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.
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.” Read More
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The Vienna Town Council advanced several sidewalk projects to a final engineering design phase last night (Monday), even as another project continues to draw strong opposition from residents on the affected street.
Nearly every resident on Alma Street Southeast has signed a petition opposing a proposed project to add a sidewalk on the even-numbered side of their street between Delano Drive SE and Follin Lane SE.
The town council authorized a contract with an engineering firm to conduct final design work on that project and three others on Oct. 11.
A petition objecting to the project has garnered signatures from 10 of 12 residences on the street as of Sunday (Oct. 31). Resident Matt Sanders, whose property is on the corner of Alma and Delano, said he thinks the remaining homeowners will both oppose it.
Sanders tried to speak before the council’s vote on Oct. 11, but in a brief exchange, Mayor Linda Colbert said it wasn’t a public hearing.
“None of the residents on Alma and Delano have asked for or desire sidewalks. In fact they oppose it,” Sanders said by email. “The council appears to be hell bent on spending this money and installing sidewalks whether their constituents want them. Just because this money is available, doesn’t mean it has to be spent ramming sidewalks down the throats of residents.”
Town Feels Urgency Over Trust Fund Deadline
The current wave of sidewalk projects, including the one on Alma Street, is part of a push by the Town of Vienna to speed up work on its Robinson Trust Sidewalk Initiative, which is intended to expand the town’s sidewalk network.
The initiative is funded by a $7 million charitable trust that former Councilmember Maud Robinson left after her death in 2019. Among other conditions, the trust money must be spent by fall 2024.
In addition to the Alma project, Sanders says his property will be affected by plans to add sidewalk on Delano Drive Southeast, from Echols Street to the end.
That project is among five that were approved for final engineering design yesterday:
- DeSale Street Southwest from Moore Avenue to Tapawingo Road and also to the end of the street
- Melody Lane Southwest from DeSale Street to Lullaby Lane
- Tazewell Road Northwest from Lawyers Road to Holmes Drive
- Orrin Street Southeast from Delano Drive to Follin Lane
The town said the cost to prepare those engineering design reports is $46,700, based on a proposal from Urban. Read More
The Vienna Town Council is moving forward with engineering work on four potential sidewalk projects, even as one homeowner opposing a proposed sidewalk floated the possibility of legal action.
The council voted 6-1 yesterday (Monday) to approve final engineering designs for sidewalks to piece together missing sections using trust money that must be spent by fall 2024. Councilmember Nisha Patel was the lone dissenting vote, citing safety concerns for one project.
The money comes from the Maud Ferris Robinson Charitable Trust that the town created with more than $7 million that the former councilmember left after her death in 2019 to pay for sidewalks.
With the vote, the council authorized Vienna’s public works department to enlist the contracted engineering firm Urban for final design work on four projects:
- Alma Street SE: from Delano Drive SE to Follin Lane SE, on the side of the street with even-numbered houses (budget: $38,050)
- Blackstone Terrace NW: from Lawyers Road NW to Holmes Drive NW, even-numbered houses (budget: $25,300)
- Charles Street SE: from Locust Street SE to Branch Road SE, odd-numbered homes (budget: $19,300)
- Symphony Circle SW: from the cul-de-sac to Melody Lane SW, odd-numbered homes (budget: $19,050)
Matt Sanders, of 610 Delano Drive Southeast, wrote a letter to the town about the issue, saying he would retain an attorney if the town “approves the installation of a sidewalk in front of my house.”
“While I’m not opposed to sidewalks in general, in my case, I stand to lose 50% of my driveway and one parking space,” he wrote. “I purchased my home specifically for the two-car garage and the ability to fit two cars in my driveway.”
During Monday’s town council meeting, town engineer Robert Froh suggested expanding part of the width of the driveway at the town’s expense, but a section by the home would have to be done by the homeowner. It wasn’t immediately clear if such an adjustment would address Sanders’ concerns, which also involved privacy due to pedestrians being closer to his garage.
