Post #385: Final item on tonight’s agenda: $8M in public works spending, CORRECTED 9/19/2019

Posted on September 16, 2019

Correction added 9/19/2019

Those who attend enough Town Council meetings eventually realize that items at the very end of the agenda rarely get much discussion.  By the time midnight rolls around, nobody wants to prolong the meeting.  And so … I get the feeling that Town staff use that strategically.  What they are looking for, in an end-of-the-agenda item, is a pro-forma rubber stamp from Town Council, with minimal discussion.

So now, when I see a seemingly innocuous item, with a bland and uninformative title, last on the agenda — I make a point of looking closely at it.

Here’s the link to the last item for tonight, titled “Approval of VDOT Revenue Sharing and Transportation Alternatives Resolutions

Reading that, would you guess that’s how the Town of Vienna is planning to spend a little over $8M in taxpayer money?  Granted, most of it will be Somebody Else’s Money, largely from VDOT and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.   Most of that money derives, I think, from special transportation taxes on commercial property, and maybe some share of the I-66 tolls.

But even if it’s mostly somebody else’s money, that’s still a lot of money for what otherwise appears to be a little nondescript item at the end of a long agenda.

So let’s look under the hood.

I’ve sorted the individual projects in that agenda item from most to least expensive.  In aggregate, $6.7M is for road repaving and sidewalks (items A – D).   Another half-million or so is for another mini-roundabout.  And the last two are what I would term purely walking/biking items.


The first four items (A – D) are nominally sidewalks.   For item A, there are no sidewalks on (most of) that stretch of road now.  But for B, C, and D there is an asphalt path or sidewalk on one side of the road.  In all cases, a substantial fraction of the cost is for completely repaving the road.  

All told, that’s $6.7M (of mostly other-people’s-money), for repaving four stretches of road and adding sidewalks.  Of those, three already have some sort of pedestrian pathway.

Project A strikes me as a road with light-to-nonexistent pedestrian traffic.  It’s not a cut-through — Glyndon dead-ends at Valley Road.  By eye, looking at the map, there are maybe 40 houses, total, for which that route is the logical walking route to get to Maple.  I wonder if anyone has ever done any pedestrian traffic count, before deciding that road has priority for sidewalks?

This stretch of sidewalk was in the lowest-priority sidewalk group (Group 3) in the 2009 Town of Vienna sidewalk priority list document.  Sidewalk list

A reader who lives in that area emailed me the following correction, and I’ll include it here:  Echols-Branch-Cabin-Glyndon is a popular cut-through, particularly when Locust backs up from Park past Glyndon. When it does – although not every day like it did pre-roundabout – a significant amount of cut-through traffic diverts from Branch over across Cabin to Glyndon. Then Glyndon backs up to the intersection with Locust. At times the cut-through works the other direction as well.  Also, it’s possible that kids on Glyndon are classified as “walkers” for VES. Certainly a number of them do.


Weirdly, although we now have a Pedestrian Master Plan, the Town of Vienna no longer seems to publish an actual list of sidewalks and their priority.  The task of prioritizing the sidewalks falls to Pubic Works (per the Pedestrian Master Plan), but I sure can’t find any current list of sidewalk priorities on the Town of Vienna website.

And all of which leads me wonder how sidewalks are chosen now.  Duly noted, I could find no information the Town of Vienna website in this regard, other than a general description of the process in the Pedestrian Master Plan.

Item E is $550,000 for another mini-roundabout, this time at the east end of Church, where it dead-ends on East Street.  While I clearly understood (and experienced) the need for the first one (Park and Locust), and applaud the Town for fixing that, I’m not seeing anything remotely similar at Church and East.  Even during rush hour, I’ve never had the least problem turning in either direction at that intersection.  So I wonder why this gets priority over (e.g.) other sidewalks.

Item F is a connector trail that would connect two existing trails in the Town of Vienna.  I don’t use the trails there and so have no opinion about it.

Item G is $300,000 for four Capital Bikeshare racks.  This is what got me interested in this item, as I am convinced that the Capital Bikeshare racks will be a near-total waste of money.   I’ll address that in a separate posting.