very well funded and well connected, and they can usually outman any type of opposing effort.”


Regardless of how strong the trucking industry’s lobby is, some of its points do make sense. Allow trucks to carry more weight, the argument goes, and you’ll cut down the overall number of trucks on the road. Fewer trucks means less fuel consumption, less traffic congestion and less danger to other drivers. And it might even mean less damage to the roads. That’s the argument of groups such as Americans for Safe and Efficient Transportation, a coalition representing truck companies and freight shippers. In an effort to increase “truck productivity,” ASET is pushing for a national across- the-board increase of truck weight limits. The group advocates raising the current maximum–80,000 pounds on five axles–to 97,000 pounds spread over six axles.

Those parameters would put the United States on par with higher weight limits in Mexico, Canada and Europe, says ASET executive director Jake Jacoby. “There’s this knee-jerk reaction of, ‘I don’t want a truck to be bigger. I don’t want it to be heavier,'” he says. “I understand that. But when you actually look at the data, these trucks would do less damage to roads. You’re actually creating a softer footprint across the truck by adding a sixth axle. The pavement damage will go down.” States have been painted into a corner, says Jacoby, because they can increase limits only on roads that have trouble handling much extra weight. By increasing the national limit to 97,000 pounds, the heavier trucks could travel on interstates. “The biggest winners would be the states,” he says. “They would save a ton.”

Road engineers aren’t convinced. They say a higher national weight limit would move some truck traffic to interstates, but many heavy trucks would remain on state roads–surfaces that weren’t made to handle 80,000 pounds, much less 97,000. Then there’s the question of how feasible it might be for many trucking companies to change their entire fleets over to six-axle vehicles.

But ultimately, the issue isn’t whether states or the national government should or shouldn’t create a specific weight limit. It’s that officials at all levels must recognize that changing the rules has an inevitable impact on the cost of maintaining infrastructure. “It may be that it is time to raise the limit,” says Judith Corley- Lay. “I don’t know. And as long as we can establish that link between economic benefit and the cost of maintenance and repair, then there’s no problem with increasing the weight limit.” Still, she says, states’ track records with funding maintenance in general aren’t very good. “Road maintenance has never been the glamour budget item.”


How Much Damage Do Heavy Trucks Do to Our Roads?

A simple equation based on a series of experiments from the 1950s still serves as the rule of thumb for estimating road damage.

crack pavement





Monday, October 12, 2020 – 09:54

Yuen Yiu, Staff Writer

(Inside Science) — It may be obvious that heavy semitrucks stress and damage roads more than the average commuter sedan does. But by how much?

Since the 1960s, the Generalized Fourth Power Law has been used as a rule of thumb when considering the relative damage done to the pavement depending on a vehicle’s weight. The big picture is more complex, but the simplified, and perhaps elegant, equation, serves as a good starting point for this discussion.

A “power”-ful function

The AASHO Road Test was a multiyear experiment conducted by the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) during the 1950s and is still perhaps the most comprehensive test on trucks and pavement damage. During the tests, trucks with different weights and configurations were driven around a loop until the road was damaged to a certain point. The tests ultimately resulted in 141 crashes and two fatalities.

Truck crash during the AASHO Road Test.

Media credits

Transportation Research Board

The report produced an extensive list of equations for describing the data collected from the tests, and from those equations was born the Generalized Fourth Power Law. It’s a rule of thumb for comparing the amount of pavement damage caused by vehicles with different weights, in terms of axle loads:

In the equation, W1 is the weight of an axle on vehicle 1, which we would compare to W2, the weight of an axle on vehicle 2.

Let’s look at some numbers for comparison.

Consider a standard sedan with two axles and a total weight of 4 tons. Assuming an even distribution, each of its axles would bear the weight of 2 tons. Now consider a semitruck with eight axles and a weight of 40 tons — each of its axles would weigh 5 tons. The relative damage done by each axle of the truck can be calculated with the following equation, and comes out to 40 times the damage done by each axel of the sedan.

Considering that the truck has eight axles and the sedan has two, the relative damage caused by the entire semitruck would be 40 x (8/2) — 160 times that of the sedan.

“The damage due to cars, for practical purposes, when we are designing pavements, is basically zero. It’s not actually zero, but it’s so much smaller — orders of magnitude smaller — that we don’t even bother with them,” said Karim Chatti, a civil engineer from Michigan State University in East Lansing.

The limitation of the equation

In theory, you can add axles to the truck to lighten the load of each axle. For example, if the same 40-ton truck had 10 axles instead of eight, each of the axles would now weigh 4 tons instead of 5, and the relative damage would become:

Even when considering the extra axles, the relative damage would still be lower, i.e., 16 x (10/2), or 80 times the damage from the sedan, or half of that from the eight-axle truck.

In reality, the relationship is more complicated. For instance, adding extra axles increases the total weight of the vehicle, making it more damaging, especially to bridges, where the total weight instead of axle weight is the main concern.

Other factors in play are the vehicle speed, the number of wheels on each axle, the design and composition of the pavement itself, etc.

“It depends on a lot of things,” said Chatti, about the generalized law. “There’s a range. The [exponent] is not always four, it could range anywhere from three to six.”

However, as a generalized rule, the equation has been seen as adequate for serving as a guideline for regulations and policies.

Converting the equation to tax dollars

According to a report published by the Urban Institute, the annual expenditure on highways and roads in the U.S. was $181 billion in 2017, with roughly three-quarters of the budget coming from state and local governments, and a quarter coming from federal funding. When divvied up by the population, the amount was about $560 per capita.

While engineers seek to make pavements cheaper and more durable, interest groups such as the trucking industry and the railway industry, and even advocacy groups for bicycling, have been debating the question of who should pay what to use the road.

“Congress has done studies over the years, allocating which groups should pay more in terms of road user taxes,” said Joe Mahoney, a civil engineer from the University of Washington in Seattle. “Trucks do pay more in terms of road user taxes. They pay a fuel tax, particularly for diesel, and they also have other weight-related taxes that most other vehicles don’t have.”

“I’m not going to say that they’re fairly allocated. That’s kind of like saying that income taxes for individuals are fairly allocated in the United States. I think you could probably debate that with some vigor, and you could do the same here,” he said.

While the debate about specific tax policies goes beyond the scope of this article, the rapid growth in lightweight cargo from online shopping has opened up a different conversation. This time, it is not about the weight of the trucks, but their sizes.

A three-trailer road train in Australia.

Media credits

LukeRobinson1/flickr/CC BY 2.0

“There was always pressure for longer trucks without adding weight, which has gotten louder since we all seem to buy small light things delivered in big boxes full of padding in this century,” wrote Steven Karamihas, a mechanical engineer from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, in an email to Inside Science.

Regulations about the maximum length of vehicles are often specific to state and local jurisdictions and depend on the vehicle type and trailer configuration. In general, most states limit truck length to two standard 28-feet trailers, with a handful allowing three trailers.

In 2015, Congress struck down two pieces of proposed legislation to allow heavier and longer trucks, but the idea still is actively being lobbied for and against by opposing interest groups, such as Americans for Modern Transportation, and Coalition Against Bigger Trucks.

“If the cargoes are getting lighter, [trucking companies] will want to be able to carry more volume, obviously,” said Chatti. “But the concern here isn’t the deterioration of the pavement, it’s about safety and regulations.”


Facts About Trucks – Everything You Want To Know About Eighteen Wheelers

Read this comparison to cars to better understand why semi-trucks are not permitted in residential areas.  It contains an excellent infographic with side by side comparisons.

Especially in explaining the difficulty of turning radius.  It needs a 55 ft radius and 24 foot road width (US highway lanes are generally 12 ft each,) not so in residential areas.

40% more time to stop if a child darts out in front.

Weights   80,000 pounds versus 5000 pounds for a car




A collaboration between researchers and residents of a New Jersey city provided evidence that heavy truck traffic affected a neighborhood’s air quality and compromised health.

For decades, heavy diesel trucks taking cargo from container ships at the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal used a residential street in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to avoid the tolls between Exits 13 and 13A on the New Jersey Turnpike. The trucks also routinely idled on the street awaiting their next load.

Their route along the narrow, two-lane First Street took them past many homes, two schools, a childcare center, and an athletic field, prompting concern that the community’s rising rates of asthma were connected to the diesel exhaust.

In 2014, residents contacted Robert Laumbach, director of community outreach for Rutgers Center for Environmental Exposures and Disease and the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute for help.


Laumbach enlisted residents as “citizen-researchers” to work with his team and count trucks and measure particulate matter air pollutants between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on a typical weekday morning when children walked to school. Their goal was to create a profile of the air pollution levels on First Street.

“We tracked 60 trucks an hour at one intersection and 120 trucks per hour at a second intersection,” Laumbach says. “These trucks were passing children walking on the street at a rate of one truck per minute. We also saw a spike in black carbon with each passing truck, which indicates diesel exhaust pollution.”

Diesel exhaust is a major component of particulate matter air pollution, which has been linked to asthma, lung diseases, and heart disease. Researchers have also studied the role of diesel exhaust in causing an increased risk of death from heart attacks and stroke, premature birth, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Additionally, its toxic gases and vapors are linked to cancer and can affect cognition and learning.

“The effects of diesel exhaust on asthma are particularly troubling in Elizabeth, where there is concern about high rates of asthma, especially among children,” Laumbach says.

After Laumbach and community leaders presented the collected data to local officials, the City of Elizabeth’s council passed an ordinance in 2017 to restrict traffic on First Street to vehicles under four tons, essentially banning tractor-trailers.

Four years after the first truck count, Laumbach and his researchers partnered again with residents for a post-ordinance assessment on truck count and diesel emissions. They found an 86 percent reduction in truck traffic and an 80 percent reduction in black carbon and ultrafine particle counts.

“The emissions and smog polluting the air was environmental injustice, making our residential area where children walk and play dangerous to their health,” says James Carey, director of social services of Elizabethport Presbyterian Center on First Street, who assisted with the research. “When we went to the hearings, their statistics gave us irrefutable proof that the trucks were making a negative impact on our air quality. They were the catalyst for change.”

The researchers presented their findings at the Public Health and Our Ports: The Road to Clean Air conference in Newark.