Meanwhile, Patel’s worries stemmed from the Symphony Circle sidewalk project, which she described as a partial sidewalk that would not extend to the end of the cul-de-sac.
She said a vehicle may be unaware that the sidewalk as proposed would end, requiring pedestrians to go into the road.
“I think that’s very dangerous,” Patel said, adding that a blind spot on the corner could cause a vehicle to hit a little kid.
The sidewalk could be extended in the future, even during the design of the project, town officials said. The extension is currently blocked by two trees that a developer preserved, but the town could remove them.
The council defeated Patel’s motion to revisit Symphony Circle later, but it approved a motion to extend an engineering study involving the road.
Public Works Director Michael Gallagher said the proposals presented on Monday were concepts, and further engineering could address issues as the work progresses.
Photo via Google Maps
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For much of Plum Street, pedestrians can travel on a sidewalk along one side of the road. But once it hits Cottage Street, pedestrians continuing southeast face a difficult choice: walk in the street or trespass on nearby lawns.
At a meeting on Monday (July 19), the Vienna Town Council authorized $388,000 in funding to resolve the dilemma once and for all and install sidewalks along Plum Street SW, Holmes Drive SW, and 503 & 505 Park Street SW. The Town Council also authorized $30,000 for a concrete maintenance contract for the new sidewalks.
The funding includes a 15% contingency in case costs run over during construction. The funding comes from former Councilmember Maud Robinson, who died in 2019 and set aside much of her estate in a trust to help the town she served complete its sidewalk network.
One casualty of the Plum Street sidewalk expansion will be a large oak tree on the street. Councilmember Howard Springsteen asked if the tree could be saved, but staff explained that the owner would not agree to an easement that would bypass the tree by going further into their property.
The street is also considered too narrow to bump the sidewalk out into the street without creating a traffic hazard.
The town also considered working around the tree with rubber sidewalks but determined that these would not be ADA compliant. The work would also ultimately end up irreparably damaging the roots of the tree the rubber sidewalk was ostensibly there to save.
The council unanimously approved new sidewalk construction, but Councilmember Nisha Patel said the town needed to consider focusing the sidewalk efforts around streets closer to downtown Vienna.
“We still have quite a few sidewalks in the heart of town that could use some improvements and upgrades for safety issues,” Patel said. “When we approach this Robinson Trust money, I would like us to prioritize sidewalks adjacent to Maple Avenue and one or two blocks out before we delve into smaller, safer streets that don’t necessarily need a sidewalk as badly.”
Mayor Linda Colbert noted that while downtown sidewalks definitely need work, the town also needed to consider which streets are routes to schools or connected to bus stops, making them likely for pedestrian use.
Photo via Google Maps
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The Vienna Town Council voted Monday night (April 26) to authorize sidewalk engineering studies for nine stretches of streets throughout town.
The studies — and construction costs down the road, if the council approves the projects for implementation — will be funded by the Maud Ferris Robinson Charitable Trust. Robinson, a former councilmember, left more than $7 million to the town after her death in 2019 to pay for sidewalks.
The vote raised the number of Robinson-funded projects in the design phase to 14. In addition, two projects were approved for construction, and the town will seek the thumbs-up for construction on another two projects in less than a month, according to Department of Public Works Director Michael Gallagher.
The approval comes as town officials and pedestrian advocates call for more action on sidewalk projects, pointing to the dwindling time the town has to spend the bequeathed funds. Vienna has until fall 2024 to use the bequest.
“Time is ticking,” Mayor Linda Colbert said.
As of early 2020, the town had roughly 85 miles of sidewalk. The Robinson trust focuses on filling in missing patches of sidewalks that weren’t already planned or likely to be funded through other grants.
Public opposition previously led the Vienna Town Council to defer six projects. This time, the council forged ahead despite a number of speakers who voiced concerns.
More than 30 people participated in the council’s public hearing on the Robinson trust initiative. The attendees were split on the issue, voicing broad concerns — losing lawn space or mature trees — as well as ones related to specific stretches of road.
