RA Seeking Community Snow Removal Solutions

A pedestrian avoids the snow by walking near traffic at Sunset Hills and Wiehle Avenue/Credit: Bruce WrightIf the winter of 2014-15 is at all like last winter, Reston residents will be shoveling lots of snow.

Reston Association is taking steps now to ensure that it is a community effort with results that enable residents get where they need to go.

While RA plows its 55 miles of paths, it does not shovel sidewalks unless they are on RA property. This led to complaints from RA members last winter as students walked to school in the street rather than on shoveled sidewalks and an explanation from RA’s attorney that RA cannot shovel spots it does not own because of liability issues.

In February, the RA Board authorized staff and legal counsel to discuss with Fairfax County officials whether RA could plow county-owned pathways in Reston. The board also tasked several RA committees with developing a community-wide snow removal mobilization.

RA has since drafted an agreement with the county that would grant RA the legal right to work on paths crucial to access to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station. RA would be permitted to plow or provide other minor maintenance such as pruning or pothole repair. RA would not be responsible for major repair or capital replacement.

RA is also seeking a permit from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to remove snow from VDOT sidewalks adjacent to RA property.

VDOT is responsible for plowing most public streets in Reston. It does not, however, shovel sidewalks, leading to a bit of a game of hot potato when it comes to shoveling. Some community members pitched in to shovel sidewalks near their subdivisions last winter, but it was far from 100-percent participation.

“Recognizing VDOT does not provide any snow removal on its sidewalks, if RA removes snow from VDOT sidewalks adjacent to RA property, but other adjoining property owners (individuals, clusters, condos) do not, there will be a very obvious discontinuation of cleared sidewalks at many locations throughout Reston,” RA documents state.

“If RA were to clear the sidewalks adjacent to its own properties, it would add approximately 5.6 miles to its snow removal inventory, although only half of those are VDOT owned. The other half are either owned by Fairfax County or unknown.  Additionally, most of the additional work will require the use of a snow blower and hand shoveling. The additional clearing would extend RA’s response time at least an extra day to remove an average snowfall.”

Even if RA does the extra shoveling, it won’t solve all the area’s snow woes. That is why RA is planning a “Snow Summit” for November. The goals of the meeting are to help educate the community about the shared responsibility for snow removal and create opportunities for grassroots collaboration and planning on a local level for improved snow removal solutions, RA says.

The idea was the suggestion of at-large board member Rachel Muir.

“We know that RA always does a remarkable job with our trails; they are usually the first places open during a snowfall and the best maintained,” she said in a memo to board members. “The source of the problem is often VDOT, Fairfax County, or contractors or clusters undoing or not doing a coordinated effort on snow removal.”

Muir said she would like to see all Reston-area schools host a meeting and “solicit participation from representatives from all the parties responsible for roadways and sidewalks and paths in the area surround each school. RA and/or Fairfax County would supply a map for a one mile radius for each school and, working together with other responsible parties, identify who has the responsibility for what path, road or sidewalk. We could identify gaps and make sure that everyone knows their role and responsibility.”

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