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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Litter and human waste mar Route 50 pedestrian bridge



A stairwell corner on the pedestrian bridge.

A week after a July 31 news report about the filthy condition of the pedestrian bridge over Route 50 in Seven Corners, the bridge stairwells were still littered with trash and smelled like urine – and yes, there were still “piles of human feces,” as the piece by WJLA’s “7 on Your Side” put it.

WJLA had contacted the Virginia Department of Transportation and Fairfax County to determine who is supposed to be maintaining the bridge and learned “neither is responsible for cleaning up the mess” and that VDOT is only responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of the bridge. 


The pedestrian bridge is the only safe way to cross Route 50.
Since then, both VDOT and the county acknowledge that VDOT has primary responsibility for cleaning the bridge.

“VDOT owns and maintains the bridge. The solution is the state needs to maintain their bridge in all of its forms,” Fairfax County’s public affairs director Tony Castrilli told the Annandale Blog Aug. 10. “We are working with them on a long-term solution.”

“We are responsible for the bridge,” Lauren Mollerup, VDOT’s transportation and land use director for Arlington and Fairfax counties, confirmed. “The focus is on structural integrity. We perform routine maintenance, including removing trash and waste, on an as-needed basis.”

The actual bridge is cleaner than the stairwells.
Between April 2012 and April 2015, Mollerup said VDOT cleaned the bridge 33 times – “removing graffiti, repairing damaged fencing, putting sand in the sandboxes [for icy sidewalks], and general  cleanup as resources allow,” and spent a total of $62,000 during that period. The last cleanup was last spring.

“Trash and litter is an ongoing problem, and most disturbing, people are using it as a bathroom,” Mollerup said. “It’s unhealthy and unsanitary.”

She says the police have gone by and done cursory reviews. Public urination is against the law, but “it’s hard to enforce because they have to catch people in the act.”

The Ramos family on the ramp.
Meanwhile, VDOT has been working on a plan in partnership with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation and the county’s Office of Community Revitalization to step up maintenance. Mollerup mentioned the possibility of “no loitering signs” and increased police patrols, although nothing has been decided and VDOT doesn’t have the resources for more frequent cleanups. “If the owners of the shopping centers want to adopt the bridge and take some responsibility for maintenance, we would be open to that,” she added.

On a recent late Friday afternoon, Aug. 7, the Annandale Blog spent some time on the bridge talking to pedestrians.

Cesar and Anirdir Ramos and their daughter Rachel were heading home to the Hollybrooke Apartments on Patrick Henry Drive after visiting the Willston Shopping Center. Cesar said he’s seen plenty of trash and graffiti on the bridge and at night there’s usually about three or four young guys hanging out smoking and drinking.

Several people blamed the public defecation on the bridge on a group of homeless people who spend the night on the staircase.

Jose Ballaros, a Willston resident who uses the bridge frequently to get to Wendy’s and the Seven Corners Shopping Center, said the bridge is the only safe way to cross the street. He is concerned about the trash but said he’s never seen any homeless people on the bridge.

“There are a bunch of bums who hang out on the bridge stairs but I haven’t actually seen them, just the mess they leave behind,” added Mike Collins, who’s lived in a condo at the Villages at Falls Church on the Willston side for the past 19 years and uses the bridge to get to Wendy’s and the Dogfish Head Alehouse on Route 7. He called the bridge “a great asset” for the community.
Trash and urine stains on the stairwells.
The bridge was built because there had been a lot of pedestrian accidents in that spot as people tried to dodge heavy traffic on Route 50. The $6 million bridge was completed in 2009 with funding from VDOT’s Hazard Elimination Safety Program.

Between 2005 and 2009, there were nine pedestrian accidents at that part of Route 50, four of them fatal, Mollerup said. Since 2009, there were no pedestrian accidents in that area.

There have been complaints about litter and graffiti since the bridge opened. A post in the Greater Greater Washington blog in 2010 complains about the design of the bridge, noting the closed-in stairwells attract loiterers, presumably at night, who leave behind beverage containers and “the stench of urine.”  

“From what I understand, the bridge design was done in conjunction with the community,” Mollerup said. “I don’t think anybody thought people would abuse it like they have.”

33 comments:

  1. This is a case in which more is less. The bridge is "over-engineered." A simple open bridge with chainlink fencing, like the one crossing the beltway just north of the Audrey Moore Rec Center or the one crossing 395 by Shirlington, would have cost substantially less and would not be an informal shelter for homeless people.

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  2. I am happy that a solution is being found.

    And what is the important thing to read is that there have been ZERO pedestrian deaths since the bridge was erected.

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    1. Based on your comment you are either disingenuous or terribly naive.

      No solution is being found.

      All Fairfax County and VDOT have offered are soothing responses to get the media attention to go away.

