There is a growing concern about the spread of the avian flu virus (H5N1).

There is an equally virulent virus spreading rapidly in the northern part of Virginia.

Today’s WaPo reports that the proposed Loudoun County budget includes $45.5-million for roadway “improvements.” That takes the direct municipal spending on roadways from R=20 out to R=40 in the northern part of the crescent shaped subregion. Prince William County had already extended it from R=20 to R=30 in the southern part of the subregion.

Where the Virginia Subregion needs short-term mobility and access improvements to match functional settlement patterns is between R=0 and R=20 where almost all the jobs are now, where the vast majority of the jobs will be in the future and where new houses, services, recreation and structured amenity should be to create Balanced Communities inside the Clear Edge.

Until there is an agreed-to, functional settlement pattern at the neighborhood, village, community, and subregional scales (and not just a loosey-goosey sketch included in municipal “comprehensive” plans or the ghastly monster corridor plan of NVTA), removing “bottlenecks” in R=20 to R=40 will only encourage more to move to beyond R=45 (aka, West Culpeper, North Shenandoah and West Virginia.)

In the meantime the legislature is working hard to protect the “rights” of gun owners.


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4 responses to “VIRUS ALERT”

  1. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Ed, There’s not much the state can do to stop Loudoun from taxing itself to build more roads. But your post raises this question in my mind:

    What are the institutional forces that prevent VDOT from spending its finite resources on improving mobility closer to the urban core? Why aren’t the municipal governments closer to the core clamouring for a greater share of the transportation pie? How come so much of the state money gets sucked out to the urban periphery? Doesn’t the Commonwealth Transportation Board ultimately make those calls?

  2. E M Risse Avatar


    Actually, an intelligent use of VDOTs own models, as weak as they are, would show that the R=20 to R=40 expenditures are thowing good money after bad.

    VDOT does not use the models or the review powers they now have for the same reason VDOT spends their money in the wrong places. (The question you raise.)

    I started to answer that question here but it requires careful wording so as to cover all the bases without being too long.

    I will be back to you when I have a chance.


  3. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Ray, you make a valid point regarding the fact that it is much more expensive to build roads in an urban area than it is in a greenfield — which is relevant only if you assume that the only way to improve mobility is to build more lane-miles of roadway. You’ve got VDOT blinders on, man, take them off!

    First, there are ways to increase the capacity of urban roads by 10 to 20 percent through techniques such as ramp metering, traffic-light synchronization, etc.

    Second, deregulating the bus/taxi industry could unleash a wave of innovation in the shared vehicle area. Just because municipalities monopolize shared ridership services and run large, expensive, mostly empty buses doesn’t mean that vans and jitneys couldn’t provide the same services far more cost effectively.

    Arlington is not totally built out, despite your claim. It is largely built out, but there still are areas that can be re-built and re-designed to have a smaller traffic footprint than is currently the case. Likewise, as Ed points out, there is ample opportunity to reconfigure other parts of Northern Virginia as balanced communities.

    Financial mechanisms exist to do one heck of a lot of re-development. They’re called Community Development Authorities and Tax Increment Financing. The process would be largely market driven. What’s holding back re-development isn’t the market — it’s politics and government regulation. The changes that Ed and I envision would be mostly market-driven, not imposed from above, as you consistently mis-characterize.

    Judging by your opposition to every word we write, Ray, you apparently have chosen to become a die-hard defender of the status quo. There’s nothing wrong that building more roads won’t solve… But don’t change anything else… Keep the entire structure of rigid zoning codes, subdivision ordinances, comprehensive plans intact.

  4. That is not true Jim, I support each of the ideas mentioned, especially Jitneys. But each of them has the same problem of induced or rather latent traffic that new roads have. Autos are the best, fastest, most convenient, and could be the cheapest way to travel, we should face up to that. See what Anthony Downs has to say in “Traffic Congestion and What the Government Can Do About it.”

    The result is that no matter what other options are available people will choose to use the roads unless you make it so expenesive that they cannot. Because travel is so closely related to the economy, I’m not sure that is a good idea.

    There are two places where we differ, you MIGHT get 10 to 20% reduction if everything works perfectly, but that has never been proven. There is no place where it has been done and demonstrated. Before we go change the whole world, we ought to find out, definitively.

    Finally, roads are only part of the picture. Schools, soccer fields, open space, churches, road repairs, water and sewer, garbage disosal, energy costs, and mult-unit construction are all more expensive in Fairfax. You have to consider the entire system, including the countryside that supports it.

    Sure, you could put more residences in Arlington, it is not built out in that regard, if that is the only consideration. But go there and walk around and consider what you would have to do if you needed more street. If re-planning and re-building the whole neighborhood is necessary, that is a very expensive street.

    I agree completely that government regulation is holding back the market, and that is no where more true than in the rural areas. Even if we can address all the cost issues associated with your ideas, they will still be less expensive in the hinterlands. Therefore the only way this can happen is through massive regulation that will create two classes of citizens.

    It is not even clear that if another million residences were available in Arlington that people would fill them. Consider the case of reduced number of Condos in Tyson’s. That is the market at work. And what was the builders comment? “If you want to guarantee the market….”

    You have to address the cost issues and the equity issues. If you really want to preserve the rural areas, it will have to be nearly as profitable to own vacant land as it is to develop it, or else it will have to become public land. If you figure one of those results as part of the cost of revitalizing the inner areas, then the coast and political implications are clear.

    I think your ideas are fine as far as they go, but there isn’t anywhere near enough real analysis in them to support changing everything we have done for the last two hundred years.

    And, remember, those government regulations were written for a reason. TMT and many others who live there don’t want any more density, or any more people.

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