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How Herndon is making 3-block stretch near downtown safer for pedestrians

New sidewalks and crosswalks are coming to a three-block stretch in Herndon, Virginia. (Ƶapp/Scott Gelman)

New sidewalks and crosswalks are coming to a three-block stretch in Herndon, Virginia, as part of a plan to make the area near the town’s downtown neighborhood safer for pedestrians.

The project will focus on the south side of three blocks along Elden Street, near Herndon Middle School and St. Joseph’s School.

Bryce Perry, the town’s deputy director of community development, said most of the project will be funded using $2.5 million approved by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board.

Last month, the board approved $19.5 million in federal funding as part of the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program. It will be used for 15 non-highway transportation projects in Virginia, including the Elden Street “walkability improvements,” according to a news release.

“This is a pedestrian improvement project,” Perry said. “The main goal here is to enhance the streetscape to make it as pedestrian-friendly, with as much comfort and convenience for pedestrians, as possible.”

Because the parts of Elden Street are near two schools and the Town of Herndon’s downtown, Perry said there’s a lot of pedestrian traffic. There hasn’t been one incident that prompted town leaders to take action, he said, but it’s “something that the town has identified for a while that has needed to be done.”

In order to enhance safety along the corridor, Perry said the town is planning for all new sidewalks, a new curb that separates the sidewalk from the curb and new crosswalks.

When the work is finished, Perry said there will be a “minimum 2-foot” grass strip that separates the sidewalk from the curb. The sidewalks are currently about 3 to 3.5-feet wide, but the town is planning to make them 5-feet wide.

They’re also planning to transition the sidewalk from concrete to brick, which Perry described as the “downtown standard.”

“It’s an environment that needs some work to improve it, to make it as safe as possible for those pedestrians,” Perry said.

On some parts of the sidewalk, utility poles are mounted in the middle, making it difficult for people walking with strollers or in wheelchairs to navigate the area, Perry said.

“They essentially will run into physical barriers occasionally throughout this area and have to somehow navigate around it or have to turn around,” Perry said. “It’s not a very comfortable atmosphere either for pedestrians, because you do have a travel lane that is right up against the sidewalk.”

In some cases, he said, cars are driving 4 to 6 inches away from the sidewalk.

The plan also includes high-visibility crosswalks, which are made with brick and have high-visibility stripes on the sides.

The changes are projected to cost about $3 million, Perry said. He expects the town to cover the rest of the cost. Ideally, he said, construction will start within the next two to three years.

Herndon received the same funding for the project in fiscal 2020, but couldn’t use it, because “we just didn’t have the resources at that point to follow through with the project,” Perry said.

“We’re very excited to get this project going,” Perry said.

Other Northern Va. programs are getting funding

Part of the $19.5 million in includes money allocated for other Northern Virginia projects.

Over $2 million was granted to the City of Fairfax for a safer and “higher quality bike and pedestrian facility” along Chain Bridge Road.

Prince William County was given several $2.5 million grants for sidewalk improvements along Graham Park Road, Lions Field Road and Colchester Road.

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for Ƶapp. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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