Virginia is no longer for cul-de-sac lovers:
The state has decided that all new subdivisions must have through streets linking them with neighboring subdivisions, schools and shopping areas. State officials say the new regulations will improve safety and accessibility and save money: No more single entrances and exits onto clogged secondary roads. Quicker responses by emergency vehicles. Lower road maintenance costs for governments.
Of course, not everyone is pleased with this, um, development:
“Cul-de-sacs are the safest places in America to live,” said Mike Toalson, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Virginia, which opposes the new rules. “The first lots sold are often on the cul-de-sacs because they are safe.” As for developments with single entrances and exits, Toalson said, such configurations ensure that all traffic is local, neighbors watch out for each other and speeds are kept down. “Crooks look for multiple exits.”
One argument not being made by Toalson: it’s cheaper for developers. The Austin Contrarian explains (follow along with his graphic):
[T]his neighborhood [in southwest Austin] illustrates why developers like winding roads and cul-de-sacs: they save infrastructure.
In order to estimate how much infrastructure the cul-de-sac layout saved, I’ve drawn in streets to complete a pseudo-grid (red). It takes a lot of them. Gmaps tells me these “missing” streets together measure 4,905 feet long. The existing (green) streets are 7,390 feet long, which means the developer would have needed 66% more asphalt, street lamps, curbs and sidewalks to complete the grid. Since sewer and water lines follow the streets, he would have needed 66% more sewer and water pipes as well. And all that extra asphalt would have left less space for houses.
This subdivision would have cost a lot more to develop around a grid. This additional expense likely would have been passed back to the property sellers or passed forward to the home buyers.
The Contrarian, though, would agree with Virginia:
The main problem with disconnected street networks, though, is that they exacerbate congestion and reduce mobility. It might not matter if only one subdivision here or there eschewed the grid. But when every subdivision does, traffic is channeled into overcrowded through streets and everyone is forced to take longer trips. Because the cul-de-sac layout provides purely private benefits, the city should leave road maintenance costs on the subdivision. (Note that the costs of the subdivision’s design to the subdivision’s own residents are reflected in their home prices, and are therefore not social costs.)
Which Virginia is doing:
Virginia will maintain only new subdivision streets that meet its connectivity, road and sidewalk requirements. That’s a big stick, because unlike in Maryland and most other states, the Transportation Department maintains and plows almost all of Virginia’s roads, including streets with as few as three homes.
Oklahoma City, so far, has sought to preserve the image of the street grid — new east-west streets are expected to be numbered in accordance with their position on the grid — but hasn’t demanded greater traffic connectivity in new subdivisions. And they probably won’t, since neighborhoods fear additional traffic, especially if it’s above the speed limit and/or involves people who Don’t Live Here.