Artist’s rendering of West Broad Marketplace

by James A. Bacon

The developer of the West Broad Marketplace, which will bring a Wegmans grocery store and outdoor gear retailer Cabela’s to western Henrico County, promises Richmonders a shopping treat that “I don’t think you’ve experienced before.” That may be true. Unfortunately, Jack Waghorn, president of Vienna-based NVRetail, will replicate the experience of driving through traffic-clogged thoroughfares and parking in vast, open-air parking lots that Richmonders will find all too familiar.

The Henrico Wegman’s is scheduled to open in mid-2016, with a counterpart in Chesterfield County opening around the same time. Henrico County officials were on hand for a ground-breaking yesterday. No doubt county leaders are pleased that Henrico citizens will have access to the popular, high-end grocery store, not to mention the tax revenues generated by the store and the 550 to 600 full- and part-time jobs created.

As can be seen in the artist’s rendering above, however, West Broad Marketplace will perpetuate the dysfunctional low-density land use patterns of post World War II sprawl that has already made the Short Pump area a congested hell hole. I avoid going there if at all possible, and others do, too, although sometimes they have no choice because that’s where the region’s upscale stores are concentrated. Driving in and around Short Pump is always a dismal experience. When I visited one time last month to do some Christmas shopping, traffic was so gridlocked that cars were backed up onto I-64, causing a slowdown on the Interstate. That may sound banal to Northern Virginians but it’s unprecedented for the Richmond region.

The traffic congestion in Short Pump is the foreseeable consequence of zoning for mile after mile of single-use shopping-center development around the intersection of Interstates 64 and 295. Planners allowed for no other connectivity: shopping centers don’t connect with each other, much less with nearby residential neighborhoods. There are no side streets to divert traffic. All cars pile onto West Broad Street. The area is utterly unwalkable — visitors have no choice but to drive their cars from destination to destination, adding to the congestion — and there is no mass transit.

The county will never have enough money to build its way out of this mess. Indeed, the problem is so bad that congestion is radiating out from the Short Pump area to places, like the Innsbrook commercial park, where traffic conditions once were tolerable. At some point, I predict, conditions will become so atrocious that — Wegmans or no Wegmans — affluent households, corporate offices and high-end retailers will seek somewhere else in the Richmond region to locate. When the 30-year amortization of all those commercial buildings expires, retailers will pack up and follow. Once the newness wears off, there’s nothing to keep anyone there.

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46 responses to “Henrico Still Building Schlock”

  1. well … just got back from Reagan after taking friend to airport and using the spiffy new HOT lanes… and the folks who live in NoVa have not heeded the low-density armageddon warnings that loom over them.

    To put it in very sophisticated terms – there is a CRAP LOAD of people “out there” and more than a couple of them resent other people using the same wrong they use.

    but I did have an ignorant kind of question with regard to commercial development.

    assuming there are the rooftops to support it – it would seem the worst case if for each store to have it’s own parcel and it’s own curb-cut entrance.

    on any major road so many curb cuts would slice and dice it’s functionality in a serious way.

    so it seems “logical” that grouping them all together on one parcel with shared parking is more efficient and less damaging to the road network than dozens of separate curb cuts.

    I’m sure I’m not seeing the better alternative so perhaps Jim or TE or someone can weigh in on it.

    Again – I’m assuming that folks who build commercial and folks like Wegman’s have done their homework and believe there is sufficient demand for them to make a profit.

    but there is a bit of irony -there used to be a grocery called Ukrops that appeared to me to be similar to Wegmans…

  2. Tysons Engineer Avatar
    Tysons Engineer


    Thats incorrect, both in model and in practice. More intersections does not mean more traffic IF there are equivalently laid perpendicular and parallel routes. Traffic occurs when a single cycle can’t address volume. With advances in signal timing technology, lights can be properly sync’d to demand. What it can’t do is make a lot of cars go away. Inevitably what happens in the type of land use you are asking about is that the demands continue in a multi-directional way (commonly exits from the center vs main start to catch up to each other). Because everything ends up funneled to one location you end up with horrendous cycling queue at the single point which is well in excess of any cumulative queue which would occur in a standard “grid/block” design.

    More vehicles can move, and more vehicles can move faster, when proper signal timing and proper grid size are incorporated. Additionally, by having a grid layout, you make no single point the end all be all… which as traffic grows only gives the option to widen. The option to widen, when done several times, ends up disconnecting the point of interest from the areas around it, eventually cutting off all access to those points from any mode of transportation other than vehicles.

