When Main Street Is a Highway: Addressing Conflicts Between Land Use and Transportation

Report No: 17-R13

Published in 2017

About the report:

Major at-grade regional thoroughfares in Virginia are a source of conflict for planners because of the corridors’ dual, often competing, roles. For many Virginians, these routes are critical highways for cross-state travel, commuting, and movement of freight, with an emphasis on mobility and expectations of high travel speeds and limited stopping. For local residents in both long-established and developing communities, these corridors sometimes function as the community’s “main street,” providing access to homes and businesses, often at the cost of regional mobility.

The purpose of this study was to identify solutions to this main street / highway conflict through a review of relevant regulations, identification of planning solutions that could be implemented by localities and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and the highlighting of resources that could help with the process of identifying and implementing solutions. In addition, case studies were selected to serve as examples of how the conflict between local access and through mobility has been managed by public agencies in various contexts.

The main street / highway conflict is fundamentally an issue of transportation and land use coordination. No individual solution can fully address the conflict. Because VDOT has limited influence over land use and development along state highways, a practice of strong interagency coordination, cooperation, and public participation is necessary. As VDOT develops roadway projects, it must respond to concerns of local stakeholders, in part by demonstrating how engineering solutions can lead to locally desired outcomes.

The study recommends that VDOT consider the previously mentioned issues in refining an existing planning process for arterial highways that may reflect the main street / highway conflict. It also recommends that VDOT ensure that its planners working on major regional thoroughfares are familiar with (1) relevant design manuals, treatments, and concepts, such as context-sensitive urban thoroughfare design and unconventional intersection designs; and (2) methods to facilitate interagency coordination and public participation.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Last updated: November 11, 2023

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