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:

  • 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 July 2, 2015