Work to begin on contentious Vienna sidewalk project this week

Construction is expected to start this week on a sidewalk for Alma Street SE in Vienna (via Google Maps)

A sidewalk is coming to Vienna’s Alma Street SE, whether the residents there want it or not.

Construction to add about 1,500 linear feet of concrete, curb and gutter, driveway aprons, and ramps on the northwest side between Follin Lane and Delano Drive will begin by the end of this week, the Town of Vienna shared on Monday (Aug. 8).

One of many sidewalks in the works as part of Vienna’s Robinson Trust Sidewalk Initiative, the Alma Street project drew some particularly strong opposition from residents along the road, who petitioned against the proposal as it moved through the engineering and design process last year.

The town maintains that the sidewalk is needed for older residents, people with mobility challenges, and anyone else who doesn’t want to walk in the roadway or might benefit from the accompanying ramp, crosswalk and other accessibility improvements.

“The Town believes that sidewalks are an important amenity for residents of a street — and for the community at large,” Department of Public Works Engineer Robert Froh said in an email. “Sidewalks promote good health and pedestrian safety, connect individuals and destinations in the community, support Town businesses and sustainability goals, and enhance the ‘greater good’ of the community — today and in the future.”

A flier dated Aug. 4 that a resident shared with FFXnow said construction would take about three weeks, depending on weather. It will require relocations of water meters for five houses, and homeowners were told to move sprinkler systems and any personal belongings out of the right-of-way.

Street also targeted for Dominion undergrounding project

The resident says they learned earlier this week that Dominion Energy will underground its electric lines, which are on the same side of Alma Street as the incoming sidewalk, leading them to question the location and timing of construction.

Dominion Energy confirmed it has a project for Alma Street SE under its Strategic Underground Program, which focuses on moving its “most outage-prone overhead power lines” underground.

The project is in the process of obtaining easements from residents so the new equipment can be installed and maintained on their properties.

“Once we have all the necessary easements, we will finalize the design plan and work to schedule a timeframe for construction to begin,” said Nadia Ely, a marketing and communications coordinator for the underground program.

Work is unlikely to begin before spring 2023, since there is a construction backlog of approximately nine months, Ely says. The program addresses approximately 300 miles of overhead lines each year, so any projects not completed one year get added to the backlog for the next.

According to Vienna, Dominion’s project will only affect electric lines on the street. The actual utility poles will remain in their current positions, so the undergrounding won’t require the new sidewalk to be dug up.

“The sidewalk project is within the Town right-of-way. The Dominion project is to be constructed mainly within the private properties,” Froh said, noting that the utility company would need a permit from the town to work in the public right-of-way.

An engineering report recommended building the sidewalk on the even-numbered side of Alma Street, because the odd-numbered side has larger, more mature trees, and construction there would damage the underlying root system.

“Though there are more trees to be removed with the sidewalk on the even side of the street, these trees are smaller, in the [Town of Vienna] right-of-way (R/W), and compromised now and in the future by being directly under the utility lines,” Froh wrote.

Photo via Google Maps