What Do You Get When You Cross Illegal Immigration with Suburban Sprawl?

Traffic fatalities.

Last year Fairfax Country reported a total of 17 pedestrian fatalities, up from 10 in 2005, reports Nicole Theberge with the Falls Church News-Press.

Reasons for the spike are not entirely known, according to Fairfax County Pedestrian Program Manager Chris Wells, but suspicions focus mainly on increasing numbers of immigrants without personal automobiles who are dependent on public transportation and walking as their main modes of transportation. …

A 2005 study by Inova Health Systems found that a disproportionate number of victims of pedestrian related accidents and fatalities were of Hispanic ethnicity, immigrants and often poor. These inhabitants tend to live centered around commercial developments for convenience sake, but the probability of a harmful or fatal incident is much higher in some of these areas, like the Route 50 and Patrick Henry Drive intersection.

Fairfax county has approved a 10-year, $60 million pedestrian improvement plan that includes sidewalk improvements, pedestrian bridges, bus stop upgrades, additional signage and lighting at crosswalks and public education on the subject of pedestrian safety. The improvements will be far more expensive than if a pedestrian-orientation had been built into the design of affected Fairfax communities from the beginning. A pedestrian bridge across Rt. 50 (Arlington Boulevard) will cost $5 million.

The National Capital Region plans to spend $530 million for sidewalks, bike lanes and handicapped accessibility.

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18 responses to “What Do You Get When You Cross Illegal Immigration with Suburban Sprawl?”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    “Pedestrian Program Manager”

    Can I get a full job description of that, please.

  2. This is a problem across the state (serious issue on the Eastern Shore, for example). A factor in this “spike,” in addition to transportation policies focused on moving cars not people and the impact that has where relative poverty means a car is not an option for getting around, is the reality that we have made it impossible for undocumented immigrants to drive legally in Virginia.

    We traded road safety (more pedestrians on roads not built for them; more persons driving unlicensed without passing our road tests and without insurance) for the illusory comfort of denying these residents access to identification cards which if issued would have had the added benefit (if issued with proper anti-fraud precautions) of ensuring that we actually might know who is in the US.

    Squeeze the balloon one place and it will ultimately bulge in another.

    Another reason why we must demand comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level and stop trying to address this issue piecemeal in 50 states and thousands of localities.

  3. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    “the reality that we have made it impossible for undocumented immigrants to drive legally in Virginia. “

    CG2 has an interesting take on this, and one I didn’t think of. I thinkhe is correct in his assessment, but I’m not sure that I see how the final paragraph conclusion follows from the preface.

    I understand tha some kind of bipartisan immiration reform plan is in the works. Apparently it includes stonger border enforcement, more sanctions agains employers, a guest worker progam, and a real chance of citizenship for those already here.

    Illegal driving and illegal immigration are partly a result of the laws that make them illegal. Any comments?

  4. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    “The improvements will be far more expensive than if a pedestrian-orientation had been built into the design of affected Fairfax communities from the beginning.”

    Really? How do we know that?

    Certainly in todays dollars they will cost more. Retro fitting will be more expensive – and it may not work.

    But if you did a life cycle cost benefit analysis and ROI, then the answer might be quite different. The cost in constant dollars might not be all that different, but in those days there was not the pedestrian traffic to make the expense worthwhile: had you spent the money earlier much of it might have been essentially wasted by unused facilities.

    Suppose they had built the pedestrian bridge when Route 50 was only two lanes, and subsequently had to be replaced. Would that have been a cost savings?

    On the face of it this kind of statement seems like common sense, but the reality might be a lot different.

  5. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ray, If pedestrian orientation had been built into the urban fabric from the beginning — buildings closer together, sidewalks, intersections with tighter turning radii and shorter distances for pedestrians to walk across, etc. — then there never would have been a need to build a pedestrian “bridge” in the first place.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    I don’t really know where I stand on this issue but here is the problem I see

    Many of these communities were built with a car centric focus.

    Many immigrants both legal and illegal do not have access to cars and instead walk.

    The question is do all roads need to be walk accessible

    A couple random thoughts now.

    Route 50 is a major six lane expressway. Is it really practical to try and spend money to make it walkable? There is a similar issue with 236 and Route 7.

    The route 7 issue is especially intriguing to watch as metro is being built. How will people cross a 6-8 lane highway. Maybe lessons learned can be used elsewhere


  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “never would have been a need to build a pedestrian “bridge”


    Ray is thinking “auto centric”.