Source: Rutgers University


Assessing the Eff­ects of Heavy Vehicles on Local Roadways

August 2014

49 page PDF


This report documents the development of an analysis procedure and an associated computation tool to estimate the impact of heavy vehicles on local agency pavements. The heavy vehicles of interest are those which were not anticipated at the time the pavement structure was designed, but which cause additional damage and thus create the need for rehabilitation or reconstruction sooner than expected. These unexpected heavy vehicles could be generated by new industrial facilities, mining activities, changes in urban waste collection patterns, temporary heavy construction in a limited geographical area, or for other reasons. The tool described in this report implements the procedure, and provides users with the ability to analyze a single roadway segment (for detailed impacts estimates) or an agency’s entire network (for summary statistics over the system). The tool provides estimates of the percent of originally intended life that may be used by the unanticipated vehicles, the additional pavement structure that would have been required at construction to accommodate the additional vehicles, and the additional damage that they cause. The tool is contained in a macro-enabled Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and does not need additional files or external functionality to conduct an analysis


Traffic, Development & Neighborhood Quality of Life

If you’re concerned about how growth may affect traffic congestion and safety anywhere in the USA then contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 (call-text) or Help@ceds.org for an initial no-cost discussion of strategy options. Please don’t hesitate. Delay almost always decreases the likelihood of success.

Some car, truck, and bus traffic on neighborhood streets is a necessity given our current life style. However, this does not mean that these streets must accommodate an ever increasing amount of traffic. In fact, growth and traffic management agencies have an obligation to prevent traffic from reaching the point where it lowers quality of life or threatens public health and safety. Unfortunately, these agencies vary considerably across the nation with regard to their effectiveness in meeting this obligation. But this variation is due more to the amount of public support they receive and attitudes of elected officials.

Fortunately, citizen advocates have had great success in expanding public support, then getting responsible growth management candidates elected which translates into far more effective traffic management. This webpage is designed to show how you can accomplish the same whether your dealing with an individual development proposal or traffic issues throughout a town, city or county.

In this webpage we’ll describe:

  1. The ways in which excessive traffic can impact a neighborhood and the environment;
  2. How to prevent proposed development projects from causing congestion and other safety issues; and
  3. How your local and state government should be managing traffic on a regional scale.

Preventing Impacts Is Easy

We assume you’re visiting this webpage because you’re concerned about how a proposed development project may traffic on your neighborhood street, at your children’s school or where you work. If you are like most folks new to this form of advocacy you probably think its both difficult and expensive to prevent impacts. The good news is that its actually quite easy. And you probably don’t need a lawyer or any other professionals.

The reason is that its generally easy to modify most development proposals to utilize the highly-effective traffic management measures that have come into use over the past decade. And these measures can actually save the developer money. With your support the developer can probably gain approval from permitting agencies to use these measures.

We’ve found most development companies are anxious to work with citizens who have realistic solutions to potential impacts. We call this approach Equitable Solutions. We have a webpage devoted to the approach where you’ll find detailed advice on how to make it work for you: Equitable Solutions webpage.

Traffic Impacts

This section provides a description of the impacts commonly resulting from poorly managed growth.  Options for preventing proposed development from causing these impacts is described in the next section: Preventing Traffic Impacts Caused By Proposed Development.


According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, nationwide motor vehicles accidents are:

  • A leading cause of death;
  • In 2012, more than 2.5 million drivers and passengers were treated in emergency rooms for injuries suffered in vehicle accidents; and
  • Productivity losses and medical care costs due to traffic accidents total $80 billion annually.

The six most common causes of vehicle accidents are: distraction, fatigue, being under the influence, speeding, aggressive driving and weather. However, poorly planned growth can exacerbate accident rates by increasing congestion, which tends to cause some drivers to speed up and take more risks. Or a new intersection may be created at a point where motorists traveling on one road cannot see approaching vehicles in time to avoid a collision. Turning a dead-end (cul-de-sac) street into a through-road can cause traffic volume to increase many fold along with an increase in average vehicle speed, the result of which is an increase in both vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist accidents.

Air Quality & Health

A typical U.S. car emits enough pollution to create five tons of carbon dioxide a year. Cars and trucks produce half of all toxic air pollution emitted in the U.S. Estimates indicate that air pollution from cars results in 120,000 premature deaths each year in the U.S. Traffic generated air pollution also accounts for $40-$50 billion in health care costs each year in this country. In addition to these regional issues, some proposed development projects can create localized air quality problems. Locating a truck stop next to homes could create a health issue if diesel engines are idling for long periods. And whenever there is a large increase in truck traffic on a road lined with homes there will likely be an increase in the concentration of the particles emitted from diesel engines that account for most of the respiratory impact. There is some evidence indicating that those living within 600 feet of a major highway may be particularly at risk due air pollution. Large gas stations are another source but are addressed on the CEDS Convenience Stores & Gas Stations webpage.

Aquatic Resource Impacts

A new road can destroy aquatic resources when built upon a wetland, stream or other aquatic resource. One would think that this is no longer permitted, but that’s sadly not the case. Nationwide thousands of permits are issued annually allowing new development – particularly roads – to be built within waterways. But the greatest impact is the tremendous quantity of pollution washed from road surfaces with each storm. These pollutants include nutrients, sediment, and road salt along with a long list of toxic and even carcinogenic contaminants. A large portion of the pollution comes from vehicle exhaust as well as engine-body wear. Generally, as traffic volume increases the quantity of these pollutants increases as well. While these impacts can be greatly reduced they cannot be eliminated. This is why its vital that new roads be restricted where they may impact high-quality waters or highly-sensitive aquatic resources.

Noise, Health & Property Value

Traffic noise can interfere with sleep, conversation, and other neighborhood pursuits. About 9.5% of us are exposed to traffic noise at a level which affects health.

Sound becomes noise when it interferes with our quality of life. Sound is measured in units known as decibels (dB) and highway noise is measured on an “A-weighted decibel” (dBA) scale. 70 dBA is eight times as loud as 60 dBA. The noise level in a library might be 30 dBA while an air conditioner would emit 60 dBA.

Traffic volume, speed, and vehicle type all affect noise levels. At 2,000 vehicles per hour (vph) traffic noise will sound twice as loud as at 200 vph. Traffic moving at 65 mph will sound twice as loud as at 30 mph. And one truck traveling at 55 mph will sound as loud as 28 cars moving at the same speed.

Traffic noise can have a significant effect on property value. A home located adjacent to a major highway may sell for 8% to 10% less when compared to one located along a quiet neighborhood street. Heavy truck traffic lowers property value at a rate 150 times greater than cars. This is because at 50 feet heavy trucks emit noise at 90 dBA while a car traffic produces noise at a level of 50 dBA.5 An increase in heavy truck traffic may also cause damage to nearby homes through vibrations transmitted through the earth.

While some truck traffic is essential on neighborhood streets (e.g. refuse collection, delivery trucks, and fire engines) an increase in trucks passing through a neighborhood could lower property value and overall quality of life. Land uses that generate large amounts of truck traffic, such as mining, landfills or power plants, should be sited where there’s direct access to major highways; not residential streets.

Pedestrian & Cyclist Safety

In 2013, 4,735 pedestrians were killed in the U.S. by automobiles and 55% of these fatalities occurred on neighborhood streets. For every pedestrian killed by a car, another 15 were injured. Speed is a major factor determining whether a pedestrian will be killed or injured by an automobile. A pedestrian is nine times more likely to die if struck by a car traveling at 30 mph compared to 20 mph. Other factors contributing to the high pedestrian accident rate on neighborhood streets include lack of adequate sidewalks, bike lanes, and crossings.

Wasted Time

Traffic congestion is one of the most frustrating and costly symptoms of poorly regulated growth. Today a typical commuter spends an extra 42 hours traveling due to congestion which is up from 18 hours in 1982. Every weekday we spend 14.5 million hours stuck in congested traffic. That’s a lot of time spent unproductively. In 2014, the costs related to congestion totaled $160 billion nationally. And we wasted 3.1 billion gallons of fuel while stuck in congestion. While one often hears that new development is needed to bolster the local economy, it is rare to see the other side of the balance sheet showing for each dollar added how much is lost due to wasted time along with health impacts, reduced property value, etc. This issue is addressed in detail below under the heading Congestion & Economic Development.


New roads can harm wildlife if wetlands or waterways are destroyed, upland forests or other habitat is bulldozed away, barriers to fish and wildlife migrations are created and due to vehicle collisions with wildlife once the road is built. Of course pollutants washed from road surfaces also harms wildlife. Traffic noise also has a significant, negative effect on birds and mammals. Nationwide one- to two-million animals are killed on our roads annually.

Preventing Impacts from Proposed Development

A new housing project, office building or shopping center can increase congestion and delay, cause accident rates to increase or turn a once quiet neighborhood street into a noisy danger zone. Following is a brief description of the traffic related issues CEDS examines when reviewing a proposed development project. Through our Equitable Solutions and Smart Legal Strategy approach we resolve 90% of the issues we identify. If you wish CEDS can review plans for a project of concern to you. Usually we can do a no-cost quick (one-hour) review for a number of issues, but not all. Some require a lengthy review by one of our traffic engineers or other professionals. These reviews are done for a modest fee. To get your project on our brief waiting list contact us at Help@ceds.org or 410-654-3021.

Adequate Public Facilities

An Adequate Public Facilities law restricts development when traffic congestion would exceed a specific threshold. An APF law is also known as concurrency requirements, a subdivision staging policy, growth policy, and by other labels.

To prevent excessive delay and an increase in traffic accidents the law must either:

  • prohibit development that would exceed the threshold, or
  • require the developer to make the road improvements needed to increase traffic capacity and drop congestion below the threshold.

Usually the threshold is defined by a Level Of Service standard. Level of Service (LOS) grades traffic congestion on a scale of A to F. Like school grades, A is best while F is gridlock. At an LOS of E you’ll spend two to four times longer in congested traffic compared to a D level of service. In suburban-urban areas an LOS of E-F is usually considered unacceptable. Development should be prohibited if it will add traffic to roads with an LOS of E or F. Growth should also be restricted if it would cause LOS to decline from D to E. However, some ultra-urban areas allow LOS to reach E before imposing development restrictions. In rural areas C may be the most severe congestion considered acceptable.

Many local governments lack a formal Adequate Public Facilities law but their zoning-subdivision regulations contain a requirement that development not cause an adverse effect on public safety. There are usually even more traffic-specific requirements. The requirements can be used to prevent excessive congestion in the same way as an Adequate Public Facilities law. Nevertheless, you may wish to consider calling for the adoption of the APF law, though this may require State authorizing legislation. For advice on changing the law see Chapter 41 in the free CEDS 300-page book How To Win Land Development Issues. For further information on Adequate Public Facility laws see:

Aquatic Resource Impact Minimization

Traffic related impacts to wetlands, streams, rivers, lakes and tidal waters result from building new roads within 100 feet of these aquatic resources or from the pollutants washed from road surfaces by stormwater. Groundwater is another aquatic resource which can impacted by covering the land surface with asphalt, concrete or other impervious surfaces. These impervious materials prevent precipitation from soaking into the earth and recharging groundwater systems. But traffic pollutants can also be carried into adjoining soils and cause well contamination. Road salt is probably the best example of a traffic related polluted which has caused extensive ground and surface water contamination. With the exception of road salt, stormwater filtering-infiltration systems are highly effective in removing most pollutants from road runoff and maintaining groundwater recharge.

