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Chesterbrook residents welcome new sidewalk project but raise questions about speeding, stormwater

Fairfax County’s plan to build more sidewalk on Chesterbrook Road was received warmly by the McLean residents who joined a virtual community meeting last Wednesday (Nov. 17).

The Chesterbrook Road Walkway project will add about 3,200 feet of concrete sidewalk with curb and gutter on the south side of the street — also known as Route 689 — from Maddux Lane to 41st Street on the Arlington County border.

The new sidewalk will extend a recently completed segment between Maddux and Kirby Road to create a continuous pedestrian facility on the narrow but heavily used road lined with single-family houses.

“In my exercising, I walk along this stretch of highway several times a week, and I’m well aware of the problems and the need for this sidewalk,” 35-year McLean resident Rich Cohen said.

Designed as a country road, Chesterbrook has evolved into a key route for commuters between McLean and Arlington. Plans to redevelop downtown McLean could further widen the gap between the needs of area residents and drivers.

The existing road design presents a number of obstacles, including the limited shoulder width, drainage issues, and utilities and landscaping that need to be relocated or cleared, Fairfax County Department of Transportation project manager Mark VanZandt noted.

While no major modifications are proposed, the roadway will need to be slightly widened in three spots to accommodate off-tracking vehicles. More pavement will be added, but the travel lanes will actually go from 12 feet wide to 11 feet, according to consultant Adam Welschenbach.

“This is to ensure that vehicles stay in their lane and do not drive over pedestrians,” he said.

Currently in the preliminary stages of the design process, the sidewalk itself will be 5 feet wide with a roughly half-foot buffer between the pavement and the curb.

The project will add eight ADA-compliant curb ramps, with crosswalks at Forest Lane and Brookside Road. Those locations were chosen because of their proximity to a lot of houses, Fairfax County engineer Masoud Hajatzadeh said.

FCDOT anticipates that the project will require temporary grading easements from 23 properties. The county also plans to modify and reconstruct 14 driveway entrances to accommodate the new sidewalk.

The Chesterbrook Road Walkway project will involve reconstructing several residential driveway entrances (via FCDOT)

Staff have not done a tree inventory yet, but VanZandt acknowledged that some clearing is inevitable, given the nature of the project, and the county won’t have the right-of-way needed to replant the trees.

“We do compensate homeowners for tree loss when the tree is on their property during land acquisition process,” VanZandt said. “I know the removal of a tree, it’s difficult to replace.”

A few community members expressed support for the project but worried that removing the trees and brush could exacerbate already rampant speeding problems.

Chesterbrook has a 25 mile-per-hour speed limit, but according to one resident, Virginia Department of Transportation studies found an average vehicle speed of 35 miles an hour, with “a not insignificant number of cars” reaching 50 miles or more.

“I think it’s great you’re trying to put a sidewalk in,” a 25-year McLean resident said. “…But you have to realize, when you put sidewalk in and cut down trees, you get people driving faster.”

Brian Zimmer, who identified himself as a 36-year McLean resident with professional experience in road engineering, questioned whether the project will adequately address water overflow from a tributary that feeds into Little Pimmit Run near Maddux.

The county is working on a separate storm restoration project that it says will mitigate those drainage and flooding issues, particularly at the North Albemarle intersection.

“The goal is to get that 100-year storm into the pipe system,” Fred Wilkins, the manager of that project, said. “We currently have contracts with consultants to figure out what we can fit into that system to decrease instances of roadway flooding.”

FCDOT will hold an open house about the walkway project from 3:30-6:30 p.m. on Nov. 30, and comments can be submitted to the project team untill Dec. 10.

With a preliminary estimated cost of almost $3.5 million, the project isn’t expected to get a final design until December 2022. The county’s current timeline has construction starting in October 2024 and finishing in summer 2025.

“We’re at the beginning of the process…but we really need your feedback so we can keep the project moving forward in a manner that’s consistent with the wishes of the community,” VanZandt said.

Photos via Google Maps, FCDOT

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