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Monday, March 28, 2016

Residents just wanted pedestrian bridge fixed or replaced and now it's gone

This is where the bridge used to be.
Broyhill Crest residents have been complaining for years about a dilapidated pedestrian bridge over a small creek and urged county officials to fix or replace it. Instead, the county removed the bridge on March 23 and there are no funds for a new one.

People attempting to cross the creek between Murray Lane and Lockwood Lane in Annandale, next to community garden plots, are now confronted with plywood boards and ropes blocking access to the creek, a sign stating “the damaged bridge has been removed for safety reasons,” and an explanatory note from Mason Supervisor Penny Gross.

The old bridge needed repairs. [Rick Carlstrom]

Gross sent an email to residents March 25 stating that she and Frank Vajda, the Mason District representative on the Park Authority Board, had asked the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) to repair or replace the bridge and were told “the bridge could not meet today’s standards and could not be repaired.” The estimated replacement cost would be $80,000, she says. “No source of funding has yet been identified but we are continuing the search.”

“While we had hoped that the old bridge could be shored up and used until replaced, the old bridge simply was unsafe, and collapsing, due to embankment erosion,” the email from Gross continues. It was removed “in an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of Broyhill Crest pedestrians, including children,” who use it while walking to Mason Crest Elementary School.

The Park Authority posted this notice for pedestrians.

Members of the Broyhill Crest Community Association (BCCA) met with Gross and Mark Plourde, FCPA Area 2 manager, in December 2015 to discuss the bridge. Their goal was to have it fixed, not torn down.

The BCCA members were told if the bridge had to be replaced there were two options. The bridge could be replaced with a similar structure that would be cheaper but more expensive in the long run, as it would be subject to the same erosion problems. The other option, preferred by the FCPA, would be a more expensive bridge with a longer span but would be less costly to install as it wouldn’t require as much work on the bank.
The BCCA has requested another meeting with Gross to discuss alternative funding solutions.

Broyhill Crest resident Rick Carlstrom has complained to county officials several times about the bridge over the years. In 2005, county officials told him they agreed the bridge was in “bad shape” but said it would be at least five years before it could be replaced. He got the same answer from FCPA in 2014, and that time was told a replacement bridge would cost $20,000.

The old bridge was deemed unsafe and in danger of collapse. [Rick Carlstrom]
Last May he contacted Gross about the bridge and she came to take a look. At that time, she told Carlstrom in an email that “all of the 2012 parks bond money has been spent and we do not have the $40,000 needed to replace the bridge.”

When he again complained to Gross and the FCPA in February 2016, he was told the schedule to replace he bridge had changed from at least five years to “a very long time” and that the cost was now $80,000 for a 40 x 6-foot fiberglass pedestrian bridge. [That estimate might include installation and work on the stream banks to stem erosion.]

Carlstrom then contacted a bridge company on his own, E.T. Techtonics, and received a written estimate of $24,800 for a 40 x 6-foot fiberglass pedestrian bridge, including delivery. These bridges come in pieces and can easily be assembled by two people, he says. 

According to Carlstrom, the bridge had been severely damaged when a tree-trimming crew hired by the county dropped a tree on it a year ago. He suggested the tree company’s insurance policy could pay for the repairs. “That is not a viable option in this case,” because the felled tree didn’t cause the problem, Plourde responded in an email to Carlstrom. The bridge has been collapsing for years due to severe erosion of the stream banks, causing the concrete abutments to fail, Plourde said.

“I realize that this decision will have a negative impact on your community and I apologize for that, but the safety of park users must be our first priority,” Plourde wrote to Carlstrom. “While I understand that schoolchildren use this bridge daily as a shortcut to and from Mason Crest Elementary, please recognize that cutting through a trail in the park is not considered an approved school walking route. Approved routes are public sidewalks and easements.”

