Landscape management

Design Principles | Project Development | Construction | Maintenance

Design principles

Landscape architects incorporate design principles with horticulture, architecture, ecology and engineering as they strive to integrate the natural landscape with the built and planted environment of transportation facilities.

Landscape architecture is more than placing plants on the land for strictly aesthetic reasons. It should begin with the design of the transportation corridor and be of concern all the way through the plan development and facility construction process.  Its principles should not be applied at the very end of the process as a superficial attempt to mitigate negative environmental impacts.

Two sections of the Facilities Development Manual (FDM) discuss design principles as they relate to landscape.  Other design principles are identified as follows.

Highway landscaping

It involves the preservation, conservation, restoration, management of and respect for natural and built resources.  It includes the natural environment, quality human development, the transportation system and cultural and historic resources.

Roadside sites

These are areas of land contiguous with highways, which are selected and developed to provide motorists with opportunities to park and rest away from mainline traffic.  This includes rest areas, seasonal waysides, scenic overlooks, historical marker sites, sometimes parking turnouts or boat landings, and reserve sites.

Natural landscaping

Means preserving and restoring native plant communities.  Although natural landscaping for highways is a valuable concept and has proven itself over time, it is not appropriate for all situations.  Natural and informal design is appropriate in rural settings where space is adequate, but many highways have minimal roadside space.  Urban highways and those impacted by development present a host of design challenges. 

Function, operation and safety

The following is a list of design  concerns that are essential aspects of practical highway design that cannot be ignored or omitted from the design process.

  • Line of Sight
  • Speed of Travel
  • Clear Zone
  • Screening and structures
  • Alignment - FDM 27-1-5
  • Snowdrift control - FDM 27-20-5 

Project development

This is a multi-step process that involves plan designers, the district project manager, WisDOT landscape architects, consultants, etc.  The process of plan development is explained , step by step in the Facilities Development Manual (FDM)


In the context of WisDOT landscaping operations, generally refers to seeding, sodding and planting activities.  Instructions that specify how these activities are to be accomplished are found in the Standard Specifications for Highway and Structure Construction.  More information about preserving, transplanting, selecting and planting woody plants is available in the Facilities Development Manual (FDM).  Additional help can be found in the Construction and Materials Manual.

Standard Specifications for Highway and Structure Construction

Facilities Development Manual (FDM)

Construction & Materials Manual


WisDOT has a contract with each individual county to perform maintenance work on State highways.  The required maintenance tasks the county forces are called upon to perform are many.  The roadside maintenance tasks are identified in Chapter 7 of the Highway Maintenance Manual (HMM).  Maintenance tasks that affect safety, operation, and function take priority over aesthetic priorities.  Many roadside maintenance tasks fall under aesthetics.

Chapter 7 in the Highway Maintenance Manual (HMM)

  • Herbaceous vegetation management
  • Woody vegetation management
  • Wildlife management  
  • Miscellaneous Parcels and Easements
  • Use of Highway right of way by others
  • Specific management plans
  • Vegetation alteration for site exposure