|Article Prepared By Robert Michie
Trails and Sidewalks Committee, Lee District
Last Reviewed: 3 February 2007
A citizen committee recently asked Fairfax County to complete a sidewalk connection along School Street in the Pen Daw Neighborhood. This connection will finish a pedestrian pathway from Telegraph Road to North King's Highway. The objective is to allow safe passage of pedestrians along one of the two residential street connections between Telegraph Road and South Kings Highway that allow two-way traffic. The Shafer Lane-School Street network is a heavily used shortcut for vehicles traversing between two heavily-used secondary roads. It is also used by vehicles and pedestrians bound for the Huntington Metro Station, which is less than a mile away.
Exhibit 1a shows the west side (Telegraph Road) part of the sidewalk network. Starting at Telegraph Road, sidewalks run from Florence Lane through Shaffer Drive and up through the lower segment of School Street. The sidewalks (which are on both sides of the street) abruptly end as shown, which is the boundary of a development completed in the early 1990's. Note the location of Browne Academy in the center top of the map, which was the subject of a Trail Waiver in 2007.
Exhibit 1b shows the east side (North King's Highway) part of the sidewalk network. The red line shows the location of the proposed sidewalk. The track is a moderately steep hill, but no problem for cars or pedestrians. Traffic is two-way, and parking is allowed on both sides of the street. Pedestrians must walk in the street, and weave around parked cars and moving traffic as best they can.
Two features are highlighted in Exhibit 1b. Feature 1 is a short sidewalk connection crossing a traffic barrier between Shaffer Drive and Poag Street. This sidewalk allows individuals living in the southern part of Pen Daw to walk on sidewalks to North King's Highway and the Metro Station. Feature 1, however, does nothing for the residents of the northern section of the area. Feature 2 is a short paved path from School Street to the Mount Eagle Elementary School. This path is used daily throughout the school year, but it has the major disadvantage of terminating on a busy street, rather than a sidewalk.
Exhibit 1b shows School Street to be almost a skiing chicane for both motorists and pedestrians. The curve of the road along with parked vehicles limits visibility and forces all users to proceed with caution. Cars and pedestrians appear and disappear to each other as the area is traversed. There are speed bumps present at the very bottom of School Street (Exhibit 1a, west of the "sidewalk ends" mark), but nothing like them in the Exhibit 1b area. Pen Daw is a particularly valuable resource of affordable housing and mostly owner occupied. The nature of the neighborhood means that the residents travel on foot just as often as they use vehicles.
School Street is an interior residential street. While it is unfair that
Lee District and Mount Vernon District traffic use it as a traverse between
two major roads, its nature does keep vehicle movement below 30 miles per
hour. Adding a sidewalk will be a significant improvement for the Pen Daw
community, but building it is going to be a very expensive proposition for
Fairfax County, as the Field Check shows.
Field Check 2 February 2008:
Placing the sidewalk will be a problem Every property in Exhibit 1b west of Pine Grove Circle and on the north side of the street has a retaining wall of some sort within ten feet of the curb. The utility poles and the fire hydrants are also in the way. Major excavation, landscaping, and mitigation await every homeowner.
Construction on the south side of the street will be easier, but only to Pine Grove Circle. The situation is reversed: the heavily banked yards are now on the south side. The utility poles also switch to the south side east of Breezy Terrace. It appears that the sidewalk will have to cross the street at Pine Grove Circle in order to keep construction costs and property disturbance to a minimum.
The local Pen Daw Sidewalk Committee has nearly 100% buy-in from the property owners along the north side of School Street. Fairfax County, unfortunately, estimates a minimum of $400,000 to build a sidewalk along the north side of School Street (Exhibit 1b). That amount is a significant fraction of all the sidewalk money that Fairfax County has for the foreseeable future. The Trails and Sidewalks Committee and the Pedestrian Task Force have already identified projects that have to get a higher priority than School Street.
I recommend that the Pen Daw Committee and Fairfax County consider the following actions to improve pedestrian access to School Street:
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