News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Soapstone May Not Be Ready for that New-Fangled "Sidewalk" Technology

concrete sidewalk.pngHey, remember that time they were going to put this modern, cutting-edge conveyance called a "side walk" along Soapstone Drive in South Reston? Yeah, that was awesome. But this may have been one of those "too far, too fast" sort of situations -- kind of like jumping from black-and-white television with rabbit ears to HDTV -- so now they're thinking about building a trail instead.

The project will remove about 35 parking spots and will require the county to get both temporary and permanent easements to build the sidewalk on property owned by clusters or other landowners. County planners said they would begin the design phase of the project in a few short weeks and land acquisition, final design and construction would take place between the spring and fall of 2011.

The discussion took a new turn when area residents began discussing possible ways to keep the parking spots. Residents who live in the clusters where the sidewalk is being built said it would be best to keep the parking. John Farrell of Colonial Oaks suggested the clusters on the east side of the road provide an additional 12 feet of land to be used to keep the parking spaces and add a paved trail instead of a concrete sidewalk.

Reston Association Board Member Kathleen Driscoll-McKee said she was concerned many residents would not agree with the idea because it would take out more trees. She said it may also eventually require the RA design review board to be involved in the project.
You lost us at "DRB."


  1. The Convict in the GulagNovember 19, 2009 at 9:44 AM

    The problem is that, unless the trail closely parallels the road, very few are going to use it. I can pretty much guarantee that if people have to cross from the west side of Soapstone in order to access the sidewalk/trail on the east side, most won't. They'll just continue to walk down the line of parked cars on that side of the road.

    Here's a simple solution that would only cost the county some paint. Why not turn Soapstone into same three lane monstrosity with a pair of bike lanes, like you did the Personal Injury Lawyers Road. The northbound side of Soapstone could use a dedicated left turn lane.

    Of course, if they flattened Shadowood or turned it into market rate apartments, this problem would just go away.

  2. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)November 19, 2009 at 11:16 AM

    I agree with Convict. I'm an avid runner in the community, and I often run in the streets because there aren't sidewalks in many areas along my route and the trails meander aimlessly to nowhere in particular instead of paralleling the streets. This has become a problem as of late as running along the sides of the roadway on piles of wet leaves has been dangerous. I nearly fell the other day on mud obscured by damp leaves. Not all of us can afford a fancy gym membership or have enough space in their dwelling units for a treadmill.

  3. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonNovember 19, 2009 at 11:43 AM

    The original September 2008 Reston Observer article on this issue had the following comment from Chris Wells of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation:

    'If a sidewalk is requested, it could take from three to six years for the construction to be completed, Wells said'

    Just to put this into perspective, by way of comparion it took only 13 months to construct the Empire State Building.

    Convict: I like your idea to flatten Shadowood. If they do that, can they take out the adjoining 7-11 as collateral damage while they're at it?

  4. The problem on this stretch of Soapstone isn't the lack of a sidewalk. This is a thinly disguised scheme to get rid of the unsightly parking problem that occurs when the ratio of people living in dwellings to vehicles is close to 1:1. Four people can equal 4 cars. No townhouse or condo area can accommodate that level of they park on Soapstone. It is easy to target the people at Shadowood because it is a Section 8 community...but there are other multi-family developments that cause traffic overflow to Soapstone (Woodhollow Ct., Hearthstone Ct., Underoak Ct., Ivybush Ct.)

    The biggest danger in this area (I drive this stretch almost every day and often more than once and at different times) is that there is only one crosswalk, poorly lit, in need of repainting and a PLETHORA of people who think crosswalks are optional anyway. They start to step out from between the cars that are interminably parked in this area and then are surprised to see a car coming. Even at 25, the vehicle vs. pedestrian outcome is going to be awful for everyone involved. I don't know that adding sidewalks will cure any of that - people develop a culture of using crosswalks over time.

    So if we look back at the whole "let's build more high density housing in Reston" argument, this is an example of why, if you're going to do it, you MUST limit and enforce a limit on the number of cars per unit.

    Peasant -- thanks for the stats about building a sidewalk vs. building the Empire State Building. That's so sad...we've added so many layers to everything now. On the bright side, it ensures jobs for bureaucrats.

