Overview of proposed
changes to Subdivision Street Regulations and relationship to the
Tucker, Foley, Graham,
June 2, 2004
In 2003, the Virginia
Department of Transportation (VDOT) formed a committee of local government and
development group representatives to consider changes to the VDOT Subdivision
Street Regulations (VDOT – SSR). In part, that effort was initiated as a result
of concerns expressed by the High Growth Coalition, of which Albemarle County is
a member. The High Growth Coalition’s concerns centered on the inflexibility of
the current regulations with regard to a type of development called “New
Urbanism”, “Neotraditional”, or “Traditional Neighborhood Development.”
Albemarle County’s Neighborhood Model includes many of the same features found
in those development types. County staff has served on this committee and
attempted to have the regulations better accommodate the Neighborhood Model.
While staff believes significant improvements to the regulations have been
proposed, some issues were not addressed as staff had hoped.
As a result of the
committee’s work, VDOT is now proposing changes to the Subdivision Street
Regulations that will resolve many of the concerns that complicated use of the
Neighborhood Model. Public comment is being received through the end of June.
Following public comment, the proposed regulations will be considered for
adoption by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. Assuming the proposed
regulations are adopted as proposed, the changes would become effective in
2.1 Protect and/or preserve the County’s rural character. Part of the
objective is a strategy for addressing the long term transportation need.
Develop and implement
policies that address the County's growth and urbanization while continuing to
enhance the factors that contribute to the quality of life in the County. The
proposed change to the regulations will enhance the County’s ability to
addressing emerging infrastructure needs.
The attachment provides
VDOT’s summary of the proposed changes to the current regulations. The following
changes were considered the most significant by staff for implementation of the
Neighborhood Model and addressing urbanization in the County.
Design standards have been
moved from the regulations to the VDOT guidance. Staff considers this a “two
edged sword”. On the positive side, this allows VDOT to quickly and easily
modify standards in the future to address new transportation issues. Also,
placing this in the guidance simplifies the process for approving
modifications to address a special project need. For example, a project
might incorporate features such as pedestrian islands in the middle of the
street or narrower sections that are not recognized in the current standards.
Under the current regulations, this might need to be elevated all the way to
the VDOT Commissioner for approval, which would add months to the approval
process with a low probability of success. That effectively prevented the
County from exploring these opportunities. Under the new regulations, this
same decision might be made at the resident engineer’s or district engineer’s
level in a matter of hours or days. The other edge of this sword is that VDOT
can modify the guidance at any time, with no opportunity for debate.
Effectively, this requires both the development community and local government
to trust that VDOT will resist changing the guidance without involving them.
placement. Staff considers this to be a positive change. This provision will
allow development to place water and sewer lines under the street pavement.
This change allows the street frontage to be used for features such as street
trees and bus shelters, providing the streetscape proposed under the
Neighborhood Model. Additionally, it will accommodate placement of buildings
close to the right of way, which is also consistent with the Neighborhood
Model. This will allow county development standards to match what is
currently possible in most cities and urbanized areas in other states.
Sidewalks and bikeways.
Staff considers this to be a positive change, though a caution is worth
noting. VDOT will now assume maintenance responsibility for sidewalks and
bikeways within the street right of way. Presently, VDOT will only maintain
this infrastructure in particular locations, such as close to schools or
business districts. While this change is positive, it is important to
recognize a serious limitation on VDOT’s ability to maintain this
infrastructure. VDOT funding for street maintenance is not currently keeping
up with costs and VDOT is not likely to receive additional funding for
maintenance of these improvements. If this funding shortfall continues in the
long-term, the County could find itself with increasing citizen complaints
about the condition of the infrastructure and increased demand for the County
to provide maintenance of the sidewalks. To put this into perspective, if
there were 100 miles of sidewalk and sidewalks have an average life of 40
years, upon maturity, an average of 2 ˝ miles of sidewalk will need to be
rehabilitated every year. In this case, there would be a need for $250,000
per year in sidewalk rehabilitation (current dollars). That would likely be
the situation within the next 20 years. Looking at the size of the County’s
development area and assuming both development and redevelopment required
sidewalks on both sides of streets, there could be as much as 1,000 miles of
sidewalks at some time in the distant future. If the amount of sidewalk
increased to 1,000 miles, the maintenance cost would become $2,500,000 per
Resident Engineer can
modify requirements for local streets at the request of a developer or local
government. Staff considers this a positive change. The VDOT resident
engineer will be empowered to modify requirements for local streets. This
allows considerably more flexibility in street requirements than has existed
in the past. Given the nature of the development typically associated with the
Neighborhood Model, this creates opportunities previously unavailable.
Process mapping. VDOT has
completed improvements in their processes to assist developers and builders in
getting a permit or having improvements accepted. This greatly simplifies the
job of County staff in explaining what is required for road acceptance.
Staff notes the following as
issues that were not addressed to our satisfaction:
Street widths. Staff had
hoped to see considerably more flexibility for VDOT staff in allowing reduced
street widths. While the resident engineer has been given considerable
authority on local streets, this same authority does not extend to collectors
and higher classification streets. Also, little guidance has been provided to
the resident engineers on when street width reductions are appropriate. The
proposed changes only give the County part of what we had hoped for regarding
implementation of the Neighborhood Model. This has led to questions about the
appropriateness of allowing private streets, which will be discussed as part
of the Subdivision Text Amendment (STA) worksession.
Staff hoped to see more flexibility for infrastructure associated with urban
streets. This would include improvements such as pedestrian refuges on
streets, modifications of curb sections (e.g. allow stone curbs without
gutters), and reduced radius curbs at intersections.
Staff believes the proposed
changes provide many of the desired features for implementation of the
Neighborhood Model. The remaining issues will probably not be possible until
VDOT gains more experience with this type of development. Staff believes it is
important to recognize that VDOT is being challenged by these changes.
Effectively, VDOT is being asked to think more like a city and less like a state
transportation agency in how it manages the secondary road program. That
represents a significant change in the organization’s mission. How well these
changes are communicated down within VDOT will likely prove to be the biggest
challenge in the near term.
This item is for information
only. Staff does not consider it necessary for the Board to provide a
resolution in support of the proposed changes.
Background and Summary of Changes
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