Debris from the old bridge.
“I have lived in Broyhill Crest for over 20 years and have witnessed a shocking downward spiral in the maintenance of the parks in our older established neighborhoods,” Carlstrom wrote in an email to Gross March 14. He cited the neglect of a large field in Broyhill Crest Park that has become overgrown and unusable, as well as the poor state of the pedestrian bridge nearby.

“Fairfax spends 0.7 percent of its budget on parks, Carlstrom says. “The largest portion of that goes to golf courses and the installation of artificial turf fields. I find it extremely unfortunate that the county makes the installation of artificial turf fields, which cost millions, a higher priority than maintaining our existing park infrastructure.”


  1. I live backed up to Holmes Run Stream Valley Park. 10 years ago a beautiful place to walk, lots of people playing sports and LARPers galore. Now it is waste high grass and dead trees everywhere. Time to clean up this beautiful place

  2. 80,000? how did she pull that number out of her hair? i am sure someone would do that for less than 20,000 if they really tried to price it out.

  3. If it's so easy to install a replacement bridge, then the residents should chip in and buy one. Then we'll see exactly who is really interested in replacing this bridge.

    1. they all ready pay taxes to cover these things.

    2. Since it is park land, they wouldn't be allowed to replace it even if they wanted to.

    3. That is just a ridiculous statement to make. Why should a community that pays taxes pay for infrastructure in a County owned park? This is not on someone' s private property. Disagreeing is one thing, but being a @$$hole is just uncalled for.

    4. That was tried in 2009 by Boy Scout Troop 894. Our request was denied by the parks department.

  4. Yeah. $80,000 is a ridiculous price. I don't believe it for one minute.

    1. $80K is not obscene here. We are talking about alot of site work to address erosion issues that caused this on top of actual material costs of the bridge. This will probably require some minor design work on top of labor of a prime contractor plus overhead and profit. Oh and the warranty on the work as well.

  5. you get what you vote for. must be using the same price calculations for the bridge that they did for that baileys land swap.

    1. Jeffrey,
      you're right.

      I believe federal transportation money is available for bike trails, etc. Note this paragraph on the Seminary Rd extension.

      "The funds for the purchase (of a dilapidated office bldg.) are from “a roadway capital improvements reserve fund, which is in turn funded by commercial and industrial property tax revenue and revenue from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority,” “These funds can only be used for transportation projects, such as the purchase of the building to provide right of way as part of this revitalization project and does not compete with other county needs.”

      Why isn't the same largess being sought to build a path for children who walk to school?

  6. $80K? Not sure I buy that for a second. It saddens me that our little bridge has taken a tumble. It was a lovely little diversion off of Murray Lane, wonderful for those of us with furry 4 legged family members on walks. Some of us in the community believe this sort of infrastructure maintenance should be covered by our taxes, though unfortunately it seems that's a train a long time in coming. If the residents of Broyhill Crest did decide to take up a collection, I would be more than willing to contribute.


  7. A pre-fab bridge will will run around $100/sf of surface area: 40'x6'x$100/sf = $24,000.

    Delivery will be $2000-3000 depending upon where it is coming from.

    Erection will be $10000 to $15000. Those "two guys" don't work for free and need to own or rent tools and trucks.

    Abutments on either side and stream stabilization will be at least $20,000 to $30,000.

    Engineering design will be approximately $10,000.

    Permits and inspections another $5000 or so.

    $80,000 might actually be a bargain.

    1. your numbers just came out of your ass. you can have a kitchen redone or 10-15 in labor. this will take a few days to do and that won't be that much in labor. you must work for the gov to think things cost that much. i bet if this went to open bid, all in would be 15-20k MAX

    2. You might try a Neighborhood Enhancement Grant:

      For Parklawn Pool, we won a $5000 grant through the NEPP program to demolish old tennis courts and return them to grassy fields in 2012. With in-kind donations from site utility contractors and strategic cooperation with an on-going stream stabilization project by Fairfax County, we turned the $5000 from the County and many hours of volunteer labor into a project which would have cost us over $40,000 had we bid it out.