    Its also terrible for land value to have a defacto highway adjacent to a retail center, it leads to a whole slate of problems.

    When most people complain about traffic in the city (where the city has a grid) it is actually rarely about the traffic intracity. It has to do with the exit and entrance points to the city, where that grid devolves. For instance, driving in NYC (atleast when you know the streets to avoid due to ped/tunnel/bridge traffic) is actually quite easy to do. Whenever you hit resistance turn right and take the next parallel option. The same can’t be done when you are stuck on a limited-access road.

    The devolution of the grid and funneling is what causes the traffic, not all those lights. Of course, some better technology in older cities for the lights (ie DC) would be very good too.

    1. Thanks TE! I KNEW if you were listening you would contribute significantly to the dialogue.

      All things equal (and they never are) – how would you design a venue for Wegmans, Cabelos and other upscale?

      I’m sure Jim has seen the Bass Pro Shops in Hanover.. right off I-95.

  3. Tysons Engineer Avatar
    Tysons Engineer

    Ah yes, Wegmans. For context, Wegmans recently pulled out of a rezoning project in Tysons because they only would allow for these massive surface parking lot single entry designs which don’t incorporate into a town grid.

    That being said, lets ignore its specifically Wegmans and go to the question of grocery or big box equivalent.

    I would provide at a minimum two points of entry to the parking area for 1. I would have at most a 500’x500′ parcel to house the entirety of the grocery store. That would be 250,000sf. For reference most large format grocers are approximately 80,000sf. Super Walmarts are about 130,000 sf, with some mega walmarts upwards of 180k.

    So a typical big box/grocer would still have approximately 170,000 sf of play. With that space you can fit more than 500 parking spaces, which is MORE than enough for almost any retailer. Of course some of that space should be reserved for for loading etc, ~30,000sf usually depending on how the layout works. Incorporate one of the entrances into the truck entrance side, and the other for traditional front of house entrance. The entrances of course should be co-located at the cat corners of the parcel aligned with a grid to other elements.

    Of course it would be better if instead of 500 parking spaces (do structural parking) they co-located some of the other development properties as well to reduce the overall footprint but even in a traditional suburban sense it can be design better.

    This kind of format has been successful in locations like Columbia Heights in DC in not causing the typical traffic disruption of big boxes, as well as in less urban areas like Mosaic in Merrifield. Multiple entrances, means multiple exits, means less traffic at any given point. Comparing that to your traditional CostCo for instance which sees less people than Mosaic, it becomes pretty clear which is better in practice.

    1. re: ” instead of 500 parking spaces (do structural parking) they co-located some of the other development properties”

      how does that differ from what Jim showed for Henrico?

      oh.. and you don’t have to convince me of covered parking.. (but maybe you don’t like it?).

      so you LIKE the idea of co-locating the parking?

      but – it would seem no matter how you do it – you’re still going to generate whatever AASHTO has in their book for traffic generation.

      1. Tysons Engineer Avatar
        Tysons Engineer

        Parking is one where I have to concede to suburban mentality. Trust me I agree with you. The biggest cause of the traffic though is the orientation of the elements and how they connect with the main means of how people get there (ie that road in the front). By having ALL of the retail, not just one user, have just that single entrance in, you are creating a massive traffic problem. This is really the big problem with strip malls, and mostly its generated by the same false logic from VDOT that more signals means worse traffic. That is true but only when you are in the limited access mindset without parallel routes.

  4. Tysons Engineer Avatar
    Tysons Engineer

    Sorry deleted.

    1. re: ” This is really the big problem with strip malls, and mostly its generated by the same false logic from VDOT that more signals means worse traffic. That is true but only when you are in the limited access mindset without parallel routes.”

      okay. this is why you say that synchronization is needed… for multiple entrances?

      or have I still got it wrong?

      I NOTE that on Rt 29 in Charlottesville – that VDOT is NOW planning on networking all the signals and using adaptive real-time synchronization which as far as I can tell is very new and only implemented in a few places.

  5. Tysons Engineer Avatar
    Tysons Engineer

    synchronization, and more importantly demand based signalling which is reactive to actual demand at the intersection, is important. Its kind of a whole side discussion, but it always helps.

    The issue really is, do you create 8 lane roads with double lefts to enter a “shopping center” with no other roads or means to get to it near by? Or do you create many 4 lane roads, some with independent turn lanes, others with shared lanes, a typical street grid system with parallel paths, with many points of entry (and intersections).

