Salvaging the Motor Mile

One of the great unsung stories of The Comprehensive Transportation Funding and Reform Act of 2007 is how it will give transportation planners more tools to clean up highways clogged with too many intersections, stoplights and retail access points. This aspect of the landmark legislation got zero attention from the Mainstream Media, but it will affect the design and functioning of critical pieces of our communities.

In the first of two articles, “Fighting Corridor Torpor,” Peter Galuszka outlines the thrust of the legislation: reducing the number of intersections and access points to major highways, with the goal of allowing traffic to move more freely. The state is writing the detailed regulations, which will go into effect in early 2008.

In a second article, “Reinventing the Motor Mile,” Bob Burke takes a close-up look at U.S. 29 north of Charlottesville, where the community has taken matters into its own hands. Planners have written a draft master plan, Places29, that envisions recreating a limited-access highway through the 29 corridor with a parallel network of parallel boulevards, avenues and streets providing local access to neighborhoods and shopping centers. Development will be characterized by greater density, mixed uses and greater attention to pedestrians, bicycles and mass transit.

Some of the worst traffic congestion in Virginia is concentrated in these retail corridors. Between the powers enacted by the General Assembly and the innovative vision of Places29, there’s no excuse for communities across Virginia not to get cracking on cleaning up their congested corridors

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7 responses to “Salvaging the Motor Mile”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Mr. Bacon,

    A slight correction. The legislation authorizing the development of new subdivision street acceptance standards and the new highway access standards was not contained within the “Transporation Reform Act of 2007.” Each was a separate piece of legislation albeit interrelated.

  2. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Not sure how they do things up North, but down here in Tidewater the cities limit access to malls and other venues. With only one or two access points what you get is a parking lot in the street before you get to the parking lot.

    Is this the plan you are describing?

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I note in WaPa this morning:

    “Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said he is concerned that a Planning Board proposal to substantially increase taxes on builders to pay for new roads, schools and public transit would discourage needed new development.”

    Speciffically, developers have stated that there IS a limit to how much they will pay – with the implication that they WILL go elsewhere – which got Mr. Leggett’s attention.

    For all the discussion in this blog about too many companies and the assertion by some that we need “more places” … it appears that as bad as congestion is – that elected leaders apparently prefer more growth even if more congestion (without mitigation) is the result.

    Mr. Legget represents Montgomery County Md (with about a million folks).. but what we hear from Fairfax and Mr. Connolly is along the same lines.

    It appears that if the proposition might be to make a choice between more growth and more congestion OR to accept slower growth and selective acceptance of new employers willing to be a partner in congestion reduction – that elected leaders – are NOT on board with this concept.

    Mr. Leggett and Mr. Connolly, I’m quite sure, believe that doing anything that discourages growth is – NOT a “good thing” and that growth with more congestion is preferable to less growth and less congestion.

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Fairfax and NoVa at large has a perfect opportunity to conduct itself proactively with regard to the impending Belvoir move.

    They have some time – and apparently the Feds are willing to do more about mitigating impact than private companies…. which is ironic… and smacks a bit of a double standard when Fairfax is “demanding” that the Feds do something about the impact and they have a very different standard for private enterprise.

    But anyhow… for any entity – involved with various aspects of planning, employment and human settlement patterns – Belvoir – offers a prime opportunity .. because there is an existing baseline – the current situation – and there are known parameters – the number of “new” employees as well as their current origins and destinations and commuting mode choices.

    Further – even though METRO may be at Belvoir, the very same tracks that VRE uses – ARE there and may offer possibilities.

    The point here is that – Fairfax can proactively plan – utilizing many tools that to this point in time simply were not previously feasible… since change/growth happen incrementally…

    .. or Fairfax and others.. can twiddle/twaddle and essentially react… just as most localities do usually anyhow – then gripe about the fact that they never had the chance to properly “plan”.

  5. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    “Some of the worst traffic congestion in Virginia is concentrated in these retail corridors.”

    When you have a couple of hogs and plenty of space, things aren’t too bad. Whenn you have 20,000 hogs and not enough space, then things begin to stink.

    How many examples off too much crap in too little space do you need to have?

  6. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Fairfax is “demanding” because they are following your advice in a previous post “get the best deal you can.” (Whether or not it is justified.)

    “Isiah Leggett said he is concerned that a Planning Board proposal to substantially increase taxes on builders to pay for new roads, schools and public transit would discourage needed new development.”

    Well, duh.

    “the very same tracks that VRE uses – ARE there and may offer possibilities.”

    Not really. VRE suffers the same problem as Metro, and the same problem as road traffic: Congestion increases according to the number of merges.

    Manassas and VRE trains leave F’burg and Manassas roughly every half hour. But when they merge at Alexandria, they are only 15 minutes apart. Considering the time to load and unlad at stations, they are out of time. Considering the length of the platforms, they are out of capacity.

    Rail is not going to be our saviour unless we spend a WHOLE LOT more money. I’m talking 20 or 30 times what we spent on Metro to begin with.

    We are beyond the point of talking about 15 cent gas tax increases. Now we are talking about real money.

    It is time to stop squeaking and time to think big.

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: VRE rail… aren’t we talking about a reverse commute here?

    Southbound VRE to Belvoir in the morning?

    re: mobility, congestion, costs, et al

    I think the primary problem that we have – is rush hour congestion and our ability/inability to plan cost-effective responses to it.

    It’s not cost-effective to build lots of extra highway lanes that are mostly empty most times of the day – especially if what you are trying to accomplish is less congestion for more solo-driven SUVs.

    It’s also not equitable to those who choose to NOT drive a SOLO SUV at rush hour.

    If there are going to be burdens – they ought to be proportional – and the folks who impose the most burdens on the transportation network are the same ones who should bear the the lions share of the responses to it.

    question: if you take mobility issues – congestion, time delays, etc OUT of the equation – what is the argument against dense settlement patterns?

    I think one can say that a 10 story building on a one acre parcel is more efficient than a single family dwelling.

    If the folks in that dwelling can get back and forth to work without using a car – then what is the problem?

    If you want a job in a dense area but you don’t want to live there – why is that the problem and burden of others who choose to work and live in close proximity?

    It’s choices that we all make.

    As long as each of us is willing to bear the financial and time-delay consequences of our choices -we’d ought not have bitching and complaining – right?

    Make your choices – suck it up.

    No muss. No fuss.

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