As shown in the graph above, some of the most effective systems are known as bioretention, micro-bioretention, dry swales or bio swales and other infiltration measures. An example of these highly effective systems is shown below. However, it is not uncommon for citizens to be deceived into thinking a proposed system is highly-effective when, in fact, it is not. It is vital that the system consist of the layers pictured below and that it be designed to treat the first inch of runoff from all impervious surfaces draining to it.

Keep in mind that even these highly-effective systems are not fool-proof and they can fail quickly if not well maintained. If a development site drains to highly-sensitive waters like those supporting threatened-endangered species or a public water supply, then its best to limit the amount of impervious surfaces in the watershed to less than 5% coverage. During the road construction phase it is very important that exposed soils be quickly protected from erosive forces with straw mulch, grass seeding and other temporary stabilization measures.


Intersections with traffic signals and road segments are rated on a scale of A to F with regard to congestion. This system is known as Level Of Service or LOS. Most roads operate at a congestion-free “A” LOS during the wee hours of the morning. But LOS is based upon conditions during the morning (7:00 – 9:00 am) and evening (4:00 – 6:00 pm) rush-hours. An LOS of “E” and “F” is generally considered unacceptable. In fact an “F” LOS is gridlock.

Note two lanes of traffic in the photo. Traffic flow in the left lane is typical of a C LOS while the right lane is operating at A or B. The above photo shows F or gridlock.

Most local and state traffic agencies will seek to prevent congestion from dropping below a “D” LOS for suburban-urban areas and “C” or better for rural roads. At an LOS of “E” you’ll spend two to four more time in congested traffic compared to a “D” level of service. In ultra urban settings traffic managers may have no choice but to allow LOS to drop to “E”. But at the high population density of these ultra-urban areas mass transportation becomes a viable a solution to preventing congestion from getting even worse. Most traffic officials and engineers rely upon the procedures set forth in the Highway Capacity Manual to assess Level Of Service. Unfortunately these procedures require a considerable amount of data and expertise to make an accurate assessment of LOS. However, some localities assume that LOS drops from “D” to “E” when any single lane has a volume greater than 1,460 vehicles per hour (vph), though the actual figure varies with design speed and other factors. Here are a couple of indicators of excessive congestion:

  • During rush-hour it frequently takes two or more green cycles to get through an intersection with a traffic light; or
  • It takes you twice as long to get to your destination during rush-hour compared to making the same trip at, say, 10:00 am or 2:00 pm.

For medium to large projects a traffic impact study is usually required. The TIS will employ far more sophisticated methods to accurately determine current and future Level of Service. The congestion LOS described in this paragraph is not appropriate for residential streets since it allows traffic far in excess of that which is conducive to a safe and enjoyable neighborhood atmosphere (see Neighborhood Streets & Traffic Volume below).

Congestion & Economic Development

In 2009, the Reason Foundation released a report on Gridlock and Growth. This study determined that severe congestion reduces economic health – expressed as Gross Regional Product – by 6% to 30%. Maintaining access to Central Business Districts (CBD) is particularly important. A 10% decrease in accessibility to a CBD can reduce recreational productivity by about 1%. But congestion around other common employment centers – suburbs, malls, universities and airports – can also reduces regional economic health. A University of Pennsylvania study documented that productivity growth slows when the annual hours of delay per commuter exceeds 39 hours. Another study indicated that employment growth slows due to greater difficulty in attracting works when congestion caused delay exceeds:

  • 28- to 32-annual hours;
  • when the average delay per one-way auto commute exceeds 4.5 minutes; or
  • traffic volume on freeways and other limited access, high-speed roads exceeds 11,000 vehicle per lane day.

Collectively, this research indicates that the generally accepted belief that growth is always good for the economy may not necessarily be true if it occurs in a way that increases congestion in a town, city or county. To see the amount of delay for your area visit the Texas A&M Congestion Data website.

Cyclist Safety

The State of Florida has been leading the rest of the nation in developing criteria for allowing bicyclists and motor vehicles to share the road. The safest bike lanes are separated from traffic flow by a physical barrier, like a concrete wall.

There are actually procedures for rating Bicycling Level of Service based upon motor vehicle traffic volume, speed and bike lane configuration. A number of local governments require that new development projects not cause existing bike lanes to drop below a specific LOS. If they do then the applicant would have the option of covering the costs of bike lane improvements which would resolve the LOS conflict.

Dead-End Street Length

A dead-end street is also known as a cul-de-sac or a court. Some local development regulations contain a limit on the length of a dead-end street. The limit is prompted by concerns that homes located along the cul-de-sac may be cut-off from emergency services if the road is blocked by a fallen tree, a mudslide or floodwaters. The length limit is typically in the range of 1,000- to 2,000-feet. If such a limit is imposed in your area then the developer may be forced to find a second means of access or to cut proposed cul-de-sacs back to the limit. If you’re concerned about your dead-end street being converted then see Turning Dead-End Streets Into Through-Roads below.

Habitat Protection

Wetlands, streams, rivers, lakes, tidal waters and other aquatic habitats are best protected by maintaining a 100-foot buffer of native vegetation between the habitat and the limits of disturbance. To the extent possible, new roads should not pass through forest stands. Nor should they create more than a 300-foot break in migration corridors. For further detail see the FHWA Wildlife & Highways webpage.

High Accident Locations

If an intersection or road ranks among the most dangerous in an area then new development should not be allowed if it that would add more cars exacerbating accident rates. A number of cities, counties and states publish list of the 10 to 20 worst roads or intersections with regard to accidents. Following are a few examples:

If such a listing is not available for your area then frequently you can obtain accident (crash) data and do your own analysis. An example of a CEDS analysis of accident locations is posted at: Howard County, MD Neighborhood Streets Have Highest Accident Number.

If a proposed development project will add traffic to one of the most dangerous locations in your area then it should not be approved until the cause(s) have been corrected. If correction is not practical then approval should be denied.

Induced Traffic

A curious phenomenon, known as Induced Traffic, has been observed when a new road is opened in a congested area – traffic volume increases. The explanation offered is that motorists who used to stay home to avoid congestion make more trips by car once a new road relieves congestion. This is one of the many reasons why it is vitally important to carefully study every option for resolving congestion. In fact, a number of officials have concluded that its usually not possible to resolve congestion just by building new roads. This is particularly true when a new major road opens a rural area up for development.

Intersection Density

As the number of intersecting driveways, streets or other access points increases so does the probability of accidents. This relationship has been confirmed through studies conducted in Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. This research showed that going from 10 access points per mile to 60 would triple the accident rate. Each additional access per mile of roadway increases the accident rate by about 4%.

Intersection Spacing

If a new street is proposed then it should intersect the existing road directly opposite an existing street. If this is not possible then the developer may be required to create the new intersection a minimum distance from existing intersections, such as say 300-feet. For further background see Driveway & Street Intersection Spacing.

Level of Service

Intersections with traffic signals and road segments are rated on a scale of A to F with regard to congestion. This system is known as Level Of Service or LOS. Most roads operate at a congestion-free “A” LOS during the wee hours of the morning. But LOS is based upon conditions during the morning (7:00 – 9:00 am) and evening (4:00 – 6:00 pm) rush-hours. An LOS of “E” and “F” is generally considered unacceptable. In fact an “F” LOS is gridlock.

Traffic jam, Beijing, China

Note two lanes of traffic in the photo to the left. Traffic flow in the left lane is typical of a C LOS while the right lane is operating at A or B. The above photo shows F or gridlock.

Most local and state traffic agencies will seek to prevent congestion from dropping below a “D” LOS for suburban-urban areas and “C” or better for rural roads. At an LOS of “E” you’ll spend two to four more time in congested traffic compared to a “D” level of service. In ultra urban settings traffic managers may have no choice but to allow LOS to drop to “E”. But at the high population density of these ultra-urban areas mass transportation becomes a viable a solution to preventing congestion from getting even worse. Most traffic officials and engineers rely upon the procedures set forth in the Highway Capacity Manual to assess Level Of Service. Unfortunately these procedures require a considerable amount of data and expertise to make an accurate assessment of LOS.

Some localities assume that LOS drops from “D” to “E” when any single lane has a volume greater than 1,460 vehicles during the peak-hour, though the actual figure varies with design speed and other factors. This approach is known as a Critical Movement Analysis or Critical Lane Analysis.

Here are a couple of indicators of excessive congestion:

  • During rush-hour it frequently takes two or more green cycles to get through an intersection with a traffic light; or
  • It takes you twice as long to get to your destination during rush-hour compared to making the same trip at, say, 10:00 am or 2:00 pm.

For medium to large projects a traffic impact study is usually required. The TIS will employ far more sophisticated methods to accurately determine current and future Level of Service. The congestion LOS described in this paragraph is not appropriate for residential streets since it allows traffic far in excess of that which is conducive to a safe and enjoyable neighborhood atmosphere (see Neighborhood Streets & Traffic Volume below).

Main Road Traffic & Neighborhood Streets

As congestion increases on main routes, commuters tend to use less crowded neighborhood through streets as a way around congested road segments. This action can greatly increase not only volume on the neighborhood street but average speed as well. Because of this CEDS traffic engineers will assess development proposals for the likelihood of increasing traffic on local streets even if the project access is onto a main road.

Neighborhood Streets & Traffic Volume

In the portion of this webpage on Congestion, above, it was stated that unacceptable conditions may not occur until a single lane is carrying more 1,460 vehicles per hour. Unfortunately, this same standard is the only one considered for neighborhood streets in far too many localities. Instead, one should look at the volumes which trigger the need for Traffic Calming measures such as speed humps.

Most traffic agencies use a threshold of 1,000- to 2,000-vehicles per day (vpd) before calming measures will be considered. This volume of traffic would be generated by 83 to 200 homes along a street. Proposed development projects should not cause traffic volume on an existing neighborhood street to exceed this volume. If it will then the developer should be required to cover the cost of installing calming measures. But even with calming measures traffic volume on a neighborhood street probably should not exceed 5,000 vpd. For further detail see: Neighborhood Streets & Cut-Through Traffic.

Noise Minimization

The best way to minimize noise on neighborhood streets is to keep traffic volume low. It is particularly important to prevent land uses that generate large volumes of truck traffic from being sited at locations where these heavy, noisy vehicles must travel neighborhood streets. Highway noise can be disturbing for those living up to a mile from a high-speed, limited access road. Noise barriers can reduce impacts for homes located within the noise shadow created by the barriers. Forest and noise fences tend not to be very effective.


