has a sprawl problem. There is no doubt about it.
The initial question, however, is whether it is real
pattern of suburban development has had certain
unmistakable impacts. It made suburbanites more
dependent on automobiles, added to the average
number of daily automobile trips, elongated
commuting distances, contributed to worsened air
quality and substantially increased the per capita
burden of street maintenance cost because the number
of lane miles in the state highway system increased
transportation has been made less cost effective
because of the distribution patterns in Virginia
ís suburbs. The cost of providing other
infrastructure has also increased
disproportionately. Sprawl has also
displaced what were once forests and farmland at a
dramatic rate. Larger lot sizes and the areas needed
for automobile travel, including roads, driveways
and parking lots are the leading causes of this
cost of sprawl measured by adverse impacts on
natural streams and the cost of governmental
programs to address those impacts is enormous. Where
streams formerly meandered within their ancient
banks, we now see huge, channelized rivers
constructed with substantial taxpayer funding in a
futile attempt to deal with the heightened runoff
from land cleared for suburban development. We
hardly bother to measure the environmental cost of
the loss of these natural streams, as well as the
forests and fields that had retained some of the
rainfall, slowed the rate of runoff and allowed
normal recharge of aquifers. Oh, did I neglect to
mention the loss of flora and fauna?
like their compatriots elsewhere in the United
States, are of two minds about sprawl. They decry
the effects, but are unwilling to take the painful
steps necessary to stop it. They favor increased
spending for public transportation, but generally
will not abandon their own automobiles to use it.
They want to retard new subdivisions, but only after
they have their own homes on large lots.
if suburban sprawl isnít a major cause of
congestion, air pollution and inefficient use of
land around Virginia ís major cities and in
Northern Virginia , it is a major political issue.
Many Virginians view sprawl as an undesirable
condition. Because of that perception, controlling
suburban growth became the sleeper issue in the 2005
Kaine gambled that the voters in battleground
suburban precincts were more inclined to conclude
that their daily frustrations with traffic are a
result of poor governmental planning than the
consequence of insufficient funding for construction
of new transportation facilities. It appears that
Kaineís gamble paid off.
advocated giving local governing bodies the
authority to reject applications for new residential
subdivisions, new shopping malls and other
development when the public infrastructure,
particularly transportation facilities, were not
available. Kilgore proposed funding new road
construction to ease the commuting pains of
suburbanites residing around Washington, D.C.
of the gubernatorial candidates offered a solution
to the congestion problem. Kaineís proposal
encourages local governing bodies to act
irresponsibly by pushing the problem off on no one
in particular. Kilgoreís might, at the very most,
have eased commuting travel in the short run only to
make it worse in the long run.
will never solve our suburban congestion problem
without addressing the sprawl issue. Roads canít
be built fast enough to meet the rising demand. Mass
transportation solutions will be more expensive than
users and taxpayers will tolerate.
subject deserves more attention than permitted here.
The options I intend to explore in future commentary
wonít be painless. Nothing short of radical change
December 12, 2005