  5. Hickory Cluster knuckle dusterNovember 19, 2009 at 2:07 PM

    The path wander aimlessly? Is your point for jogging to get from A to B or to run in a large circle and return to A? The Reston paths are in a word: awesome. I can't speak to their current state in Hunters' woods, but around where we live they are safe, and there are several loops to run.

    Stop trying to arlingonize Reston. It does not need a ton of sidewalks next to roads. They put paths for good reasons:
    So teen agers can smoke pot, and for joggers/cycists to enjoy running around in the woods AND getting from A to B.

  6. Trail, sidewalk, whatever. As long as its poorly lit and randomly comes to an end, I'm in.

  7. Hickory Cluster - the post is about South Reston. Clearly you do not get it and have no idea what we are talking about. If you can't keep up, please go away.

  8. The Convict in the GulagNovember 19, 2009 at 2:31 PM

    I guess Ole Hick hasn't hung out by Murderer's Row recently. I suggest that some warm afternoon or evening, you hang out by the benches just below Rite Aid at Hunter's Woods Shopping Center. You'll get a real education there.

    The paths might be a good alternative but out here in the frontier, they aren't lit. My infantry training tells me that's the ideal place for a night ambush. If the Army has codified it, I'm sure that the less desireable elements have probably figured it out as well.

    If it's just about getting rid of parking along the west side of Soapstone, why not just put up "No Parking" signs?

    Oh, and BiCO, I used to go to the YMCA pretty often for the treadmills. Now that there's a sidewalk along side of South Lakes Dr., I suddenly find myself jogging in my neighborhood much more often. Trails are fine, but sidewalks are safer and much more inviting.

  9. Convict, it would be great if they'd put up no parking signs on BOTH sides of Soapstone! The east side north of the 7-11 to the corner of SouthLakes is where the most near misses occur in my experience.

    If they'd put them up and enforce them, the issue of where to walk or run would be solved because there's a pretty deep graveled area running along the west the whole way, and most of the way on the east above 7-11.

  10. Convict, what do you mean Murderer’s Row? When I was in high school (class 04) I used to drink my beer around that area. Anybody can just walk at night and join any group that is drinking; the people are nice and friendly. I just used to pay a hobo to buy me beer at the Rite Aid. One more thing, you of course have to speak Spanish.

  11. Hickory Cluster knuckle dusterNovember 19, 2009 at 7:01 PM

    Anon 2:15,

    BiCO lives near me over in Lake Anne. He was talking about paths. Stop trying to railroad the discourse. And get a name instead of posting anonymously.

  12. God, if I could cash out and sell my condo at Shadowood that would make my life easier. They should flatten Castle Rock Sq. That's were most of those Section 8 tenants live. I do know their board has had an iron fist with those jerks for the past few years.

  13. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)November 20, 2009 at 9:39 AM

    Wondering why our suburb doesn't have ample sidewalks like most other communities means I'm a threat trying to "Arlingtonize" Reston? Wow! I never knew that asking why we don't have basic amenities in exchange for RA assessments made one the enemy!

  14. I live in South Reston and the trails are still awesome. Most of the crimes along the South Reston trails are not random, they are gang related. I avoid trails with gang tagging. Plain and simple.

  15. Hickory Cluster Knuckle DusterNovember 20, 2009 at 4:46 PM

    Sorry to get all old-skool on you but you are admitedly a new-comer to Reston. It was made how it is deliberately.

    The pathways were meant to be used by people to walk from A to B and to get exercise and enjoy the out doors and mostly for teen agers to smoke pot and skate board.

    So when you come along and say 'why isn't Reston like X?" It makes me go: "Then just move to X!"

    Have you jogged the path around Lake Anne? It is beautiful and safe.


    (You are not my or I hope any one's enemy!)

  16. Convict

    Don't let facts get the way of your bloviating.

    Shadowood is a condominium in which a small fraction of the units may be rented to families with Section 8 certificates. It is, therefore, market rate housing. A surprising number of condo units are rented to college students attending American, GW and GMU. Each occupant has their own car, thus generating 3 cars per condo in a project design for mom, dad and 1-2 kids and not every family had two cars. Over the 30 years since Shadowoods was built as market rate, for sale multifamily condominiums, the demographics of the area changed to more young adults sharing each condo. Thus the overflow parking need, not only for Shadowoods but for Ivy Bush, Underoak (which are single family attached housing, Anon 1:43, not multi-family, snob sister).