This issue can be quite the two-edged sword if one lives near a site proposed for an intensive use and is concerned about aquatic resource impacts. On the one-hand too little parking on the intense use site means overflow parking may exhaust all the spaces on nearby streets. But creating excess parking at the site means far more impervious surfaces and a much greater volume of stormwater pollution. Residential parking permits is one option for protecting neighborhoods but effectiveness depends upon enforcement. The table below provides examples of the formulas used to estimate parking needs.

GFA in the table means Gross Floor Area and includes the surface area of all floors within a building, from basement to uppermost floor. A 2,500 square foot convenience store would require (2500 ÷ 1000 x 5.3 =) 13 parking spaces. While the standard reference is Parking Generation, many local governments have adopted their own formulas which appear in zoning, subdivision or land use regulations. And CEDS has occasionally succeeded in showing that a parking ratio is too low or high. In other words, you need not accept ratios as infallible. Megachurches and other uses will occasionally utilize off-site parking. Patrons are then bused from the off-site lot to their destination. This can be a good way to minimize parking lot size and stormwater runoff. But it may also be a way of shoehorning a use onto a site which is too small and inappropriate.

A typical space measures 9- by 18-feet or 162 square feet. But with turning lanes and other features, 290 square feet are needed to accommodate each vehicle parked in a lot. Parking spaces cost an average of $18,000 each to construct. One study indicated that it cost 67% more for spaces in an above-ground garage and 97% more for spaces created underground. Garages have a tremendous environmental benefit in generating far less stormwater pollution and requiring less habitat destruction.

Pedestrian Safety

Until recently our obsession with cars has resulted in vast areas where one literally risks their life trying to walk from one suburban location to another. Particularly disturbing is the absence of sidewalks for children to use in getting from their homes to school. Fortunately many local governments now require developers to include sidewalks and walking-biking trails in their plans. Unfortunately these facilities are frequently located in ways that increase environmental impacts by taking down more forest or intruding upon wetland buffers. Some localities have adopted a level of service analysis process for pedestrian facilities. CEDS routinely reviews plans to verify that safe, enjoyable walking-biking facilities are provided using routes that minimize impact without unduly sacrificing pedestrian pleasure and convenience.

Property Value Loss

The best way to prevent traffic from causing a property value loss is to keep traffic volume low and. most importantly, avoid the use of a neighborhood street by heavy trucks, like dump trucks as opposed to parcel delivery vans.

Sight Distance

This phrase refers to how far ahead a driver can see a stopped or approached vehicle. For example, while sitting at a stop sign you should be able to see a car approaching from the left or right about ten seconds before they arrive at your location.

This allows sufficient time for you to turn onto the road without forcing the driver of the approaching vehicle to brake excessively. Sight distance increases with the speed of approaching vehicles. Generally you need about 11 feet of sight distance for every mile of posted speed limit plus 10. If the posted speed limit is 40 miles per hour then you must be able to see approaching vehicles when they are (40 mph + 10 = 50 x 11 = ) 550 feet distant. For proposed intersections sight distance should be measured at the point where a driver would be stopped with your eye about 3.5 feet above the ground surface. If a hill, vegetation or other objects block sight-distance then the developer usually has the option of removing the obstruction provided it is on their land or they can get the landowners permission. The primary reference used to determine sight distance is A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets. For simplified methods to assess sight-distance see: CEDS Traffic Evaluation Procedures.

Stopping Sight Distance

Scientific studies have shown that drivers require two- to four-seconds from the moment they see a hazard ahead to react by getting their foot on the brake pedal. Because of this two other sight distance measurements are used for vehicles approaching a proposed intersection. Braking Distance is the length of roadway needed for a vehicle to come to a full stop from the moment a driver’s foot is applied to the brake. Brake Reaction distance is the length of roadway needed to come to a full stop from the moment a drivers first sees a hazard. At 30 mph a vehicle will travel 110 feet from the moment a hazard is seen until the driver’s foot hits the brake. The vehicle will then travel another 86 feet before it comes to a full stop. This means that a car turning onto a road from a new intersection should be visible to approaching drivers at a distance of about 200 feet. At 50 mph the distance increases to 425 feet. Some localities only consider Braking Distance while the safer policy is to require that new intersections meet the Brake Reaction distance. The primary reference used to determine Brake Reaction and Braking Distance is A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets.

Stop Sign Delay

As growth increases traffic volume area residents must wait for longer periods at stop signs. The Highway Capacity Manual provides the following criteria for rating delay Level Of Service (LOS).

Delay is determined by counting the seconds each vehicle waits at a stop sign before turning or proceeding through an intersection. The measurement is made during that portion of the year, day of the week and hour of the day (peak-hour) with the highest traffic volume. The average delay is then computed for the peak-hour.

If the average, peak-hour delay is present in the Level of Service “D” range of 26 to 35 seconds, then many local governments will require a developer to pay for improvements to prevent LOS from dropping to “E”. For simplified methods to assess stop sign delay see: CEDS Traffic Evaluation Procedures.

Street Width & Traffic Volume

Most new residential streets have a paved width of 20- to 24-feet. An exhibit in A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets recommends limits on traffic volume for narrower roads. Two-lane roads that are 18 feet in width should not have a traffic volume greater than 400 vehicles per day (vpd) nor a design speed greater than 40 mph. Roads 20 feet wide should not have a traffic volume greater than 1,500 vpd. At a width of 22 feet volume can range up to 2,000 vpd. With a width of 24 feet volume may exceed 2,000 vpd. A word of caution though. Many local traffic agencies have not adopted these volumes as limits. They are most likely to be applied to narrower roads – those 18 feet wide or less.

Traffic Calming

As the phrase implies, traffic calming is intend to reduce both volume and speed. It is applied to neighborhood streets as well as downtown shopping areas with high volumes of pedestrian activity. Generally it consists of three approaches: education, structures and enforcement. Speed humps are the most recognizable form of traffic calming. Traffic calming measures can accident rates by 15% to 20% on residential streets. For inner-city parents of 5- to 10-year olds, 60% cite high traffic volume on their neighborhood streets as the reason why they would not let their children play outside.

Speed humps and other structures that tend to be most effective. Education such as signs that flash your speed do reduce speed at first but the effect tends to diminish after a couple of weeks. Speed traps and other enforcement approaches are certainly effective but, again, the benefits dwindle over time. Even stop signs are viewed as relatively ineffective on low-volume roads where drivers routinely roll through. Structures such as speed humps slow traffic to 25 mph or less permanently. They cost about $6,000 each and are usually spaced 300- to 600-feet apart. However, it is claimed that fire departments tend to object to speed humps since they slow response time to emergencies. Another traffic calming measure for resolving cut-through traffic is road closure. If a proposed development project would add traffic to a neighborhood street then you could ask the developer to pick up the cost of installing calming measures. The net result could be a safer street since most neighborhoods tend to have a few idiot residents who insist upon racing to and from their home.

Traffic Count Accuracy

An accurate count of traffic volume is key to determining Level Of Service discussed under Congestion above and the impact of a proposed development project. As such counts are central to the Traffic Impact Studies covered in the next section of this webpage. Traffic counts are best done with counters. When you see rubber tubes stretched across a road you’re seeing a traffic count underway. Counts are usually made for 48 hours during those times of the week and year when traffic volume tends to be highest. The 48 hours of data is then analyzed to determine the one-hour period with the highest traffic volume in the morning and evening. Usually the weekday peak-hour occurs between 7:00 – 9:00 am and 4:00 – 6:00 pm. Counts should be made in good weather on a school day. Never on a holiday. Generally Tuesday to Thursday is best. However, if you are in a resort area then counts must be made during the peak of the tourist season. But you do not need an expensive counter to determine traffic volume. Except for the highest volume roads you can do counts manually. Procedures for doing your own traffic count can be found at: CEDS Traffic Evaluation Procedures. And our clients have won a number of cases by showing that the applicant’s counts were well below actual traffic volumes.

Traffic Impact Studies

Most local and state traffic-highway agencies will require a traffic impact study (TIS) for medium to large projects. A common threshold for a residential TIS is 50 homes or more. Your local traffic agency or state highway agency may have published minimum standards for traffic impact studies. Typically all intersections up to a mile from a proposed development site will be assessed or out to the first signalized intersection. Congestion is the focus of most studies. If the TIS shows that a development project may cause Level Of Service to drop below the minimum acceptable then the developer may propose improvements to resolve the issue. A number of intersection congestion issues can be resolved by adding a new turn lane or by adjusting signal timing. Unfortunately it pretty much takes a professional traffic engineer to evaluate the accuracy of a TIS. Fortunately CEDS has a number of traffic professionals within our network. In the previous section of this webpage we pointed out that traffic counts are one thing that citizens can do to assess TIS accuracy. If your counts show, say, 10% or more traffic then the developer’s study then you should make this know to the decision-makers responsible for reviewing the project. Also, compare the Trip Generation rate given in the TIS to that given in standard references or that you determine through your own studies. The estimate of project impact must factor in traffic from all other development proposals which are still under review but not built yet. Of course this would be projects that may contribute traffic to the same study points as the project which is the TIS focus. Finally, scrutinize the travel directions assumed in the TIS. Usually the direction will be mostly to and from major employers or employment centers in the region. If the TIS shows a large part of morning rush-hour traffic heading out into rural areas devoid of employers then this is a major flaw. For simplified methods to assess traffic study accuracy see: CEDS Traffic Evaluation Procedures.

Traffic Signal Needed

A new development project may trigger a need to install a traffic signal. The triggering criteria are called “warrants” which are set forth in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways, published by the Federal Highway Administration.

Assessing these warrants is complicated and requires the services a traffic professional. For assistance in finding a qualified professional contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org.

Trip Generation

The Institute of Transportation Engineers publishes the primary reference on this topic: Trip Generation. This expensive tome contains trip generation rates for a large number of land uses. The table below gives a few examples. A more complete table can be found at: Common Trip Generation Rates.

Generally about 11% of the daily trips will occur during the evening rush hour and 10% during the morning rush hour. Trip generation rates are usually given in vehicles per hour and refers to the rush-hour. For simplified methods to verify trip generation accuracy: CEDS Traffic Evaluation Procedures.

Turning Dead-End Streets Into Through-Roads

Except for very small projects, most local governments will require at least two means of access to and from a proposed development project. All too often though extending an existing cul-de-sac (dead-end street) is the means chosen by the developer to attain the second access. This causes those who live on the cul-de-sac considerable stress, particularly since they probably paid a premium to live on the low-volume street. But the motivation for a second access is frequently just for emergency vehicles. Frequently we can convince the developer and local officials to install a locked gate across the second access. This prevents anyone other than emergency services personnel from opening the gate and thereby keeps traffic volume low on the cul-de-sac. In fact it makes the cul-de-sac a bit safer by providing a second means of access. Before urging this and most other solutions CEDS always researches past decision-making history. This is part of our Smart Legal Strategies approach. This research tells us whether an alternative has been allowed and under what conditions, Plus we’re prepared for counter-arguments. To see an example of this research go to: Preventing Cul-De-Sacs From Becoming Through Roads. For further detail see: Neighborhood Streets & Cut-Through Traffic.

