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The existing Locust Street Trail pedestrian bridge in Vienna

The Town of Vienna wants to give bicyclists access to a paved path that currently lets pedestrians cut past the Waters and Caffi ballfields behind the community center.

The Locust Street Trail improvement project would replace the narrow existing path with an 8-foot-wide, asphalt shared-use path from Center Street to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, the Department of Public Works told the Vienna Town Council on Monday (Oct. 25).

Town staff pitched the project as part of a request to apply for more than $900,000 in funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Transportation Alternatives program, which gives grants to local projects involving non-motorized travel and infrastructure improvements.

The town council unanimously approved the request, which included $766,439 for the Locust Street Trail project.

“I fully support this project,” Councilmember Chuck Anderson said. “It’s another important bike path in our town, which will allow people like me who go to the W&OD to turn right and get to Town Hall. Maybe I won’t drive so often.”

While this is the first time the project has been brought forward for possible funding, the Locust Street Trail improvements were recommended in the Maple Avenue Corridor Multimodal Transportation and Land Use Study that was completed in fall 2019.

The Maple Avenue Corridor Multimodal Transportation and Land Use Study recommended improving and potentially extending the Locust Street Trail (via Town of Vienna)

The study said improving the path would give pedestrians and cyclists “a viable parallel alternative” to Maple Avenue and increased access to the W&OD Trail.

The study suggests extending the trail to Park Street at the mini traffic roundabout with Locust Street East, but that would require the town to acquire access to privately owned land, Director of Public Works Michael Gallagher says.

In addition to widening the path, the project calls for replacing the existing pedestrian bridge to the W&OD and addressing drainage issues. Right now, standing water renders the path unusable after a typical rainstorm, according to town staff.

The Freeman Store Bridge

The public works department is also reapplying for $155,772 from VDOT to construct a new pedestrian bridge to link the Freeman Store & Museum with the W&OD Trail.

That project has been in the works for five years now after water issues and general deterioration forced Vienna to remove the existing wooden bridge in 2016. The new bridge will be 52.5 feet long and consist of steel and timber, according to engineering plans.

According to Gallagher, the town is now seeking construction contractor bids for a third time. An initial solicitation received no responses, and during the second round, material costs, particularly for lumber, pushed the project over budget.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll get some good bids” this time, Gallagher said.

Vienna already has the Freeman Store bridge funding, but with the money set to expire this month, the town has to reapply to extend the deadline.

Staff initially planned to also request an extension of its VDOT funding for a project to complete the sidewalk on Park Street NE, but that was no longer necessary after they “just received word that that [deadline has] been administratively extended,” Gallagher said.

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Morning Notes

General Assembly to Hold Special Session in August — “Governor Ralph Northam today [Wednesday] issued a proclamation calling the members of the General Assembly into special session on Monday, August 2. A special session is necessary to fill judicial vacancies and allocate more than $4.3 billion in federal relief funding.” [Office of the Governor]

British Pub Opens Doors in Vienna — Hawk & Griffin had a long-awaited soft opening this week for its 435 Maple Avenue West venue, which is now open for reservations and will start allowing walk-ins on Friday (June 25). The British pub has been in the works since February 2020 but delayed opening due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [Patch]

Tysons Boulevard Lane to Close Again — One northbound lane of Tysons Boulevard will be temporarily closed for a second year to give pedestrians and bicyclists access to a half-mile stretch of road in the Tysons Galleria area. The closure will begin on July 6 with no set end date, though it could be reassessed depending on traffic conditions. [Fairfax County Department of Transportation]

Scott’s Run Trail Project Awarded — A new asphalt pedestrian trail and two bridges over Scott’s Run were named Project of the Year for Transportation in the under-$5 million category by the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA). The project started construction in July 2019, and Fairfax County held a ribbon-cutting on Feb. 4. [Fairfax County Park Authority]

Vienna Hosts George Mason University President — GMU President Dr. Gregory Washington will discuss the paradox of Mason’s role as a key figure in American history and as a slaveholder at the Vienna Community Center at 5 p.m. today. The event will also feature a panel discussion as part of the Town of Vienna’s Liberty Amendments Month celebration. [Volunteer Fairfax/Twitter]

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Thursday Morning Notes

Ribbon Cutting Held for New Scotts Run Trail — “Fairfax County leaders on Feb. 4 cut the ribbon for the new Scotts Run Trail, which with serpentine curves connects the Pimmit Hills neighborhood with the McLean Metro station on the eastern edge of Tysons.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Sunrise of McLean Residents Get COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic — Residents and employees of the assisted living community Sunrise of McLean “received their first doses at a clinic hosted by CVS on Jan. 28. Sunrise Senior Living is working to schedule a clinic for second doses within the next few weeks in coordination with CVS Health.” [Patch]

Vienna Inn Prepares 61st Anniversary Celebrations — “To mark the 61st anniversary, Vienna Inn is hoping to achieve a new goal with a 1960 meal challenge. The restaurant hopes to provide 1960 meals for front-line workers and first responders by the end of February.” [Patch]

School Board Criticized for Delaying Decision on New School Holidays — “Religious leaders in Northern Virginia are criticizing the Fairfax County Public School board after some members signaled they won’t back a task force’s recommendation to add…four additional days off to observe Jewish holidays Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Hindu festival Diwali and the Muslim celebration Eid al-Fitr.” [The Washington Post]

Fairfax County Seeks Community Input on Affordable Housing — A public comment period has opened on the one-year and five-year plans that guide Fairfax County’s housing and community development goals and how it spends the roughly $8.5 million in federal funds it receives annually to address community housing and human services needs. [Fairfax County Government]

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A new pedestrian bridge and shared-use trail linking Tysons Corner Center to the McLean Metro station is on track to start construction this summer, the Virginia Department of Transportation says.