      Check back in 9 months (in May 2016) to see if human urine and feces is still permitted to be released freely, and not cleaned-up, on this $6 million piece of public infrastructure.

      Before then, any commentor who claims a solution has been found is either a VDOT plant, or a naive fool who believes everything a government spokesperson says.

      Delete
    2. 7 Corners 78/12/15, 7:57 AM

      You are pretty rude. I am not sure whatever you are is better than being a naive fool.

      Delete
    3. Thank you 7 Corners 7, I am sure you are a sincere regular contributer to the Clinton Foundation and are delighted to receive weekly emails informing you of all the charitable good works the Clinton's and their non self-interested donors are performing all across the globe.

      Just do everyone a favor and keep the Kool-Aid you're drinking to yourself.

      Delete
  3. Absolutely appalling. A bridge built solely for the jaywalking residents of the seven corners tenements, and this is what they do with it?

    Return that bridge to sender.

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    1. 7 Corners 78/12/15, 8:04 AM

      I do not think it was built for the jaywalking residents. I think it was built for the drivers. I rarely see the bridge being used and more ofter still see people crossing 50.

      I am surprised nobody has mentioned the day laborers at Home Depot. When I first read the article I thought it was them ding this while waiting all day for a job. I never considered homeless people were using it.

      Delete
  4. This is all Penny Gross' fault! Besides wasting millions of dollars on a bridge that cost way more than was necessary, she failed to take into account the needs of the young delinquents and older homeless for a public self-cleaning restroom in the same area.

    Thank goodness we have the opportunity to vote for Mollie, who with the massive support of the NIMBY's, will defend against any redevelopment of Seven Corners that would result in increased traffic and congestion for her highfalutin supporters; and implement an unofficial program to disperse the poor immigrant community currently concentrated in Mason District (according to Molly's supporters) throughout Fairfax County.

    Hooray for Molley, a bulldozer for the NIMBYs.

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    Replies
    1. Calmly step away from the keyboard and go take your medication.

      Delete
    2. Oh please. Mollie will make it all better by insisting only a school and no social services which attract poor immigrants will be built on the Willston site. The well-heeled NIMBYs funding Mollie's campaign must be protected from the sight and smell of immigrants, vagrants, traffic and congestion. Now take your shot of whisky and come back when ready to deal with reality.

      Delete
    3. Am I the only one who got the sarcasm in the 10:51 post?

      Delete
  5. Virginia's Dillon Rule problem rears its ugly head again. Need the state to maintain their structures or allow the County to keep the tax dollars needed to maintain them.

    I am happy we have as noted a "great asset" for the community in this bridge. Just need the state to either do its part or let the county do its part.

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  6. has anyone contacted Supervisor Gross for comment about this? we need some leadership on these issues. she should be demanding a weekly cleaning. what about cameras?

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    1. Actually folks need to contact Del Kaye Kory since VDOT is state agency and is the entity that is supposed to be taking care of this! But I am guessing Del Kory isn't even aware of this...

      Delete
    2. It's much more satisfying for the intellectually lazy to complain about Penny Gross, she is their convenient punching bag.

      What is Mollie proposing to rectify this situation? Imposing a requirement to show one's U.S. Passport before being able to use the bridge? Automatically deporting any undocumented immigrant found deficating in the stairwell? Good luck getting the Obama Administration and Liberal Democrats to go along with that policy; they support releasing out of jail undocumented immigrants arrested for violent crimes.

      But's lets blame Penny. Duh.

      Delete
  7. Demanding weekly cleaning is not the answer! What is needed is self-cleaning restrooms! and more of a police presence, to combat the loitering!

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  8. I have rarely seen anyone use the Rt. 50 pedestrian bridge. It's a mess because it's too isolated to keep under surveillance. Most pedestrians still appear to cross at the intersection of Rt. 50 and Patrick Henry. That makes sense because this bridge does little other than link two large parking lots. It's an overbuilt bridge to nowhere. Sure, pedestrian accidents have been reduced. But, that's because of the extensive fencing that runs along either side of Rt. 50. That could have been accomplished without building this monstrosity. So, chalk up another expensive fail for Mason's planning efforts.

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  9. As I noted on the Seven Corner post a week or two ago. This place is a dump and will never get out of the dumpster. Apparently many citizens are in agreement since they are doing exactly that, dropping their dumps on the bridge......disgusting. Another sign that the FFX Govt has lost touch with it citizenry, its communities, changing demographics, economies and rudimentary maintenance.

    It shame and sad to watch what was once such a great county go down the drain.

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    Replies
    1. Your going to blame the government for the fact that people deficate in public spaces? Way to pass along personal responsibilty to where it doesn't belong. Why stop at Fairfax County? Why not go all the way up to our great uniter, President Obama? Don't stop pushing the blame up the government ladder.

