Tonight’s RA Snow Summit to Look at Shared Solutions

Reston Association snow patrol/Credit: RAThere could be 12 inches of snow all winter in Reston. Or there could be six snowstorms with 12 inches each.

You never know, and that is why Reston Association is working on getting the whole community prepared.

The community is invited to join reps from RA, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) and Fairfax County at the first “Snow Summit” Thursday at 6 p.m. at RA Headquarters, 12001 Sunrise Valley Dr.

Last winter was unusually snowy in Reston, with 11 FCPS snow days. But even after the snow fell, there was confusion among community members as to who was responsible for what: What is RA’s responsibility? What is VDOT’s? Is it right to ask residents to help clear sidewalks so children don’t have to walk to school in the street?

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 over the summer. “The source of the problem is often VDOT, Fairfax County, or contractors or clusters undoing or not doing a coordinated effort on snow removal.”

With the Silver Line now open, that also adds another level of accessibility issues at near Wiehle-Reston East.

While RA plows its 55 miles of paths, it does not shovel sidewalks unless they are on RA property. RA’s attorney explained at a meeting last winter that RA cannot shovel spots it does not own because of liability issues.

RA has recently 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 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. 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.”

Photo: RA path plows/File photo

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