With the exception of Councilmember Nisha Patel, who abstained, the full town council joined Colbert in voting to approve the following streets for sidewalk engineering studies:
- Alma Street SE: even side from Delano Drive SE to Follin Lane SE ($60,000)
- Birch Street SW: odd side from Battle Street SW to Plum Street SW ($70,000)
- Blackstone Terrace NW: even side from Lawyers Road NW to Holmes Drive NW ($40,000)
- Charles Street SE: odd side from Locust Street SE to Branch Road SE ($25,000)
- Cherry Circle SW: both sides from the cul-de-sac to Cottage Street SW ($30,000)
- Elmar Drive SE/SW: west side from Park Street SE to Desale Street SW ($60,000)
- Oak Street SW: odd side from Center Street S to Birch Street SW ($70,000)
- Symphony Circle SW: both sides from the cul-de-sac to Melody Lane SW ($65,000)
- Timber Lane SW: odd side from Tapawingo Road SW to Harmony Drive SW ($50,000)
The town also approved construction spending for sidewalks along Pleasant Street SW from Courthouse Road to Maple Avenue and on Cabin Road SE from Branch Road to Glyndon Street.
Colbert said the town will continue accepting written comments and will work with residents. She described sidewalk projects as part of the government’s obligation to support public safety, since they help many residents travel, from people with strollers to older individuals and people with limited mobility.
“A community with sidewalks is healthy. It’s friendly. And most importantly, it is safe,” Colbert said. Read More
When former Vienna Town Councilmember Maud Robinson died in 2019, she set aside much of her estate to pay for sidewalks throughout town.
At the time, town staff projected that the money would fund 22 stretches of sidewalk totaling about 3.3 miles. Vienna would front the costs for these projects and accept the trust in the form of reimbursement.
Two years later, the town council has approved four eligible roads but have deferred six others in response to objections from neighbors, who have argued that the sidewalks are unnecessary, would encroach on precious driveway space, affect their trees, or place a burden on residents to maintain them.
At this rate, those close to the initiative are feeling the pressure of a deadline. Vienna has until fall 2024 to use up the Maud Ferris Robinson Charitable Trust.
Town staff estimate it could take up to two years after a street is identified to complete a project, and no construction has started, meaning no money can be transferred. A few town council candidates have also highlighted the importance of using the bequest.
“We are remaining optimistic [but] we do know we need to hit the accelerator button on that a little bit,” Vienna Public Works Director Michael Gallagher said.
The town is poised to take a step forward soon, with several sidewalk projects set to go before the Vienna Town Council next Monday.
Two are designed and ready for construction, which would cost nearly $320,000 combined, and there will be a public hearing for nine other projects.
Those nearing the construction phase are Cabin Road SE from Glyndon Street to Branch Road and Pleasant Street SW from east of Maple Avenue to Surveyors Court. Another two could be ready for final approvals in May, according to Gallagher.
The nine slated for a public hearing and the first round of approvals are:
- Alma Street SE — Delano Drive to Follin Lane
- Birch Street SW — Battle Street to Plum Street SW
- Blackstone Terrace NW — Holmes Drive to Lawyers Road
- Charles Street SE — Locust Street to Branch Road
- Cherry Circle SW — Cottage Street to end
- Elmar Drive SE/SW — DeSale Street to Park Street
- Oak Street SW — Birch Street to Center Street
- Symphony Circle SW — Melody Lane to end
- Timber Lane SW — Tapawingo Road to Harmony Drive
Even though it seems like it’s moving slowly, Andrew Jinks, Vienna’s transportation engineer, says the timeline will still be shorter because the town will not have to do the time-consuming work of navigating state and federal regulations.
“That is a significant benefit,” he said. Read More
With coronavirus shutting down most international travel, more emphasis was put on traveling by foot around neighborhoods. In Tysons, that led to temporarily closing a section of Tysons Blvd last year to accommodate more pedestrian traffic.
At the northern end of the area, McLean is also in the process over updating some of its busted sidewalks to help make walking around downtown less of a chore.