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If we want to build places that are financially productive, we need to identify and eliminate STROADs. A STROAD is a street/road hybrid and, besides being a very dangerous environment (yes, it is ridiculously dangerous to mix high speed highway geometric design with pedestrians, bikers and turning traffic), they are enormously expensive to build and, ultimately, financially unproductive.

The following is a short video that I worked up over the weekend -- something to share with your friends (and any engineers, council members or transportation secretaries, even if they are not technically "friends") -- that will help identify STROADs and then convert them to either a productive street or a road.

Nationwide our transportation departments are functionally insolvent, swamped with liabilities yet holding out hope that someone will ride to the rescue with an outrageous level of funding. Since that is not going to happen, we need to get serious about triage on our highway systems. Eliminating STROADs is the low hanging fruit in this conversation.

Even more than DOT's, local governments are the worst STROAD offenders. Retrofitting the local transportation system to eliminate STROADs is the great task of the next generation of local engineer. Those that can figure this out will not only be leaders in the profession but will attract the most resources, a logical outcome for individuals that add value instead of simply being another expense.

And we don't even have to talk about money to make this change. STROADs are incredibly dangerous. We can justify a lot of STROAD repair using a health, safety and welfare rationale.

Let's turn our STROADs into streets or roads and put our country back on a path towards being financially productive.


If you'd like more from Chuck Marohn, you should really get a copy of his recent book, Thoughts on Building Strong Towns (Volume 1). It is a primer on thr Strong Towns movement and an essential read for those wanting to get up to speed quickly.

You can also chat with Chuck, Nate Hood, Andrew Burleson, Justin Burslie and many others over at the Strong Towns Network. Join the conversation on how to make yours a strong town.

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Reader Comments (14)

Very illustrative!

March 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStepan Chizhov

(also tweeted to Charles)

I've never liked the term "stroad". Mostly because roads are basically the rural version of a street. Given how you define a "stroad", what's needed is a term combining "street" and "highway".

March 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFroggie

Oh man. I know a certain city that would just love to see their handiwork featured in this video! :)

March 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJake Krohn

Nice work using Prezi!!

Here's a question about STROADs.. are they un-crossable because of their width or because of the speeds of the many cars flowing through? Many STROADs in old town centers are just as wide as they were 100 years ago - we know this as there are still a few buildings left from the original grid. I think the environment (parking, lack of number of places, and the speed of cars) plays a bigger part than the physical distance - adding another 30 feet to your crossing doesn't make it unbearable if the destination(s) are worth it.

March 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cecchini

I was going to email you this morning, Jake, to make sure you saw it. Getting a lot of mileage out of that photo.

I'll make sure and contact you, Froggie, for branding/marketing advice. I'm guessing you also don't like the name Google.

Alex -- see you on the Network for that one.

March 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharles Marohn

I was (finally) listening to your podcast with Gary Toth on rightsizing streets and he said a couple of things which really resonated with this discussion. You were talking about the sort of trickle-down design from highway design and functional classification creating STROADS with high design speeds, etc. When Northfield, MN revised their transportation plan about 5 years ago, I participated in a couple of committees for public input on the document. At the time, I did not think to question the assumptions behind these objectives of the plan:

Objective 2.2 – Establish a balanced roadway network based on the principals of roadway functional classification.
Objective 2.3 – Provide adequate roadway and intersection capacity to accommodate anticipated growth of the community and resulting forecasted traffic volumes.

In hindsight, these objectives seem to trump most of the other statements about multi-modal transportation, connectivity, etc. We have a few classic STROADS, but we also have examples which are more street-like and cause some cognitive dissonance with the classifications. Northfield is currently trying to do a reclamation project on a "collector" which is also a residential street (driveways every 75') with a school. Neighbors both fight installing sidewalk (they always do), but also ask for traffic to be slowed down on their 44' wide street. A similar problem will happen in a couple of years when a county road through town will be reconstructed - how to make it safely walkable and slow traffic (it's a major barrier to walking/biking to school) while also meeting the functional classification standards of the county.

The next transportation plan, ideally, will be part of any land use plan and will abandon or drastically modify the functional classification scheme.

March 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBetsey Buckheit

Great video! Perfect for passing around our local city councils and planning departments.

You should do something similar with your article on the value of development comparing the new fast food block with the old traditional block. Great article, but a video would be better for educating our elected officials.

March 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterForaker

Here you go, Alex:


March 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharles Marohn

No need to be sarcastic, Charles. Was simply noting my disagreement with the term. Call it semantics, if you will.

March 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFroggie

Looks and sounds really good, Chuck. I think you could add some more pictures near the end, to illustrate the STROAD to Road conversion.

March 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRuben

Great video. Simple, informative, and makes the case. Now, can you get it down to about 3 min? My readers' IAD (internet Attention Deficit ) see 5 minutes as an eternity.

March 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWalter Chambers

I'm surprised no-one's brought up "but what about inner-city goods movement" yet. Just in case they do, you can point 'em to http://stroadtoboulevard.tumblr.com/ Width isn't the problem: poor design is. (I appreciate that mentioning "great streets" risks muddying your distinction a little, and confusing new readers.)

Also agree with Walter: move through this in 3 minutes at an ASAPScience pace and it'll more readily catch the eye of the tweeting IAD crowd.

Froggie, I think I see what you're trying to say - that rural roads are actually a lot more empty and pleasant to live near than fully-fledged highways - but the fact that Chuck has clearly defined his terms surely removes any confusion. I also like to use the example contexts "open road" and "rail-road" vs "street party". And I used Google to differentiate the two quite successfully here: http://stroadtoboulevard.tumblr.com/post/27940910862/streets-roads-and-stroads

March 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterneil21

sent this to every open minded planning commissioner in my hometown!

March 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRon Beitler

This downtown street used to be a median (interrupted by left turn lanes) with sporadic trees down the middle when looking at this direction; looking the other direction was nicer median with more trees and flowers. Funnier is if you read the City's online "Downtown Plan" prior to this highway reconstruction you will read about all the recommendations to prevent how it turned out. Guess the curb bulb-outs was the compromise.

March 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEarl
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