California Department of Transportation

Division of Design

The Division of Design provides the procedures, policy, standards, guidance, technical assistance, and training needed to facilitate California transportation improvements and system integrity. The Design Program innovates design solutions by:

  • Seeking out and synthesizing information and customer feedback.
  • Causing the adoption of "best practices" and design information to promote safety, statewide consistency, efficiency and quality.
  • Assisting our customers in the application of design information and practices to facilitate the resolution of project development issues.

What's New:

  • The Highway Design Manual (HDM) has been revised with the 6th Edition HDM Change 12/30/15. Changes reflect the revised reorganization of Headquarters Division of Design, as well as the District Design Delegation Agreements and the California Stewardship and Oversight Agreement with the FHWA. Bikeway guidance was revised consistent with the new Design Information Bulletin 89 entitled Class IV Bikeway Guidance (Separated Bikeways/Cycle Tracks) to be published January 1, 2016. Also included is revised high-occupancy toll and express lane guidance consistent with the passage of California Assembly Bill 194, new discretionary fixed object guidance, revised design vehicle guidance, new interchange guidance to deter wrong-way movements, revised pavement guidance, revised highway noise abatement guidance, as well as revisions that reflect current nomenclature and other errata.
  • The Protected Bikeways Act of 2014 (Assembly Bill 1193 - Ting, Chapter 495) required the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), in cooperation with local agencies and in consultation with the existing advisory committee of the Department dedicated to improve access for persons with disabilities, to establish minimum safety design criteria for Class IV Bikeways, also referred to as cycle tracks or separated bikeways. Protected bikeways promote active transportation by providing a right-of-way designated exclusively for bicycle travel that is adjacent to a roadway which is protected from vehicular traffic through types of separation including, but not limited to: grade separation; flexible posts; inflexible physical barriers; or on-street parking.

    In order to help identify pertinent content, style, format, and other considerations of the design and traffic operation guidance that was published as Design Information Bulletin 89: Class IV Bikeway Guidance (Separated Bikeways/Cycle Tracks), Caltrans sought preliminary input from external transportation partners and stakeholders. A facilitated stakeholder summit, sponsored by Caltrans, was held on May 27, 2015 in Sacramento California. A summary report provides an overview of the Summit, key findings, and next steps for Class IV Bikeway Guidance development. The summit was an opportunity for stakeholders to share with each other their perspectives, challenges, issues and lessons learned. The summit included key external stakeholders such as bicyclists, the disabled community, and pedestrians as well as cities, counties, and transportation planning organizations.

    AB 1193 required Caltrans to publish the Class IV Bikeway criteria by January 1, 2016. Caltrans established an External Advisory Committee to provide input on the design and traffic operations guidance (criteria) for Class IV Bikeways during its development. The roles, responsibilities and anticipated effort expected from the members were as follows:

    • Advise Caltrans on Class IV Bikeway guidance
    • Represent their respective committee/organization
    • Obtain input/feedback from committee/organizations as appropriate on recommendations and/or documents
    • Review and provide feedback on draft documents (Initial draft, First draft, and Final draft)

    The design and traffic operations guidance in Design Information Bulletin 89 is effective December 30, 2015, and shall be applied to on-going projects in accordance with HDM Index 82.5 - Effective Date for Implementing Revisions to Design Standards.

  • HQ Design is implementing delegation of design decisions to the districts for specific projects based on facility type. There are multiple reasons for this delegation some of which are identified below.

    • Improve timely project decisions
    • Reduce the number of staff involved in approving design decisions
    • Move decision making to the District level, closer to the issues
    • Focus HQ responsibilities towards corporate functions such as policy development, tools and guidance, professional development, process reviews, statewide lessons learned, and innovation
    • Consolidate district support into one office to enhance effectiveness and improve efficiency

    Divison of Design (DOD) will retain some project level decisions and all program level corporate activities related to delivering the state transportation program, such as leadership, technology deployment, technical assistance, training, problem solving, performance management and process improvement. The delegation of authority transfers approval authority from DOD to the district for specific project level decisions as defined in this Design Stewardship Agreement. The purpose of the Design Stewardship Agreement is to provide a contractual document which transfers the decision making authority from Caltrans Headquarters DOD to individual districts and defines how the district and DOD will operate together with Stewardship delegation. The Design Stewardship Agreement describes a baseline of delegated responsibilities and additional design delegations that may be negotiated between the district and DOD.

  • To reaffirm the Caltrans commitment to providing flexibility while maintaining the safety and integrity of the state highway system, and local streets and roads under the jurisdiction of cities and counties, the Department recently released a memorandum titled "Design Flexibility in Multimodal Design" dated April 10, 2014. The memorandum highlights the flexibility provided in existing Caltrans guidance, positive steps already taken in underscoring the importance of multimodal design, and recognizes the value of other guidance in supporting planning and design decisions made by state and local decision makers statewide.
  • The Highway Design Manual (HDM) has been revised with the 6th Edition HDM change 07/01/15. Changes include the revised pedestrian refuge island guidance, highway drainage design, and planting guidance for freeways, expressways and conventional highways. Also included are clarifications of right-turn channelization guidance, loop on-ramp guidance, and Class 1 bikeway guidance as well as revisions that reflect current nomenclature and other errata.
  • Main Street, California - A Guide for Improving Community and Transportation Vitality - California State Highways that also function as main streets through communities are challenged with balancing the public’s need for roadways that provide local, regional and statewide connections, with local needs for a vibrant community street. Just as mobility is essential to California’s economic and civic vitality, the planning, design and operation of main streets is tied to the prosperity of local communities. Well conceived main streets function efficiently as multimodal transportation facilities, and are important civic spaces that support vibrant community life and ecological health. Prudent investments to provide multimodal travel options are a crucial strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts associated with single occupancy driving habits. 
  • Incorporating principles of livability and sustainability into main street projects can help balance the need for an efficient multimodal transportation facility with local needs for a main street that functions as the heart of the community. Some design solutions highlighted in Main Street will be familiar or slight variations of traditional strategies, while others will entail a new and broader vision of how main streets can benefit travelers and the local community.

    Caltrans is committed to working with local communities toward a more collaborative, multimodal and productive State-local approach to shared assets.

  • Quality Management.

The Division of Design is made up of the following Offices:

  • CADD/GIS Support
  • CTC Highway Appearances, Encroachment Exceptions & Resource Conservation
  • District Coordinators
  • Geometric Design Standards
  • Highway Drainage Design
  • Landscape Architecture Coordination and Planning
  • Roadside Management and Landscape Architecture Standards
  • Project Development Procedures
  • Special Projects
  • Storm Water Management Design

This page last updated December 30, 2015