      You might even have two neighborhood associations try to win two grants and pool the $10,000. Find some local site contractors and you might have a project.

      You should also check with the County to see if there are any stream stabilization projects for that stretch of creek.

      Just a thought.

    3. I agree the install will cost money, but pretty much everything below the delivery line appears to be pulled out of thin air.

      I got an addition to my house engineered for 3k. I can see this costing more, but not 10k. Also, I can't see Erection/abutments/stream stabilization costing as much as you are saying.

      If the point is that you can't just look at the cost to manufacture a bridge, then that is a fair point. But to say that $80k is a bargain - I find that hard to believe. It seems to me like this job can be done for about $60k.

      But then again... this is the government...

    4. To be sure, these numbers are "not out of thin air" or out of anyplace else. To be sure:

      My day job is engineering and construction.

      A bridge is not a kitchen. A bridge needs two foundations. In the photo, the stream appears to have undercut the existing foundation so some sort of soil stabilization will be required. This bridge will need geotechnical analysis. An engineer needs to test the soil, design remediation for the soil, design a foundation, and design the bridge.

      Once the foundation abutments are designed and constructed,the bridge can be installed.

      A prefabricated bridge will need to be first fabricated, then transported to the site. Then it needs to be erected. Let's say it takes two guys two weeks, that's 160 hours. At a marked up rate of $60 per hour, that's $9,600. If they need more hours or more workers the price goes up.

      And if part of the problem turns out that the stream has been undercutting the foundation during flood events, then the stream banks need to be engineered and corrected.

      And before a bridge is built, it will need construction permits and inspections: This also has a cost.

      Engineering fees for something like this will be between 10-15% of the construction cost so $10,000 is not an unreasonable assumption. In fact, it might be a low assumption.

      Again, to the anonymous commenter who uses vile language - I'm just trying to set expectations. I'm trying to add a dose of reality to this conversation. I still contend that $80,000 is a reasonable budget for this project. (NOTE the word budget. Actual bids could be lower . . .they could be higher.)

      In order for a replacement bridge to happen, one needs to set realistic expectations.

      Competitively bid, you might get to $60,000. But I don't think that I'm too far off base to state that is unlikely that you'd get a bridge that is safe for the public for under $20,000.

      Again, I'm just trying to help set realistic expectations.

      And, I'd seriously look into the NEPP grant. Fairfax County has been very generous for these kinds of projects and you could probably find some local companies to donate goods and services to make this happen. You might even work with the county to get them to buy the pre-fab bridge.

      The labor could be donated by the community.

      I contend that you'll have greater success in getting this bridge fixed with a realistic and positive approach.

      Good luck.

    5. Appreciate the comments and insight Daren, and your explanation here in this latest post - helps explain where you are coming up with the numbers. Also helps to know that you do this thing for a living.

      I also hate anonymous posts, and have requested numerous times for the site to disable the ability to anonymously post. More bad comes from it than good.

      So, from your explanation, it does seem like a budget of 80k is reasonable, with the end bid process potentially (hopefully) coming in lower.

      I do feel bad for the homeowners who live around this area though. They raise the issue for years, and money is not allocated to do anything, and then finally they determine that the bridge isn't safe and they remove it altogether and still don't have any plan as to how to replace it and just tell people to walk around the long way. That's not good governace IMO.

    6. Hard to blame this on governance.

      Fairfax doesn't just have money laying around for emergency repairs of foot bridges.

      It took the county over 4 years to replace the Bailey's Crossroads Fire Station which one could argue is critical infrastructure.

      I still argue that this might be a candidate for an NEPP grant in partnership with multiple neighborhoods, the County, and local businesses.

      Another source of funds would be a the Express Lane grant program:

      I continue to content that a positive attitude is going to get you further with county leadership than complaining. The BOS cannot wave a magic wand and make a bridge appear - it takes a long process.

