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FHWA Highway Safety Programs

2. LRSP Development

This is a photo showing a bicyclist on a two-lane rural road.

Photo courtesy of Neil Hetherington WTI-MSU.

Successful LRSP implementation starts at LRSP development. The following sections discuss how the LRSP development process can help the implementation process and how the differences in LRSP development impact implementation. These recommendations also apply if there is an existing LRSP, but the jurisdiction or region is finding it difficult to move forward on implementation. Revisiting the steps taken during development and strengthening or enhancing what was previously accomplished can help to remind those involved in implementing the plan why it is important.

The Relationship Between LRSP Development and Implementation

How a LRSP is developed plays a large part in the ability of a jurisdiction or region to successfully implement their plan. Factors like who is involved, the level of data analysis, and the types of projects and programs that are selected have a major impact on a LRSP’s success. Support from key officials and data analysis that correctly identifies the right projects and programs goes a long way to setting the framework for successful LRSP implementation. The following development activities can make the transition to implementation easier and more successful:

How LRSP Development Can Impact Implementation

Obtain support and buy in from officials and stakeholders.

Find a champion.

Conduct data collection and analysis.

Identify funding mechanisms and allocate appropriate resources.

Determine the level of project detail that is needed to obtain funding.

Develop a clear vision and mission.

  • Obtain support and buy-in from officials and stakeholders that represent the 4Es of safety (engineering, enforcement, education, emergency response) by providing information on the purpose of the LRSP, the benefits, and the role of officials and stakeholders. Support and active engagement of State DOT officials) and individuals in the local agency (e.g., agency or organization heads, other divisions such as maintenance) is needed throughout the LRSP development process and into implementation. Continue to cultivate their interest during implementation by providing information on what is being implemented and any results or success stories. The LRSP owners should foster open and frequent communication with stakeholders, community partners and citizens.
  • Find a champion: A champion who was involved in the development of the LRSP and can advocate for implementation of the LRSP will make it easier to transition to implementation. This individual can be a member of the jurisdiction’s board, another elected official, the jurisdiction’s engineer, or someone at the State DOT level.
  • Conduct data collection and analysis: Data is the foundation of the LRSP. It is used to identify problem areas, to determine appropriate solutions, and to monitor progress towards the plan’s goals. Obtaining as much accurate data as possible during the development process allows for implementation to be targeted at locations that will be the most effective at reducing fatalities and serious injuries.
  • Identify funding mechanisms and allocate appropriate resources: Knowing how the local agency or State intends to fund the projects identified in the LRSP will help when it comes time to prioritize projects and strategies for implementation. It will also be important to determine what manpower and management are needed to ensure the plan’s success.
  • Determine the level of project detail that is needed to obtain funding: LRSP owners should know what level of project detail (e.g., concept drawings, project description, preliminary design) is needed for the projects identified in the LRSP. This could be project sheets that mirror the funding application or a plan that will support project development.
  • Develop a clear vision and mission: A strategic vision and mission unite all stakeholders with a common goal.5

By ensuring the development process includes the elements which can pave the way for successful implementation, States or localities are in a better position to achieve the goal of reducing fatalities and serious injuries on local roads. It is also important to keep in mind that local transportation agencies face many challenges daily which place a strain on limited funding and resources. It may be necessary to continually promote the LRSP to local officials and demonstrate how it is improving traffic safety, which is why obtaining and analyzing data is critical throughout the process

Existing LRSPs

"This is a photo showing a broken center line on a two-lane rural road with the sun setting in the distance."

Photo courtesy of Neil Hetherington WTI-MSU.

If a LRSP already exists for your agency and you are ready to move into implementation or if there are struggles with moving into implementation, the following actions may help jump start the process:

