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Thursday, August 11, 2022
FairfaxDespite opposition, Vienna moves ahead on sidewalk projects

Despite opposition, Vienna moves ahead on sidewalk projects

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The Vienna Town Council on April 26 approved design work for nine sidewalk projects to be financed by the late Vienna Town Council member Maud Robinson’s $7 million bequest, but encountered resistance from some residents who did not want the pathways built in front of their homes.

Based on recommendations from the town’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee, the Council unanimously voted (with member Nisha Patel abstaining) to approve design work for sidewalks on:

• The even side of Alma Street, S.E., between Delano Drive, S.E., and Follin Lane, S.E., at a cost of $60,000.

• The odd side of Birch Street, S.W., between Battle Street, S.W., and Plum Street, S.W., for $70,000.

• The even side of Blackstone Terrace, N.W., between Lawyers Road, N.W., and Holmes Drive, N.W., for $40,000.

• The odd side of Charles Street, S.E., from Locust Street, S.E., to Branch Road, S.E., for $25,000.

• Both sides of Cherry Circle, S.W., from that cul-de-sac to Cottage Street, S.W., for $30,000.

• The west side of Elmar Drive, S.E. and S.W., from Park Street, S.E. to Desale Street, S.W., for $60,000.

• The odd side of Oak Street, S.W., from Center Street, S., to Birch Street, S.W., for $70,000.

• Both sides of Symphony Circle, S.W., from that cul-de-sac to Melody Lane, S.W., for $65,000.

• The odd side of Timber Lane, S.W., from Tapawingo Road, S.W., to Harmony Drive, S.W., for $50,000.

Before the hearing, town officials surveyed homeowners along those streets and held two open houses to get feedback. Some residents did not think sidewalks were needed on their streets, while others worried about tree losses, yard and driveway encroachments, the walkways’ proximity to their homes and maintenance obligations, such as shoveling snow from the sidewalks and mowing the adjacent grass.

“I don’t want a sidewalk in front of my house, period,” James Haughom, who lives on Charles Street, S.E., told the Council at the public hearing
“I was shocked that my little court would be picked for a sidewalk,” said Julie Chapin of Harmony Drive, S.E. Any new impervious surfaces will harm the local stream ecology, said Chapin, who favored doing traffic studies to ensure sidewalks were built in needed locations.

Others who testified favored the walkways to bolster public safety and give students safe routes to school.

“We need to think of the future, think of our children,” said Emily Korff, who also resides on Charles Street, S.E.

“We can put in miles and miles of sidewalk and protect our pedestrians,” said Angela Sorrell, vice chairman of the town’s Transportation Safety Commission. “No tree in this town is worth a pedestrian’s life.”

The Robinson bequest likely will fund up to 3.3 miles of sidewalks in Vienna, adding to the 85 miles of existing walkways. Robinson, who had been active in town affairs for decades before her death in March 2019 at age 96, placed a five-year deadline for implementation of her bequest, and set other parameters as well.

Selected projects must be along streets with existing curb and gutter and not in places already planned for sidewalks or likely to be financed via grants or as part of new construction.

All of the 5-foot-wide sidewalks will be built within the town’s right-of-way. The projects have sufficient flexibility to allow Vienna officials to change which the side of the streets will receive sidewalks, said Vienna Public Works Director Michael Gallagher.

“We want to put it on the correct side, the safest side, the one that makes the most sense,” said Mayor Linda Colbert.

The town this year also has scheduled construction of bequest-funded sidewalks along Cabin Road, S.E., from Glyndon Street to Branch Road; Plum Street, S.W., from Cottage Street to Tapawingo Road; Holmes Drive, N.W., from Upham Drive to John Marshall Drive; and Pleasant Street, S.W., from east of Maple Avenue to Surveyors Court. In addition, officials have authorized design work for a sidewalk on Cherry Street, S.W., between Courthouse Road and Cottage Street.

Council members later at the April 26 meeting also approved about $319,000 worth of spending (including 15-percent contingency allowances) to have two companies build sidewalks.

The Council agreed to spend $246,578 with Arthur Construction to build sidewalks on Pleasant Street, S.W., between Courthouse Road, S.W., and Maple Avenue, W., and on Cabin Road, S.E., from Branch Road, S.E., to Glyndon Street, S.E.

Council members also approved a $72,094 contract with US Concrete and Paving Inc. to build “missing link” sidewalk sections in front of these locations: 124 Courthouse Road, S.W.; 503 Ware St., S.W.; and 1002 Hillcrest Drive, S.W.

Vienna officials have until October 2024 to spend Robinson’s bequest. Colbert said she would like to see the town keep up its pace of proposed sidewalk projects, while continuing to accept residents’ feedback.
“I do fear a little bit that if we start slowing things down, we will miss an opportunity,” she said, adding, “A community with sidewalks is healthy, it’s friendly and, most importantly, it is safe.”

Council member Steve Potter agreed, saying he would “just hate to see us kick this can down the road any more.”

Council member Ed Somers also had his eyes on the future.

“I hope we view this as a holistic opportunity [and] something that 10, 20 years down the line, people will look back and be very proud that we built a safer, more connected Vienna,” he said.

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