Beyond the Build

Construction Trends

A Diet For Roads?

I’m a co-chair of our ULI chapter for the state. In a recent meeting, James Fowler, who leads planning, design and construction for UAB, started talking about “Road Diets.” While I had never heard the term, it made a lot of sense after I heard him explain. The initiative is to make urban campuses more pedestrian friendly, focusing on changing the character of the streets as well as adjusting campus common spaces. Here’s how:


  • Moving away from vehicle-dominated roadways towards more balanced, complete streets
  • Reducing the number of vehicular lanes on some multi-lane roadways to allow room for bike lanes, wider sidewalks and more street trees
  • Installing high-visibility crosswalks (think “piano keys”) in lieu of existing two skinny stripes
  • Tightening some intersections to shorten crosswalks and slow down vehicular traffic

The full concept is laid out here: “Road Diet Study Phase I.


  • Designing more bicycle-pedestrian friendly pathways through the core of campus.
  • Infilling existing property with more dense development, as opposed to spreading farther and farther outwards.
  • Advocating for privately funded, walkable dense development around the perimeter of campus.

While these thoughts are specific to UAB, the action plan has context for most urban settings. The goals isn’t to eliminate vehicles, rather de-emphasize them by providing easy access to high quality alternative options such as walking, transit and cycling.


Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.