    If the signals aren’t properly designed (either automated syncronization or demand based) then the latter can be worse than the former, but with proper design that can be avoided, making the latter the better option and better connecting it to the community around it. It also gives the traffic relief of if there is any incident at a given point, or if one particular spot is worse than others, the upgrades can be more cheaply done, and less likely to disrupt the neighborhood nature of the development.

    So part of it is technology, but a lot of it is just putting all the right things in all the right places. It costs a bit more up front (more signals that cost the developer, more road surface within property area that is dedicated), but it makes all the difference in terms of congestion and frankly land value/walkability.

    Even better is when you colocate housing with shopping, but thats some real heretics in the suburbs still.

    1. are you talking about entrances without signals or flyovers?

      1. Tysons Engineer Avatar
        Tysons Engineer

        Not flyovers. Flyovers would be the kind of limited access design that I believe have created the problems we now see (not to mention are far too costly for the benefit they provide). Whether the entrance has a 2-way/4-way stop, or a signal is more a matter of demand. When you make any individual entrance have less demand you end up with the possibility to use non-signalization also. Under lower volumes non-signalized intersections can actually move people more efficiently.

        Perhaps I need to work on a graphic to explain this.

        1. I have been persuaded that every cut through a median that allow traffic to cross the other lanes is a conflict point.

          when VDOT backfits access management on roads like US 1 and US 50 – they close the median cross-overs and put longer or doubled-up left turn lanes at traffic signals.

          you sound like you don’t agree with that approach. right?

          1. Tysons Engineer Avatar
            Tysons Engineer

            That is correct, that is what is called a limited access road, ie they are trying to specifically avoid standard grid. While that is great for intercity travel (from one zone to another like interstates/main highways) it is god awful for habitable zones, ie towns, neighborhoods, and cities. Essentially it is VDOT issuing its own verdict on the land use of an area, and it is why traffic actually gets worse because you have confined areas of upgrade to single points, where with a grid you can absorb changes in traffic pattern and demand much more fluidly with far less impact.

            When there are flyovers to get to a grocery store, for region of a town with a couple thousand people… you know something has gone terribly wrong. It is costly over design that drags down property values and makes it impossible to actually spur healthy neighborhood growth, and to boot traffic models show that taking that kind of design to its logical next steps (ie applying it to multiple cases) versus selecting a grid with parallel routes to begin with ends with more congestion.

            Cost versus cost (or sqft of pavement versus sqft of pavement) the grid wins every time. It is a law of physics, the past 40 years of traffic mismanagement has literally flown in the face of basic mathmatics. It is a false premise when they model that people only “use” an urban area to go from 1 point to another point, they disregard the components internally between those points and what happens when someone wants to go from 1 point to an internal point between the two points. In short, they applied rural intercity traffic calculations to intracity traffic calculations under the premise that everyone will continue to shift farther and farther away from urban job centers, thereby going from being engineers, to socialogical prognosticates.

          2. we sort of know which roads VDOT wants to use access management on – it’s the US-signed and the VA primary roads.

            their job -as they see it – is to maintain the functional purpose of these roads to move traffic regionally and inter-regionally – not provide local access.

            so then the localities would have to decide their land-use policies accordingly.

            Down in Stafford – they made a proposal to convert Route 1 into a Village Center . VDOT was not happy. They pointed out that Route 1 is the only other road if I-95 shuts down.

            VDOT recommended that the village put put on a PARALLEL road just off to one side of Route 1.

            And all up and down Route 1 – they are instituting heavy duty access management – as the Smart Growth folks are labeling it as a “stroad” and basically advocate doing what Stafford wanted to do – i.e. convert “pods” along route 1 into mini-villages..

            The original US-signed roads and Va Primary roads were designed decades ago long before Fairfax was even a suburb… and the land was developed – almost without regard to say.. Route 50 or Route 29… and while it is true that beltway has replaced them – on a regional bass – there are still many folks who depend on Rt 29 and 50 to get from one place to another – as much as they depend on the roads coming off of both – for local access.

            VDOT uses a functional classification system – more or less standard to designate the purpose of a given road.

            I guess the question is a chicken/egg in a way but clearly when the govt lays out a road network – it’s fundamental purpose is much more than just local access.

  6. […] blog Bacon’s Rebellion also questions West Broad Marketplace’s low-density development style, calling it […]

  7. Spent two days in the suburbs of Austin, TX this week and one in the city of Dallas. As usual, I got up early and went running. I might as well have been running in Northern Virginia, Silicon Valley, the suburbs of Chicago or any of the many other places I run.

