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April 27, 2009

VDOT helps builders and citizens adjust to new secondary street standards

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By Daniel Nairn
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, April 27, 2009

SSARimage
VDOT: "Current development patterns often rely on isolated street networks."

On April 21, 2009, Representatives from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) spoke at the Albemarle County office building as part of a state-wide “listening tour” to explain new rules for building secondary roads in Virginia. New Secondary Street Acceptance requirements were passed by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in February , and will become mandatory on July 1, 2009. Until then, developers can opt to use either the older or the newer system. Although a period of public review was conducted prior to the finalization of the policy, this next round is intended to help developers and interested citizens understand the transition process.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20090421-SSARpodcast

According to VDOT, the three main objectives of the new requirements are to increase of connectivity of roads, enhance pedestrian accommodations, and provide a public service. More connectivity is expected to decrease congestion, enhance emergency services, encourage pedestrians and cyclists, and open up new street design potential. The standards specifically call for narrower streets, which VDOT believes are safer, less costly, and less susceptible to water run-off.

Existing streets are not affected by the change, and non-compliant new streets are not outright forbidden. They will simply not be eligible for state maintenance.

“Essentially streets that don’t satisfy these requirements are private in nature,” said Ken King, VDOT’s Southwest Regional Operations Director. “If the purpose of the street is [to be] private it should be maintained privately.”

There are many variables in determining how these requirements are measured, and VDOT officials repeatedly admitted that there is no way to capture every possible case in a set of regulations. Requirements vary depending on whether the parcel is categorized as urban, suburban, or rural. Exceptions will be allowed by-right under specific conditions, such as a river blocking access on one side of a street. An appeal process has been set up for situations that are not covered by these exceptions.

VDOT is maintaining a web site intended to guide regular citizens through the transition process, and they are developing a more comprehensive manual that will be available some time before July 1.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

0:45 - Nick Donahue, assistant secretary of transportation, introduces secondary street requirements
1:30 – Ken King outlines new street acceptance requirements
2:40 – Problem is increasing congestion on arterial roads
3:30 – Current funding constraints require more careful spending
5:00 – The problems with current disconnected subdivisions
8:10 – Accidents and congestion occur at traffic signals
9:00 – Three main objectives of new requirements
10:30 – Regulation doesn’t prohibit private streets
11:00 – Listing of the benefits of the new system; emergency services
13:10 – Process of creating new regulations
14:15 – Graduated approach meets the diverse needs of the state
16:15 – Streets are added as a network, rather than one by one
17:35 – Introducing the connectivity index concept
18:50 – Appropriate pedestrian accommodations
21:40 – Public service requirement; excessively wide streets
25:05 – Rob Hoffricter, assistant division administrator of VDOT maintenance division, provides some specific implementation examples
27:00 – More details on the different connectivity index requirements
28:10 – Cul-de-sacs are not prohibited, only reduced in number
30:40 – Process of determining exceptions, automatic or by petition
33:35 – Details on acceptable pedestrian accommodations
35:10 – Street design standards; widths and parking
37:50 – Fee structure and inspections for new roads
40:50 –Timeline of the transition period into new policy

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