• Mar 24, 2009
Virginia lawmakers are taking a metaphorical battering ram to suburban culs-de-sac, those little dead-end roundabouts that are almost all adorned with a yellow sign saying "No Outlet." Caught out by spiraling maintenance and development costs, the Washington Post reports that legislators are now mandating that the state will only maintain new subdivision roadways that meet its revised requirements for narrower dimensions and increased connectivity. That maintenance includes not only things like pothole patches and striping, but also plowing in winter, meaning that the state's new laws will carry very real consequences for planners and developers who choose not to comply.

The rise of culs-de-sac occurred when suburban city planners and private developers decided it was better to have a few roads act as central spines instead of connecting all roads in a grid. Unfortunately, the result has been that the large thoroughfares connecting all those culs-de-sac suffer from traffic jams, high maintenance costs, as well as a constant need for widening as populations increase. They're also annoying to ambulance drivers who can't take alternate routes while responding to an emergency because side streets off of main arteries often don't connect, resulting in longer response and transport times.

Suburban dwellers are, of course, against the change. They chose culs-de-sac for particular reasons, notably because they are generally safer for children and quieter than connected streets. Cul-de-sac homeowners are worried that if connector streets are added, speeding commuters will start flying through their formerly safe developments like they do on the few connecting roads currently exist.

While there is little that homeowners can do now to change the rules, urban planners and designers are looking at making more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly subdivisions with enough connectivity that there isn't just one road that's either clear or gridlocked. Said one council member, "We're trying to create flexibility... instead of a one size fits all."

Kids, play in the streets while you can, because the times, they are a-changin'...

[Source: Washington Post via Wallet Pop]


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  • 55 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      ...that is the cover of my Networking and Security textbook.

      I hate you guys so much.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Sheesh! All they need to do is tear down a few homes in each cul-de-sac and put in some connecting streets. That's a brilliant plan that I'm sure no one would object to!
      • 5 Years Ago
      but but but . . . I love cul-de-sacs
      • 5 Years Ago
      I lived on a cul-de-sac in Virginia when I was little. It was where the neighboring kids came to play since there was no through traffic. Cul-de-sacs can work, when planned properly, but maybe that is asking too much.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The cul de sacs cut down on traffic at the end of your driveway. I could redo that neighborhood with winding roads instead of cul de sacs and have just about the same density. The only difference is the amount of traffic on the average person's frontage.

      I guess if little billy needs to have an increased risk of being hit by traffic to satisfy some bureaucrat need to express his power who am I to argue.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Sheesh, a bunch of elitist crap being posted here. I have lived in 5 different houses in 3 states, 3 on through streets and 2 on cul-de-sacs.

        Say what you want a cul-de-sac is a nicer arrangement. No traffic, all of the houses face the center and people wander around and (gasp) get to know each other. The kids play safely and occassionaly we have had neighborhood cookouts in the middle of the street. All of the through streets suffered from high speeds and thoughtless jerks. You can keep your narrow parked up streets and poor sightlines for speed control. Only a moron would think that by making a situation inherintly more unsafe people will be better off.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Oh cut the crap. Plenty of people live on high traffic roads and manage just fine.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "...meaning that the state's new laws will carry very real consequences for planners and developers who choose not to comply."

      Since when was compliance optional?
      • 5 Years Ago
      It's so much easier to find your way around when every street is part of a grid. I've never liked cul-de-sacs, and I wouldn't object if my city outlawed them (though I can't see that ever happening). Damn neighborhoods of mazes screw me up everytime I enter them...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Little boxes on the hillside
      Little boxes made of ticky tacky
      Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes on the hill
      There`s a blue one and a pink one and a green one and a yellow one
      And they`re all made out of ticky tacky
      And they all look the same.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This won't happen. Cul-de-sac layouts are popular for a reason. You streamline the road patterns, they end up being public thoroughfares & shortcuts. Most of the voters here in Va are pretty hard on their politicians.

      Besides- what's with this snow removal crap? They don't even TRY to remove snow on anything beyond the highways and major arteries. We just had 10 inches of snow here in Midlothian. VDOT has ARMIES of plow trucks- never saw a single one off of rt. 360.

      By the way- 4wd RAV-4 V6 kicks azz in the snow. Great fun.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ban cookiecutter and sprawl, it's the worst for the environment, the worst for traffic, and it really does suck to live in a house identical to 300 other ones.....and it sucks even more looking at it from the sky, it gives you a "I'm just living in house that's part of a large profit-oriented puzzle" impression.

      All these houses could be consolidated in a few larger buildings surrounded by nature.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Nick. You can't have it both ways. If you want build this many homes while still having multiple outlets, you will need more land to build the same amount of homes.

        I agree with the cookiecutter image, but this type of development is common and it sells.

        Also, would you really want to live in a building, as you described, than have your own home with some separation from your neighbor?

        Think about what you are saying. A developer would love nothing more than to put that many families into one building rather than have them spread out in that development you see in the picture. Keep in mind, its your local planning and zoning boards that dictate what gets built. I doubt that neighborhood is zoned for anything but single story homes.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Chris

        You're right, it sells, but this type of development will hurt us in the long term. We all want our freedom, our own home, pool, cars and yard, but the problem is that there are now >300 million of us in the U.S. and soon 400 million. IF this trend continues, it will not only gobble most available land, it will require towns to spend millions to connect them to the grid. Individual houses are hugely expensive and inefficient compared to larger buildings.

        I am no proponent of packing people into concrete blocks like the Soviets did, but there are now exceptionally good looking and comfortable condos being built in 3-5 story buildings, and where you feel well separated from your neighbors. As a matter of fact, many of these cookiecutter houses are so close to each other that you can look out your window and straight into the neighbor's window, as there are often no walls in between.

        Yes many people still like owning their own house, but this is not sustainable, we simply can't continue this way, its horrendous for traffic, wastes ressources, water, oil, energy etc..
        I am in the L.A. area where this is popular, and let me tell you, once you see cookie cutter houses as far as the eye can see, you'll need to drive 30 minutes to buy a loaf of bread. You'll want nothing but out.

        Clearly, living in a nice building within walking distance to stores etc.. far outweighs the benefits of living in this type of house.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Yet another example of the government sticking its face where it has no business.

      If people want to build and live in communities with the cul-de-sac if they pay for it, let them.

      I find it disgusting that everywhere you look these days the "government knows best". The founding fathers of this country would vomit if they saw what we have become.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Either you didn't read the article, or you didn't quite comprehend. VA didn't outlaw the cul de sac, they simply said they won't maintain any new ones. If VA developers are like TX developers, they'll just build new overpriced McMansionvilles with gates and high HOA fees, and the HOA will maintain the streets behind the gate. Thus, if people really want to live on a cul de sac, they will be responsible for the extra cost of doing so as compared to a more open-ended street plan that the state will agree to maintain.
        • 5 Years Ago
        This is not some sort subjective measure, but an objective one. In this case the government has every right , as it affects their constituents in a negative way, and costs more money to maintain.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I love Richmond,VA best place in the state.
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