    The suburbs all look the same Jim. They all look like what you are describing in Henrico.

    However – there is one exception – Westchester County, NY. Lots of huge company campuses in Westchester. Towns and small cities surrounded by, basically, farmland. I don’t see the same type of sprawl in Westchester.

    I’ll see if I can figure out why Westchester looks different.

  8. Tysons Engineer Avatar
    Tysons Engineer

    Westchester is no different than a lot of new england towns and mini-cities. Its a matter of when they were built. There were pre-WWII suburbs, and then there post-WWII suburbs. The post-WWII are the ones that are referred to as disconnected sprawl, ie above. They are also one of the reasons main street has slowly been suffocated to death in this country.

    1. I am not convinced. Westchester abuts New York City. During the 1960s (they heyday of sprawl) the county population grew by just under 30%.

      It’s about the same land size as Fairfax with just under 1M people.

      Now, I haven’t been all over the county. But my travels around White Plains, Mt Kisco, Yonkers show a county with tight areas of high density development and lots of almost undeveloped areas. It looks more like the area outside of Frankfort (Bad Homburg, etc) than most American suburbs.

      It didn’t experience hyper growth in the 70s, 80s and 90s so maybe that was the key to avoiding the look and feel of most suburbs.

      1. I think – and realize others like TE may disagree….

        that the precursor to the Interstate Highway system was the US Highway system and, in fact, it was actually referred to as an interstate system.

        The system was built as a result of Congress funding it in the 1920’s


        so these roads pre-dated much of the development we now see.

        back in those days – these US-signed highways actually went THROUGH towns and cities and in fact the towns and cities vied and fought to have these roads go through their city/town.

        the intent and purpose of the US Highway system though was clearly to allow intra-state and inter-state mobility, i.e. to “connect” cities and towns – as opposed to providing towns/cities with commercial and residential development venues.

        The Federal govt role was to institute design and maintenance standards to keep these roads functioning effectively in their intended role – to connect cities and towns.

        We all know what happened; they are thousands of “bypasses” across the country – and, in fact, in some places – multiple bypasses as each new bypass was not limited-access and was again used as venues for land-development.

        It was this dynamic that led directly to the 1956 Interstate Highway system to NOT allow curb cuts to development along it’s sides…

        ok.. so stop for a moment – and think about the ROLE of the interstates when it comes to local development if it cannot be sited on the highway itself? they then build on the access roads at the interchanges.

        in fact – all up and down the interstates that radiate out from cities like Washington and Richmond – we have “pods” … or what some characterize as “sprawl”.

        but we could never function without an interstate highway system – most of us would admit that.

        so the paradox is that we need the road systems – including the interstates for “connecting” places – i.e. to allow a warehouse in N.J. to deliver frozen chickens to a grocery in Maryland… etc..

        but at the same time – those highways enable land-uses which are deemed not only not efficient but actually destructive.

        so you have this ying-yang about who “owns” the road and what it’s purpose is.

        and many who do not know the history of the road system – in terms of the intent and purpose of it – don’t “see” that network. When they look at a road signed as US33 or US29 – they don’t see a national grid – they see a local road that “belongs” to the locality – for local access to commercial and residential development.

        You see this with Smart Growth folks also, who will label US 1 as a “stroad” and clearly don’t see it as part of a transportation network designed to connect places near – and far …

        but I have to ask – if we “villiage-ize” locations – are we sure we’re going to be happy trading that for the original intended purpose of the road?

        Many talk about live, work, shop, play local – but how many who say that never go anywhere else and just stay in that village 24/7?

        1. Tysons Engineer Avatar
          Tysons Engineer

          Ah but there is the problem Larry.

          No one in the smart growth community (atleast anyone who is read up on history of transportation systems) would argue against the original intent of the interstate highway system as seen by Eisenhower. It is the Robert Moses era that destroyed communities (read power broker) when that mentality went from, lets provide connections from city to city to, lets make sure every city has free flow traffic every where you go via internal highway systems from one point to another.

          Route 1 is a PERFECT example of this. You say it grew like villages… I think you need to review what a village looks like. Route 1 grew as a corridor because land use essentially attached itself to the road like a barnacle. Although there are roads that come off of Route 1 to connect to houses (because suburbanites would never live on such a horrible looking road), it does not mean that they are not essentially fronting on Route 1 from a transportation stand point. Ultimately communities like Eagles Point (one I oversaw in land development in my former soulless life) come back to an entry point to Route 1, and do not create any concentric surrounding, forming outward. It just runs linearly along Route 1 as close to Route 1 as is possible without being actually on Route 1.

