Seemingly overnight, local agencies across the country are grappling with how to keep developments moving forward in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. As schools close and employees transition to working from home (WFH), states, counties, cities and towns are likely to see a large drop in peak and daily trips on their roads. According to March 18, 2020 report published by Inrix – a location-based data and analytics provider – Seattle saw 36% drop in trips the week of March 9. All traffic impact studies – also called traffic impact analyses – are built on the foundation of recent and accurate traffic volume counts collected on roadways and at intersections. Typically, agencies require traffic study counts to be no older than 12 to 24 months when the traffic study is submitted for review. As a result, most traffic studies for new developments need to collect count data before they can be completed and submitted for review. Given these requirements, are development traffic studies at risk due to COVID-19? If you have a traffic study that needs to be initiated in the near future, what should you do now that traffic patterns have dramatically changed?
Don’t Panic, Be Concerned
We’re living through uncertain times but there’s no need to overreact. If you have a good traffic engineer, they should have already called you and let you know their plan to bring your study to a successful completion. If you have a study that was just initiated that needs to collect counts, and you haven’t heard from your traffic engineer… maybe get a little nervous and give them a call.
Most agencies are continuing to provide customer service so that on-going projects continue to make progress. As many agencies transition to telecommuting, there may be some delay in getting responses; however, that should get better as everyone settles in to the new WFH normal.
Check with Your Agency
Each agency has a different strategy for handling new traffic counts. The only way to know what to do and make sure your study isn’t rejected due to inaccurate counts is to have your traffic engineer call them. Some agencies are allowing for counts to be conducted and adjusted with seasonal growth or other factors. Other agencies have offered to pull count data from recent reports and share it, rather than having new counts collected. Some are requesting counts be delayed until school returns in late-spring or early-fall.
Get it In Writing
The current situation is “fluid”. As more or fewer restrictions on travel are in place, more conversations with agency staff will be needed. What is true today may not be true tomorrow. The best bet is to have your traffic engineer request something in writing for whatever approach is agreed to with the agency.
When things are in flux, it’s even more critical to initiate conversations with all parties involved in your development. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your consultant team and agency staff and see how things are going. If you need help navigating these process, our traffic engineering team offers free consultations to discuss your development’s needs. Call us at (602) 499-1339 or email us.