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Current practices used by state departments of transporttion to design and manage the urban freeway roadsides (UFRs) environment is the focus of National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 539: Landscape Development and Management Practices for Urban Freeway Roadsides.

The urban freeway roadsides (UFRs) for this synthesis are those roadsides associated with high visibility urban freeways with limited pedestrian access, such as wider medians, interchanges, and overpasses.

The UFR is part of a greater urban environment with broad social, political, economic, and environmental implications for management. There are numerous UFR stakeholders, such as their respective municipalities, residents, adjacent landowners and businesses, traveling public, and state DOTs, and each has specific requests, requirements, and considerations. Among these are an acceptable level of maintenance and stakeholder expectations for aesthetics.

State departments of transportation (DOTs) recognize their roadway systems are assets that need management and acknowledge that pavements and other infrastructure routinely require resurfacing, restoration, and rehabilitation because their integrity degrades over time. However, the UFR and its respective urban freeway systems may not receive the same routine restoration. The vegetation installed at the time of roadway construction ages with the surrounding infrastructure. Decades after initial installation within the UFR, transportation agencies have mature landscapes that may be near the end of their life cycle.

The inability to adequately access and maintain these areas can result in failure of planted vegetation, loss of investment, and public criticism of state DOTs. The UFR is part of state DOTs’ highway system investment facing many challenges as freeway renovations and expansions encroach on limited right-of-way (ROW) areas available for landscape development. As the size of these areas decreases, so does the ability of maintenance workers and equipment to safely access and maintain them.

Suggested Citation

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Landscape Development and Management Practices for Urban Freeway Roadsides. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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Publication Info

126 pages | 8.5 x 11 |  DOI:

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