          This of course is repeated about 10,000 times in locales all around, creating the disastrous strip mall funnel traffic that we all have come to love.

          Compare that to well functioning inter-travel systems that still have limited access elements to them, but do not allow development along them. These serve in a LITERAL sense to be inter-locale paths only and that is why they remain functioning. The best examples of these can be found in Europe (autostrata is a great example through portions of Italy where towns spur off of highways not directly on highways).

          Once you are off this highway system, the entire language of the road, from whats along the side of it, to the width of each lane, to the type of pavement used, changes. The road becomes only a secondary conveyance once you are in the “village”. You can still use it, it doesn’t stop anyone from doing so, but it also gives the opportunity for people to get from point 1 to point 2 without the car if they choose to do so within the village.

          And of course, if you wanted to go to the next town, there is the high functioning autostrata which has been wiped clear of sprawl development along its corridor to limit interference to the greatest extent possible.

          The European highway system is in fact the vision Eisenhower had, and the vision that the original interstate highway system was to fulfill. It is a shame that we veered away from it as those systems are proven to carry as much as our highway systems on VMT per sf basis, with much less congestion.

          1. good conversation!

            re: ” Route 1 is a PERFECT example of this. You say it grew like villages… I think you need to review what a village looks like. Route 1 grew as a corridor because land use essentially attached itself to the road like a barnacle.”

            no. no. I said it was built originally as a corridor and now the Smart Growth folks want to chop it up into distinct villages…

            re: Robert Moses –

            yes.. Moses saw the problem trying to take a US aid highway THROUGH a city with traffic signals so his idea was to put a limited access road right through the city with no curb-cuts – just ramps.

            and if you think about it – that’s exactly what the EL does in Chicago and what transit and subways seek to do in other cities!

            a huge grid-street city – is basically gridlocked in terms of going more than a couple of blocks in a vehicle… and people are not going to carry furniture and a weeks worth of groceries all the way from the store to their home – on foot!

            it’s a conundrum! I just think a lot of folks don’t know the history of the original US aid (US-signed) highways in terms of their intent and purpose and now think those roads as they go through a place – like Charlottesville – “belong” to Charlottesville – and the folks that would use it to get THROUGH Charlottesville – need to find another way to do that.

            imagine what would happen if we essentially did that to most US-signed roads!

            we think the interstates connect the country – but it’s really the interstates COMBINED with the US aid roads that get goods and services to places that are not right on the interstates.

          2. Tysons Engineer Avatar
            Tysons Engineer

            Understood on the Route 1 example. The village concept would be better than continuing to allow the corridor type development that is currently happening with strip mall entries every 10 ft while at the same time near 0 density in terms of habitability.

            On the question of the EL in Chicago, let me correct. There is one very crucial element that you neglect. In the case of internal city highways, what do those highways connect to? Roads. They are not, in fact, separated highway systems in the city, they all tie back so when there is congestion on let’s say the entrance ramp from the SWSE freeway to D St, that congestion isn’t isolated, it affects traffic on the adjacent roads leading to the SWSE free onramp at D St.

            A rail however, is a completely isolated infrastructure from roadways (with the exception of some LRT systems that cross at grade of course). If there is a problem on a subway line (lets say like the tragic one we had at L’Enfant) it in 0 ways affects road traffic, with the exception that EMS might have to park some vehicles at the location in the 1 day out of 5000 that there might be a problem of that category. But typical subway delays (train malfunction or station congestion) has 0 impacts.

            Its the difference between having infrastructure in series versus having infrastructure in parallel, to put it another way. That’s why, WHEN DENSITIES ALLOW <—- huge caveat, transit on its own separated infrastructure is the best way to address congestion. It splits demand (the % of course depends on many side factors like land use adjacent to it, connection and coupling of demand sources, etc but at a minimum it has SOME form of siphoning from the other parallel system).

            With regard to what went wrong, and specifically a good case Cville

            Jurisdictions are at fault here too. Towns that were not originally literally ontop of the routes like 29, started expanding and allowing developers who owned lots of farm land where those roads cut through, to self off and building big uncontrolled suburban tracts directly on them. In those cases, like 29, like 50, like route 1, it was the jurisdictions cash-lust 1st mentality over finding the right kinds of development that created the problems we have now on the corridors.