    He presumes from the get go that the auto has priority …. no matter whether the area in question was originally walked more than driven.

    once the road get’s built – the default mindset for many folks is that auto has priority…..over pedestrians

    … and then … the “cost” of backfitting pedestrian “facilities” enters the realm of being “too costly” and.. in some cases…. thought to be “diverting road funds” to non-road uses…

    we’re all guilty of this .. or at least most of us – most of the time.

    anytime you run up on the back of a biker… or have a jogger dart it front of you… you automatically think… along the lines .. that – that guy/gal is an “idiot” for “playing in traffic”.

    When you turn this around – and say that an area is for pedestrians and if a road through it is needed.. then that road needs to be a tunnel or a bridge – and then the cost is properly allocated… to the road… instead of the idea that the road has priority.. to destroy a pedestrian-friendly area… if there is a need for more road…

  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here’s a gripe of mine.

    Have you ever gone to a big box store… or a shopping center

    .. and the main thorough for autos in front of the stores is the same exact place.. you have to try to walk.. with your hands full of groceries or whatever?

    .. I have this theory also.. that the folks who leave the shopping carts.. scattered in the parking lots.. are the same one’s who won’t yield to pedestrians…

    ugly thought.. I’m probably an ignorant bigot for thinking this way – right?


  9. Anonymous Avatar

    “the reality that we have made it impossible for undocumented immigrants to drive legally in Virginia. “

    I have followed our immigration policy closely for years, and I have seen no evidence that people who have broken numerous laws at the local, state, and federal level would hesitate to break yet another one, that is, driving without a valid license. In fact, we have plenty of evidence to the contrary.

    The problem is lousy planning for pedestrian traffic, just as Jim Bacon says. Poor Hispanic immigrants are less likely to be able to afford a car or, for that matter, to be able to pass the driving test if we allowed them to take it and therefore more likely to be pedestrians.

    This has nothing to do with drivers’ licenses but is, in fact, related to our “illegal immigrants” problem and will not be solved by granting them amnesty, which will merely mean there’s a lot more of them. And more accidents.

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross


    “Fairfax Ponders Restrictions on Big-Box Stores”

    …”build up instead of out, fit better into existing neighborhoods”

    …”in a position to demand, in exchange for approval, less sprawling designs, multistory buildings, parking garages and pedestrian and transit access.

    A shopping plaza within a residential development, for example, might be a good place for a neighborhood Safeway, Giant or Harris Teeter…”


  11. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Re Big Box Stores. Best Buy’s Tysons Corner store was built up, not out and had underground parking. The Company closed that store and moved to another empty, one story building with outside parking. I’ve found getting in and out of the new store to be much easier than the old one.

  12. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Let’s just suppose that TMT’s last comment was correct, and accurate.

    Why do you suppose they closed the store that was built up, not out? Coul dit be that the overhead waw higher?

    Why do you suppose that access to the new store was easier?

    Could it have to do with costs? Could it have to do with (percieved) access?

    I really hate to say this, but ther is NO REASON to think that “less sprawling” designs are necessarily bettter.

    I would like to think there is, but there isn’t, as far as I can tell ( and particularly , as far as I can prove.)

  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    It’s an honest question.

    It makes me wonder if there actually is “something” to the accusation that the MM .. “cheerleads” when it “reports”.

    Will the Post report on this change and the why behind it?

    BTW – check out WaPo today…


    O’Malley Dives Into Rift On Shore Development
    Environmentalists See Test of Support

    CHESTER, Md. — The saga of Four Seasons at Kent Island …

    In office just four months, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is wading into an eight-year battle over 1,350 homes proposed on Maryland’s Eastern Shore that some local advocates are calling a test of his commitment to the environment.”

    LOTs of irony here.

    The development is compact development… designed not for commuters but the “55 and over” group.

    Further.. as Rodger Provo has advocated – the State itself is involved… in the planning…

    This “appears” to be the classic NIMBY “we don’t want ANY development” scenario because if one believes the article – the company itself has gone out of it’s way to comply with any/all regulations and requirements to protect the environment… buffers, runoff, etc… and yet opposition .. remains…

    Perhaps more info can be developed on this….

  14. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    some stats on the Four Seasons – Kent Island Development:

    1350 units on 350 acres
    project in planning for a decade

    “This the largest redevelopment with the highest density proposed in a critical area.”

