Despite Controversy, West Market Sidewalk Project to Proceed

Despite of misgivings about the project’s total budget, and questions about the timing of the work, construction of sidewalk improvements along West Market Street will proceed as scheduled this summer, following the award of a construction contract by the Town Council last week.

The 1,100-foot sidewalk project between Ayr Street and Morven Park Road is intended to resolve dozens of current deficiencies in the link, including 31 barriers to accessibility based on ADA standards. These include trip hazards, missing sidewalk and stairs, according to a staff report. The project will remove the existing stairs at the intersection of West Market and Ayr streets, and also complete a missing link of accessible sidewalk that will connect the sidewalk network west of Morven Park Road with the downtown. The concrete and brick sidewalk on the north side of West Market Street will be replaced with a new, ADA-compliant, brick sidewalk.

Under the construction plan, a temporary closure of that portion of West Market Street will take place for two-and-a-half months this summer. That road closure was approved by the Town Council last summer. During the initial construction phase and ahead of the road closure, the Utilities Department also will replace the aging water main along the entire length of the project, according to a staff report. Construction on the waterline will begin in early April, and the staff is in the process of scheduling a remote “Pardon Our Dust” pre-construction meeting for area residents, according to Renee LaFollete, director of the town’s Public Works & Capital Projects Department. The road closure, however, will not begin until after school is out for the summer, expected to be from late June through late August.

In awarding the construction contract to Madigan Construction, Inc., the council also approved the use of an additional $270,000 to allow for a 10 percent construction contingency, and $110,000 for dry utility relocations. That money will come from proffers associated with the Crescent Place development project. These proffers are permitted to be used for off-site road improvements and capital facilities within the Town of Leesburg.

Several concerns about the project were raised during the March 10 Town Council meeting prior to awarding the contract, including its timing with the Loudoun County courthouse expansion project, which is expected to be particularly disruptive to the local road network and the historic downtown area. Councilman Tom Dunn was the lone dissenting vote on the contract award, pointing to the project’s total budget of $1.7 million and the timing of it with the courthouse expansion project. 

“I just would have rather seen this pushed back to either get it done before or after the courthouse. I also am concerned about the great cost in this. It just seems like we’re going to great lengths to satisfy a much smaller issue. It’s sort of like we need to build a bridge to a river to be determined,” Dunn said.

But a majority voted to move the project forward, pointing to the improved safety of the finished product and fulfilling a promise to local residents.

Councilman Neil Steinberg said he believed residents would “read us the riot act” if it was removed from the Capital Improvements Program.

“We’ve made the commitment, we’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. To back out of this at this point would be extremely short-sighted,” he said.

The award of the construction project was approved by a 5-1-1 vote, with Councilman Josh Thiel abstaining and Dunn dissenting.

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