What Is SUDAS?
SUDAS (pronounced “soo’dahs”) is short for Statewide Urban Design and Specifications. The Institute for Transportation at Iowa State University maintains Iowa’s SUDAS manuals for public improvements. Developing and maintaining Iowa’s unique SUDAS manuals is the result of a lengthy and painstaking effort by more than 300 stakeholders across the state.
A brief history
In the late 1980s, 16 central Iowa urban jurisdictions, including the City of Des Moines, surrounding cities, and two counties, began meeting to discuss developing common urban standards for public improvements. Such improvements include sanitary sewers and water mains, streets and sidewalks, utility locations, signalization, drainage and erosion control, etc.
Developing common standards among several jurisdictions was breaking new ground in Iowa, and the group made slow but deliberate progress.
Their efforts came into focus when, in 1995, Governor Terry Branstad assembled a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Transportation to investigate ways to use Iowa’s Road Use Tax Fund more efficiently. One of the task force’s recommendations was that agencies “adopt common standards for construction specifications . . . .” By 1998, the central Iowa group (known as the Central Iowa Committee) had expanded to 34 Iowa jurisdictions, including several communities outside the Des Moines area and had published their design standards and specifications.
In 2000, the effort was underway to further expand the number of cities using the Central Iowa Committee’s manuals and to convert them to statewide manuals, eventually known as the SUDAS program.
A statewide steering committee, comprised of various stakeholder groups, including Iowa DOT, cities, counties, and consultant and industry groups, was organized in 2002 to oversee the new SUDAS program. Iowa State University’s Center for Transportation Research and Education (CTRE) (CTRE was renamed to the Institute for Transportation or InTrans in 2009) was chosen to manage the program.
In 2004, a new nonprofit entity was created to establish a mechanism for statewide ownership: the Iowa SUDAS Corporation. The Board of Directors for the corporation consists of members who formerly served on the statewide steering committee, with the addition of a few others. InTrans continues to manage the program.
On February 17, 2005, the Central Iowa Committee acted to officially transfer ownership of the manuals to the Iowa SUDAS Corporation. Statewide ownership of the manuals makes them truly the statewide standards for urban public works improvements.
InTrans continues to manage the SUDAS program.
Through metropolitan planning organizations, regional planning authorities, and transportation management agencies, Iowa’s local communities are covering nearly 60% of SUDAS development costs. The Iowa DOT pays the balance.
Advantages of using SUDAS
First of all, citizens simply appreciate uniform public improvements (e.g., similar sidewalk ramps) from town to town. In addition, by using standard designs and specifications Iowa’s cities have
- Uniformity of urban design and specifications across the state
- Reduction of contractor confusion and mistakes due to differing specifications; encourages more bidders
- Mechanism to be proactive in research and studies for new and improved urban design and specifications
- Method for study and statewide implementation of latest techniques and material use
- Forum that allows state and local governments to collaborate with industry
- Reduced costs through uniformity, understanding, and acceptance (conservatively estimated at $16M/year if program is fully implemented)
Finally, InTrans keeps the statewide manuals up to date. This relieves individual communities of that burden and expense while ensuring they are informed about new products and procedures.