Friday, December 11, 2009

Virginia Bans Cul de Sacs

Cul de sacs are a love 'em or hate 'em phenomenon - either you think they're a fantastic safe enclave for kids to play or a blight on the environment.  But now, the state of Virginia has gone so far as to ban them entirely from new developments.  A recent article in the Washington Post explains why:

The changes come as cash-strapped states and localities can no longer afford the inexorable widening of secondary roads that are overburdened with traffic from the subdivisions, strip malls, schools and office buildings that feed into them. The system forces drivers to enter these traffic-choked roads to go even 50 yards or so to the neighborhood coffeehouse or elementary school. North Carolina and Portland, Ore., are moving on similar fronts.

"When you have 350 to 400 miles a year of new roads you have to maintain forever, it's a budgetary problem," said Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), who pushed the new regulations through the Commonwealth Transportation Board last month. Virginia has had to cut more than $2.2 billion from its six-year transportation spending plan. "But it's not just about the money. It's about connecting land-use and transportation planning and restricting wasteful and unplanned development."

Virginia will enforce this by withholding road funding and snow removal services from cul de sac streets.  Is this the beginning of a trend? I have always lived in traditional through-street neighborhoods, and have always found the cul de sac a strange phenomenon.  Given New Urbanist trends, it may already have been on its way out.  Still, this is the first effort I know to force them out by state-wide regulation.

Jamie Baker Roskie

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