The term “multi-modal” is used often to describe a menu of transportation options that may address congestion, air pollution, and other issues in urbanizing communities. Multi-modal options may include auto, bus, train, streetcar, bikeways, sidewalks, and trails.
In Mason District, where many neighborhoods pre-date county sidewalk or trail requirements, work is ongoing to install safer pedestrian access. Several projects have been completed in the past few months, providing safer routes to school, shopping, and employment.
The Route 7 walkway project near the Glen Forest Shopping Center installed more than a quarter mile of five-foot concrete sidewalk and storm drainage improvements along this busy stretch in Culmore. In addition, the project provided modified pedestrian signals, accessible ramps, and new bus shelters. This is one of several spot improvements for pedestrians and bus riders along Route 7.
Last fall, a similar sidewalk was installed just west of Row Street. Now, residents of the area can traverse safely to shopping and worship instead of tiptoeing along a muddy ditch line. New pedestrian signals and a new bus stop at Patrick Henry Drive and Route 7 were part of the overall effort to improve pedestrian safety from the Alexandria City line to the Falls Church City line. Funding for the improvements came from a Transportation Bond approved by the voters in 2007.
In Annandale, more than a half-mile of six-foot asphalt trail was installed along Elmdale Road, just behind the Pinecrest Golf Course. The trail provides a safe and pleasant path connecting Braddock Road and Old Columbia Pike. The project included storm drainage improvements, as well as 1,000 feet of split rail fence and another 790 feet of screening to separate the pedestrians from any errant golf balls! The long, flat topography has long been a favorite of walkers, but the proximity to passing vehicles made any walking or jogging a daunting effort. With the completion of the Elmdale walkway, you can walk more than three-quarters of the area around the golf course. The hardest part still needs to be figured out: engineering, funding, and constructing the final leg of the trail across two waterways and a very hilly topography along Old Columbia Pike.
Not every project is long. One small improvement was the Alpine Drive walkway, an old asphalt path between two neighborhoods that had fallen into disrepair, but still was being used by neighbors to access Columbia Elementary School and the Mason District Park off-leash dog area. Of special concern was the accessibility of the worn pathway for disabled users. Working with Fairfax County Maintenance and Stormwater Management staff, I was able to identify funding, and a contractor was engaged to repave the walkway and improve the connection between the two residential areas.
A similar project, albeit a bit longer and larger, is in the planning stage for McWhorter Place in Annandale.
Walkway projects don’t get publicity like major roadways do, but they can make a big difference for the health and social connections in a community.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]