      Just a thought. I'd be glad to share with you the grant proposals that I wrote for the Parklawn Pool and the Parklawn Civic Association. I wrote and managed proposals totaling $14,000 for three different projects adding a total value back to the community of over $50,000.

      It can be done!

    7. Daren, I also want to thank you for your clear and detailed response. I know that any time erosion is a factor, any project gets much more complicated and much more expensive, but there's no way I could have explained it even a fraction as well as you have! Well done.

    8. Don't expect this county to do anything that improves our quality of life. Except, they are great at manifesting section 8 neighborhoods. That is why businesses are breaking down the doors to fill the 47% office vacancy rate in Mason.

    9. Thank you Daren...I know you and respect your expertise, but the price estimate is for something 'way over-engineered. The cost of pressure treated lumber to replace the old bridge exactly couldn't exceed $3000. Engineering and design??? Abutments? There was already a simple design that worked perfectly well; and unless the old bridge abutments had eroded there shouldn't be a need for new ones. Permits and inspections? The county bills itself for permits and inspections? Permits and inspections are user-funded and not tax funded?

    10. Not sure why you guys are arguing with me.

      A bridge of any substance that is going to last for 40-50 years is going to be expensive.

      If you want it to last five years, good luck with $3000.

      It looks like the bridge was supported by two W-Section pieces of steel (I-beams). Looks like they've been removed. I don't think two well-intentioned neighbors can put them back in place without some heavy equipment nor expertise.

      I don't think you can re-do this bridge for $3000.

      HOWEVER, I think with some grant money and in-kind donations from local contractors and suppliers, you might be able to pull this off.

      Point is: if you wait around for the the government to take care of this, it might take years. But if you go after some grant money, co-opt the county engineering branch, get some good corporate partners, and A LOT of volunteer labor . . . you might get yourself a bridge.

      I'd be glad to talk to anyone who'd like to lead the effort (I've got enough to do in my OWN neighborhood). This actually sounds like a fun little project - just be patient . . . it won't happen overnight.

      There are NEPP grants, there are Express Lane grants, someone mentioned "gofundme" and Ellie can reach out to the Annandale advertisers.

      You can find me on FB or LinkedIn if someone would like some advice on grant writing.

      Daren Shumate

    11. How long does your over-engineered $80k footbridge last? How long did the old, presumably less expensive "under-engineered" last?

    12. Daren you are the man!

    13. lot of armchair civil engineers in this thread

    14. We have bridges falling down or in desparate need of repair.

      I don't think we want to under engineer ANY bridge.

      If the bridge carries ANYBODY from the public you DO NOT want it UNDER engineered. There is no such thing as an over engineered bridge.

    15. Adam, I'm not sure what your point regarding "armchair civil engineers" is, but I have appreciated the generally civil discourse between those who have chosen to put names to their posts.

      A lot of people had sticker shock at the $80k number. Daren has been rationalizing how that number could be a reasonable budget basis, and taking time to explain himself, and even suggest avenues which have worked for him in Parklawn that the concerned neighborhoods could take to pursue getting money.

      I personally think this is a role that government can and should have - rather than just throwing up arms and saying "we don't have money - we'll have to scrounge and you'll have to wait", but rather suggesting constructive ways that the neighborhoods can help meet the government half way. That has never been my experience under Penny's realm, but that's besides the fact. I'm glad to have Darren offering up his suggestions.

      You call it "arm-chair civil engineering". I call it grass-roots brainstorming to help solve a problem. Yes, weird being done on a blog message board, but at least the info is now out there :-)

    16. Guess I should clarify that my comment was not pointed at Daren, since he's the only one here who even provided a basis of estimate.

    17. Jeff - To be sure, if you want Board of Supervisor assistance, it helps to approach with a positive and constructive strategy.

      In my experience with the three Parklawn Grants, the County was very cooperative. In fact, when we were demolishing the tennis courts at Parklawn Pool, we were able to get HUGE help from a stream stabilization project that was under way at the same time and RIGHT NEXT to our project.