Turning Gap

To safely turn onto a road there must be a sufficient gap between approaching vehicles. To make a left-hand turn onto a two-lane roads there needs to be a minimum gap of about six-seconds and a right requires four seconds. But the wider the road the greater the gap needed.

One study showed that misjudging gap size accounted for 3.2% of all traffic accidents. Of course traffic flow is not uniform so drivers may need to wait as long as a minute or two for an adequate gap to appear on a busy road. Determining the average gap is not simple and requires an automatic counter along with the expertise of a professional traffic engineer, such as those in the CEDS network. As traffic volume increases frustrated drivers are tempted to turn with smaller gaps, which causes drivers on the main road to brake hard. This cycle lead to accident increases. Of course the gap needed for pedestrian and cyclist crossings is even greater. If gaps are insufficient for safety then a development project may be limited to right-in/right-out entrance. Right-In/Right-Out Entrance. Other options include installing a traffic signal at the new intersection.

Resolving Regional Traffic Issues

Far too many citizen advocates seek to prevent regional traffic congestion from getting worse by attempting to kill individual development projects. Generally this is doomed to fail. It’s also a waste of precious energy and funds. Instead, advocates should be putting their efforts into first determining if existing congestion-prevention laws are being fully enforced. If not or if you find that the laws are inadequate, then your effort should focus on improving enforcement or winning the adoption of better laws.

This battle is best fought in a political arena, not in the courts. Political battles are far less expensive and citizens tend to have the advantage in this arena, whereas the development industry tends to win most of the time in the courts.

Not to belabor the point, but consider this. In the Congestion section we said a single lane can accommodate about 1,460 vehicles per hour (vph) before dropping below a “D” level of service. Even a one-hundred house project would only add 110 vph – 7% increase. You might spend $5,000 to $50,000 trying to stop the project. But if your traffic congestion laws are poor then you’ll likely lose on this issue. But you could win better enforcement or improve the law throughout an entire town, city or county for less than $5,000.

To understand the transportation planning process visit the U.S. Department of Transportation Every Place Counts: Leadership Academy website.

Good Traffic Congestion Law

What does a good traffic congestion minimization law look like? Well, recall that Level Of Service was described in the Congestion section above. A good law would set the Level of Service standard at “C” or better for rural roads and “D” or better for suburban-urban roads. If a proposed development project would cause LOS to drop below the applicable standard then it could not be approved. But the law would allow for the developer to propose improvements.

If the developers Traffic Impact Study showed the improvements would maintain LOS at the required minimum, then the project could be approved provided the developer was solidly locked into paying for and making the improvements through something like a public works agreement, proffers as well as permit conditions. If the local or state government plans to build a new road or expand existing streets and a solid commitment has been made to actually make the improvement then the project could be approved. Of course the improvements must resolve the congestion issue. Project development might be postponed until road improvements are underway or the project could be built in phases that coincide with increasing road capacity. If the improvements benefit mostly one or several projects, then the developers of these projects should pick up all costs.

Does Your Area Have A Congestion Problem?

If it routinely takes more than one green cycle to get through more than a few signalized intersection in your town, city or county then congestion is certainly a problem. The same is true if it takes 50% to 100% longer to reach your destination at rush-hour (7-9 am; 4-6 pm) compared to say 10:00 am or 2:00 pm. Larger cities, metropolitan planning organizations or state transportation agencies routinely assess level of service at signalized intersections or along road-highway segments. To see if this information is available online for your area then try doing a search using the key words “level of service” plus the name of your town, city or county. If the search fails then try contacting the local traffic management office which is usually in a public works or planning agency. Next, click on metropolitan planning organizations to find the MPO for your area and contact their staff about the availability of congestion information. Try the same with your state transportation agency.

Does Your Locality Have A Congestion Law

If your town, city or county has a law regarding traffic congestion then it will usually be found in a subdivision ordinance, development regulation, land use code and occasionally a zoning ordinance. Frequently these ordinances and regulations are available online. Usually you can reach them by searching on keywords like “code” + “name of your town, city or county”. You may also find links to these laws on the webpage for your local planning office.

The law may be very specific setting forth the need and content of a traffic impact study along with level of service criteria. Or the law may be a more general one sentence requirement like:

That adequate measures have been or will be taken to provide ingress or egress so designed as to minimize traffic congestion in public streets.

If Yes, How Effective Is The Law

You are probably aware of recently approved medium to large development projects; 50 to 100 residential units. Were any located near intersections that you believe to be congested? If yes, ask your local planning-zoning office for an opportunity to review the project file. Does the file contain a traffic impact study or any other document regarding level of service? If yes, then did the study comply with the criteria given earlier in this webpage for Traffic Impact Studies. If the study showed the project would cause level of service to drop to an “E” or “F” did the developer propose measures that would resolve the congestion problem? If not and approval was granted then whatever existing law is on the books isn’t very effective or its not being enforced. If the file lacks a study then is there any other reference to congestion in the minutes or decision for the project? If not and you’re convinced a nearby intersection is excessively congested then existing law is, again, ineffective.

Is The Law or Enforcement The Problem

If existing law meets the criteria presented above Good Traffic Congestion Law then you’re probably looking at an enforcement problem. This is definitely the case if local officials routinely approve development projects in close proximity to intersections that unequivocally suffer severe congestion.

Improving Enforcement

While you might be tempted to initiate legal action to improve enforcement, DON’T DO THIS! A political strategy will be far more effective, far less costly and create a base from which you can gain more lasting benefits as well as go on to resolve other shortcomings in the way your locality manages growth. Similar campaigns managed by CEDS have brought about up to a 61% improvement in enforcement in a short period of time and at a cost of less than $3,000. Detailed guidance on how to execute such a campaign will be found in Chapter 36: Mobilizing Support For Your Strategy, Chapter 38: Working with Regulatory Staff and Chapter 39: Lobbying Final Decision-Makers in our free 300-page book How To Win Land Development Issues.

Reducing Taxpayer Traffic Improvement Costs

Increasingly people resist paying the additional taxes needed to cover the cost of providing new roads, water and sewer services and schools required for new development. One option to generate additional funds for these and other infrastructure needs is to charge development companies an impact fee to cover the cost of road improvements. Impact fees are also assessed to cover the costs of building new schools, extending water-sewer lines and for other infrastructure needs.

As of 2015, 29 states had passed legislation allowing local governments to charge impact fees. In 1987, Texas became the first to adopt this legislation. Following is a sampling of road-traffic related impacts fees.

Some states and localities charge a transportation impact fee based on the amount of traffic a development project will generate. For example, the State of Pennsylvania charge $1,000 per peak-hour trip. In Western Washington State, 60 cities charge a peak-hour per trip fee of $515 to $8,462.

Winning Adoption Of A Better Law

We suggest beginning your search for a better law by contacting transportation, planning and legal experts at universities in your state. In all states there a few localities known for having the most effective laws and enforcement for growth issues like traffic, schools or environment. The university experts can quickly point you to these localities and may even serve as unbiased, low-cost advisors. You should not begin your search with independent or even government traffic engineers or other transportation officials. You will find it far easier to convince local decision-makers to adopt a law or an enforcement strategy which has been in use by other localities in your state. Being able to point to how well a proposed law works elsewhere makes it much more palatable. No one wants to be the first to try an untested law. Detailed guidance on how to succeed with this effort will be found in Chapter 41: Changing the Law in our free 300-page book How To Win Land Development Issues.

Transportation & Land Use Planning

Resolving existing congestion and preventing future bottle-necks begins with land use and transportation planning. Most localities have a long-range (ten-year) master plan which may also be called a comprehensive plan, a general development plan, etc. To build a new major road it must first be included in the master plan. So the place to stop poorly planned new roads is at the master plan stage. A transportation plan may be a chapter in the master plan or a stand-alone document.

A good master planning process will begin by identifying reasonable scenarios for how the locality can grow. The public would be provided with sufficient background so they can assess the pros and cons of each scenario. All residents of the locality would then have an opportunity to comment on each scenario. Through mechanisms like public opinion polls, focus groups, public hearings and committees the residents would select the most desirable scenario(s).

The draft master plan would then set forth the changes needed to create conditions most likely to produce the preferred growth scenario. With regard to traffic congestion, the Land Use and Transportation chapters would show how growth could be directed to those areas with excess road capacity or where mass transit makes the most sense. The Capital Improvement chapter would give priority to using tax-dollars to resolve traffic congestion problems first and require developers to cover the cost of projects needed to accommodate growth. If your area is served by a Metropolitan Planning Organization then check out their documents for insights of traffic and transit opportunities. There are also a number of great mass transit advocacy groups anxious to support grass-roots advocates:

When Rural Main Street Is A Major Highway

Picture a four-lane highway with a posted speed limit of 55 mph or higher. You’ve been driving for a half-hour or so through corn fields, forest or desert passing scattered houses. You see a sign warning of reduced speed ahead alerting you that a more densely populated area is coming up. While most drivers slow, some do not. During peak traffic periods life can be difficult for those who live in the town as well as motorists trying to reach a remote destination. It may become impossible for residents to make a left-turn from their street or driveway! Pedestrians and cyclists alike may be risking their lives when attempting to cross the main street. Fortunately there are ways of improving such a situation but no panaceas.

One Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) study recommended the use of traffic calming measures to alert motorists that the character of the highway is changing from rural to urban. These measures are described in the next section of this webpage. However, FHWA notes that while some towns have achieved a 15 mph reduction in speed with these measures, a 5 mph reduction is more typical. The good news is that all accidents were cut in half and those involving injury were cut by more than a fourth.

Some towns have attempted to solve their main street traffic problems by building a bypass highway. But there truly is no such thing as a free lunch. Downtown business owners may then see a sharp drop in sales as former customers bypass the town. If responsible growth management is not in place and new shopping centers or big-box stores are allowed out near the bypass then the downtown businesses may begin failing. Uncontrolled growth out along the bypass may cause traffic volume to reach the point where out-of-town travelers begin using the main street to avoid bypass congestion.

Neighborhood Traffic Calming

As the title implies, the goal of calming measures is to reduce the speed and volume of traffic on neighborhood streets. Many local and state governments have instituted programs to employ these measures, particularly on streets dominated by homes and carrying a high volume of cut-through traffic. Perhaps the most familiar example of a traffic calming measure is the speed hump, which can reduce average vehicle speed to 25 miles per hour or less.

So why discuss Neighborhood Traffic Calming in a webpage devoted to proposed development?

