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Letter To The Editor: Time For A Funded Sidewalk Plan

Resident says Vienna needs to complete town's sidewalk network with more urgency

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 , where we have an active Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, we are encouraging parents to let the Town Manager and Council know 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 — 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:

Manager@viennava.gov
Council@viennava.gov

Thank you,

Sean McCall
Vienna Elementary School Safe Routes to School Committee

Becky February 11, 2012 at 11:29 AM
I agree, the older homes go up for sale and get torn down and replaced with large mansions which most of the time sit unoccupied for months. This money could be well spent on providing adequate sidewalks for safety of children and adults.
SCJ February 11, 2012 at 04:08 PM
When they did the Vienna and Cunningham surveys/plans, there were some simple changes that didn't even involve sidewalks - some were just stop signs so kids could cross the road safely. I can't imagine why those recommendations aren't being done? I don't know how much is involved in adding a stop sign, but surely it is much cheaper than a sidewalk?
Sean McCall February 11, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Someone has to bring those recommendations to the Transportation Safety Commission (TSC) for review so the Council or the Department of Public Works can take action. This would certainly be true of stop sign request. The town has implemented several projects in the Vienna Elementary Travel Plan. The firehouse sidewalks and other safety improvements near the Community Center, new crosswalks on Cottage St, and intersection improvements at Center & Ayrhill were all either initiated by or supported by the Vienna Elementary Safe Routes to School Committee at TSC and Council public hearings. In addition to advocating for more aggressive sidewalk funding, we are also currently supporting pedestrian improvements to the intersection of Park and Locust. The TSC recently concluded public hearings on this intersection and their recommendations will likely be the subject of a Council public hearing sometime in the near future. Parents who want to see pedestrian improvements around their schools need to get involved in their school SRTS programs to help advocate for these projects. I recommend that anyone who is interested contact your school's PTA President.
SCJ February 11, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Thanks, I guess I misunderstood what the survey/plan was saying. if you read this: http://www.viennava.gov/DocumentView.aspx?DID=692 you will see that it clearly states "Immediate if approved by TOV/TSC" under action plan. So what do we need to do as citizens to get it approved? I admit that it's hard for me to understand the correct procedures.
Wien February 12, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Sitting for months? Not sure where you've been looking, but almost every new home in the Park/Center/Battle area is being sold before the foundation is even poured. Many developers aren't even building until the lot and future house is sold, and there's been no shortage of buyers. Do you think Town money is going to building new four-bedroom "mansions"...what money is being used for private development that could magically build sidewalks?
Sean McCall February 12, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Someone would need to contact the TSC and find out the current procedures for requesting a stop sign. The Citizens Guide to Traffic Calming (which appears to be a draft copy of this document) indicates that a petition is required: http://www.viennava.gov/index.aspx?NID=784
Sean McCall February 12, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Wien - the additional revenue comes from increased tax assessments on the redeveloped properties. If a $600,000 home is replaced with a $1.6 million dollar home the tax assessment will almost certainly go up. The cost to the town in supplying services, maintaining roads, etc does not change. This is different from the kind of development that was more common in the past with infill subdivisions. In my part of town there are 3 such cul-de-sac subdivisions within 2 blocks. When these homes were built the town became responsible for maintaining the new streets and related infrastructure and for providing services for more residents.

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