Division of Design

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The Division of Design (DOD) 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!

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Changes include FHWA's revision from 13 to 10 controlling criteria for design as well as revised superelevation, comfort speed, and horizontal curvature guidance from the AASHTO publication, "A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets" (2011). Also included is revised guiance related to airway-highway clearances, bridge barriers and railings, roundabouts, ramp metering, and water and resource conservation. Clarifications were included related to curb ramps and necessary highway features within the clear recovery zone as well as errata that reflect current nomenclature.

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Changes reflect the reorganization of river, stream, and natural channel bank protection guidance within its own Chapter 870. New Chapter 880 has been added to focus on coastal shore and inland bank protection guidance. In addition:

  • Read more abut the HDM 6th Edition Change 7/15/16
    • New discussions on geomorphology, stream processes, bio-diversity and sustainability are included in Chapter 870.
    • Revised rock slope protection (RSP) guidance based on FHWA Hydraulic Engineering Circular (HEC) No. 23 has been included in Chapter 870, presenting guidelines for a range of applicatins including RSP on streams and river banks, bridge piers and abutments, and bridge scour countermeasures such as guide bank and spurs.
    • New Chapter 880 includes a primary focus on quantifying and mitigating exposure of coastal and inland lakes to sea level rise, storm surge, and wave action.

    These changes are consistent with comprehensive FHWA guidance documents (i.e., HEC 23 and HEC 25), NCHRP's bio-technical methods, Caltrans Design Information Bulletin No. 87 for Hybrid RSP, and Caltrans Revised Standard Specifications and new BEES item codes for Section 72-2 "Rock Slope Protection." For instructions on when to apply this new guidance to on-going projects, refer to the July 15, 2016 Design Memorandum entitled "IMPLEMENTATION OF ROCK SLOPE PROTECTION (RSP) DESIGN."

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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.

  • Read more abut DIB 89

    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.

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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.

  • Read more about HQ Design Delegation
    • 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

    The 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.

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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.

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Statewide Alerts and Other Information

Contact Information

Physical Address:

California Department of Transportation
Division of Design
1120 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Mailing Address:

California Department of Transportation
Division of Design
MS 28
P. O. Box 942874
Sacramento, CA 94271-0001


General Information:

District Liaison Phone List

Division of Design Org Chart

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