The folks who tend to be most concerned about the traffic impact of a development proposal are those currently suffering from excessive traffic. Calming measures can be used to resolve the existing problem.

As stated above, conventional traffic impact analyses focus on congestion, not neighborhood street safety. Traffic congestion may not become an issue until traffic volume exceeds 15,000 vehicles per day (vpd) whereas neighborhood street safety concerns begin around 1,000 vpd and may become unmanageable at 4,000 vpd. This may provide you with an argument to convince a decision-making body not to allow a project to add traffic to your street if it causes volume to exceed the effective limits of calming measures.

Finally, its not uncommon that the project developer can be convinced to cover the cost of traffic calming measures in exchange for citizens dropping their opposition to a project causing a small increase in traffic. The net result is a street that’s safer than it was before development.

Traffic Calming Benefits

An American Journal of Public Health article provided the following best case for neighborhood traffic calming:

Pedestrian injuries caused by automobile collisions are a leading cause of death among children aged 5 to 14 years. The demographic characteristics of children injured by automobiles have remained the same over the past 20 years, with boys, children between the ages of 5 and 9 years, and children living in neighborhoods of low socioeconomic status (SES) at highest risk.

A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed that reducing vehicle speed is crucial to reducing pedestrian injury and death. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 16 mph has a 10% chance of severe injury. At 23 mph the injury risk rises to 25% then 50% at 31 mph. The probability of death follows a similar pattern: 10% at 23 mph, 25% at 32 mph, and 50% at 42 mph.

Federal Highway Administration publication listed the following benefits of traffic calming:

  • The risk of serious injury or death is reduced;
  • At the lower speeds achieved with calming measures a street feels more comfortable for walking and bicycling;
  • Reduced noise and speed enhances property value;
  • Because of lower speed and reduced traffic volume air quality improves;
  • Crime is reduced because its more difficult to escape from a neighborhood with calming measures; and
  • The landscaping included with many calming measures a neighborhood street gets greener, imparting a sense of being closer to nature.

A common concern about traffic calming measures is the effect they may have on emergency vehicle response time. But the FHWA publication cited above referenced studies in Berkley and Palo Alto, California where no effect on police, fire or ambulance response time was noted. Some localities deal with this issue by prohibiting the use of physical calming measures, like speed humps, on streets which are frequently used by emergency vehicles.

How Much Traffic Is Too Much?

The Federal Highway Administration has adopted the following roadway classification system.

With arterials, collectors and larger local streets congestion limits traffic volume; usually in excess of 1,500 vehicles per lane during the peak hour or 15,000 vehicles per day (vpd). With local streets, particularly those classified as secondary local or neighborhood streets, safety and other quality of life impacts should set volume limits. Most localities will not consider physical traffic calming measures until traffic volume exceeds 1,000 vpd. It appears that 4,000 vpd may be approaching the point where physical measures alone are not sufficient to preserve quality of life along a neighborhood street. Above 4,000 vpd traffic planners and engineers look at options for modifying road networks to limit travel on the neighborhood street. Other factors can lower the acceptable traffic volume level such as the absence of sidewalks and proximity to elementary schools.

Traffic Calming Measures

The goal of these measures is first to slow traffic speed then reduce excessive traffic volume. Both actions cause neighborhood streets to be safer to cross and less hazardous for children playing nearby.  The following table summarizes the effectiveness of three categories of approaches for making neighborhood streets safer.

Traffic calming is divided into three areas: education, enforcement and engineered measures. While all three are vital, only engineered measures provide lasting benefits. The following discussion is based mostly on the Center for Problem-Solving Policing webpage Responses to the Problem of Speeding in Residential Areas. Other traffic calming resources can be found at:


These measures can range from a brochure to half-day programs given at local schools. Education must be the first step in any traffic calming effort. Before installing speed humps or other engineered measures on a neighborhood street it is essential that residents learn why they are needed. Residents must then have an opportunity to participate in decision-making about what approaches will be used. If done right most residents should support the effort.


Police departments have found that enforcement can be effective if four criteria are met:

  • drivers believe it will occur;
  • it has meaningful costs to offenders;
  • police apply it generally, rather than at specific times and locations; and
  • drivers are not tipped off by cues as to when it is or is not happening.

Speed cameras can be effective while speed signs other measures, like the speed sign to the right only reduces speed for a few weeks. Every neighborhood seems to have a couple of residents who insist upon driving ridiculously fast. Most police departments will visit these individuals at home if alerted by other residents. This can be effective. Arresting the most severe offenders is quite effective but may require legislation giving police the authority to take this action.

Engineered Measures

These traffic calming measures range from safer crosswalks to closing off a street to through traffic.

Speed Humps span both travel lanes and are typically two- or three-inches high. They reduce speed to 20 or 30 mph. They are easier to cross and more acceptable to emergency services than speed bumps.

Traffic Circles reduce mid-block speed by 10% and intersection collisions by up to 70%. Roundabouts or rotaries are similar but are used where larger traffic volumes are anticipated and typically have two lanes of traffic in the circle. traffic circle

Chicanes are installed mid-block to narrow a street or to impart gentle curves, but of which cause most drivers to slow-down. By narrowing the width of the street which must be crossed, chicanes also make it safer for pedestrians to cross.

Center Island Narrowing provide a safer crossing for pedestrians and can reduce speeds. Some emergency service agency find this the most acceptable calming measure. center island

If cut-through traffic becomes excessive on a narrow, neighborhood street then one option is to close the street off at one end. Simply making a street one-way can reduce cut-through traffic by half.

Measures With Limited Effectiveness

The following measures have been found to have minimal impact upon speeding:

  • Reducing speed limits;
  • Increasing fines and penalties;
  • Stop signs; and
  • Speed bumps (as opposed to humps) and rumble strips.

Traffic Calming Assistance

Determining what measures are appropriate for your street requires the assistance of a traffic engineer or other qualified professional. Many larger towns, cities and counties have a traffic calming programs where staff will assist neighborhoods in solving speeding-volume issues. These agencies may have the funds to install engineered measures, which can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 each. Usually traffic calming staff are in the local public works agency. Of course your local police department likely has an established program to assist you in making your street safer. A number of state highway agencies have traffic calming programs too. To get started try doing an internet search using the keywords of “traffic calming” + “name of your town, city, county”.

Neighborhood Parking Problems

In 2007, the occupants of a typical US household had 2.07 vehicles which dropped to 1.8 by 2013. While 1.8 vehicles per household may not create a parking problem in a new suburban neighborhood, the paucity of spaces can be quite severe in older urban settings. And both neighborhoods may face parking shortfalls if development of adjacent lands occurs without adequate onsite parking. The parking dilemma is made more complex by competing interests such as stormwater pollution control where the goal is to minimize impervious surfaces like parking lots.

New Development & Adequate Parking

A proposal to develop a vacant tract of land next to your neighborhood may worsen or improve parking problems. If your neighborhood lacks adequate parking then you might negotiate an agreement with the developer to provide excess spaces adjacent to your neighborhood. If a vacant area exists within your neighborhood then the developer may agree to turn it into additional parking space. CEDS has found that most development companies will go to consider lengths – such as these examples – to gain the support of neighbors.

You should find parking requirements in the zoning ordinance or other development regulations adopted by your local government. For example, many local planning and zoning agencies require a minimum of 2.0 parking spaces per single-family detached home. This ratio is based mostly upon a publication from the Institute of Transportation Engineers: Parking Generation, which is in its 4th edition and suggests parking ratios for 106 land uses (see examples in the table in the Parking section above).

While ITE’s Parking Generation is the best reference we have, it should not be considered infallible. For some land uses the parking ratio may be based on only two or three studies nationwide, some of which are more than a decade old. Therefore CEDS always does a bit of research when evaluating a project.

We contact those living next to existing examples of the same type of development in the same town, city or county. We ask these neighbors what positive and negative effects the development type has caused. One of our specific questions is how often parking overflows from the site. If the response is that overflow is something other than a rare occurrence then we can use this to document that the parking ratio is too low.

Offsite Parking

Some land uses exhibit a very large range in parking needs. Religious facilities – mosques, temples, churches, synagogues, etc – are the classic example. On days when the congregation meets parking needs are at a maximum. The rest of the week the parking lot is mostly empty. This is a waste for several reasons. As stated in the Parking discussion above, each parking space costs $18,000. Each space also generates 7,000 gallons of polluted stormwater runoff a year. Within a mile of most of these facilities one can find parking lots vacant at times of worship. Examples include office parking lots, an empty park and ride lot, or even a shopping center lot where few of the spaces are occupied. Most shopping center lots are designed for peak buying in November-December with many spaces going empty at other times. A shuttle system could be used to transport folks from the satellite parking to the facility. I suspect many congregants would prefer car to door transportation, particularly the elderly.

Residential Parking Permits

If your neighborhood is plagued by large numbers of nonresidents parking their cars, then a Residential Parking Permit program may be a solution. Through this program each household gets a fixed number of stickers to display on their vehicles. Depending upon how the program is structured, vehicles may be able to park along the street without a sticker during the day, but for no more than two-hours. Of course enforcement is the key to making the permit program work.

Vision Zero

The Vision Zero website describes this concept as…

“…a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. First implemented in Sweden in the 1990s, Vision Zero has proved successful across Europe — and now it’s gaining momentum in major American cities.”

Vision Zero seeks to achieve this goal by…

  • “lowering speed limits
  • redesigning streets,
  • implementing meaningful behavior change campaigns, and
  • enhancing data-driven traffic enforcement.”

Consider urging your local elected officials to adopt a Vision Zero plan for your village, borough, town, city or county. For further detail visit the Vision Zero resources page at: https://visionzeronetwork.org/resources/






How Certain Types of Roadways Can Be an Unsafe Fit for Big Rig Trucks

By Clay Dugas and Associates

| May 20, 2018

As drivers, we’ve all experienced frustration at finding our path blocked or our progress slowed by another motorist. Frustration can quickly turn to fear and danger if the motorist is driving a big rig truck and the roadway is unsafe or unfit for large commercial vehicles. Here is a brief look at several types of roadways and the problems that can be caused when big rig trucks occupy them.


For many people, the worst place to find an 18-wheeler would be in their own neighborhood. Huge commercial vehicles on quiet residential streets can create a host of problems, from merely inconvenient to downright deadly. On the inconvenient side of the spectrum, big rig truck engines are much noisier than those found on passenger vehicles. In a neighborhood, they can easily wake sleeping families or interrupt leisure activities. 18-wheelers might also block driveways or slow traffic, making it difficult or impossible for people to get home.