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    2. I do blame government. Maintaining infrastructure and keeping us safe is and should be govt number one priority. If they can't do the basics then they may as well stay at home and knit.

      Delete
  10. why is no one discussing the fact it cost $62,000 to clean up over a few years. how is that even possible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't believe this is the first time you have encountered how government at all levels takes exorbitant sums to carry out even mundane tasks.

      You can't possibly be a resident of the National Capital Area. If so, you are sorely detached from reality.

      The federal government has a debt of over $18 Trillion and unfounded liabilities that exceed that amount by multiples. If you want to get upset over something get upset over that.

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    2. i agree, no way it actually cost that amount. someone should ask where that figure came from as no way its accurate

      Delete
  11. When Lauren Mollerup, VDOT, says “From what I understand, the bridge design was done in conjunction with the community,” we know that's a big fat lie, because the community has never consulted by anyone in Mason District. We're just told what's going to happen.

    I'm tired of all of the nimby stuff, people keep referring to. Unless you have been involved in what the community is trying to do for Seven Corners because we love and care about Mason District, please back off. We need leadership because there is none right now. Or let's let VDOT and Fairfax County keep pointing fingers at one another and Mason District will remain in limbo as it has been for the past 20 years.

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    1. Your claim that the community was not involved in the design of the $6 million pedestrian bridge is a cop-out. The community was involved, just as the community was involved in developing the parameters for the redevelopment of Seven Corners.

      To claim the community did not have a say when it did is a cop-out.

      Delete
    2. Yup, that's my claim, that the community was not involved in the Seven Corners Revitalization, except when the community organized on its own. The Seven Corners Task Force was picked by Penny and the majority of the task force were developers--with 5 members from the community. The 5 community members were only allowed to plan for the Sears property, Opportunity Area C, but were not allowed to design A and B that the developers own. Residents were not allowed to speak or ask questions during their meetings--I tried several times. The community was only allowed to give their statement once a month. And at those public meetings we were only allowed to get up and read or state our concerns but there was no response or questions asked from any of the task force members. Those were the rules of John Thillmann, the Co--Chair, who was picked by Penny.

      The only communication from our supervisor is the ridiculous newsletter that has nothing in it except the schedule of the performances at Mason District Park. We do not have communication from or to our supervisor. I've researched other districts and its amazing the amount of input residents have with their supervisors.

      Were you involved in the design of the $6 million pedestrian bridge? Please do tell, because none of the rest of us were.

      Sorry to have to break this news to you.

      Delete
    3. Thank you for this very useful account of what went down at these meetings. It's posts like this that remind me of the value of the AB.

      Delete
  12. Eliminating pedestrian deaths is a plus. Building a multimillion dollar bridge with no provisions for maintenance and NO community input is a negative. Any residents of the area aware of the litter problems and lack of enforcement would have known that someone had to be responsible for cleaning an enclosed structure.

    The constant thread in these issues is ignoring the community's legitimate concerns and productive input, not NIMBYS.. That is a simplistic cop out for a continuing and worsening situation.

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  13. Don't worry, Mollie's Poop Patrol will come to the rescue! After Poop Patrol "advocates for interagency cooperation" yet still is unable to keep people from dumping on the bridge, she'll cut right to the problem by tearing down the bridge (see, problem solved!) and keeping the crappers on their side of route 50 where they belong with their own crappy little school. And thus begins Mollie's campaign of keeping low-income crappers out of the nice part of Mason.

    Brilliant.

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    1. Here is my second attempt to post my comment:

      Vote for Trump and he will build us that wall. Until the County redistributes its poverty to other districts instead they continue to make s the Mason Dump that it is, the wall is the only current solution.

      As for the bridge, I will coin a famous president: Ms. Loeffler tear down that bridge!

      Delete
  14. Are other bridges cleaned regularly? The problem seems to be with homeless people, not residents. Why are we not addressing getting these homeless folks into a shelter or program? Chances are the people using the stairwell as a restroom have mental illnesses as well.

    Regarding providing public restrooms, there are some in France that are sort of pod shaped where water "flushes" the entire inside of the unit, thereby cleaning everything after each use. I'm guessing this would also discourage homeless people from taking up residence inside.

    Sadly, mental health care is expensive so we leave untreated folks on the streets which often negatively impacts our communities.

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  15. Absolute disgrace, this very wealthy county should be ashamed of itself for many reasons not exclusive of building a bridge wout a maintenance budget for basic upkeep. Its called government impotence.

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  16. Either build a wall as Trump suggests or redistribute the garbage throughout the County so that Mason is not the poverty dump it has become.

    To paraphrase a famous president: Ms Loeffler tear down that bridge.

    ReplyDelete