The Vienna Town Council approved a $1.3 million construction project to improve drainage and add sidewalks along certain portions of Lewis Street N.W. Monday night, a discussion that raised broader questions from residents about the town's long-term strategy for "complete streets."
The project, , was largely intended to address longstanding flooding issues that have existed since at least 2002, Mayor Jane Seeman said at Monday night's meeting; one resident argued the "Lewis Street River" has flowed much longer than that, perhaps "since the beginning of time."
It will put an underground storm drainage system from Knoll Street to West Street N.W., building continuous curb and gutter on both sides of Lewis Street N.W. between Lewis and a portion of West Street.
Assistant Director of Public Works Mike Gallagher said those improvements, along with widening the road from 18 to 24 feet and installing sidewalks along certain segments of Lewis Street, will redirect water away from residents' properties and also create a safer walking route for neighbors, particularly those trying to get to
The sidewalks will run along both sides of Lewis Street N.W. between West and Orchard Streets N.W., but only on the east side of Lewis Street N.W. between Orchard and Knoll Streets N.W. It will not reach Maple Avenue. For a map, click through the media player above.
Some residents disagreed with which side of Lewis Street the project planned sidewalks, along with its removal of 24 trees and relocation of several power poles.
Gallagher said crews would save 27 trees and replant 40 new trees after the project was finished.
But more residents spoke in favor of the project, also arguing the town should install full sidewalks along both sides of the street instead of continuing to lay down fragments. Residents from outside the neighborhood, representing Vienna Elementary and Marshall Road Elementary School Safe Routes To School (SRTS) programs, also spoke to offer their support for sidewalks across Vienna as a whole.
"The long-term vision needs to be sidewalks on both side of the street ... for beyond how long I’m going to live there and how long most of us are going to be there," said Paul Suh, a resident of Lewis Street. "Yeah, we should have trees on both sides, but 20 years from now, 30 years from now, 50 years from now, those trees are going to be gone. I'm unsure about whether this is the best plan for the street."
Council members said they received a number of emails about the project, many of them asking about the 100 and 200 blocks of Lewis Street, between Maple and Windover Avenues down to Knoll Street.
Public Works Director Dennis Johnson said those blocks were eligible for a separate funding source from the Virginia Department of Transportation, along with a Federal Highway Administration grant, and would likely be developed with using those separate funds.
Residents also asked the council to consider exploring other ways to reduce speed on the road, used by many local drivers as a cut-through alternative to Maple Avenue during rush hour. The town created a four-way stop within the last two years, but residents say it hasn't done much to curb racing commuters.
"They just stop faster," one said.