What’s more effective than implementing Complete Streets one roadway at a time? Changing the rules by which we plan, design, and maintain our roadway system, of course! The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is doing just that with their context classification system adopted in 2017 to support Complete Streets. This department-wide shift in transportation planning, design, and decision making is also described as putting the right street in the right place. It’s an ambitious and comprehensive effort based on the evolving view of roadways as being valuable public spaces for all users, including those who use the non-motorized modes of walking and bicycling.

When FDOT adopted the Statewide Complete Streets Policy in September 2014, it joined 22 other state DOTs making the commitment to plan, design, and operate their transportation system for all users. The FDOT Complete Streets policy captures three core ideas of Complete Streets:

  • Complete Streets shall serve the transportation needs of transportation system users of all ages and abilities, including cyclists, motorists, transit riders, freight handlers, and pedestrians.
  • Complete Streets are context sensitive and require transportation system design that considers local land development patterns.
  • A system of Complete Streets can help promote safety, quality of life, and economic development.
Florida Department of Transportation Context Classification

The eight context classifications in Florida DOT's context classification system adopted in 2017.

Not all Complete Streets are the same, and every Complete Street is uniquely planned and designed to serve its roadway context. To support FDOT’s Complete Streets policy, Kittelson created a context classification system to describe land use patterns throughout the state. The context classification system emphasizes the need to support all users within a complete network of streets, and according to each street’s existing and desired future context and transportation characteristics. Each Complete Street will strike a different balance of user comfort, based on existing and desired future contexts.

The FDOT context classification system complements the existing functional classification system, and is comprised of eight context classifications, as detailed in the FDOT Context Classification Document. Context classification helps FDOT put the right street in the right place, by informing planners and engineers about roadway users and subsequently identifying key design criteria for all non-limited-access state roadways. Context classification will be applied in design through the new FDOT Design Manual, which takes effect January 1, 2018.

FDOT Complete Streets Grove Award DeWayne Carver, AICPAlthough the idea of context-based design is not new, FDOT is taking the principle to the next step by integrating it into its design manual, relating context classification to design speed ranges for non-access-limited state roadways. Many entities have taken notice of this big shift by FDOT, including the State Smart Transportation Initiative, Streetsblogs, and Planetizen.

Earlier this year, the Transect Codes Council and the Congress for the New Urbanism awarded to DeWayne Carver, AICP, FDOT’s State Complete Streets Program Manager, the 2017 Groves Award for groundbreaking work on the FDOT context classification.

Congratulations to FDOT on this great step forward toward safer and more context-sensitive multimodal planning and design in Florida! Kittelson is honored to work alongside FDOT as the state continues to invest in transportation infrastructure that supports communities.