      Just by being positive and creative, Fairfax County did the final tennis court demolition, hauled it away, brought in top soil and planted grass. Had we tried to buy this ourselves it'd have been at least $25,000.

      And this we got from the County just by asking nicely.

      The more I look at this bridge (via Google Earth) the more I think this might be an excellent NEPP Grant opportunity. Just make sure that no one hauls away the I-beams. (Stating that you are "recycling" by reusing in your grant goes a long, long ways.)

    18. Daren - I'm really glad you have had such success with the county, and I understand approaching with positive energy is important. That record of success is hardly universal, which I think was a big reason why despite being out-spent by 6x, her challenger was able to capture over 40% of the vote last round.

      When people engage their government, they want to feel heard and be able to collectively work towards results in the way you describe. Unfortunately, I just don't see that happening as the norm in Mason district. But that isn't to say it can't happen in this instance, and I still thank you for your input.

    19. Above the Noise3/29/16, 4:16 PM


      You always find a way to bring this back to Penny Gross and politics.

      You notice how Daren was able to make a lot of rational arguments without once attacking or defending Penny Gross?

      This is the ANNANDALE Blog, not the PENNY GROSS Blog.

      The election is LONG behind us. Either move on or find a new post to post.

    20. Actually, I have plenty of comments where I don't mention Penny at all. Yes, in my comments here I have pointed out how I feel our leadership has failed us. Penny Gross was quoted in the article, and so I think it is appropriate to include civil commentary to that fact in the comments.

      I will point out - while I have requested people to be civil and I have requested that anonymous comments to be turned off, I have never asked that someone else to "move on" or leave the discussion simply on the basis that they disagree with me.

      Feel free to scroll past my posts if you like. But I care deeply about my community, and I will not be silenced simply because you don't like what I have to say.

    21. I do believe that the neighbors of this bridge have for many years told the County that the bridge needed to be replaced and was told that money was available for the bridge. Now the money no longer available and the bridge is gone.

  8. What exactly does Penny do other than disappoint her constituents at every turn? Pathetic. Another 4 years of her will drag on. Who knows what our district will look like at the end of this term. I can only imagine worse than it is now. Much worse.

  9. A path across the stream using large stepping stones or piers might be more economical.

    1. Maybe more economical, but not really an option for a government to do. It wouldn't be ADA acceptable, it would be pretty accident friendly (stepping stones across a shady creek would get very slippery), and then there's the fact that the stream bank is a good couple of meters lower than the bank on each side, so you'd have to install stairs or something.

      A bridge really is the way to go.

    2. Fairfax County's Roundtree park uses stepping stones across a creek. I have seen this installation at many parks.
      Graduated piers can be used to address height issues.

    3. When I was a kid there in the 60s we just jumped onto stones in the water, sometimes getting a little wet. Many many crossing points between Larchmont and Valleycrest. Did not need government involvement to get across the creek That little bridge was cute though.

    4. When were those stepping stones or posts placed across streams in Holmes Run park? I use them frequently. I suppose they were placed before the ADA hamstrung everything.

    5. Those stepping stones are horrible for the elderly to navigate and for bikers to cross. Bad value engineering idea making the trail unusable for many.

    6. Stepping stones or piers can be cast in any number of sizes and shapes and placed varying distances apart.

    7. There are many elderly in the area who would not be able to navigate any type of stepping stones. Also keep in mind the elderly are usually walking with a cane and sometimes a dog and add stepping stones to that.

    8. I am up there in years and also use a cane and have used stepping stone paths which were crafted in wider size and spaced fairly close together to get across streams -- better than nothing.

    9. The stepping stones at Holmes Run Valley stream are dangerous for those who use canes - just too small. I would agree that if these were wider even a cyclist could walk their bike over it. The stepping stones are way too small and now that these are chipping and eroding they have become even more difficult to navigate. So be careful.

      The County is just not savvy or smart enough to think their value engineering options out and thus these options end up costing less, but then they lack the facility intended.

