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]