WHA Comments on TxDOT Highway Access Issue
From a WHA Letter to TxDOT, August 11, 2003
We believe the permit process is
excessively lengthy and vague as to ensure the necessity of technical
and legal counsel for applicants for even the simplest of applications.
The permit process for the new rules describes a period from three
months to a year for approvals depending upon complexity and decisions
made at various points in the review. We view certainty and
predictability as necessary components of any new regulation.
We believe the Texas Department of
Transportation lacks a basis for assessing wetland issues of adjacent
properties as seemingly required by preliminary access management
documents. Wetland determination and mitigation if required are the
responsibility of the property owner working directly with the Corps of
Engineers and should not involve the Texas Department of
Transportation. TxDOT may have wetland assessments on their property at
a point of access request by a property owner but that does not involve
any assessment of any situation that may or may not exist on property
other than their own.
In the preamble of the draft
document, it is noted, “access management can significantly enhance
traffic safety by reducing traffic accidents, personal injury, and
property damage.” We have been unable to locate any empirical data that
demonstrates that changing access rules affects accidents rates. If
this statement cannot be proven, we believe it should be eliminated as a
basis for the new rules.
Likewise, in the same preamble we
believe it is disingenuous of TxDOT to promote access management as a
tool for “long term approach to land use and transportation decisions in
the context of quality of life, economic development, liveable
communities, and public safety.”
If these rules are proposed as
remedies for unsafe situations or for any other reason, we believe a
full evaluation of the promised benefits and impacts should be
undertaken and fully discussed with the affected communities.
Access Right-of-Way Policies
Click for an Acrobat
Copy of TxDOT's Proposed Right-of-Way Policies
Texas Transportation Commission proposes to:
Not construct frontage roads
for new location or existing controlled-access (CA) roadways in most
cases and with exceptions;
Deny access to new facilities
from adjacent property with exceptions;
Deny access to existing
facilities designated as controlled-access with exceptions; and
Participate in the
construction of “backage roads”, local roads that provide access to
property without frontage access.
These are proposed changes to § 15.54, Title
43 of Texas Administrative Code Part I and are set for public review until
February 4, 2002.
Rationale for Policy Changes
TxDOT proposes these changes to reduce
construction and maintenance costs for controlled-access roadways thus
conserving the states limited funding.
They believe that this proposal will
minimize the traffic congestion impact on controlled-access roadways from
new development thus allowing maximum traffic handling capacity for a
longer period than currently is experienced.
Analysis by TxDOT determines that there will
No direct fiscal impacts for
state or local governments for enforcing or administering this policy
No adverse effect on small
No significant impact will
result for local economies or employment because development that would
be along frontage roads will occur on paralleling or perpendicular
West Houston Association makes the following comments and proposals to the
The policy for redeveloped
frontage roads should address two separate categories, metro and rural.
Mature urbanized areas have significant land use and development patterns
and expectations predicated upon access to frontage roads. Indeed,
frontage roads are constructed to provide access to abutting property.
Also, in Houston, TxDOT is presently using and connecting frontage roads to
improve mobility in a highly developed corridor. By contrast, in rural
areas, while these same issues may exist, the impact of the new policy may
not be as significant.
For new roadways, the policy of
not constructing frontage roads may be feasible and may result in level of
service benefits on freeway mainlanes. However, in urbanized areas in
particular, consideration must be given to mobility within an entire
corridor and we believe that shifting vehicle movements to the arterial
system will result in more congestion and less mobility in major urban
mobility corridors. By shifting traffic and the burden for property
access and local mobility to the arterial system built and maintained by
local agencies, they will incur additional and/or accelerated capital costs.
This added burden will include drainage and utility costs as well.
TxDOT should be specific about
the amount of its participation in the cost of the “backage road” and
consider reinstating an urban arterial development program. TxDOT
should acquire sufficient right-of-way for expansion of the backage roads
and their perpendicular connections to freeways. Additionally, the
policy should be clear that access is available to these backage roads and
what limitations on access TxDOT envisions.
The proposed policy lacks
predictability and contains insufficient objective criteria. It implies
TxDOT districts will have a high degree of discretion but is mute or limited
in its predictability and assurance of consistency from case to case.
Discretionary case by case review by the Commission is subjective and
therefore lacks predictability.
The policy should forthrightly
state that it is the intent of TxDOT to provide access if a property meets
certain criteria. Access is an incident of property ownership and
cannot be taken or denied without compensation to the owner. We
believe the policy equivocates on the matter of access by stating that it is
the “intent” of TxDOT to offer access to properties that currently have
access after the roadway is rebuilt. It should more appropriately read
“access shall be granted”. We believe the policy should not deny access if
access or the right of access currently exists. Further, questions
arise about the nature, extent and location of that access and how access
for a subdivided parcel will be treated with a tract where existing access