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Va. ‘cul-de-sac ban’ named a top idea of 2009

Al Harris December 15, 2009 9

New regulations in Virginia that deny road funding to subdivisions with too many cul-de-sacs was named one of the year’s most ingenious ideas by the New York Times magazine.

The rules, established by the Virginia Department of Transportation under the leadership of Gov. Tim Kaine, sparked a battle between suburban developers and land use advocates. The goal of the regulations is to reduce the number of cul-de-sacs in future developments, which will ease traffic congestion on main roads. The idea is to increase connectivity.

From the New York Times Magazine, “The Cul-de-Sac Ban”:

If subdivisions fail to comply, Virginia won’t provide maintenance and snowplow services, a big disincentive in a state where the government provides 83 percent of road services.

Virginia expects the new rules to relieve its strained infrastructure budget: through streets are more efficient and cheaper to maintain, and they take pressure off arterial roads that otherwise need to be widened. “It’s about connecting land-use and transportation planning and restricting wasteful and unplanned development,” Kaine said in March.

BizSense covered the issue earlier this year.

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  1. John Hicks December 16, 2009 at 8:50 am - Reply

    I am confused as to how this will decrease arterial traffic. People will not drive through neighborhoods rather than go to the nearest route to the main artery road. They will continue to take the shortest route from their home or starting point to the nearest main road in the area where traffic flow is faster.

    Eliminating Cul-De-Sacs will also mean few developed properties in new subdivisions, meaning higher costs and lower profit for developers, or higher prices to consumers, or both. It will also decrease the desire-ability of some of these subdivisions to those consumers for whom residential privacy is an important quality in a home.

  2. Andrew Moore December 16, 2009 at 9:10 am - Reply


    Actually, it is pretty well established that cul-de-sac type development tends to congest traffic. When a choice is available, local drivers will tend to gravitate towards peferred routes for different destinations, dividing the traffic load to multiple roads. If no choice is available prior to reaching a collector road (as it the case with cul-de-sacs), the traffic tends to be more concentrated. See this article for a breif summary: http://www.batesline.com/archives/2009/03/connectivity-and-culdesacs.html or Google “dul de sac traffic” for more.



  3. james December 16, 2009 at 9:43 am - Reply

    The NY Times Magazine, that bastion of knowledge about land use. Geez, someone is giving THAT credibility? The fact that they like little Timmy Kaine’s idea should tell you just how liberal that paper is.

    Connectivity leads to one thing — morning and evening commuters racing through neighborhoods to beat traffic lights. There are numerous studies that show it. That leads to kids getting run over while walking to or from the bus stop, unless you put in speed humps or roundabouts. Timmy won’t allow it because it will slow vehicles down and defeat the purpose of connectivity. It also leads to lower home values, which was Timmy’s real goal in all of this. He wants everyone to move into the city, so if he can deteriorate the suburbs enough people will leave. Thank the Lord he only has a month left. McDonnell will fix a lot of this in the next four years.

  4. james December 16, 2009 at 9:59 am - Reply

    Cul-de-sacs are the most popular form of subdivision development there is. Cul-de-sac homes sell faster than any other homes in new or existing subdivisions. Cul-de-sacs encourage a sense of community, public safety and better environmental management practices. Yeah, they’re downright evil.

    Timmy wants them gone because he wants to stop subdivision development. If he can get rid of the most popular form of home in development and turn neighborhoods into race tracks, killing home values and making life miserable for people who want to practice private property management and find an acre they can call their own, he thinks many people will move into 41st story skyscrapers. Just like a good little liberal, he wants to turn Richmond into New York City. As I said previously, thank God he’s gone in a month. Our next governor will put a stop to this lunacy.

  5. Rob Brodsky December 16, 2009 at 11:09 am - Reply

    It makes no sense to eliminate a preferred option for living just to make it easier for people to cut through subdivisions. In fact, isn’t it easier to fix one main road than many cut-through streets? I lived in a very nice subdivision in Houston for many years that suffered from constant cut-through traffic. Kids and dogs and runners were not safe. And the noise was almost unbearable. Now I live in a cul-de-sac community and it is phenomenally wonderful. Kids run all over the neighborhood. It is very peaceful. The ban prevents development of these types of communities. Cul-de-sac communities are the way people prefer to live. I would be happy to pay more in taxes for road work to support the way I want to live, than to suffer some idiot efficiency wonk’s idea of a better transportaton plan. What is the point of government if not to improve our lives? The cul-de-sac ban is the stupidest government idea I have ever heard.

  6. Bart Levy December 16, 2009 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    I lived in the city on Northside for many years without hearing of any children being struck by cars racing through the neighborhood. It was easy to get in and out of the neighborhood because there were many route choices. I currently live in Chesterfield, on a cul-de-sac, and I don’t like it. It’s inconvenient and isolating. Every few months there’s a pedestrian — usually an adult — who is struck and killed on Midlothian Tnpk and Hull St., the only 2 major east-west arteries in the county.

  7. Clem December 17, 2009 at 6:20 am - Reply

    This is one more example of government getting into our lives and telling citizens who pay their salaries how to live. This will not solve the funding problem at VDOT any more than closing rest stops did. Buyer preference studies have shown the most people would rather live on a cul de sac than a through street. Citizens should have the option to live in either location, not have some government group take that option away.

  8. wren lanier December 17, 2009 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    Nobody’s taking away the right to build or live on a cul-de-sac. They aren’t illegal. The law simply says that the state won’t provide street maintenance to developments with too many cul-de-sacs.

    Folks love to complain about government intervention, except when it comes to providing basic services — like plowed roads in the winter. That’s government bueracracy right there folks! Getting all that snow outta the road so people can go to work and kids can go to school. Damn Big Government!

    So go ahead — build a cul-de-sac. The government will leave you completely alone — so alone, they won’t fix your roads or clear streets of snow in the winter. I’m sure that private industry can provide a better solution for that anyway. Carry on!

  9. Teresa May 6, 2010 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    This “hot new idea” is not so hot nor is it new. More like everything old is new again. If you look back at residential development over the years you’ll see that through streets outnumbered cul-de-sacs way back when. The rise in cul-de-sacs has grown based on the desire to have less residential traffic and relatively safer streets given the increase in motor vehicle traffic.

    A previous writer is correct, if given an option people will take “short cuts”. But then how does this foster a sense of community? In my opinion, anyone speeding through my neighborhood is not a candidate for an invitation to my next BBQ.

    By the way, what will constitute “too many” cul-de-sacs?

    From a mother’s perspective…while no street is absolutely safe when it comes to children, cul-de-sacs offer limited traffic at lower speeds than main thoroughfares. As do loops and round abouts. I know neighborhoods where there are limited cul-de-sacs and YES, traffic does speed through, regardless of the (useless) posted speed limit signs and the “kids playing” signs.

    So will the state increase funding for traffic control in neighborhoods?

    Will they create additional state funded green spaces and/or play areas for children and adults?

    Who, in government, is evaluating the potential problems this plan could “recreate”?

    Do the long-term problems balance or outweigh the money?

    At this point I would just like to know that 360 degree consideration has been given to the idea.

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