    Maryland “Critical Areas” have 3 goals:
    The Critical Area Act has three main goals:

    * Minimize adverse impacts on water quality from pollutants that are discharged from point sources or runoff from surrounding lands.

    * Conserve fish, wildlife and plant habitat in the Critical Area.

    * Establish land-use policies for development that accommodate growth, yet address the environmental impacts associated with the number and activities of people in the Critical Area


    …”development is restricted within 1,000 feet of the Chesapeake and its tributaries.”

    …”Four Seasons would create about 70 football fields of impervious surface”

    …”Almost 5 miles of buffers will be used to protect the water and 40 percent of the site will remain as open and green space”

    …”Maryland Critical Area law only requires developments to show a 10 percent reduction in polluted runoff from current usage, but residents doubted more than 1,300 new homes could reach that threshold.”



  15. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    “Ray is thinking “auto centric”.”

    I don’t think so. I just don’t buy the idea that either roads or pedestrians should get first cut at surface land use, and whoever comes after should pay full cost.

    Bridges and tunnels are expensive, so it pays us all to make them for the smallest units of transport, and only wher they are necessary.

    It is a total transportation system, and we should consider it all together. It should be paid for with one funding stream, and not dozens of user fees, depending on the perceived value of who is using what. That isn’t to say that the funding stream shouldn’t have some bias, based on the value of the use and the value of the benefit provided.

    Our present system only shows how hard it is to plan a system that is infinitely adjustable to every unforseen change.

    When route 50 was a two lane carriag trail, there was no need for pedestrian overpasses. Maybe it should never have been made 6 lanes. Maybe we should have built two more two lane roads someplace else, instead of catering quite so much to the job czars.

  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I liken it to … the construction of a department store – and there is a discussion about the “need” of fire exits – whether they are truly needed.. will ever be used .. and.. can be economically justified.. and then of course.. the fact that you’ll have to charge more for the products you sell to pay for them.

    or maybe .. more to the point – you have a store and you have a parking lot – and the path from the parking to the store crosses the access road that divides the store from the parking lot.

    Shouldn’t the store be designed in the first place so that autos not only do not have better access but, in fact, walking access is insured?

    This is essentially what happens when VDOT or a developer wants to build/expand a road and the issue of bike/ped access enters into the discussion.

    You add one or more lanes – and the idea of pedestrian/bike access becomes a “discretionary” money issue.

    The “cost” of “adding” bike/ped access becomes an issue that argues cost verses use judged with respect to auto use.

    then months, years, later after it was decided that the “expense” precluded providing a safe ped/bike access .. someone gets killed trying to cross….the widened road…

    I agree with you about treating all mobility facilities as part of an integrated network but the problem right now is – that in most cases – road “needs” are often given priority over non-road needs – and oftentimes it comes right down to .. the when/where of the upgrade because additional “costs” will delay it.

    This becomes a powerful reason to “not hold up the road”…because of costly “optional” bike/ped facilities.

    I would note – that about 1/3 of the Virginia Transportation Budget does NOT come from gas taxes in the first place.. but rather from 1/2% sales taxes.

    Why is the 1/2% given to VDOT instead of to bike/ped/transit?

    or more to the point.. why give it to VDOT if they will NOT use that money for bike/ped unless forced to?

  17. Bryan Drake Avatar
    Bryan Drake

    As a former employee of VDOT who has closely observed over 30 years of VDOT behavior, I have to point out that the folks at VDOT are and probably always will be “Auto Centric”. There are 2 unwritten rules in the VDOT decision process. (1) Anything that reduces the inflow of gasoline taxes is BAD (i.e. bikes, pedestrians, trains, etc.) (2) Anything that gets federal funding is a GOOD thing even if we waste the money.

    Giving VDOT the task of deciding when and where to build bike trails and pedestrian access is never going to work unless there is some financial incentive to them to make it happen. Personally, I agree with the above comment that the sales tax should be given directly to a seperate unit charged with non-auto transportation development.

    Of course we could solve ALL the states transportation problems if we just appointed all the BR bloggers to the Transporation Board ๐Ÿ˜‰ wink


  18. Anonymous Avatar

    While illegal immigration may have something to do with it, the fact is more Americans are having to walk as well because the cost of a car and insurance has gotten so expensive. I’ve had my car for nearly 30 years and it’s not working so well any more. I can’t afford another, let alone license and insurance on a newer model.

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