While the Falls Church City Council is proceeding this summer to upgrade its two-year work plan, something it hopes to complete next month sometime, new adds to the plan include an item to “develop a plan, with new resources, for Council review and funding approval to allow the City to rapidly execute smaller safety improvements in response to resident concerns.”
City Manager Wyatt Shields, recouping from a broken left forearm suffered during a biking accident last week, told the Council that the City’s small staff tends to allow its attention to focus only on big projects involving grant funding to the exclusion of often much smaller improvements needed that can make a big difference in public safety.
So, an item addressing that has been added to the “Safe and Complete Streets for Mobility and Accessibility” chapter of the work plan, as well as an item to install new bike lane facilities whenever a City street is repaved.
Shields noted in that section that transportation funds may be limited in the coming period as WMATA faces a “fiscal cliff” with the end of ARPA (American Recovery Plan) funding set up to address the economic challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In this context, the new work plan will include “consideration of adoption of a new commercial and industrial tax for transportation improvements” in the next budget cycle.
Vice Mayor Letty Hardi set forth a three-part prioritization approach to the work plan overall that would cover the ongoing need to address racial equity issues, a concern to track ongoing trends in the office market (she noted the Bloomberg study showing that there has been no appreciable rebound in the office market since the pandemic), to protect and enhance bike lanes in the City and to better address issues of residential parking.
She noted, for example, that on Park Avenue alone, there are four different signs with different hourly parking limits.
The two-year work plan, consisting of 63 individual goals and objectives, is revisited every two years by the Council as “one of several guides for development and administration of the City” in addition to the annual budget, the Capital Improvement Program (CIP), the Comprehensive Plan, Small Area Plans and master plans. It involves “advisory board and commission members and senior staff and the City Council in identifying a short list of policies and projects as the most important to deliver over the next two years in order to advance the vision and goals of the City, exclusive of major development projects, CIP projects and other normal business of the City.”
It is guided by the City’s Vision Statement adopted in April 2017 that set forth the City as a “welcoming and inclusive community, a special place in the heart of Northern Virginia, where involved citizens are key to the City’s long-term success as a leader in education, environmental sustainability, multi-modal transportation and vibrant economic development,” adding, “By investing in neighborhoods, community services and facilities, schools and parks, the City preserves small-town character and history while honoring a deep commitment to progress and a growing community,” with “the continual rejuvenation of robust commercial areas that support the City’s high quality of life for all its citizens.”
The chapters of the two-year plan include “Small Town Character in an Urban Setting,” “Economic Sustainability and Vitality,” “Safe and Complete Streets for Mobility and Accessibility,” “Public Health and Public Safety,” “Environmental Sustainability and Leadership,” “Inclusiveness and Social Sustainability” (including plans to preserve and expand affordable housing), “Effective and Responsive Government Services” and “Partnership for Education.”
The list of over 60 action items in the plan suggests a lot that is still to be done around town, including interesting new items such as implementation of the Smart Cities grant in coordination with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, VDOT and private developers at the West Falls project which will apply $10 million in state funding to bring emerging technologies in transportation innovation to this district.
The item to “complete the final design for the Park Avenue Great Streets project (undergrounding utilities, installation of streetscape along Park Avenue from the State Theater to the Library and the award of a construction contract for this project,” is now 30 percent complete and will be augmented by a public walking tour of the street set for Monday, August 1, at 6 p.m.