            It was cheap land to develop, they could wash their own hands of infrastructure costs, so why not?

            Well, why not, we see now. We need bypasses of areas that were never supposed to be on top of our main routes to begin with. That of course is a different situation than pre-establish cities that the interstates were meant to connect between. Ie you cant compare that to for instance connecting baltimore to philly

          3. yep – got off on a side there. transit is primarily a people mover.

            so maybe I’ll ask how do the stores in a city get re- stocked with goods to sell to people and how do they get goods bigger/heavier than they can carry back to their residence?

            on the Westchester…

            good to keep in mind –

            when US aid highways came into being – 1920’s

            a State like NY leaves/left local access roads to the locality

            whereas in Virginia – Byrd made VDOT in charge of local roads also.

            I continue to assert that in Va this has muddied the boundaries between what is a state dot responsibility – i.e. USaid roads and Primary roads – and what is normally a local responsibility -local access.

            In some States – you simply cannot get a curb cut on a State road – you have to get it off of the local access roads that exist.

            think about how development would occur under than kind of scenario?

            the state would maintain the primary thoroughfares and not let them get compromised with curb cuts and median cross-overs – and the locality would do land-use with the responsibility of doing it in a way they don’t destroy the utility of their local access roads they are responsible for.
            Right now, in Virginia, there is no disincentive for a locality to approve a land use – that will degrade a primary thoroughfare.

          4. Tysons Engineer Avatar
            Tysons Engineer

            Goods can still be delivered to locales. You’d be surprised the actual geometry needed to move an 18-wheeler. They don’t need as much space as some DOT folks would have you believe (for instance 50′ radii or 12′ wide lanes). How do trash trucks and freight vehicles work in NYC for instance. In some cases the 18-wheeler has no problem, in other cases the freight goes to a local sorting to be delivered on 3-axle box trucks. Freight still gets in, and frankly it distributes more efficiently because once it gets to short-haul they can use less gas for idling on actual delivery and the delivery distances between each element are much shorter in between due to the more condensed nature. Obviously NYC is an extreme example of this, but its no different in mid-sized cities like Richmond. UPS/FedEx are actually excellent examples of how well this can work. They have no trouble getting those vehicles to the same places as most vehicles. Timing is also important in freight. For instance, in areas that are dense and have historic roads (like Georgetown in DC for instance) they do deliveries prior to rush hours. So at 5am you see all the grocers and shops getting their deliveries, or at 9pm.

          5. right – but you DO have to have road infrastructure capable of serving 18-wheelers.. and lots of smaller delivery trucks.

            The point made was that you have to have roads and trucks for cities to operate and that the idea of a “village” where you can live, work, shop and play is … well.. is it real?

            when goods too big and too heavy for people to carry on their backs are purchased – how do they get from the store to their home?

            I think you still have to have enough infrastructure to support the capacity needed to deliver goods … to meet the needs of people.

          6. Tysons Engineer Avatar
            Tysons Engineer

            Larry, but 18wheelers =/= regular errand trips.

            Nothing stops an italian who just bought a fancy armoire at a local shop from being able to park his u-haul, or pick up, or whatever vehicle at the shop. Pick it up. Take it to his home.

            18-wheelers in major urban areas is a whole other thing. Those really should remain interstate adjacent with sorting facilities that then transfer to smaller vehicles in hyper dense areas. But as noted, even 18-wheelers can navigate DC for instance for 80% of the roads. This is the case in most cities. The remaining 20% of roads that really don’t handle 18-wheelers can still get freight service, it just happens via box trucks

          7. Tysons Engineer Avatar
            Tysons Engineer

            Also, keep in mind villages =/= roadless. Even in historic mountain towns in the alps there are roads. They are tiny roads, and you sometimes have to be a resident of the town to drive a vehicle on them (controlled with electronic bollards with sensors like a garage works) but they still have cars and roads.

            No one serious is proposing we go back to an era of sidewalks and dirt paths ala some 17th century plantation.

          8. agree TE. so what are we talking about with respect to the “kind” of roads that serve city centers verses the “kind” of roads that serve “sprawl” , etc?

          9. Tysons Engineer Avatar
            Tysons Engineer

            Yep. That is correct. All roads are not the same. There are things that become stroads, An example would be Route 123 through Tysons versus Route 123 through Vienna. Same road, two completely different road sections, creating two completely different identities/functions.

