The State should encourage localities to develop connected street networks. The State DOT may also wish to provide funding for creation or extension of local streets that serve the same purpose as expansion of the state system would. Although developers or local governments build most neighborhood streets, they often connect to major streets that are part of the state highway system. Absent a policy directing something else, these development streets usually will be disconnected from each other. Providing multiple routes for regional and neighborhood traffic creates a more flexible system.
A number of actions at the state level can improve the connectivity of street networks. Effective strategies applied by states include technical assistance programs and statewide connectivity standards. For example, minimum connectivity standards can be adopted for any new development connecting to the state highway system. Such performance standards ensure that traffic leaving large residential or commercial subdivisions can travel by multiple routes. This limits bottlenecks at key intersections and reduces the need for traditional high-capacity arterials designed to move traffic at higher speeds. States can also help counties and municipalities redesign the street networks that are not part of the state highway system.
New Jersey’s Local Technical Assistance Program
The New Jersey Department of Transportation, the Office of Smart Growth and other state agencies have cooperated to develop the New Jersey Future in Transportation program (NJFIT). One NJFIT initiative is the Local Technical Assistance Program, in which NJFIT agencies work with local governments to redesign their street networks to emphasize connectivity and better land use planning. A notable success story from this program is Flemington, New Jersey, where the state’s technical assistance was able to help the township redesign its street network to accommodate growth rather than build a proposed bypass.
Virginia’s Connected Streets
At the request of Governor Tim Kaine, the Virginia General Assembly in 2007 enacted legislation that requires the Commonwealth Transportation Board to develop Secondary Street Acceptance Requirements, promulgated by regulation. These requirements define the conditions and standards that must be met before secondary streets constructed by developers, localities and entities other than the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will be accepted into the state secondary system for maintenance by VDOT. A connected street network improves the flow of through-trips on collector and arterial streets, reduces vehicle miles traveled and congestion, reduces emergency response times, promotes alternative transportation options (e.g., biking, walking, transit) and improves access to community facilities and shopping areas.