Leveraging Sustainability and Flexibility for a Truly Integrated Transportation Plan

Four Freese and Nichols projects have won Project of the Year Awards from the American Planning Association – Texas Chapter. The North Richland Hills Transportation Plan received the Gold Award in the Transportation Planning category.

A Strategic Plan Committee was created to develop the new transportation plan, which is uncommon for a smaller community. The 16-person committee was made up of residents, business owners, members from various departments including Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Economic Development and City Management. Local elected and appointed officials served as well, including three City Council members and two Planning and Zoning Commission members. The committee determined the overall goals for the plan, vetted transportation needs, system right-sizing, targeted corridor planning and short/long-term recommendations that coincided with other specific fiscal planning.

A key component of the Transportation Plan is creating flexible roadway design standards for adjacent land-uses to mitigate any potential adverse impacts. This involves revamping the development process to consider adjacent land-uses when defining street-cross section and supporting active transportation elements. A pattern book detailing active transportation applications for the bike and pedestrian network as well as connectivity to the TEXRail station developments is included to further this goal.

The Transportation Plan creates a new process to simultaneously consider the land use-transportation nexus. The new flexible design process includes the following steps for decision-making: 1) define roadway types and base right-of-way; 2) define the land use context into one of the four categories (suburban commercial, suburban residential, transit-oriented development and urban village); 3) identify the users and priorities, design elements, and dimensions; and 4) develop a roadway cross-section.

The Bicycle Facilities Plan is another example of integrating the transportation plan into community planning and the environment. This plan is built on the previous work by the City in the 2016 Trail and Route System Plan, which created the framework for investments in bicycle infrastructure. These routes and facilities were evaluated for roadway volumes and speeds as well as land use contexts to determine the correct and suitable facility recommendations. As transportation options for NRH residents expand to walkable TODs, rails and trails because of the plan, the benefits to the environment and public health will most certainly be realized.

The prior North Richland Hills Thoroughfare Plan had not been updated for 10 years and needed an overhaul to provide solutions to the current transportation demands, needs of residents and to redefine what transportation means to the city. The new Transportation Plan will serve the City for years as it includes an integrated network that provides realistic opportunities to expand access to various modes of transportation. The integration of the Bicycle Plan and the Land Use Plan helped to address accessibility and specific needs for the on- and off-street shared path network. The pattern book enabled connectivity and design elements for integrating transit-oriented development and better community-wide linkages.

The Transportation Plan serves to expand transportation choices and mobility for all modes of travel to, from and within the city. Working in conjunction with the future land use and housing elements of the Strategic Plan, the Bicycle Plan and the newly implemented TEXRail stations, the Transportation Plan leverages sustainable planning into a truly integrated plan that renews transportation effectiveness with the desires of North Richland Hills.