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Votes

Fairfax Council Takes Care of Business

Deals with broken gas line, transportation issues.

Transportation and a gas-line replacement were among the items dealt with by the Fairfax City Council at its Jan. 28 meeting.

A leaking gas line at the City property yard was discovered in early November 2013. As it turned out, the 40-year-old gas line had burst between the gas meter by the fleet garage and the sign-and-signal building.

Tests confirmed that a significant amount of gas was leaking, but Washington Gas is just responsible for leaks up to the meter. That left the City responsible for the nearly 475 feet of gas line after the meter.

Once the whole line was located, more leaks plus further deterioration were discovered at several spots throughout the length of the line – including sites where it had been repaired previously. The work was beyond the capabilities of the City’s on-call plumbing contractor, who recommended Magnolia Plumbing.

Because of the safety risks involving the leaking gas and no heat or hot water for employees, Magnolia was asked to provide a fee proposal to start the repairs immediately. It requested $84,200. The City also checked with two other contractors, who each wanted some $10,000 more to do the same job.

Rather than try to seek out any other leaks and patch up the decades-old gas line, the City decided it would be wiser to replace the whole 475 feet. The new line will be a few feet from the abandoned line and will be constructed of the latest, approved, gas-line materials.

At the Jan. 28 meeting, the Council approved payment of the $84,200 to Magnolia Plumbing. The money was transferred from the General Fund to the Capital Improvement Projects Fund.

Right-of-Way Transfer

In the realm of transportation, the Council voted unanimously to ask VDOT to transfer a section of public road it owns to the City’s ownership. This action would transfer the right-of-way for the portion of the Route 50 (Fairfax Boulevard) frontage road between Pickett Road and Fairfax Circle that the City maintains, but doesn’t own.

The commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) will have final approval of the City’s request. Councilman David Meyer asked how long it would take to get this request to the CTB, and City Transportation Director Wendy Block Sanford replied, “Once it goes to VDOT, it can be scheduled almost immediately with the CTB.”

Money from NVTA

The Council also voted to authorize City Manager Robert Sisson to enter into an agreement with the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) regarding distribution of funds to the City. According to the recent transportation package passed by the General Assembly, 30 percent of new revenues received by the NVTA shall be distributed on a pro-rata basis to each participating city or county.

That means the City of Fairfax must establish a local fund for this money and its 30-percent share from the NVTA in Fiscal Year 2014 will be approximately $1.2 million. This money can only be used for:

  • Urban or secondary road construction,

  • Capital improvements that reduce congestion,

  • Transportation capital improvements in NVTA’s most recent long-range transportation plan, or

  • Public transportation purposes.

Regarding road construction, Councilman Michael De Marco asked if the money had to be spent on new construction. “Yes,” answered Sanford. “It can’t be used for maintenance.”

Replacing SmarTrip

The Council also approved having the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) act on the City’s behalf to coordinate its participation in the New Electronic Payment Program (NEPP). The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority wants to replace the existing SmarTrip fare-collection system with NEPP, which is expected to be operational regionwide by December 2020.

Participating transit operators in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia are being asked to jointly test the new system, starting now. The City’s cost to participate in these efforts is $2,025, which can be paid by the NVTC Trust Fund.

After that, the City will have to pay approximately $4,000 annually for the next five years for technical assistance. It will also incur costs for the NEPP technology beginning in Fiscal Year 2016.

“What’s the practical result of this,” asked Councilman Daniel Drummond.

“The idea is to move away from the SmarTrip card to using your SmartPhone or other, off-the-shelf technology, instead,” replied Sanford. “The testing phase would start immediately. But there’s a lot that has to be done before this can be implemented.”