The Falls Church Planning Commission Tuesday night gave unanimous 6-0 approval to recommend to the City Council adoption of a comprehensive W&OD Park master plan for the three-mile stretch of the former rail line turned bike and pedestrian trail that cuts through the City of Falls Church. Beautification to become “The City’s Greenest Street,” signage, plaza upgrades and added benches along the route would be augments by two main new features: a plaza at Park and West with a range of possible components, and a new, safer crossing at Route 29.
The plaza at Park and West, in the plan OK’d Tuesday, is nondescript, but could be enhanced to include a shelter and even a replica of the former train station that used to be there, with possible restroom facilities. However, according to F.C. Principal Planner Paul Stoddard, some of the proposed options have run afoul of citizen opposition, so for now the plan will be lacking any such attributes, which remain listed in the back of the plan as options for the future.
On the crossing at Route 29, which is now one of the few potential hazards on the entire W&OD route, the current plan involves diverting the trail to that it crosses Route 29 at Gresham Place rather than at the more dangerous current crossing which is used by most motorists as an on-ramp to I-66. The re-routing would be designed just past where the Four Mile Run stream intersects with the W&OD east of Little Falls St., and it would take the trail behind the Fire Station and parallel with the stream to the intersection of Rt. 29 and Gresham Place, where a crossing would be designed similar to the one where the W&OD Trail crosses Maple Avenue in downtown Vienna.
Once across Rt. 29 to the east, the trail would cut between Gresham Place and the stream, with the addition of a bridge to cross to the north of the stream to leave a pedestrian trail there as is. It would then come back across the stream at Van Buren Street and reconnect with the existing route.
The City Council is expected to take up the question of its approval of the plan at its March 8 meeting. Eighty percent of the funding for the entire project, an estimated $4.4 million, will be paid for by grants, leaving the cost to the City of $900,000 to be spent over at least two years.