Chapter 527 - New VDOT Traffic Impact Guideline and Regulations

The Virginia General Assembly unanimously approved legislation (Senate Bill 699, Chapter 527 of the 2006 Acts of Assembly) to enhance the coordination of land use and transportation planning. To that end, Governor Kaine recently announced a formalized role for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) in reviewing the traffic impact of local land use proposals (http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/chapter527/527release.pdf). The Governor’s plans included the adoption of a new set of Traffic Impact Study Guidelines, administered by VDOT, which will be implemented in a phased approach statewide starting July 1, 2007. These guidelines and regulations will affect comprehensive plans, amendments to comprehensive plans, rezoning proposals, subdivision plats, site plans, and other plans of development. We anticipate these new standards will significantly affect the design, building, and development industries throughout the state and within incorporated towns and cities.

Wells + Associates, Inc. (W+A) (www.mjwells.com) attended virtually all of the information sessions recently conducted by VDOT in the Salem, Richmond, and Northern Virginia Districts. The information disseminated at these various meetings was consistent. VDOT emphasized the transparency, regionalism, and uniformity of information regarding the traffic impacts of proposed land use decisions to local decision makers and citizens. VDOT submission requirements, timelines and the review process were discussed at length.

The basic elements of the new guidelines generally follow those outlined in the Land Development Manual. However, the new regulations are much more stringent and require the submission of detailed traffic data and analyses related to existing and proposed transit, pedestrian, and bicycle facilities. It may also require a discussion and analysis of Travel Demand Management (TDM) measures, if proposed. Some of these areas are not currently required in the preparation of standard traffic impact studies. Additionally, an initial application fee of up to $1,000 will be imposed by VDOT for the review of the study and additional fees for subsequent submissions.

The new standards will further provide public agencies with the ability to limit or deny land use applications or seek expanded proffered commitments. The application of these standards to land use applications will likely result in the need for additional infrastructure improvements in order to satisfy level of service criteria for vehicle, pedestrian, transit, and bike facilities.

W+A has prepared many of these types of studies locally and nationally and is familiar with the complexity of the analysis assumptions, procedures, methodologies, and techniques required.

In summary, the newly adopted Chapter 527 legislation will add significant time and costs to the preparation of traffic impact studies, and will likely require additional infrastructure improvements to meet the new criteria and get project approval.