Tag Archives: maximum road size

Putting a Cap on Road Size

 

By Dom Nozzi

January 13, 2003

When it comes to issues pertaining to evacuation plans, communities need to be on guard against people who want to widen roads to promote sprawl and free-flowing, high-speed car travel. Commonly, the Happy Car lobby will use “emergency evacuation” as a scare tactic. By mentioning evacuation, the road widening lobby can achieve the “moral high ground.” Who, after all, could be opposed to evacuating the population if there is an emergency?

The hidden agenda, of course, is to widen the road to promote sprawl, real estate, and happy cars.

The community needs to use whatever tools it has available (state laws, local plans, etc.) to establish a MAXIMUM SIZE for its roads. In the case of Gainesville, Florida, where I was a town planner, the City adopted my suggested maximum that the City shall never build a road bigger than 4 lanes. Because, as I point out in many of my transportation speeches, big roads are very harmful to the quality of life (and sustainability) of a community.

The community could decide (if it is using a growth management tool) that, say, 4 lane roads are the maximum size roads allowed. The maximum is a tool chosen by the community to protect its quality of life. That becomes the “level of service standard” that the community adopts in its growth management plan.

The 4-lane maximum road then becomes, indirectly, a limiting factor for population growth in the community. The community could turn the destructive evacuation strategy I mention above on its head. The community could, for example, use a growth management laws as leverage to say to a proposed new residential developer: “I’m sorry, but our adopted plan does not allow you to build here. If you build here, there will be “X” number of new car trips that will need to be evacuated in the event of an emergency. Unfortunately for you, our evacuation plan states that we must be able to evacuate our community in “Y” minutes. If the new car trips from your proposed project were added to our 4-lane roads, we would not be able to evacuate fast enough. Since our plan clearly states that we will not exceed 4 lanes on our roads, we cannot approve your project.”

 

 

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A Line in the Sand for Road Size

 

By Dom Nozzi

July 30, 2003

I was having a conversation with someone who asked me if I agreed that a 4-lane road would ruin the rural character of a rural location. I agreed that a 4-laner would ruin rural character.

I would go beyond that: I don’t believe that a community should ever build a road bigger than 3 lanes.

At some point, a community must draw the line and say that enough is enough. That going beyond a certain road size is too destructive of our community.

Everyone has some idea of some limit. For some, it would be, say, 12 lanes as a limit. For others, it might be 6 lanes. For me, it is 3.street without on street parking

Indeed, when I was a long-range transportation planner for the City of Gainesville Florida, I succeeded in (briefly) having that City insert a policy in its long-range transportation plan that says the City shall never build a road again that is larger than 4 travel lanes (I would have preferred that we limit it to 2…).

Of course, as one would expect in a car-happy city such as Gainesville, that sort of policy only lasted a year or two before it was hastily expunged from the plan by our beloved defenders of cars…

It is not inevitable that a growing community must forever enlarge its roads. If more car volume capacity is felt to be essential, that added capacity can come from more community-sensitive means than conventional widening. Or, I see no reason why a community could not say “We have decided, as a community, that we will NOT go beyond a certain road size in order to protect our health, safety and welfare. If that means that our roads cannot accommodate any additional cars, so be it.”

Such cars can self-regulate themselves by choosing a different route, traveling at a non-rush hour time, or selecting another way to travel.

There is no law that says a community must accommodate an endless stream of forever increasing numbers of cars.

 

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