    Peasant - how 'bout we flatten your house, er pup tent, and the South Lakes Starbuck's where you hangout in your bunny slippers all day.

    Anon 3:07 - and the 35 cars currently parked on the east side north of the 7-11 go where exactly? They are not going to vanish into thin air. They most likely just move further down the west side of Soapstone toward Glade, where there still will be no sidewalk.

    BICO - as sidewalks are in VDOT controlled right of way, their existence, or lack of same, have little or nothing to do with your RA assessment. But rant on!

    Folks have been trying to get sidewalks on Soapstone for more than 20 years. Why a 4 lane road was built with gravel shoulders in a city projected for a population of 65,000 is an excellent question for Bob Simon and Martha Pennino.

    At least 4 people have died in the last few years trying to cross between Shadowood and the 7-11 and many more have been injured. So the snark ought to be modulated a little, maybe?

    Drivers, including some of you ne'er do wells, speeding on Soapstone, some travelling at 65 mph and more, have a great deal to do with the problem. There has been little or no speed enforcement on Soapstone, ever, the cops are too tied up on that little section of Steeplechase between Lawyers and Fox Mill where they camp out almost daily. Have those folks paid the cops a bribe to be there so often?

  17. You lost me at bloviating.

    Seriously. Bloviating?

  18. Hickory Cluster Knuckle DusterNovember 21, 2009 at 9:35 AM

    Anon: 10:45,
    Right on!

    Anon 8:38
    blo·vi·ate (blv-t)
    intr.v. blo·vi·at·ed, blo·vi·at·ing, blo·vi·ates Slang
    To discourse at length in a pompous or boastful manner:

    They hide information like that on the interwebz.


  19. Anonymous 10:45 - PREACH

  20. I grew up in the neighborhood west of this stretch of Soapstone (Old Trail Dr.). There are paths that run parallel to this road on BOTH sides, and a tunnel crossing under the road. That should take care of those of you who are passing through.

    The people you see crossing the street are coming off of one of those trails to go to the 7-11, or the dry cleaners, or to get to/from the day care center (read: SMALL CHILDREN). The people you see walking up and down the side of the street are going to/from their cars.

    There is a crosswalk to protect the crossers. The reason they are not safe is that people speed. There is NO EXCUSE to see so many apartments and so many cars on the side of the road and be ACCELERATING downhill from either of the intersections on the other end. Possible solution: speed trap.

    The people walking to and from their cars are, in fact, out of parking spaces. Most of us (because sometimes I put my car there too) use public transit as well. But you gotta have a car in Fairfax. Possible solution: STOP BITCHING ABOUT STREET PARKING. The ENTIRE REST OF THE WORLD does this everywhere, everyday. They have just learned how to deal with it.
    A sidewalk would make life easier as you come to/from your car, yes...but the real problem is the drivers passing by.

  21. P.S. Any of you who are speaking ill of Shadowood bring me shame. This town was built on the premise of all people, of all races, income levels, etc. living together. It's not perfect, but it has value. People like you are what ruin it.

  22. Hickory Cluster knuckle dusterNovember 22, 2009 at 4:58 PM


    Right On!

  23. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonNovember 22, 2009 at 5:18 PM

    I stand corrected on Shadowood -- sorry.

    If speeding is a problem on Soapstone between Glade and South Lakes, I wonder why the police are not in fact out there with radar guns. They are frequently staked out on the stretch of Soapstone between Glade and Lawyers, where there is virtually no pedestrian traffic save for the occasional biker or walker crossing the Glade nature trail. When I once asked them why they weren't on Lawyers (before it was re-striped)catching speeders doing 55 in a 35 mph zone, the reply was "It's too dangerous to do it there." I assume that would not be an issue on Soapstone between Glade and South Lakes.

  24. The Convict in the GulagNovember 22, 2009 at 5:47 PM

    Bloviation, as best I recall from my US History class is characterized by talking a lot but not saying much. It's generally used when talking about political speech.

    Now, I may write a lot but I'm hardly saying nothing. Sure, I could probably be less expansive in my writing. Agree with me or not, it's not as if my speech says nothing.

