Snowy Sidewalks: What’s The Solution For Students?

Snowed-in sidewalk on Ridge Heights Road. Students who walk to school must go through it or in the street.

Last week’s snow is slowly melting in Reston, but not fast enough for sidewalks to be fully clear as students walk to school.

FCPS was in session Monday (and in session with a two-hour delay Tuesday), and dozens of students could be seen making the walk to school such as South Lakes High School, Terraset Elementary and Langston Hughes Middle School, through the snow on unshoveled sidewalks as well as in the street.

All three of those schools are located along Ridge Heights Road, where there are high snowbanks and cars parked along the road, making for a narrow passage. Sidewalks are shoveled in stops and starts. For instance, they are cleared right in front of Hughes and South Lakes, likely shoveled by the school staff, but more than a foot of snow blocks the path in the immediate areas leading to the schools.

The problem seems to be the same at most Reston schools. One Lake Anne Elementary parent calls the situation in front of that school “a nightmare.”

“Our principal was out today, you can tell he was very concerned,” said Shaughessy Pierce, the mother of a second grader. “It is genuinely not safe. There are kids walking from the neighborhoods and the Kiss-and-Ride space is not big enough, so people often park their cars and walk kids in. And it seems none of the Fairway [Apartments] sidewalks were plowed. It is a mess.”

The walking routes are a bit of a hot potato around here. In Reston, Reston Association is responsible for clearing paths. Homeowners Associations are responsible for clearing snow from their neighborhood sidewalks. Most neighborhood associations also pay private contractors to

The problem is, main roads in Reston are neither RA nor homeowners association property. Technically, they are Virginia Department of Transportation streets. And VDOT sticks to clearing roads for vehicles, not sidewalks for walkers.

Says RA:

Reston Association attempts to remove snow from pathways and sidewalks owned by RA within a reasonable time after a snowfall.  Please note that sidewalks and pathways not on RA property, including many found along Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) roads and rights-of-way, are not the responsibility of RA to maintain. Public streets and public rights-of-way are VDOT’s responsibility, but it is RA’s understanding that neither VDOT nor Fairfax County remove snow from public sidewalks.

Please contact VDOT directly for information related to their standards of maintenance and snow removal or to report roads that have been missed (Highway Helpline at 1-800-367-7623).

Private streets not on RA property, such as those located within condominium associations, cluster associations and/or apartment complexes, are generally the responsibility of the applicable owner, condominium association or cluster association. Residents of those facilities should contact their association or property management company.

RA encourages all owners who may have public sidewalks adjacent to their properties to clear these for the safe passage of pedestrians, including school children, persons with disabilities and the elderly.

Meanwhile, FCPS is asking that homeowners pitch in to make the walk to school safer.

“While not legally obligated, residents and businesses are asked to help keep walkways safe for the community – we need your help!,” FCPS said on its Facebook page. “When possible, please clear snow off the sidewalks in front of or next to your property so that pedestrians may walk more safely.”

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