The project will introduce a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists over the Capital Beltway, along with a 4,662-foot-long, 10-foot-wide path between I-495 and Route 123 along the west side of Old Meadow Road.

“I think this is going to be a good thing for Tysons,” VDOT Senior Project Manager Abraham Lerner said. “It will continue to go along with the goals of the Board of Supervisors and Fairfax County staff to implement multimodal measures and to try to reduce the dependence on the private automobile.”

This pedestrian and bicycle improvement at the I-495/123 interchange has been in the works for years as part of a commitment that VDOT and Fairfax County made when the Beltway was widened to accommodate toll lanes.

The I-495 Express Lanes project, which was completed in November 2012, called for the addition of pedestrian and bicycle connections throughout the Beltway corridor from Braddock Road in Annandale to Lewinsville Road in McLean.

However, a crossing at the 123 interchange could not be built at the time because of “a number of physical and geometric reasons,” Lerner says. So, Fairfax County and the state committed to constructing one in the future.

About five years ago, VDOT and the county proposed building a trail along Route 123, but the idea drew public criticism given the safety risks of having crosswalks across multiple Beltway ramps, according to Chris Wells, who manages the Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s Active Transportation Program.

Transportation officials then looked at options for building an overhead bridge across I-495 near 123, rather than immediately at the interchange. Old Meadow Road emerged as the most feasible site.

“Because of the design of the Beltway itself and the express lanes, there was only this one location that we found where we could put a bridge pier in the middle of the Beltway,” Wells said. “Otherwise, we were going to have to span the entire Beltway with a larger bridge structure, which would’ve been much more expensive.”

VDOT held a public hearing on the project in June 2018, and the design was approved in November of that year. But Lerner says the right-of-way acquisition process took over nine months to complete, since the project needed land from six different properties.

The Dolley Madison Apartments and Encore Condominiums were affected the most, with residents citing concerns about the loss of trees, the potential impact on security and privacy, and the safety of a path with no separation between cyclists and pedestrians.

“Because of all the concerns, the issues that were raised during the public hearing process, we needed to work with [residents] to make sure we did the right-of-way acquisition in a very thorough manner,” Lerner said.

The public comment process also led VDOT to incorporate lighting in its design for the planned bridge over I-495.

While VDOT has not identified a contractor yet, construction is expected to cost $8.5 million. The project’s total $13.4 million cost has been fully financed with funds from federal, state, and local sources.

Because the path is off-road, Lerner says the only significant traffic impacts will come when crews work on the bridge over the Beltway. Construction is expected to take a year, concluding in the summer of 2022.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said in a statement that she is “delighted” that work on the shared-use path and pedestrian bridge will start this summer.

“This bridge will encourage walking and biking, save time, and reduce automobile traffic and carbon emissions,” Palchik said. “Residents won’t have to jump in their cars to drive and park at the mall, and I’m pleased that VDOT will be installing a lighted bridge. We are grateful to the Old Meadow Road neighborhood who worked with the engineering teams to transition the property and make this bridge happen.”

Image via VDOT

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Friday Morning Notes

Fairfax County Extends Deadline for Real Estate and Vehicle Tax Relief — Seniors over the age of 65, people with permanent disabilities, and renters may be eligible for tax relief. Applicants must file between Jan. 1, 2021 and May 3, 2021, though exceptions may be available if a late filing is due to a hardship which prevented the application from being filed on time. [Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Office]

New Pedestrian Trail at McLean Metro Station Now Open — “The trail starts on Magarity Road, near Westgate Elementary School and the Pimmitt Hills neighborhoods, running through Scott’s Run Stream Valley Park and Westgate Park toward the Metro station. Robin Geiger, a spokesperson for Fairfax County, said the county started construction on the $4.5 million trail in July 2019 and finished this last December.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Chief Medical and Technology Officer for Tysons Nonprofit Discusses COVID-19 Response — “MITRE helped form the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition, a private-sector led response that brings together healthcare organizations, technology firms, nonprofits, academia, and startups to preserve the healthcare delivery system and help protect U.S. populations.” [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

Falls Church Theater Company Offers Scholarships — “Providence Players of Fairfax (PPF) is offering up to (3) $1,500 scholarship opportunities to college-bound, graduating seniors. Application requirements & details are published on the PPF website under About Us- Community Outreach. The application deadline is April 30, 2021.” [Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik/Twitter]

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