TO:                   Joan McDowell, Principal Rural Planner

 

FROM:              Juandiego R. Wade, Transportation Planner

 

REF:                             Information on the impact of rural residential development on the Countyís transportation network

 

DATE:               October 19, 2004

 

 

Please find in this memo the result of my evaluation on the impact rural residential development will have on funding and safety of the Countyís rural transportation network.

 

In January 2000 the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission conducted the Jefferson Area Eastern Planning Initiative (EPI). This study focused on three key questions:

The study concluded that by building around historic town centers in walkable village scaled development patterns the region could save $500 million in transportation system investments over the next 50 years. Albemarle County is striving to direct growth into designated development areas such as the Crozet. The EPI also suggests areas to be included as walkable villages in the region are Fork Union, Scottsville, and Zion Crossroads.

 

Although Albemarle County has not experienced the magnitude of development in the rural areas that would require major road widening, there are numerous requests from the public to improve roads in the rural areas.  Approximately 86 of the 116 projects on the County Priority List for Secondary Road Improvements are in the rural area. Forty-six of the 86 projects are for unpaved roads. Based on the current level of funding allocated to Albemarle County, it will take many years to complete these projects. The County must spend about $800,000 (amount varies each year) of the approximate $4,200,000 it receives annually from VDOT for paving secondary roads or receive penalties.  The Board of Supervisors discussed this option a few years ago and decided to continue to spend the required minimum amount on unpaved roads.

 

According to VDOT, additional funding for transportation improvements is expected to decrease over the 25 years, due to increased demand and increased cost for road maintenance and higher cost of road projects. If rural residential development substantially increases in Albemarle in the future, it is unlikely there will be adequate state funding to assist with transportation improvements. Funding for roads improvements, urban or rural, will be vital if development increases.

 

Based on research, roads in rural areas are not as safe as roads in more urban areas. This trend is consistent for Albemarle County as well as statewide. A preliminary evaluation of VDOTís 2002 Summary of CRASH Data (most current available) for Albemarle County revealed that the crash rate, injury rate, and death rate on rural roads are higher. However, the total number of crashes and amount of property damage are higher on more urban roads (Rio Road -Rt. 631, Airport Road-Rt. 649, and Hydraulic Road-Rt. 743). This is likely due to the significantly higher number of vehicle \miles traveled on these roads. 

 

The causes of crashes on rural roads are not entirely due to an increased of development.  Most crashes in rural areas are due to human behavior (drinking and driving, speeding, etc.), unsafe vehicles, and hazardous roadway conditions.  As noted previously, the County has numerous projects on the Priority List that addresses hazardous roadway conditions.

 

In summary, while capacity may exist on many rural roads to accommodate additional residential development, hazardous roadway conditions on these roads will necessitate significantly greater need for spot improvements to safely accommodate that development. The County and public have already identified numerous spot improvements to improve the safety of roads in both the urban and rural areas. Due to the lack of adequate funding from VDOT, it will take many years to complete these projects. 

 

Please contact me if you have any questions or need additional information.

 

 

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