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Posted at 7:38 AM ET, 02/17/2010

Sisyphus on a Fairfax sidewalk

By editors

By Katherine Andrus

The Feb. 16 Metro article “Volunteer shovel brigades help clear the way for classes” completely missed the most frustrating aspect of the situation, at least as it unfolded in my Northern Virginia neighborhood.

Except for a few hours in the midst of the two major storms, our neighbors have kept the sidewalks passable — until Sunday, when the Virginia Department of Transportation sent backhoes into our subdivision to clear the streets curb to curb. Guess where they put the snow? Or, more accurately, the ice boulders? It’s now piled up in five- to six-foot mounds blocking anyone trying to walk on the sidewalks (and blocking visibility for cars trying to enter the road from driveways or side streets).

At the same time, we were getting e-mails from school and local officials imploring us to get out our shovels to clear the walks and bus stops in preparation for schools reopening. While we are glad to help, we can’t figure out how to clear these impenetrable mounds, short of a pick-ax and dynamite. Clearly there was a lack of coordination between VDOT and local authorities — that’s the story I would like to see covered.

By editors  | February 17, 2010; 7:38 AM ET
Categories:  Fairfax County, HotTopic, schools, weather  
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Next: No snowplow? No problem.


The word from MoCo Highway Dept last December when I railed against their stupidity: Tough sh!t, pedestrians!

And I did write to the Post suggesting they cover this story. Come on, WaPo! Wake up!

Posted by: Wallenstein | February 17, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

See you and raise you. Here in Arlington, the backhoe bandits not only dumped snow back on the sidewalks, but blocked in every driveway on my street with ice boulders -- leaving no option but to park in the nice clean roadway they had just cleared.

We've had deep snow around here before, but I've never seen the stupid get this deep.

Posted by: Hyperlocal | February 17, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Our Fairfax county neighborhood (in the Mount Vernon district) had icy streets until VDOT sent in front-end loaders and backhoes to clear them. They did a pretty good job (mostly curb to curb) but in most cases they didn't pile the icy snow boulders on sidewalks or in front of driveways. All things considered I give them an A for the effort.

Not so popular with me are the private plow trucks VDOT contracted to plow our streets just after the snowfall. They didn't do much more than compact the snow into ice and constantly push piles of snow into cleared driveways.

Posted by: ScottM5 | February 17, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Suggestion for Fairfax County-VDOT coordination, in interest of good government, transparency and communication of useful information to\from taxpayers/residents, posting information on snowplowing (resources, priority, plowing scheduled, plowing completed, etc by street) would be very useful. I realize this will be a challenge to keep accurate, but the schedule can be the best estimate and the completed can be added at end of work day as plows inform of what they have done. At present most homeowners do not have visibility as to what is happening with priority, scheduling, number of resources, problems etc. Our neighborhood did not receive a plow for 4 days, and information as to schedule-priority-resources would be most useful. Taxpayers deserve this information, and good governance should welcome it (feedback is the breakfast of champions). Additionally with the mix of types of resources (government and contractor) residents/taxpayers can assist with reporting of performance. Response that says it is too difficult to post planned/scheduled would confirm suspicion that better management and leadership could make a significant improvement in performance at minimal cost. Similar concept to train arrival at Metro. Having the information that an eight car train is due to arrive in 12 minutes is still useful.

Posted by: usk1986 | February 19, 2010 11:40 PM | Report abuse

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