Highway and Roadway
Highways form the backbone of America's transportation system, connecting all regions and states to one another. This extensive highway network reaches nearly everywhere across America. Moving people and goods across this network is critical to meeting the everyday needs of our nation's people.
Highway transportation depends on both public and private inputs and investment. In the United States, most vehicles used on highways are owned and operated by private individuals and firms while most highway infrastructure is funded and maintained by the public sector. This system stands in contrast to freight railroads, where both vehicles and infrastructure are owned by private firms, and to mass transit, which is generally provided by public agencies, either directly or through contracted private operators. Understanding this dual nature of highway travel is important in understanding how public policy affects the efficient use of the highway network.
Another key feature of highways, experienced by millions each day, is that they are subject to congestion. High traffic volumes relative to highway capacity (experienced especially during peak travel periods) can lead to reduced travel speeds and stop-and-go traffic, even on freeways (that have controlled access and no traffic signals). Crashes and adverse weather conditions can also temporarily and unpredictably reduce capacity, causing additional travel delay. While these congested periods are often associated with morning and evening weekday commuting flows, they may also coincide with weekend shopping, recreational travel, and traffic incidents. Planning for these highways is critical to ensure safety and support the national, state and local economies. The Unifour Area, encompassing four counties and twenty-three municipalities, is covered by nine different transportation plans or thoroughfare plans.
The 2035 Greater Hickory Urban Area Long Range Transportation Plan expanded the planning horizon year to 2035. The Plan will include twenty-seven local governments. Part of the transportation plan encompasses an evaluation of thoroughfares (highways) along with other transportation modes. A thoroughfare plan identifies existing and future deficiencies and uncovers the need for improving the existing transportation system. This part of the Plan analyzes and makes recommendations based on the ability of the existing street system to serve the present and future travel as the area continues to grow. The usefulness of transportation planning is in the analysis of different roadway configurations for their efficiency in serving the area.