            Smart growth advocates would argue instead of allowing Route 123 to balloon to the condition it has in Tysons, it should have had parallel routes (like Church St does in Vienna, although Vienna’s street grid is really more ornamental than functional due to its limited scope). Parallel routes means each road can retain its road identity instead of becoming a stroad which ends up being a barrier. Tysons is now more urban, lots of people have begun using metro (and that will continue to grow) but because of Route 123 being a stroad, it will now be a barrier to this kind of movement, forcing more expensive work around likes skywalks, which really end up making huge superblocks and still impede access.

          10. Rt 1!

            As a kid I grew up on and near Rt 1. In high school it was Hunting Towers (a the base of the Wilson Bridge) and then on Huntington Ave. Believe it or not, Rt 1 from Alexandria to Ft Belvoir is much improved from what it looked like in the 1970s. Bobbie Jo’s Flaming Den Health Salon is gone and somebody decided to plant trees between the street and the mobile homes that line parts of Rt 1.

            I’ve always wondered why that area didn’t gentrify like the run down areas of Arlington did. Any ideas?

          11. Much of Route 1 … IS improved – for traffic.

            median crossovers have been closed. longer left turn, double left turn lanes, right turn lanes.. some lights have been sequentially synchronized and they currently operate on historical traffic data but soon will have real-time adaptive controls.

            but they are not very ped nor bike friendly…. although they do have some places where peds can cross – but last time there about a month ago.. ped along the side is not good anyhow but they do have frequent transit.

            I don’t know the cost issues but parking lots could be under roof – under solar roof.. get rid of the Route 1 entrances and put them on the sides of the lots connecting to the local access streets than then go to Route 1.

            when you think about it – given the fact that VDOT has responsibility for ALL the roads – AND Va accords significant property rights to property owners – including developers – AND Va , that nasty Dillon rule state that Don hates – they give a significant level of authority to localities for land-use decisions – to the point where they can and do adversely affect the transportation network.

            I have no problem with Smart Growth – as long as it is on land that does not front on the arterial highway system.. and is accessed by local access roads than then connect to the US and state-signed road system.

            In some places – VDOT has essentially let US and state-signed roads convert to local access – where there is a more recent arterial – like the interstates.. but I still think folks need to think about – how we get from one place to another if the road system that was originally designed to serve that need – gets chopped up into “smart growth” pods…

            and actually the more people you have – the more density you have – the more goods and services you need. In a one acre sprawl – you might need on gallon of milk a week .. in a Smart Growth acre – you might need 100 gallons of milk a week.. how does that milk get there without an effective road system?

      2. Tysons Engineer Avatar
        Tysons Engineer

        I’m not sure what you aren’t convinced about, I was agreeing 😉

        Westchester isn’t like other suburbs (that we in Virginia would know atleast), it is like the suburbs of New England that developed around the same time but instead of around New York, around Boston and Hartford prior to WWII. They also have these hyper growth in real town areas, leading to rural near immediately conditions. Those were the good days, when farmlands were preserved and people actually lived in places that weren’t just isolated ‘a man is an island’ suburbia.

        1. I am not concerned. I think the Martha Stewarts and Hillary Clintons (both of whom reside in Westchester County) decided (over the generations) to keep the rural areas rural. Kind of like Fauquier County’s moneyed interests have done. The relatively small areas that were allowed to be developed (Yonkers, White Plains) ended up with dense development. White Plains has a population density north of 5,000 per sq mi so it’s a bit under Arlington and Alexandria. However, there is rural farmland within a couple of miles of the center of white plains. Meanwhile not one but two train stations whisk people from White Plains to NYC.

          Westchester County is a Jim Bacon paradise. Except, of course for the tax rate!

          1. Never been to Westchester County, so I don’t know if it’s a Jim Bacon paradise or not. I’ll look for an opportunity to visit.

  9. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Tyson’s Engineer –

    Bravo on your comments here.

    You’re written the history of post WW11 suburban sprawl, its waste of the land and lives of people, through its man-made destruction of their places and their precious time.

    The most remarkable thing is that we so often refuse to learn from our past mistakes. Instead we compound our destructive behaviors over and over and over, ignoring all the lessons earlier generations learned the hard way. It’s a phenomena found in everything we do or touch.

    So we find the replay of these bad behaviors over and over in so many of the subjects discussed on this website. Virginia is particularly incorrigible. For one of many examples, the proof is obvious on most any drive down most any of its highways and byways.

