(From right) Karen Caruth, mother of first-grader Cleary Caruth, thanks Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, and Bob Fuqua, the school’s principal, for making progress on the sidewalk projects. Foust told Cleary to email him photos of her riding her bike on the sidewalks once they are finished.
Photo by Fallon Forbush.
McLean Two preliminary designs for new sidewalk on Kirby Road connecting pedestrians to Chesterbrook Elementary School were presented to the community on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at a public meeting in the school’s cafeteria.
The final design will be completed in 2017, land required for the projects will be acquired in 2018 and construction will start and finish in 2019.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s projects will construct new curb, gutter, sidewalks and drainage improvements along two blocks on the south side of Kirby Road. The walkways would stretch from the elementary school to Halsey Road and from Halsey Road to Franklin Avenue.
While the projects will take three more years, residents have already been asking for sidewalks for years because it isn’t safe for students to walk to school without them.
“We are so excited for the sidewalks,” says Karen Caruth, mother of Cleary Caruth who is in the first grade at the elementary school. “It’s too dangerous now. People drive too fast and there’s a big ditch.”
John Foust, Dranesville District Supervisor, who attended the meeting, agrees that the “pedestrian situation is dangerous.”
Some children do walk, but they’re usually with parents, says Bob Fuqua, who has been the principal of the Chesterbrook Elementary School for the last 18 years. “Every child has a bus route, not everyone takes the bust but they have one to ride.”
Once there are sidewalks, Fuqua says he will reconsider the bus routes. But that won’t be for several more years.
“If sidewalks were easy, it would have been done a long time ago,” says Foust.
The Virginia legislature passed a transportation funding bill in 2013, which created more funding, says Foust. “We did a six-year planning process for how to spend and prioritize the funding and these sidewalks came up to high priority.”
The challenge now for these projects is that space is tight and the walkways will run off of the county’s right-of-ways and into residential property that will require easements and land acquisition from homeowners.
“The county’s right-of-way is inadequate in some areas,” says Latesa Turner, project manager and engineer for the FCDT. “We will work with property owners to come up with an amenable agreement.”
Since space is so limited, one of FCDOT’s preliminary plans would stray from its standard walkway design that requires five-foot wide sidewalks and 4-foot wide grass buffers, says Turner.
Instead, the sidewalks would be six-foot wide with no buffers.
“We will pursue [this option], unless VDOT deems it unjustifiable,” says Turner.
The county also has a second preliminary design that uses typical sidewalk standards.
“We removed the buffer in order to remove impact to adjacent properties,” says Turner. “We would need a waiver from typical design from the Virginia Department of Transportation.”
The 14 residents who attended the meeting did not show concern during the public Q-and-A session. Feedback was also solicited through online and paper submission forms.
“This is our first shot, so we’re looking forward to hearing what people have to say,” says Turner.