To the Editor of Vienna Patch:
The Town Council will be holding a work session on the proposed Capital Improvement Program on Monday night, February 13, 2012. It will not be a public hearing where residents can speak, but the public is welcome to attend.
At Vienna Elementary School, where we have an active Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, we are encouraging parents to let the Town Manager and Council know for the second year in a row that it is time to make completing the sidewalk system in town a priority.
Many people are not aware that Vienna has a Comprehensive Plan which promotes and provides development for, among other things, the health, safety, convenience, and general welfare of its inhabitants. The Comprehensive Plan has included a pedestrian network since at least 1995. This network was originally proposed by a 1991 Pedestrian Task Force and two separate sidewalk committees updated or prioritized it in reports to the Town Council in 1998 and 2008. Sidewalk construction has come in waves in Vienna, but at no time has it appeared that there has been a coordinated effort to complete the proposed pedestrian network.
Anyone who walks in Vienna is aware that we have fragmented sidewalks, sidewalks to nowhere, and even large dead-zones with no sidewalks at all. Between the two elementary schools that have developed Safe Routes to School Travel Plans — Vienna Elementary and Cunningham Park Elementary — there are still 30 blocks in the walking areas that have no sidewalks. There are many more if you include the town's other elementary schools.
It is puzzling why the town still has no time frame to complete a sidewalk system. Since at least 1956 Fairfax County has required sidewalks on at least one side of every street in “Suburban Residential” subdivisions. Since at least 1957 the National Safety Council has recommended that sidewalks be constructed on both sides of residential streets noting the safety benefits to children and the elderly. Since at least the late 1960s, Vienna-area subdivisions have been built with sidewalks on both sides of the street. Tysons Corner, one of the most pedestrian unfriendly places one could find, has a plan to transform into a walkable, sustainable urban center by 2050.
Vienna's pedestrian "plan" is a prioritized sidewalk list that brings us up to 1956 standards. There are no time frames for completion and no long term dedicated funding sources. Some progress has been made building sidewalks with the assistance of state and federal grants in recent years, but estimates based on figures from the Department of Public Works indicate that it will take over 67 years to complete the proposed sidewalk system at recent funding levels even if the town receives grants to cover half of all construction costs. Even with rosy assumptions we are on pace to reach 1956 sidewalk standards by 2080 - over 120 years behind the times.
It is evident that the town's tax base is growing as smaller homes are being torn down and newly-constructed homes are taxed at two, three, or more times the amount of what they replaced. The town benefits from increased tax revenue without the need to build new infrastructure or to provide additional services. A portion of this growing revenue should be dedicated to making Vienna a walkable community with the goal of meeting 1956 residential sidewalk standards by at least 2030 and modern design standards by 2050 to coincide with the Tysons Plan goals.
Please take a moment to send an email to the Town Manager and Town Council to let them know it is time to have a funded plan to complete the sidewalk system in town. Send your emails to:
Vienna Elementary School Safe Routes to School Committee