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Comments Off on How Road Construction is Planned & Implemented in the U.S.

How Road Construction is Planned & Implemented in the U.S.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 By: admin

Planning and building something as small as a single-family home takes coordination between so many people, from the homeowner to the architect to the local governments regulating the permits and the contractors involved in actual construction. How much more complex, then, do you think are the planning and construction of interstate highway systems and local roadways? Certain projects can take several years just in the planning and project development phases alone. To give you an idea of the complexity, timing and scheduling involved, let’s go over the steps that every road construction process has to go through.


During the planning phase, the original needs of a specific road construction project are developed at the state or local level. Structures are identified which may need repair or upgrading. Existing roads are identified for expansion or redesign. Safety or congestion problems are identified with existing highways or roads. Any projected problems, needs or concerns are identified and defined in detail during the planning phase, though plans will need to be open to revision as more information becomes available during the development, design and even construction phases of development.

Involving the community is essential in any project because the decisions made in the planning phase need to be informed by how the project will affect safety, health and physical beauty of the surrounding area and community.

Proper planning, to a large extent, determines much of the flexibility and options available to designers during the detailed design phase later on. The planning phase is also an opportunity to avoid obvious pitfalls and conflicts that could delay the project in later phases.

Project Development

Environmental impact is determined, including any necessary Environmental Impact Statements are developed, possibly requiring months or even years of study to determine the impact of a specific road project. Effects on the landscape, including the historical and cultural nature of the surrounding area, will also be studied during this phase.

The major design features are laid out and the overall requirements of the project are further refined and defined. Alternatives are developed in order to address budget concerns or input from the community, including businesses, residents and other stakeholders who should still be involved at this stage.

Detailed Design

After the preliminary planning and project development have produced agreed upon parameters and requirements for the project, the detailed design phase can begin work on a complete set of plans, specifications and estimates required to complete the project. In this phase, the exact amount of materials, construction services, safety equipment and logistical scheduling for the project are defined in detail.

Communication is essential between designers and planners during this phase to iron out implementation conflicts and make changes to the original concept if needed. Often, information and details arise during in the fine details of engineering such a project that simply aren’t obvious during the broader planning and development phases.

Right-of-Way Acquisition

Once the planning and design phases have generated a legitimately detailed set of plans and specifications, right-of-way needs to be purchased in order to secure the real estate necessary for the project. This can include, not just the necessary land for the project itself, but for staging areas and other space that must be used during the construction phase. Watershed areas and other land affecting or affected by the project must be acquired as well.


When construction finally begins, it usually follows a strict schedule, requiring heavy coordination between all contractors and project managers on the project. During construction, practical challenges may arise that require input from designers and project developers. Weather and other unforeseen circumstances may cause delays or damage to construction sites that may compromise safety or at least postpone certain construction phases.


Even after construction of the project is completed, procedures and guidelines need to be established for the maintenance of the new roadways. Special design elements may need to be held in supply should they be damaged by car accidents or by natural elements.

Even though all of these phases of road planning and development may seem distinct and separate, there is actually quite a bit of overlap between each phase, and the decisions made early on in the process can often have far-reaching affects throughout the rest of a construction project. It’s essential to not simply think of this process as divided into discrete steps, but as a collection of phases that overlap with and inform one another, giving feedback where needed to ensure that the project finishes on time, on budget and with the most positive impact on the surrounding community.

Written by Nick Morales.

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Comments Off on Behind the Scenes of an Airport Runway

Behind the Scenes of an Airport Runway

Monday, July 2, 2012 By: admin

A lot of work goes into every safe takeoff and landing on an airport’s runway. The personnel, the technology, and the pilots have to work in unison just to get the airplanes pointed in the right direction. With all the different markings, lighting, and controllers, many different elements contribute to getting a plane where it’s supposed to go.

Just looking out over the airport you will see taxi runways, vehicle roadways, checkpoints, non-movement areas, and more surrounding the main runway. The air traffic controllers determine which runways are used for takeoffs and landings, ground controllers direct the traffic from the tower, and other personnel help taxi the airplanes where they need to go. In order to cope with all this input, the runways have an intricate system of markings and lights to help get these planes off the ground.

What Do Runway Markings Tell Pilots?

Runways are laid out based on the area’s prevailing winds, since that can have such a big effect on takeoffs and landings. Each runway is numbered in reference to magnetic north, which may then have a letter added to it if the airport has multiple runways facing the same direction.

Beyond these numbered runways are the taxiways that are marked with a continuous yellow centerline, vehicle roadway markings (where vehicles cross areas that are used by aircrafts), non-movement area boundary markings, and receiver checkpoint markings.

Follow the Signs

The more complex the airport runway system the more sings and lighting systems are needed to navigate the veritable labyrinth. There are a few basic types of signs that provide most of the information the pilots need. This includes:

  • Mandatory instructions – These are seen at the entrance to the runways and prohibited areas, and they’re usually a bright red to make sure they’re seen.
  • Location signs – Where you are.
  • Direction signs – Where you’re going.
  • Destination signs – How to get there.
  • Information signs – Important data on the area.
  • Runway distance remaining – Usually listed in thousands of feet left until the runway.
  • Airport barricades – although these are not signs they should be treated as such. Each airport barricade is used with the intention of warning and safety for both workers and civilians.

Lighting Systems

Visibility is critical on any runway system, especially during the night or when adverse weather conditions roll in. Lighting systems have to be reliable and clear to guide the pilots to the right runway and make sure they stop in time. The approach light systems (ALS), glide path indicators, and runway lighting each play a part in providing safety and guidance.

Who’s in Charge?

There are a lot of people working to make sure that an airport runway is working efficiently. The ground crew helps guide the plane from one place to the next, operations specialists compile and monitor flight schedules and manage the security programs. FAA regulations have to be met, and someone has to coordinate all these people.

Air traffic controllers, ground controllers, and other personnel each play a part in directing the airplanes, making sure the lights are working properly, and that any incursions on the runway are quickly removed. In the end, it’s all a matter of bringing together the right people and the right equipment to do the job that will keep everyone safe.

Written by Nick Morales.