Visual Enhancement Information

What is Visual Enhancement?
Why Visual Enhancement?
Transportation Enhancement Information

What is Visual Enhancement?


Historically, highway design and construction has been oriented to concerns about safety, structure and cost. These areas remain foremost in the minds of new highway designers, as they should. However, their preeminence often eclipses another equally important design value - Visual Quality.

The visual qualities of a roadway have important ramifications for drivers and communities along the corridor. A driver's view from the road often forms their entire impression of a region and informs their decisions about where to turn, where to stop and how to ultimately arrive at their destination. The visual qualities of a roadway can keep drivers informed, interested and alert or, conversely, confused, bored and tired.

When assessing existing roadways, visual qualities must be addressed from the standpoint of enhancements. What can be done to enhance the visual qualities of a particular roadway is a community decision which should be addressed at the local level. However, some activities typically associated with visual enhancement are:

  • Adding bike or pedestrian facilities
  • Limiting curb cuts and providing attractive directional signage
  • Adding attractive Landscaping or interesting street level features
  • Preserving, rehabilitating or renovating historic structures
  • Preserving scenic vistas or agricultural land
  • Cleaning up of blighted areas
  • Establishing design guidelines for signage, landscaping, materials, siting, etc.

Why Visual Enhancement?


Beyond the specific benefits of attractive streetscapes and safer and more efficient travel, the benefits of visual enhancement run much deeper. More attractive, interesting and informative transportation corridors can have dramatic impacts on community pride and economic development. Specifically, communities undertaking enhancement projects have seen:

  • higher tax revenues
  • increased tourism revenue
  • increased private investment and new business creation
  • increased employment
  • increased interest in community history and civic engagement

Transportation Enhancement Information


Federal Transportation Enhancement Funding

Authorized in 1991 with passage of ISTEA (intermodal surface transportation efficiency act)
Mandated that every state must reserve 10 percent of surface trans. funds for enhancement activities
Reauthorized in 1998 through 2003 with TEA-21 (transportation equity act for the 21st century)

Funded through taxes on motor fuel and vehicles
These are put in to the Highway Trust Fund and distributed to the states through the Federal Highway Program
10% of the state's surface transportation funds are reserved for enhancement activities

Projects must relate in some way to transportation
Projects must provide for public access
Projects must fit one or more of 12 enhancement activities:

  1. Pedestrian and bicycle facilities
  2. Pedestrian and bicycle safety and education activities
  3. Acquisition of scenic or historic easements and sites
  4. Scenic or historic highways programs including tourist and welcome centers
  5. Landscaping and scenic beautification
  6. Historic preservation
  7. Rehabilitation and operation of historic transportation buildings, structures or facilities
  8. Conversion of abandoned railway corridors to trails
  9. Control and removal of outdoor advertising
  10. Archaeological planning and research
  11. Environmental mitigation of runoff pollution and provisions of wildlife connectivity
  12. Establishment of transportation museums

Michigan Transportation Enhancement Funding

Must have a sponsor (can be anyone) however, the applicant must be a governmental unit that receives fuel tax revenues such as cities, villages, road commissions, public transit agencies, or MDOT.

Must meet at least one of the following qualifications:
Must be on or next to a highway, street or road that is eligible for federal aid
Must be a historic facility or a historic site that is significant to transportation but has current transportation use
Must provide a service related to transportation

Eligible Activities
Same as federal (above) except does not include:

  • Pedestrian and bicycle safety activities and education
  • Transportation museums

National Visual Enhancement Links

American Planning Association

National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse

Scenic America

Department of Transportation

Context Sensitive Design

Michigan Visual Enhancement Links

Michigan Department of Transportation

Michigan Society of Planning

Scenic Michigan

More Information to Download

Michigan Transportation Enhancement Program

Michigan Transportation Enhancement Program-Instructions for Applicants

National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse-Communities Benefit!

National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse-A Guide To Transportation Enhancements

Deleware-Muncie Metropolitan Plan Commission-An Enhancement Plan for the McGalliard Road/State Road 332 Corridor

Transportation Enhancement
Regional Forums
Transportation Enhancement
Crystal Falls&Iron River
Mackinac County
Ewen/Bruce Crossing/Trout Creek