At times I feel like a rare breed, an aberration of nature and education, that has turned me into this Engineer who actually cares about urban planning principals and integration into the civil design process.

Streets are places, too | RUDI – Resource for Urban Design Information

[ad#125-right]Highway design and maintenance has always been kept separate from town planning. Official highway design advice (though not strictly speaking mandatory) concentrated on the movement function of a street. There was no coordination of the different and sometimes conflicting objectives that a street must deliver. Indeed, traffic and planning each have their own disciplines, professional bodies, government departments, legislation and funding systems. Experts in one field are generally not familiar with the concepts and practicalities of the other.

This is common across many intersecting industries or departments, where they are effectively supposed to be integrating the design across disciplines but no dialogue exists. But at some point the client is going to start asking questions and demanding an answer as to why things weren’t considered. In many cases , the client is unaware of the reality behind the invoices, but sometimes a smarter client comes along, one who actually understands the process, (maybe they were a consultant once too?). These are the clients that are dreaded by non-communicating organizations, those groups that have no procedure or protocol for communications between departments, or possibly, a project management structure that understands both sides of the design requirements.

These are the situations where you get discontinuous pedestrian routing, or narrow sidewalks, or parking issues in design. I hate to say it, but engineers involved in road and municipal design should probably start thinking like planners, cause planners are never going to think like engineers!

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.