    So, Anon, your accusation of "bloviation" is baseless and, I suspect, founded in your disagreement with my position. Instead of arguing the point, you seek to dismiss me simply as bloviating. Good for you.

    Nonetheless, I stand by the premise of statement, that if Shadoweed were to go away, most of those cars along Soapstone between South Lakes and Glade would disappear in short order. Furthermore, if the rents in that complex were to go up, I would suspect that a great many of those vehicles would disappear as well.

    Anecdotally, I have never seen anyone from the east side of Soapstone either enter or leave a car on the west side. All of the people that I have seen using cars on the west side of Soapstone have come out of Shadowood.

    As I said, Soapstone needs the Lawyers Road solution more so than Lawyers Road does.

  25. Hickory Cluster knuckle dusterNovember 22, 2009 at 5:56 PM

    If Shadowood were to disappear and no housing takes their place then probably yes the parking problem would diminish. But that is a 'modest proposal' for sure.

    However, if rents increased it might have an inverse effect with more people having to apartment share in order to make rent. more people = more cars.

  26. When we were out in Western MD last winter we came across a slightly raised (not quite speed bump) cross walk that had blinking lights in the incline part (think long sides of the crosswalk). I'm pretty sure it was powered by solar capture from the day. It was foggy and this was ski country, so it was important to be able to see -- and this thing was darn visible. It wasn't so steep on the incline that it would tear your car up if you didn't see it in time (as IF!) We looked at each other then and said "Soapstone!" I'm not a traffic engineer so despite my numerous efforts I haven't been able to come up with the right combination of terms for Google so I could show people. But obviously there are people out there thinking these things through and developing good ways to satisfy a need.

    I can't believe the cops say it's too dangerous to enforce speed laws through there. Hello, cameras? I think they enforce on Southlakes because that's where they can prove a point to a LOT of teen drivers (think the commercial with the googly eyes on the money).

    I wonder if it says something about DOT's appreciation of the issue (or the residents) that they've let even the basic paint fade away to almost non-visible on that crosswalk. Are they waiting until a decision is made on sidewalks? I know the cops are not waiting on ticketing commercial vehicles parked there -- I see that all the time.

    The more I think about it, the more I agree with those who say it should never have been a 4 lane, but I'm not sure whether the Lawyers Rd solution is what works best here.

    As for parking overflow, I don't think there was any snobbery in citing all of the developments that line Soapstone -- just recognition that parking is really cramped in most neighborhoods once everyone is home at night. Whether the houses are attached, detached, condos, or multi-family, our society likes a nearly 1:1 ratio for drivers to cars and they gotta park somewhere.

    People who live in cities often don't have cars -- but they also have everything they need within walking distance. That is *almost* the case in Reston...but even most people who say they need a car in Reston could probably get along with just one per household. I include our household in that supposition. It is more convenient to have 2, but with some creativity, we could certainly make a change. Perhaps if they give people a tax incentive for giving up cars, instead of purchasing them -- or a tax incentive for using public transportation instead of continuing to make it more expensive and less convenient...

  27. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)November 23, 2009 at 8:24 AM

    For the record in regards to the on-street parking issue being one of "class" the stretch of North Shore Drive between my complex, Archstone Charter Oak, and our neighbors, The Sycamores, is also frequently lined with vehicles because of a parking shortage at Charter Oak (and potentially at the other complex as well). We're not "low life Section 8'ers." We're generally speaking middle-class hard-working people. I've instructed my guests to park on North Shore Drive while I am entertaining because the number of non-reserved spaces in Charter Oak is insufficient, especially when most of my neighbors take up TWO spaces with their two vehicles.

    Also, in regards to urban planning why do so many Restonians think adding more lanes to a road is always the answer? It has been proven that traffic generally travels more quickly the wider a road is because drivers tend to have a sense that they are in areas exclusively tailored just for them and are lulled into a false sense of security. If we want to encourage Reston to someday become a haven for walkability, as it was originally designed, then more "road diets" are needed, not the opposite. I hold my breath whenever I cross the busy intersection of Reston Parkway @ Temporary/New Dominion in hopes that someone making a right-hand-on-red will yield to me in the crosswalk (I've had close calls). Like it or not Reston DOES need more bike lanes, well-marked crosswalks, street lighting, sidewalks, narrower roads, etc. if it ever hopes to realize its fullest potential as a community where everyone doesn't need their SUVs chained to their hips. L.A. has some of the widest freeways in the nation AND the worst traffic congestion.

