‘An Investment in Improving Safety’ in Fairfax City

‘An Investment in Improving Safety’ in Fairfax City

City plans to fill in sidewalk’s missing link.

The new sidewalk will go in front of these houses on the west side of Orchard Drive at Dwight Avenue.

The new sidewalk will go in front of these houses on the west side of Orchard Drive at Dwight Avenue. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.

Orchard Drive is in an attractive neighborhood in the City of Fairfax. But where that street meets Dwight Avenue, there’s no sidewalk on the west side. So the Fairfax City Council is moving forward with plans to construct that missing link.

“It was requested by residents crossing Orchard Drive at Dwight Avenue,” City Engineer Peter Millard told the Council members during a recent work session. “They also want it to be a safe location for school buses doing drop-offs and pick-ups there.”

The proposed plan was distributed for comments to the four residents whose properties will be affected most by this project’s construction. “We got four responses,” said Millard. “Two were for it and two were against.”

The sidewalk will be built entirely in the City’s right-of-way, but temporary construction easements will be required on the private property. So City staff came before Council for guidance on whether to proceed with the project.

“Public Works thinks it’s a good idea because of the school bus stop there,” said Public Works Director David Summers.

Councilman Michael DeMarco said one resident had trouble getting out of his driveway there because of the traffic, and he asked if the residents had requested a stop sign at that intersection.

“In the absence of a sidewalk, we haven’t wanted to consider a stop sign and a crosswalk,” replied Transportation Director Wendy Block Sanford. “But once a sidewalk goes in, we could.”

DeMarco said he favored it, “Especially because of school children waiting for their bus there, on the west side of Orchard, along Dwight Avenue, where there’s no sidewalk.” And Mayor David Meyer said they’d see if there was a consensus among the Council members to move forward with this missing link.

“The design is mostly complete,” said Summers. “The next step is to come to Council for the go-ahead to proceed to bid this project for construction.”

The Council earmarked $50,000 for the sidewalk design in its FY ’16 budget and, to date, $35,383 has been spent. Summers said an additional $75,000 would be needed if this sidewalk is approved for construction.

Councilman Jeff Greenfield asked if there was “a better place for the bus stop,” and Sanford said she could look into that with the school’s superintendent and bus services. However, she added, “This is a missing link, forcing people to walk in the street when the sidewalk ends.”

Meyer asked if the City has the money to do this project, and Sanford said it would be accomplished with 30-percent local funding. “It’s in the City right-of-way, and there are times when the broader issue of the safety of our roads should be paramount,” said Meyer. “And many people – not just those who live there – will use that sidewalk. So I think it’s an investment in improving the overall safety of that intersection – and we’ve said City connectivity is important.”

Councilman Jon Stehle then said he was “comfortable asking staff to prepare the bid package and get community input [on it].” And Summers stressed that staff would come back to the Council twice – once for approval of the bid package and again for the awarding of the construction contract.

The Council members then gave Summers and Sanford the green light to move forward. This matter is anticipated to return to Council again this fall or winter.