|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.|
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.|
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.”