On the more dangerous side of the spectrum, 18-wheelers on residential streets can easily contribute to automobile accidents. Big rig trucks are so large that they often obscure visibility on the road and are difficult to pass safely. They also have such a large turn radius that they may not be able to turn onto or off of a narrow residential street at all or may misjudge the turn and hit another car, mailbox, curb, trash bin, or sign. Perhaps most frightening of all, 18-wheelers have larger blind spots and longer stopping distances than regular cars. If a playing child runs into the street a big rig truck will have more difficulty stopping or may not see the child at all. The same danger, of course, goes for pets, joggers, or cyclists in the neighborhood.

Are semi-trucks allowed on residential streets?

With some exceptions, commercial motor vehicles are permitted to travel through residential areas. With that said, they are often not permitted to park on residential streets after 10 p.m. and before 6 a.m.


Depending on the nature of the city street and the businesses that line it, many of the same dangers and inconveniences that exist for big rig trucks on residential streets can carry over to a city street. The added engine noise may disturb working professionals or shopping customers. A parked 18-wheeler may also block a business’s entrance or exit or disrupt the flow of traffic in the area. These dangers can easily arise due to 18-wheelers trying and failing to make a narrow turn, other motorists attempting to pass, or pedestrians walking across the roadway.

City streets typically come with a great deal of stop-and-go traffic and thus truckers who are not vigilant, and who are already driving vehicles that take longer to stop, can easily rear-end other vehicles. Life-threatening risks can also arise if the 18-wheeler is blocking the way for emergency responders like police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances.




Commercial Vehicles Can Cause Accidents on Residential Streets

Gabriel Levin | May 15, 2018 | Truck Accidents


When you think of commercial vehicles, you may think primarily of the large semi-trucks and tractor-trailers traversing our nation’s highways. However, many more types of vehicles fall into the “commercial” category. Many of these commercial vehicles do not regularly travel long distances but instead, operate locally right in our own neighborhoods. Examples of commercial vehicles that may crash and cause injuries in residential areas of Philadelphia include:


Nearly 200 million people used SEPTA transportation services in Philly in 2017, including city buses. The bus system is a comprehensive network of routes, vehicles, and drivers who help residents and visitors get around the city. In addition, schools across Philly utilize buses to transport students to and from school on a daily basis, as well as to field trips and sporting events. For this reason, buses can be seen on a regular basis in almost every neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Buses are large, heavy vehicles that are difficult to maneuver. Just like truck drivers, bus drivers must have special licenses and training, as well as comply with additional regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Because of their massive size and weight, buses can cause serious accidents that put many people at risk, including bus drivers, bus passengers, other motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

Bus accidents may be the fault of the bus driver, a bus company, a bus manufacturer, another driver, and other parties. Determining who was at fault in a bus accident is essential to recovering compensation for injuries suffered in a crash.

Trash Trucks

We rely on giant garbage trucks to come through our neighborhoods and collect our trash and recycling on a regular basis. This modern convenience also comes with the risks of trash truck accidents. Trash trucks are hulking vehicles that are also quite difficult to maneuver. Routes take trash truck drivers around sharp turns and down narrow streets, often with parked cars on one or both sides. If these routes were not difficult enough as it is, trash drivers must also be aware of children – who are often enthralled with trash trucks – running into the street.

If a trash truck hits a moving car, parked car, or a pedestrian, serious damage and injuries may occur. In Philadelphia, sanitation is a division of the local government, though sometimes trash collectors may also be contractors hired from private companies. If you were involved in an accident with a trash truck, you may be able to hold the city liable, or the private company, depending on the entity operating the trash service. Knowing who to hold liable for a trash truck accident can be a complicated matter and you should have the assistance of a knowledgeable injury attorney as soon as possible.

Delivery Trucks

Ordering items from the comfort of our own homes is increasingly popular in Philadelphia. Amazon Prime allows you to order almost anything with one touch of a button and grocery delivery services allow you to avoid parking lots and waiting in line for the things you need. All of these services require the use of delivery trucks, which are also considered commercial vehicles.

Unlike tractor-trailers that are utilized by many corporations, delivery trucks are often box trucks, not articulated vehicles. Instead, the trailer is connected to the cab of the truck, which makes turning the vehicle challenging in many cases and can create significant blind spots. Because these trucks deliver goods and packages to many homes and small businesses, delivery box trucks appear regularly in residential neighborhoods and always pose the risk of an accident.

When a delivery driver causes a crash on the job, often the driver’s employer may also be held liable for the actions of the employee. Dealing with commercial insurance companies can be complicated so you need the right attorney to handle negotiations with the insurance company and filing suit if necessary.

Fire Trucks

Fire trucks are enormous vehicles that carry highly-specialized equipment in response to fires and other various emergencies. While not necessarily considered a commercial vehicle, firefighters nonetheless must obtain a commercial license to drive one in Pennsylvania. When a fire truck is deployed, time is often of the essence, and it is not uncommon to see and hear fire trucks with flashing lights and screaming sirens barreling down busy streets as other vehicles pull to the right (or wherever they can) to get out of the way.

While the law gives a fire truck responding to an emergency the right of way, this does not mean that the driver is legally entitled to drive recklessly and put others at an unreasonable risk of harm. For this reason, anyone injured in a fire truck accident that occurred while the vehicle was responding to an emergency should have the facts of their accident reviewed by an attorney.

Furthermore, fire truck drivers who are not responding to an emergency are required to follow the rules of the road just like everybody else. If you are injured in an accident caused by a fire truck driver who was not responding to an emergency and ran a stop sign, was speeding, failed to signal a lane change, or otherwise failed to obey the traffic laws, there is a good chance that you will be able to recover compensation for your injuries.

Commercial vehicles of all types can be involved in collisions that result in life-changing injuries. These injuries can affect your job, finances, and well-being, with losses that mount quickly. Your best options for obtaining compensation depend on the specific circumstances of your accident. This analysis can be complicated when a commercial vehicle is involved, so you should have a skilled personal injury lawyer with experience in commercial vehicle accidents evaluate your situation.




Large Trucks And The Hazards They Can Pose

March 2, 2018|Shannon Law Group

When it comes to large vehicle accidents, we typically think of crashes involving semi-trucks. However, several large commercial vehicles can cause just as much damage to a passenger vehicle and its occupants in a crash, due to its weight being several tons more than other cars.

For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines a large truck as having “a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds” in its Fatality Analysis Reporting System.2

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), “most deaths in large truck crashes are passenger vehicle occupants.”1 This happens because trucks “often weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger cars and are taller with greater ground clearance,” which leaves smaller vehicles vulnerable to underriding trucks in crashes.1

Here Is A Starter List Of 5 Large Trucks And The Hazards They Can Pose:

  1. Tractor-Trailers

Also known as semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, and semi-trailer trucks, these commercial vehicles are typically the heaviest on the highway. The gross weight of a tractor-trailer can vary depending on the type of cargo it is carrying. In the U.S., a tractor-trailer cannot exceed a gross weight of 80,000 pounds, including its cargo weight.3

These 18-wheelers are prone to rolling over due to their high center-of-gravities. They also have bigger blind spots called “no-zones,” which extend several feet away from all sides of the tractor-trailer.

  1. Flatbed Trucks

Flatbed trucks are known for their flat, open trailer. They can be seen hauling building and construction materials, landscaping materials, baled tires, and construction equipment like bulldozers.

Sometimes, cargo on flatbed trucks is not loaded or secured properly, making it susceptible to flying off and hitting other vehicles on the road. Especially if the cargo is obstructing the driver’s vision, these trucks also have several blind spots. Just like tractor-trailers, flatbed truck drivers need must always be alert as they need more distance to brake as well.

  1. Dump Trucks & Garbage Trucks

Dump trucks typically carry sand, gravel, or dirt to a construction site. These materials are often covered with a tarp, but sometimes they are not. If involved in a crash, the contents of a dump truck may be scattered across the road and can potentially bury other cars. These trucks have large blind spots.

Garbage trucks are often seen in residential areas, which increases their likelihood of hitting a pedestrian, bicyclist, or another passenger car. They also have large blind spots and limited view.

  1. Box Trucks

Also known as cube trucks or box vans, box trucks are bulky. Delivery companies like UPS typically use them, but they’re also used as moving vans and have a roll-up door in the rear.

These vehicles are prone to rollover accidents due to their high center-of-gravities. Box truck drivers also have a hard time seeing the back of the truck.  Changing lanes in these vehicles is very challenging for a professional driver.

  1. Tanker Trucks

Designed to carry liquids or gases (including hazardous material), tanker trucks can vary in size. The largest tanker trucks share the same classification with tractor-trailers.

The larger a tanker truck is, the more prone it is to rolling over, which can be very dangerous if it is carrying flammable liquid or gas.




Citizens concerned with large trucks traveling through neighborhood

Badger Lane residents voice issues over damages caused by 18 wheelers, asks Council for help in alleviating issue

One Huntsville neighborhood has had enough of semi-trucks and trailers tearing up its streets and properties. Its residents are seeking solutions to try to alleviate the issue before it gets worse from the Huntsville City Council.

During Tuesday’s meeting, citizens who live on Badger Lane, located off of State Highway 30 East, approached council members about what the city could possibly do to help stop semi-trucks from driving through their neighborhood.

According to resident Chris Stagel, the trucks are traveling through the residential area to deliver parts to Trailer Parts Unlimited, which is located at the intersection of Badger Lane and Bagwell Street, and making it unsafe for residents.

“I believe we had eight come down today since I’ve been home. A lot of the roadway is being torn up and the city has had to come out multiple times and repair sections because the holes have become so large you can stick your hand down in them,” Stagel said. “The biggest issue is the damage to the corner where Badger and Bagwell meet. It is a common scenario now where it happens, the trucks attempt to make this corner and those back wheels get stuck in a culvert right there on my neighbor’s property. It is not allowing water to drain into that culvert anymore, and the trucks keep hitting that light pole and it is now leaning to quite a degree toward his house.”

While speaking before Council, Stagel showed pictures depicting the damages done to the street by the trucks. One photo even showed a truck being stuck after trying to make a turn, which caused Huntsville Police officers and heavy-duty tow trucks to work to get it out.

Stagel raised concerns over damage to the streets becoming more severe, as well as access to the neighborhood for emergency vehicles.

“One thing that a lot of my neighbors have been talking about is the issue of being blocked in or having to go without power because that power pole feeds the whole back half,” Stagel said. “A lot of the neighbors have chronic medical issues, and I’d hate to have to hear of something happening because of them losing power or being stuck and needing medical services.”

Fellow resident Joe Whitehead shared similar sentiments regarding the trucks and added that they make it unsafe for pedestrians, especially kids, due to truckers driving fast down the road. He explained that the streets within the subdivision are not wide enough to fit two semi-trucks at once.