  10. Cville Resident Avatar
    Cville Resident

    Wow. You can learn so much from just reading the comments on this blog….thanks for the insights.

  11. Cville Resident Avatar
    Cville Resident

    One nugget in all of this that I’d like to comment on: The NoVaication of Virginia! ha ha

    To me Wegmans has always screamed Northern Virginia. I don’t know why, but I know I’m not the only one who thinks that. When they built in Fredericksburg, I remember a few people joking that now you knew F’burg was “NoVa.”

    Now they are building in Richmond and Charlottesville. “NoVa creep” continues! : )

    1. Well – the anti-growth cry in the Fredericksburg area – found on bumper stickers is “Don’t Fairfax Fredericksburg”.

      of course those bumper sticker are on the cars of NoVa workers who have moved to Fredericksburg for a cheaper house!

      You’ll hear them at hearings for new subdivisions proposed next to theirs – screaming that their quality of life will be impacted and that the roads can’t take any more traffic… an argument that loses some of it’s juice when the guy sez.. “When I came here 15 years ago…..”

      Oh – and these same folks think VDOT is responsible for building them more roads to NoVa so they don’t have to sit in commute hell every day.

      1. Tysons Engineer Avatar
        Tysons Engineer

        Don’t Fairfax Fredericksburg… anyone with a bumper sticker reading that should have to pay a massive toll on entry into Fairfax or Arlington or DC where they work.

        Its a fundamental misunderstanding of what traffic is btw. If you are sitting on a road complaining about traffic, YOU are the traffic.

        1. I totally agree TE!

      2. There used to be bumper stickers that said “Don’t Fairfax Loudoun”. You don’t see those much any more as suburban DC has moved well past Dulles Airport and well past Sterling.

    2. Kind of funny. Wegmans is based out of Rochester NY and has, by far, the highest density of stores in Rochester and Buffalo.

      Perhaps you folks in Charlottesville should worry about becoming Buffalo.

      1. Cville Resident Avatar
        Cville Resident


        I had lunch with a commercial developer from NoVa on Friday. He had a couple of interesting insights:

        A.) You’ve mentioned this before….he said he can’t believe the amount of NoVa people now retiring to Albemarle. (While he didn’t say it, I have to wonder if that’s a reason why Wegman’s is building here….make the NoVa retirees feel at home! haha)

        B.) He said he actually expects something of a rebound in NoVa in 2015 in terms of economic growth (counter to the current narrative).

        1. I’ve watched several think tank symposiums on C-Span and listened to DOD spokespeople in the last few weeks and months who have said that the sequester is killing the Defense Department, military readiness and motherhood and apple pie and that it must be repealed.

          Instead the argue that Medicare and MedicAid must be cut so more money can be freed up for the military.

          If they succeed – it WILL benefit the NoVa area for sure!!!! as virtually every program, every ship, every plane, every military base is managed out of DC/Md and NoVa.

          Hampton will likely also be a beneficiary as they do major maintenance and refitting of ships and carriers.

          Without getting into the fact that about 1/2 our total budget is National Defense – the basic premise is that the Govt DOES CREATE jobs and the proof of it is all these places including NoVa that do depend on them.

          think about it this way. When someone buys a big screen TV – a job is created but if that guys money is taxed instead and goes to the govt – the govt will buy a big screen monitor for a fire control system and it too will create a job.

          the basic argument is that 1.- the govt will always waste the money and 2. the guy who got taxed – should not have and been allowed to spend his money on what he wanted rather than for something the govt wanted.

          at any rate – NoVa is ALWAYS going to be the headquarters of the US govt..and will always have govt money driving it’s economy.

        2. Between those who went to UVA and those who have kids who went to UVA a lot of people are very familiar with Albemarle. My Dad was career Navy and traveled the world. He always claimed that New Zealand and the Charlottesville area were the two most beautiful places he’s ever seen. The folks I know who are moving to Charlottesville are in their 50s and expect to keep working, one way or another, for a few more years. If Charlottesville can harness those people it could expand economically.

          NoVa should be fine. DC is considered a hot spot for young professionals and place like Arlington count as part of the DC area. Frankly, a slowdown in growth or even some shrinkage might help make the future brighter. The transportation system was overwhelmed and under-funded. Typical Clown Show management. For all McDonnell’s sins he did break that logjam.

          1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            I agree with your father about New Zealand. I wonder how many more people Albemarle can absorb while retaining its character. I say this without have inspected the County’s master plan.

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