  • Reaffirm support from the champion(s) identified during the development process and re-engage them and make sure they understand the LRSP is moving into implementation. Review the recommendations and projects in the plan so they are familiar with what needs to be completed and how the projects accomplish the goal of reducing fatalities and serious injuries.
  • Strengthen support and buy-in from officials and 4E stakeholders by providing information on what the locality will be doing in implementation. This information can be a review of why the LRSP was developed, e.g., a review of the fatality and serious injury data and what is planned for implementation. Implementation also offers an opportunity to brief 4E partners. In Michigan where the DOT oversees 12 regional plans, some held implementation meetings where individuals involved in development were brought up to date on what was planned for implementation. Participants included representatives from the counties, cities, and villages in the plan area, county engineers, commissioners, and others.
  • Engage with others to implement behavioral safety countermeasures. LRSPs can include both infrastructure and behavioral countermeasures. Some plans may just focus on infrastructure improvements while others determined, through data analysis, that a number of their problems are caused by road user behavior. That is why they include behavioral countermeasures such as increased enforcement and education to influence that behavior. If the LRSP does include behavioral countermeasures, it is a good opportunity to reach out to additional 4E stakeholders at the start of the implementation process. These 4E stakeholders include law enforcement agencies, education and prevention specialists, and other highway safety community leaders. These individuals can be helpful in implementing the behavioral countermeasures.
  • Clarify funding requirements and allocate appropriate resources. Be prepared with information on what level of funding is needed, where it will be spent, and the benefits of using the funds for this purpose. Knowing how the local agency or State intends to fund the projects identified in the LRSP will help when it comes time to prioritizing recommendations and to obtain approval for the submitted list of projects. The local agency seeking Federal/State funds to implement projects should determine the eligibility criteria of whatever funding sources were identified and know what the requirements are for the applications.
  • Review the level of project detail so projects in the LRSP are ready to be submitted for funding. This will make it quicker and easier to start implementation. Project development starts with planning and programming what projects will be implemented, pre-design and scoping, design, and then implementation. In some cases a project can be implemented as part of a larger construction project, as part of maintenance, or through dedicated funding streams. In other cases it may be filling out a project sheet that mirrors the funding application or providing detail in a plan that will support project development.

In Michigan where the DOT oversees 12 regional plans, some held implementation meetings where individuals involved in development were brought up to date on what was planned for implementation. Participants included representatives from the counties, cities, and villages in the plan area, county engineers, commissioners, and others.

Differences in LRSP Development

LRSPs are as varied as the characteristics of the communities they serve. It is important to know there are different types of plans and the size of the plan and its components may vary. Several areas of differences in LRSP development include:

  • Funding of LRSP development.
  • Who develops the LRSP.
  • Area covered by the LRSP.
  • Project selection.
  • Level of project development.

Funding of LRSP Development

There are a variety of ways agencies fund LRSP development. Some States fully fund LRSP development for their local jurisdictions, other States fund a significant portion of the LRSP development but require a local match. LRSP could also be developed and fully funded by a local agency. Research did not reveal a correlation between how the LRSP development was funded and implementation of the LRSP.

Who Develops the LRSP

LRSPs are developed by the local agencies in house, regional planning agencies or consultants procured at the State level, local level, or by the FHWA. In States where LRSPs are fully funded by the State, the State DOT typically procures and selects a consultant to prepare the LRSPs for multiple jurisdictions. This results in a consistent methodology applied across all plans and oftentimes the DOT has set aside funding for identified projects which results in an easier project selection process by the DOT when the local agency applies for funding.

Area Covered by the LRSP

LRSPs can be prepared for a county, city, MPO, Tribal area, or another region (State DOT district or region). When determining the area to be covered by the LRSP, agencies should consider how they will implement projects and what arrangement will result in the highest level of implementation for their area. While the geographic area covered by an LRSP does not impact implementation, there are some pros and cons associated with doing a county plan as opposed to a regional plan that may include several counties.

Single Agency (City or County) Plan – Pros

Coordination and buy in may be easier in a single agency plan since it generally involves one local agency and maybe the State DOT.

Stakeholders within the jurisdiction are likely familiar with each other. This may make it easier in the decision-making process since the parties are familiar with each other’s needs.

Single Agency (City or County) Plan – Cons

There is a finite amount of resources available within a single agency such as staff and funding.

Because there are fewer stakeholders involved, it may be difficult for these individuals to devote the time and other resources needed to develop and implement the LRSP. Additionally, they may not have all the required safety expertise involved.

Regional Plans – Pros

Because the systemic safety approach focuses on evaluating a roadway network and looks at crash history on an aggregate basis to identify high-risk roadway characteristics, a regional approach may lend itself more to a systemic safety approach. This can also be true at the local level for a local road network.

There is always strength in numbers and a regional plan can result in more stakeholders being active in the LRSP development and eventually implementation, which can increase the chances of success. It also means a smaller number of plans need to be developed in the State and the larger crash area increases the crash sample size.

