You Wanted To Know: What’s Up With Torn-Up Brick Sidewalks?

by ARLnow.com August 13, 2010 at 3:40 pm 2,902 20 Comments


You might have noticed them around town: brick sidewalks torn up by utility work or some other sort of construction project. You’ll see a small pile of bricks (or “pavers”) by a street lamp and patches of asphalt where the bricks were removed.

We were recently asked whose repsonsibility it is to put the bricks back by a reader who was unhappy with the fact that the brick sidewalk in front of the Hyde Park Harris Teeter had been torn up more more than a month (it has since been fixed).

Here’s the response we got from county spokesperson Karen Acar:

Maintenance responsibilities for sidewalks throughout the County can be a complicated issue.

In residential areas it’s pretty simple. In nearly all instances the County owns and maintains the sidewalks – except for driveway aprons, which are the responsibility of the property owner.

Commercial areas are more complex. Many of the commercial roadways, including Glebe Road, Lee Hwy, Columbia Pike, Fairfax Drive, and most of Washington Blvd, are owned by VDOT. In most cases, VDOT would be responsible for maintaining the sidewalks, but not always.

In many areas along VDOT roadways that have been improved beyond standard concrete sidewalks (for example, pavers or more complex paving or streetscape patterns), VDOT has transferred maintenance responsibility to a third party – oftentimes the County – as a condition of approving the non-standard treatment.

Another factor (whether on VDOT or county roads) is the presence of county-issued site plans or other site development approvals. Many commercial developments throughout the County include conditions which require the associated developer or building owner to maintain the sidewalk adjacent to and in front of their site. Many of the sidewalks in commercial areas are not on public right-of-way, but are instead on private land which has been encumbered with an easement to allow public sidewalks and utilities as part of the site development.

In nearly all cases where sidewalk disruption is the result of some utility maintenance or other work, the party that conducted the maintenance or work would be held responsible for restoring the area. The County should be able to track who is responsible for the work by checking various permit systems (building, right-of-way, etc.).

Permanent repairs are often completed the same day as the work, but in other instances, repairs could require two weeks or longer – particularly if the sidewalk disruption is related to a large-scale repair or maintenance program.

Currently, fiber optics are being installed around Arlington County, including Columbia Pike, under a permit from Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Once the contractor has completed installation, it is responsible for repairing the sidewalk.

To reports problems with a sidewalk, follow this link or call 703-228-6570.

Hyde Park photo courtesy Marsh Lucas.

  • Nitin

    Ballston Whole Foods?

    • Steph

      That’s what I was thinking as well. Ha.

      • A

        Are the Arlnow people not locals? It isn’t even questionably near Ballston.

    • And by Whole Foods I meant Harris Teeter. Changed.

  • charlie

    all the pictures are off the slip-n-slide pavers that Arlington officials and the transportation committee are in love with.
    VDOT will not be maintaining these anytime and Arlington is fully responsible for the ones pictures. Arlington has long insisted on putting these things in despite the disagreement of the disabled community, VDOT, and others with common sense.
    I’d blame it on Zimmie if I were you. But that always gets someones plumage all ruffled up so I won’t this time. but I want to.

    • Lou

      Why are they called slip-n-slide?

      • charlie

        well if you ever walk on them when there is snow, ice or leaves and you are headed to the METRO and wearing nice shoes with leather soles,,, you’ll find out…
        (yeah, I coined the term myself!!)

        • Lou

          Ok, so it’s more what is on top than the type of paver. Because these look like standard unglazed unit-pavers to me. They don’t make any type of paver that is not slippery with ice or wet leaves on top, so I guess they are all slip-n-slide.

  • Sunny617

    So the sidewalks are the county’s territory when it comes to confiscating signs, but not when it comes to fixing said sidewalk?

    • 22205

      I imagine the difference is that when businesses get approved for a use permit, that permit includes controls on their use of furniture, signage, hours of operation, etc. The sidewalks aren’t really being ‘regulated’ for signage so much as being the medium where some of the permit regulations apply.

      Local businesses don’t commonly ‘own’ the sidewalks outside their establishments. The sidewalks themselves would be maintained by whoever is responsible, as mentioned by the spokesperson quoted in the article.

      Anyway, that’s my guess.

  • bam bam

    Isn’t anything covered with snow, ice, or leaves slippery?

    • charlie

      bam bam, yes. but because these are so pouros (not glazed) they tend to freeze and ice more easily. and with the wheelchair ramps at corners, boom you go on your bum.

  • Efrem

    With all the problems Democraps are currently creating throughout this once great country, we have a major concern in Arlington over a few misplaced pavers?

    You elitist progressive Democrap misfits are sure out of touch!

    Don’t you have anything better to complain about? It’s not like escaping illegal aliens will trip over the pavers while being chased by Arlington police.

    Get a grip Democraps. You may be more concerned about what will be happening this November when we take back America.

    Unreal indeed.

  • JosephRicks

    I agree with the republicant’s … let’s get rid of sidewalks altogether; the disabled will learn to fend for themselves

  • V Dizzle

    This is clearly a partisan issue. Thank you for the intelligent, well thought out comments. (Ronald Reagan/Karl Marx is rolling in his grave.)

  • Clarendude

    If you notice, it seems they are going to a different paving method for sidewalks in new developments. Now, instead of all paver, they are going to concrete slabs with paver accents and pavers in certain ‘zones’ – with the primary pedestrian clear zone being concrete. I don’t really care as long as there is a place to walk – the bigger problem is those areas in the densely populated areas that have almost no sidewalks. I’m thinking of the area between VA Sq and Clarendon where that power substation is. There is a bus stop there and the sidewalk is blocked by all the power polls and narrows to 1 foot in places. Are they ever going to fix that ?

    • Cranky Crankypants

      RE: better sidewalks by the substation – I’m pretty sure it’s in the Clarendon Sector Plan. Typically, the county makes developers pay for imporovements adjacent to the new property as a form of extortion for allowing increased density. With regard to the substation, it is unlikely to be redeveloped anytime soon, so it isn’t going to be a candidate for that kind of improvement. If you want a better walking environment there, you had best ask regularly.

      • charlie

        A developer did come thru for this site. but the extortion went to high and they walked away. the power subsequently invested heavily in the power station. get used to it. it ain’t going nowhere.
        and the three adjacent historic buildings are all owned by people who dont plan to sell.
        an opportunity was missed because the County and Civic Associations wanted too much in exchange for getting rid of that that power station.
        maybe in another economic cycle. got 20 years?

        • Clarendude

          I don’t think it was a matter of wanting too much. The civic association didn’t want any development and the county listened to them. They weren’t going to get rid of the station but to hide it in the building. The building, therefore had to be large and the civic association didn’t want it. I don’t have any problem with that, but the civic association doesn’t represent many people and the county needs to think longer term. The substation will be there for 200 years, maybe its worth some investment. A little improvement would help a lot (like just undergrounding the utility poles and maybe putting up bollards to protect the sidewalk from the cars) as in the case in many places around the county.

          • charlie

            good clarification. i only heard about it remotely.
            maybe not a good place to have height but the overall benefit to the County would have been worth it.
            the opportunity has come and gone.
            I guess our “district” supervisor would have voted 4-1 on this one!!


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