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Why do almost all the streets in Fairfax County, VA have a state road number?

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In July 2005, my family and I went on a trip out east to DC and Philadelphia, and during our time in the Washington area, we stayed with some relatives in Fairfax County, VA, and rode the Metro Blue Line into the city.

During our time in Virginia, one thing I remember seeing was that, alongside the street sign blades, the intersections would have small white signs with black numbers, indicating the state road number assigned to the road. I soon realized that not just the signed state highways, but practically every road in the county, from major thoroughfares down to the numerous suburban cul-de-sacs and everything in between, was given its own state road number. For example, this Street View link shows the intersection of Rough Run Court, the street on which my Virginia relatives lived, with South Valley Drive, just off SR 123 in Fairfax Station. As you can see from those little white signs, Rough Run Court is officially designated by VDOT as SR 8156, while South Valley Drive is SR 8153.

At the time, I had found this rather fascinating (as I still do now), but I didn't have any idea as to why this might be. Then, a few years ago, I came across an interesting article on the FHWA's website - about Harry F. Byrd, a former Virginia governor, and later senator, who played a big role in improving the state's road system - which appeared to clue me into the reason. The relevant passage from the article reads thus:

"Byrd made a unique proposal that he had been thinking about for a number of years. His idea was that the State should take over the county road system, thus adding 35,000 miles to the State system and saving the counties $3.4 million that could be used for other needs."

Along with another passage later in the article:

"He also was proud of his decision that Virginia should take over the county roads, one of only four states to do so:

Costs are cut, he points out, because less equipment and labor are needed when all roads are managed, built and maintained by one agency, that is, the State Highway Department."

(Citation/link to article:

So, basically, my takeaway from the article was that, in Virginia, thanks to Mr. Byrd, the state maintained the kinds of roads that counties might maintain in most other states. Thus, by my reasoning, with the state being responsible for all the roads down to every residential street, it seems plausible that all those roads, big and small alike, would be officially designated as state highways, with each one being given its own number.

Does that seem right? I'd like to see some insight from people who live in or near the area. In addition, is this phenomenon, of every little residential street being assigned a state road number, only seen in certain counties (such as Fairfax and other Northern Virginia counties like Prince William), or does it occur throughout the whole state? I'd like to find out more!

Itís the whole state, except for the independent cities and a couple counties. Fairfax just happens to have the most of them.

The short time I spent in the Tidewater area, I was quite tripped out by everything being numbered. I lived in an area of 4-digit numbers like 10xx.

I remember school driveways had numbers, some anyway. The high school I attended was like 9336 or something.


--- Quote from: zachary_amaryllis on December 23, 2022, 01:47:23 AM ---The short time I spent in the Tidewater area, I was quite tripped out by everything being numbered. I lived in an area of 4-digit numbers like 10xx.

I remember school driveways had numbers, some anyway. The high school I attended was like 9336 or something.

--- End quote ---

On the flipside I'm totally used to them. I find it to be quite a handy system for those maintaining the roads.

I grew up with it, so it's never struck me as odd. Note that there are plenty of neighborhood streets that are not owned by VDOT but are instead what some places would sign as "private roads" (VDOT Northern Virginia doesn't typically sign that)ómost often streets owned and maintained by HOAs. Whether a street is a VDOT street or an HOA street seems primarily to be a function of when the neighborhood was built. My mom's neighborhood near Fairfax City was built in the late 1970s/early 1980s and she lives on a VDOT street despite the neighborhood having no outlet other than its main entrance; my neighborhood south of Alexandria was built in 1992Ė1993 and I live on an HOA street (though the lone street leading in and out is a VDOT street).

In my experience living both in my mom's house when I was growing up and in my current house for the past 20+ years, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. The main advantages are that if your HOA is active in street maintenance, your street is likely to remain in better condition than a comparable VDOT street, and when it snows your street is likely to get plowed a lot sooner than it would if it were a VDOT street. In both cases that's because VDOT has higher priorities (for plowing, especially, they quite rightly focus first on arterials) and because an HOA has a far narrower focus and a smaller universe of streets to deal with. The main downside is the expense of maintaining the street. If you live in a relatively large HOA like I do, the expense gets spread over a large number of people and is easier to manage, but if you live in a small neighborhood (I have a colleague who lives on a street with 12 houses), the cost falls more heavily on everyone (although the overall cost is likely less if you just have one street), and also one obstructionist neighbor can potentially hold up street maintenance if the other neighbors aren't active in the HOA.

If you've ever driven on the segment of Nutley Street just east of Fairfax City between US-50 and US-29, you might be surprised to learn that road used to be privately-owned into the 1980s. Back then, the maintenance was horrible. Lots of potholes and other issues. Then at one point the road's owner put up speed bumps, which led to loads of complaints from people who used it as a commuter route. They weren't too thrilled when VDOT said the owner had the right to do that! Eventually there was some sort of settlement; I don't know whether VDOT now owns the road, but I believe they are involved in maintenance. It's too important a connector for the authorities (regardless of who they are) not to have some role.


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