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RA Seeking Community Snow Removal Solutions

by Karen Goff September 18, 2014 at 11:00 am 6 Comments

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.”

  • Dorothea OConnell

    Not going to shovel sidewalks obliterated with 7 feet of snow by VDOT plows.

  • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

    Maybe we can get those goats to piss on the snow and melt it. Kids have been walking to school for years without incident. This is not an RA issue (although I know they love to stick their noses where they don’t belong). RA told me last year that the trash in the streets is VDOT’s responsibility and they can’t seem to get that picked up. So, I doubt anything will be done about snow that has not yet fallen. Another ridiculous waste of energy and time by RA. Doing what they do best.

    • Greg

      Maybe instead of pissing on everything in sight, you could go clear some snow. You seem to be a major tool.

      • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

        Greg,

        You are the tool if you think for one second that RA should be worried about such nonsense.

  • Ken Knueven

    Thank you for this article and we look forward to sharing more information about the activities the board and staff have been working on since February, including the snow summit and snow removal contracts, to prepare for the next snow season. We will be sharing more information about the community meeting/workshop and next steps in this long process in the near future.

  • Kristen

    Just want to send kudos out to RA for the awesome job they did clearing paths amazingly fast last winter. Especially compared to how awful the public sidewalks and W&OD trail were. I remember being amazed that by around 11am after a snow, I could safely walk or run on pretty much any RA trail when everything else was completely covered and icy. If they can reasonably help with other areas, I am all for it. Yes, that’s right, sometimes it’s OK to point out the great things RA does too….

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