Proposed Changes to Minimum Street Width Requirement

April 11, 2011

More Information

Diagram of a Fire Truck's Width with Outriggers Fully Deployed

Fire Truck Outriggers


 County staff are proposing a change to the minimum width requirement for new streets, making the standard a minimum of 36 feet wide. This minimum width allows parking on both sides of the street while providing space for emergency access and operations. This proposal differs from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s standard of a minimum of 29 feet or less in some instances.

On May 5, at 8:15 p.m., the Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed standard. Following this hearing, the commission will make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, which is scheduled to hold a public hearing on June 7 at 4 p.m.

If approved, the new street width standard would become part of the county’s Public Facilities Manual. This manual sets out the county’s rules for commercial and residential development. If not adopted, the county will follow the VDOT standard.

There are considerations for and against adopting wider street widths:

  • Wider streets create more impervious surface. This increases stormwater runoff that must be addressed through stormwater management facilities to prevent damage to creeks, streams and rivers.
  • County and state standards will be inconsistent if the proposal is adopted.
  • Wider streets aren’t needed to accommodate parking on both sides of the road because there is plenty of off-street parking in many neighborhoods, and new, single-family developments must be built with off-street parking.
  • Wider streets encourage people to drive faster because they feel more comforable doing so on wide streets rather than narrow ones.

Wider streets are proposed because:

  • Narrow streets, along with illegally parked cars, can prevent fire trucks from getting to the fire.
  • Narrow streets can prevent fire trucks from using their ladders. To use ladders, the trucks must deploy outriggers to stabilize the vehicle. When fully extended, the outriggers make the truck 21.5 feet wide. Because some of VDOT’s minimum street width standards are narrower, fire trucks won’t be able to fully deploy their outriggers.
  • Narrow streets would require restricted parking in some instances. Restricted parking may be inconvenient for residents when accommodating guest or extra cars in the household.Restricted parking enforcement would be an additional burden on the police department.

However, the proposed change allows for narrower streets when approved by the Board of Supervisors through a zoning action or in specific geographic areas of the county, such as Tysons.

If adopted, the street width standard would amend chapters seven and eight of the Public Facilities Manual, but this standard would differ from what is set out in Appendix B(1) of VDOT’s  Road Design Manual

For additional information about the proposal, read the staff report submitted to the Planning Commission.

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