Virginia adopts innovative smart streets rules
Under the leadership of governor Tim Kaine, the Commonwealth of Virginia has adopted new requirements designed to make neighborhood streets more connected, walkable, and safe. In particular, the new regulations limit the number of new dead-end cul-de-sacs, require sidewalks in most new subdivisions, and encourage narrower street widths that slow traffic. Developers must meet the new criteria in order for their streets to be eligible for maintenance by the state.
Research shows that connected streets, in particular, encourage walking and reduce vehicle miles traveled, associated emissions, traffic congestion, and emergency response times. Moreover, as reported last month, new research shows that, contrary to popular belief, neighborhoods with connected streets have fewer traffic fatalities than do subdivisions dominated by cul-de-sacs.
For better or worse, there will remain plenty of cul-de-sac development in Virginia for the foreseeable future. In addition to those already built, the new rules do not ban dead ends but do restrict their number, under a technical formula that varies the allowed number according to the type of subdivision in question. But this is a huge step in the right direction.
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