“It is unsafe for our kids because when these trucks turn the corner they are headed downhill toward this business. I have been run off the road several times,” Whitehead said. “When two of these trucks — and I’ve seen it happen — meet each other on the road, one has to back up and the other has to follow him out. It’s a mess and just yesterday, I witnessed one truck come through our street, not obeying the speed limit and even breaking their own (commercial driver’s) license by using their own cellphones, which is illegal. Something needs to be done.”

Whitehead said the neighborhood is divided when it comes to zoning, with the front and back half designated as commercial, and between those zones, it is designated as residential.

“I don’t understand (why zoning is divided). We have families in this neighborhood,” Whitehead said. “If it was happening to one of these other neighborhoods, we would stop it because people’s property values and livelihoods are going down. I plead to the Council that something be done for our neighborhood. … It is out of hand.”

Mayor Andy Brauninger asked Huntsville Police Chief Kevin Lunsford if there was any law on the books that officers could enforce regarding the issue. However, Lunsford said that in terms of laws, there was nothing on the books that HPD could enforce.

“We don’t have any rules to prevent them from going down there. We can only enforce the rules that is on the books,” Lunsford said. “The man can legally have his business there, and we have a truck ordinance that says you can’t drive an 18-wheeler through town unless you are making a delivery, which they are. Our hands are kind of tied. I understand that it is an issue, but there is nothing for me to enforce as it stands.”

City Attorney Leonard Schneider said he has been researching the situation to see if there was anything the city could do and has reached out to several cities that have been through similar situations. He says he hopes to bring something to council members in the next couple of weeks.

Following discussion, council members unanimously approved a motion made by Coucilwoman Tish Humphrey to have city staff also look into various solutions to the problem.




Driving Harm: Health and Community Impacts of Living near Truck Corridors


10 page PDF




Residential Street Standards & Neighborhood Traffic Control: A Survey of Cities’ Practices and Public Officials’ Attitudes

56 page PDF


Eran Ben-Joseph Institute of Urban and Regional Planning University of California at Berkeley


The failure of the local street system to provide livability and safety in the residential environment can be seen in the application of neighborhood traffic management programs by local authorities to mitigate traffic problems. In order to further identify the extent of the conflict associated with “livability” and geometrical design of residential street, the following issues are examined: (1) Existing and proposed residential streets standards and regulations as practiced by various cities and their evaluation by public and city officials. (2) Traffic problems associated with residential streets and their mitigation through traffic management and control programs. Data are collected from Public Works and Traffic Engineering Departments of 56 Californian cities and 19 cities nation-wide. The findings show that most cities are still adhering to published street standards as recommended by different professional and federal organizations. Although some city officials see the need to amend certain aspects of their regulations and create a more flexible framework for street design, most of them believe that the current practice is satisfactory. Yet, the extant of residents’ complaints about traffic problems on their streets might indicate an inconsistency between professional practice, as manifested in street design, and its actual performance as experienced by the residents. This can also be seen in the application of traffic control devices used by local authorities to mitigate these problems of which the most common are the installation of speed humps and 4-way stop signs. According to the cities’ reports these techniques, as well as traffic diverters have the most effective results.





8 designing for Truck Movements and Other Large Vehicles in Portland

Adopted October 8, 2008

71 page PDF




Commercial Vehicles in Residential Neighborhoods

This article was edited and reviewed by FindLaw Attorney Writers | Last updated August 30, 2017

Residential neighborhoods often are protected by zoning ordinances, restrictive covenants and parking regulations. Zoning ordinances are created by the municipal governments of cities, townships, and boroughs. The ordinances regulate the use of land, declaring which areas are residential, commercial, or industrial. Special enterprise, agricultural, educational, or medical zones may exist in some municipalities.

Restrictive covenants are different. Deeds written to convey property from one owner to another may include language restricting the use of the property. In planned residential developments, a lengthy set of restrictive covenants may be recorded. Usually these covenants are not actually listed in the deed to each lot but are recorded in the county Office of the Recorder of Deeds and are simply referenced in the deeds. A prospective buyer or his or her attorney must read and understand all zoning ordinances and recorded restrictions to fully understand the permitted uses of a property.

Parking regulations are enacted by cities to control where certain types of vehicles can be parked. They will typically prohibit parking of commercial vehicles over a certain weight and size limit or place restrictions on days and times for parking in residential areas.

Violation of Zoning Laws

In two recent Pennsylvania cases, homeowners were prohibited from parking commercial trucks at their homes. In one case, the truck parking was found to violate the local zoning ordinance. In the other case, a set of restrictive covenants was deemed to ban truck parking.

In the zoning case, a homeowner regularly parked his truck in the rear of his home in a residential zone. The homeowner was a tools franchisee who sold and serviced commercial tools. His truck measured 16 by 10 feet and contained all of his tools and equipment, a telephone, a fax machine, and a computer. He kept all of his inventory in the truck and conducted all of his business out of the truck. The homeowner received about eight business-related mail packages per month.

After neighbors complained about the homeowner’s business activities, he was cited by the local zoning officer for violating the ban on business uses in the residential zone. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court upheld the zoning hearing board and found that the homeowner’s receipt of business mail and his parking of the truck at his home violated the ban on business uses in the residential district.

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Restrictive Covenants

In the restrictive covenant case, a homeowner sometimes parked his truck tractor and one or more trailers at his home in a planned residential development. He also sometimes repaired the truck tractor at his home. A lawsuit was brought against the homeowner by the Architectural Control Committee of the development. The Pennsylvania Superior Court found that the covenants that prohibited all uses except residential uses and that banned “tractors” and “trailers” were clearly violated by the homeowner. “Storage of heavy equipment is neither incidental to, nor customary in, a residential area,” the court noted.

Parking Regulations

Most communities regulate parking for all vehicles. Restrictions on parking of commercial vehicles is just one part of those regulations. Certain cities, such as Haverford, Pennsylvania, prohibit commercial vehicles over a certain weight limit to be parked on residential streets. Other cities, such as Marple, Pennsylvania, allow for parking of commercial vehicles, but not over-night parking. Still other cities will allow commercial vehicles to be parked in residential areas, if a permit or an exception has been issued. If a homeowner needs to park a commercial vehicle in front of his property, it would be advisable to review the parking regulations of the city in question, to determine if such a permit is needed.

Litigation concerning the permitted use of residential property is complicated and is subject to many exceptions. Homeowners may be entitled to variances from zoning regulations, but restrictive covenants are subject to strict interpretation by the courts. Even if the zoning laws permit the commercial vehicle to be parked and there are no restrictive covenants, there could still be a parking regulation that would prohibit a commercial vehicle from parking on a residential street.

Before assuming that a particular use is permitted or prohibited, a homeowner should thoroughly review the zoning laws, all recorded covenants, the parking regulations and the history of the use of the property.





Many neighborhoods have these big trucks parked in their neighborhoods.

And most residents are unhappy to see them there.

It is a violation of Shreveport’s zoning code—the Unified Development Code—for these trucks to be In your neighborhood. There is local ordinance:


  1. No commercial vehicle may be parked outdoors on a lot in a residential district, with the exception of vehicles engaged in loading or unloading or current work being done to the adjacent premises. This does not include standard size passenger motor vehicles including, but not limited to, vans, sports utility vehicles (SUVs), standard passenger size livery vehicles, and pick-up trucks, which are permitted to be stored or parked outdoors overnight on lots in residential districts. This includes vehicles owned and used for commercial purposes by the occupant of a dwelling or guest, provided that the vehicle is stored or parked in a permitted parking area. Permitted commercial vehicles may include the logo of the commercial business painted on or applied to the vehicle.
  2. All other commercial vehicles including, but not limited to, semi-truck tractor units, with or without attached trailers, commercial trailers, buses, tow trucks, construction vehicles, livery vehicles that exceed standard passenger vehicle size, such as limousines, or other large commercial vehicles are not permitted to be stored or parked outside overnight on a lot in a residential district.
  3. For non-residential uses, commercial vehicles with the logo of the commercial business painted on or applied to the vehicle that are being operated and stored in the normal course of business, such as signs located on delivery trucks, promotional vehicles, moving vans, and rental trucks, are permitted to be stored on the lot in areas related to their use as vehicles, provided that the primary purpose of such vehicles is not the display of signs. All such vehicles must be in operable condition. Signs placed or painted on parked vehicles where the only purpose is to advertise a product or service, or to direct the public to a business or activity located on or off the premises, are prohibited.

If you have this problem in your neighborhood, please email pictures with address locations to john@jesettle.com. These will appear in upcoming issues of The Inquisitor!

This Article was published in the October 18th issue of The Inquisitor.




How to Report Residential Truck Traffic Due to Improper Route Suggestions

Follow these instructions if you suspect GPS devices/apps are improperly routing commercial truck traffic through your residential community. If your problem doesn’t quite fit this description, return to the main Address, Route, and Map Problems page. GO THERE

Consumer GPS devices/apps generally do not warn drivers of restricted roads, low bridges, or other information relevant to commercial motor vehicles. Many truck drivers are unaware of this, resulting in illegal residential traffic, bridge strikes, and other problems.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is reaching out to the commercial truck and bus industries, driver training school associations, and state and local partners to encourage appropriate navigation system selection and use in trucks and buses. LEARN MORE

1Report violations

If your neighborhood has posted restrictions on commercial truck traffic, you may report violations to your local transportation authority or to FMCSA (1-888-368-7238). Be prepared to provide a license plate number and company name for each incident. The maximum federal penalty for failing to comply with a posted route restriction is $11,000 for a company, $2,750 for a driver.

To request a new truck restriction in your neighborhood, please contact your local transportation authority.

2Report the problem to device/map providers

Visit the following websites to ask the makers of GPS devices/apps and online maps to clearly label the restricted routes in your neighborhood. To reach the most GPS users, we recommend reporting the same problem at each of these websites.

The websites above are not run by the government and may require registration and/or browser plug-ins. We list them for information only and do not endorse any non-governmental products, services, or views.

3Wait patiently

After you submit your problem report, it may take weeks or months for each map provider to verify it and issue a mapping software update.

Once an update is issued, users of mobile apps and online maps will see it immediately.

However, people with dedicated GPS devices, such as car navigation systems, will have to download the update to see the change. Unfortunately, most people do not update their devices regularly.


Please understand that the U.S. government cannot correct mapping errors in consumer devices and apps. The government’s GPS satellites are simply beacons, like lighthouses, that devices use to calculate their own latitude and longitude. The satellites do not transmit any mapping information. LEARN HOW GPS WORKS

GPS only gives you the blue dot.

It does not provide the map!

The private sector is responsible for maintaining the mapping information in consumer devices/apps and online maps. For further help with devices, apps, and maps, please contact the companies that produce them.

GPS is operated and maintained by the U.S. Space Force. GPS.gov is maintained by the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing. Contact us / Tell us what you think of this website. Website host: NOAA. Privacy policy. This page was last modified on April 21, 2020.

  • Jennifer Huffman