    Also, I agree with those who are ashamed at the elitists who continuously put down our community's socioeconomically disadvantaged. Reston was originally intended to be a haven for people from all races, income levels, and life stages to seek safe refuge. As average rents continue to rise here we're noticing the community tilting more towards the upper-middle-class, but that's no reason to act scornfully towards those who have less. I'm technically "poor" by Reston standards, and yet I try to do my best to be a model citizen. Not all of us are the scum of the earth, contrary to popular belief, and I personally enjoy living in an apartment complex with a high proportion of both Lexus SUVs and Audi sedans as well as K-Cars and Dodge Shadows.

    P.S. To those with the "newbies should be seen and not heard" mindset may I remind you that some of us only want what will ultimately be best for the next generation of Restonians? The prior generation didn't care about my current generation when they let a pre-schooler design Tyson's Corner a few decades ago, and now it is a festering armpit that will take billions to rectify. Do we really want to sit here now and make selfish decisions like the prior generation did that will hurt the next generation in Reston?

  28. Hickory Cluster knuckle dusterNovember 23, 2009 at 11:48 AM

    Bico said:
    "P.S. To those with the "newbies should be seen and not heard" mindset may I remind you that some of us only want what will ultimately be best for the next generation of Restonians? The prior generation didn't care about my current generation when they let a pre-schooler design Tyson's Corner a few decades ago, and now it is a festering armpit that will take billions to rectify. Do we really want to sit here now and make selfish decisions like the prior generation did that will hurt the next generation in Reston?"

    Fair enough BiCO.
    But I still think that you should not give the paths such short shrift.


  29. The ones that defend Shadowood existence ask yourself this, Where do people go to buy their marijuana?

    I don’t do drugs.

  30. The Convict in the GulagNovember 23, 2009 at 1:26 PM

    Crack is the drug of choice in the Gulag. If you want pot, check out the tables between Baskin-Robbins and the Giants at North Point shopping center.

  31. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)November 23, 2009 at 2:12 PM

    Speaking of North Point Shopping Center, what's with all of the hotties that shop there? Bow-chick-a-wow-wow! :-)

  32. Hey BiCO, is that guys or girls?


    Shadowood only sells stress. If you want the really good purple kush, you have to go around (the) Dulles town center. They get shipments of the really goods stuff from California.

    Again, I do not do drugs.

  33. The Convict in the GulagNovember 23, 2009 at 6:10 PM

    Methinks thou doth denieth too much, prunie boy.

  34. There used to be a regular speed trap at the 7-11 on Soapstone. Haven't seen it there in several years. I make at least one speed trap daily on my 6-mile Reston-Herndon commute, so it's not that I'm unobservant.

    I've never seen a speed trap on the west half of Glade through Siren City. East half has plenty. I specially liked the trooper who parked his cruiser on the bike trail through the soccer field near the Vernon Walker unnatural center.

    Soapstone between Glade and Personal Injury Lawyer's Road is Death Valley. Redoubled fines because of the trail crossing. They set up in either of the two cul-de-sacs, or have an unmarked silver Chrysler right at the trail crossing.

    So I wonder why the 7-11 is no longer a happy hunting ground?

  35. scubadiver

    The folks on Sweetbay and Catalpa give Hudgins more money!!

  36. Having driven down that stretch of Soapstone by the 7-11 this morning, let me say that the "crosswalk" is virtually invisible. In fact, if I hadn't been reading these posts, I don't think I'd even have noticed it at all. It consists of two very faded white lines, with no zebra stripes in between them and no "pedestrian crossing" signs that I can recall. After the restriping of Lawyers Road, maybe there's a quart of white paint left over to make a real crosswalk there on Soapstone?

  37. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)November 25, 2009 at 10:34 AM

    Elperuno: BOTH! When you're as lonesome as I am anything with a set of lungs starts looking mighty fine! Bow-chick-a-wow-wow! :-)

  38. I have a question for anonymous, i have read your old post about wanting to see your condo at shadowood because of section 8 holders in the area how the association has had an iron fist dealing with it. If you dont mind me asking what do you mean by that?


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