With recent months’ Falls Church City Council discussions of the first two blocks of Park Avenue in the City being spruced up with federal “Great Streets” funds, residents a couple of blocks further up decided it was time for them to step up with a more pressing concern. A “sidewalk to nowhere” on the northside of the 400 block of Park Ave. leaves all who use it having to brave the hazards of stepping into the vehicular traffic on the street in order to proceed with their travel.
Two petitions with a total of almost 100 signatures were presented to the Falls Church City Council at its meeting Tuesday night and a contingent of citizens, including families with young children, attended the meeting to petition for action.
The initiative was launched by Brian Williams, a local businessman and resident, who lives in the 400 block in question. The sum of the case, in front of 408 Park, the sidewalk simply ceases to exist, and stays that way until it is resumed at the Cherry Hill Park a block away.
Anyone walking on that sidewalk is forced to walk into the street, either to continue walking in the street or to cross it to the south side.
“We’re dedicated to improving walkability in all parts of the City, and along with City money that we have set aside, we have applied for state “smart and scale” funding to help with this issue,” City Manager Wyatt Shields said Tuesday. He said while it may take years for the state funding to arrive, City Hall is aware of the problem and preliminary engineering plans are being made now that should include a schedule for the work within a week using the City money.
The City has right-of-way access to the property over which an extension of the sidewalk will have to occur.
As there is also a bus stop by where the sidewalk suddenly turns to the street and stops, it presents even further liability for young people boarding school buses.
Among the people appealing to the Council on the issue Tuesday was former F.C. Mayor Jeff Tarbert, who lives in the 400 block, and two families on N. Virginia Avenue whose children joined in presenting testimony.
Mayor David Tarter said that the improvement will conform with the City’s commitment to walkability and traffic calming, and Councilman Dan Sze said that the work may be impacted by shortages in Public Works Department staff resources.
Shields confirmed that two key personnel in that department have left for other jobs in the region, including Jason Widstrom, who has moved to Arlington, and James Mack, who has taken a position with WMATA, creating a manpower shortage that may delay the timetable for the project.
In other developments at Tuesday’s Council meeting:
• Tarbert, the City’s current representative on the Nova Parks Board, said that a memorandum of understanding is being crafted with the City on the dual trail (one trail for bikes and another for walking) program on the W&OD Trail that will extend from W&OD bridge across Broad Street to the new bridge going up across Rt. 29 in Arlington.
• F.C. Chief Financial Officer Kirwan Bawa presented the first quarter (July through September) financial report for the City’s general fund, showing “mixed results,” she said, with revenues a half-percent below projections even as meals and sales taxes numbers were up. Shields said that “it is not a big revenue year coming up,” as plans develop for the beginning of the next budget cycle with a joint Council and School Board meeting on Dec. 3. Bawa observed that Arlington has projected only a 1.5 percent revenue growth next year (as Amazon will take 10 years to roll out), and cautioned that the nation is in its 10th year of economic recovery such that a recession is now due.
• Mary Riley Styles Public Library chief Jenny Carroll reported that the library will not be closed during its renovation next year, and that trailers now not in use at Thomas Jefferson Elementary are being considered as a temporary relocation.
• The Council unanimously approved a new deal with WMATA for $845,000 funding over two years to restart the 3T bus line down Broad Street between the East and West Falls Church Metro stations, cut by WMATA for funding reasons three years ago. The service is due to be restarted in the first week of January 2019.
• A demographic trends report by Lisa Sturdevant Company was presented which showed a population increase in the City of 715 in the year between July 1, 2016 and 2017. The millenial population is growing faster than in the region overall, with an increasing percentage of new residents being non-white, though the City is 72 percent white, overall, compared to the regional average of 53 percent. There has been a 5.3 percent decline in households with children between 2011 and 2016, the only decline in the region. In the same time frame, households with people living alone surged by 20.8 percent, by far the highest increase in the region, so now one in four households in the City is someone living alone under the age of 65.