Regional plans provide a greater opportunity to leverage resources for implementation and they also provide a more diverse and interdisciplinary group of stakeholders.

Regional Plans – Cons

Because there are more stakeholders it may be difficult to obtain buy-in from everyone and to effectively coordinate the implementation process among a larger group of individuals.

Different agencies within a region may have different priorities and it may be difficult to reach consensus on what projects should be included in the LRSP and when it comes time for implementation which projects should be implemented and where.

Multiple agencies may have a large number of tasks to address and safety may not be the number one priority. This can make it difficult to elevate safety as a prime concern.

Project Selection

Agencies use three major project selection methodologies in LRSP development: risk factor analysis, high-crash locations, or a combination of risk factor analysis and high-crash locations. Projects can be identified through a systemic safety analysis using a risk factor analysis to identify locations with a high potential for crashes, and not necessarily a history of crashes. Since fatalities and serious injuries can be random in nature and spread throughout a local roadway system, this methodology allows for a proactive approach to reducing fatalities and serious injuries based on roadway, intersection, or curve features along the system.

Projects can also be identified through identification of high-crash locations or a “hot spot” analysis. This methodology is reactionary in nature and can result in improving locations where crashes have occurred in the past, as opposed to where they might occur in the future. A combination of risk factor analysis and high-crash locations can be utilized for project selection. For HSIP projects, they must be reflected in the State’s SHSP to be funded.

When developing the LRSP, consideration should be given to how the local agency plans to obtain funding, and the requirements of that funding mechanism. Projects should be selected with the methodology that is anticipated to result in successful funding applications that foster implementation of the LRSP.

If the LRSP contains behavioral safety projects or programs, funding for these must be obtained from the State Highway Safety Office (SHSO). These offices provide opportunities for agencies and other organizations to apply for grant funds on a yearly basis. Information on how to apply for these grants can be found on your State SHSO web site. A listing of State SHSOs is available at Governors Highway Safety Association.

Level of Project Detail

Once the projects have been identified, it is necessary to determine what level of detail or effort is needed to move a project from concept to actual implementation. There may be a gap between the information on the project in the plan and what is actually needed to submit it for funding, scoping/design, and construction. The level of effort or detail varies from agency to agency. In some cases, it may be possible to implement a project as part of a larger effort such as a maintenance project like pavement preservation. If it is a pedestrian/bicycle safety project, dedicated funding for active transportation projects may be available or there may be resources including funding that are available from the local or regional agency.

For counties in Minnesota, Iowa, and Kansas that have LRSPs, project sheets are included for “top scoring” locations that mirror the HSIP application in their State for improvements such as wider edge lines, rumble strips, safety edge, destination lighting, and chevrons. The project sheets are submitted as part of or in lieu of the HSIP application. This helps streamline the implementation process, and projects move into design phase if funding is received.

As part of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Systemic Safety Analysis Report Program (SSARP), one or more HSIP applications are prepared for the local agency by the consultant. The Caltrans HSIP application is far more detailed than applications in some other States. Having the application completed as part of the SSARP helps streamline the application process for agencies.

"This is a photo showing a shoulder of a rural road."

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

When developing the LRSP, there should be a clear understanding of the level of project development that is required to implement projects. States have varying levels of application processes. In some States with simpler applications, the LRSPs contain a project sheet that outlines the information that is needed for funding applications to ease the process for agencies to apply for funding after their LRSP is completed. Other States have more extensive funding applications that require preliminary design of the project, more detailed cost estimates, and/or benefit-cost analysis. In cases where more extensive information is required for funding applications, the agency may plan to have the application completed as part of their LRSP. Agencies can also plan to develop a project through another means such as through maintenance or pavement preservation.


Research and interviews did not necessarily determine that differences in LRSP development had a major impact on implementation. However, to be successful in implementation of a LRSP, there are items for local agencies to consider when preparing a LRSP. They include the availability of funding, how compatible are the projects in the LRSP with the State SHSP if seeking HSIP funds for implementation, whether the plan will be implemented at the county or regional level, how projects were selected, and if any work was done developing projects prior to implementation.

5 March 2012. Developing Safety Plans: A Manual for Local Rural Road Owners, Federal Highway Administration, FHWA-SA-12-017, page 9, Washington, DC.