  10. My question is where did the money go that was allocated for that bridge a few years ago?

    1. Ask Mr Plourde and/or Penny Gross.

  11. This is what sites like gofundme are intended for; i.e. to finance projects of no interest except to a few people. Or, if you're really ambitious, try getting the County to sell the Clark House and using some of the proceeds to rebuild this bridge. That place is of absolutely no value to the County.

    1. This may not be of interest to you — obviously — but I believe there are more than "a few people" who would like to see the bridge replaced.

    2. I would normally agree. However, doing so makes everyone involved an enabler of bad financial practices - much like someone covering at work for an alcoholic or giving an extra slice of pizza to a 1000# person who can’t get out of bed. Raising funds to cover maintenance costs that are the county's ongoing responsibility will simply justify and enable further repeated unsound fiscal practices by county supervisors who spend money like drunken sailors in a brothel (my apologies to sailors and brothel workers).
      Do this and next they will ask for us to raise money to pave our streets or raise money to fix a broken water main.

  12. 80k: Buy a Tesla. Drop it upside down on the stream with the windows open. That's exactly what I call an expletive expensive bridge. Battery pack included.

  13. I am the Mr. Carlstrom who is heavily quoted in the article.

    1) The $24,800 I was quoted from P.E. Johnson of E.T. Techtonics includes the engineering of the bridge and DELIVERY to Broyhill Crest Park.

    2) This is a pre-fab fiberglass bridge that does not require concrete foundations. 4 Screw piles are sufficient at an installed cost of approximately $4,000.

    3) As a pre-fab bridge it is bolt together assembly with all parts man-portable so no cranes involved. Yes it can be bolted together in one day by two people. (160hrs of labor would be realistic if we were constructing a wooden bridge from scratch, we are not)

    4) Any erosion mediation is required even if there is no bridge. However the 40’ span length quoted is 7 feet longer and 1 foot wider than the old bridge.

    5) Fairfax county spent $53 million on artificial turf fields (which will need to be replaced in 10 years). The BOS voted themselves $260k in raises. My property taxes have gone up 35% in the past five years. So tell me again how the county ”has no money”. The county has lots of money they just waste it on new unneeded luxuries while ignoring the maintenance of existing infrastructure. How many “new” county office buildings are going up at a cost of HUNDRES of millions of taxpayer dollars?

    6) Mr Plourde (from the FFX Parks Authority) told me that the only way the bridge would be replaced would be if we could find some way to tie the bridge damage/bank erosion to a hurricane or tropical storm. So I called his bluff and provided him with video evidence I filmed myself of Tropical Storm Hanna causing the majority of the stream bank erosion. His reply was “thanks for the nice pictures”.

    To put this project scope in perspective I suggest you look up “Big Schloss”, This is a mountain on the border between Virginia and west Virginia. At the top is a pedestrian bridge that was recently replaced. It connects two rock outcroppings at the top of a mountain. The bridge has a 75’ span, has 2 concrete foundations, two stair cases and a landing tower at each end. The nearest road is 2 miles and a 1000’ vertical climb away. The replacement cost was $86.000.

    Finally – If any one doubts who is calling the shots just browse the campaign contribution reports for Penny Gross. Her largest contributors are real estate developers, waste management companies and car dealers.

  14. FYI: The old "under-engineered bridge" was 40 years old and had no foundations.

  15. Time to engage local media support and exposure of yet another fiasco/malfeasance in Pennyland.

  16. Note addresses of "large contributors", the majority do not live in Mason...why would they contribute to the campaign of a person in whose district they do not reside??? ;>)

  17. There is an ParksCount Open House to be held Thursday, April 14th from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the Herrity Building (12055 Government Center Pkwy, Fairfax VA). The open house will provide an opportunity to visit the various information stations to learn more about the community's needs for parks and facilities and the capital improvement plan for meeting these needs over the next ten years. Anyone just curious to listen or voice their opinion on how to get the missing bridges into the capital plan should consider attending this meeting.