Active Prince William

Helping to make Prince William, Manassas, and Manassas Park a More Livable, Sustainable Community.

Tag: snow

Pedestrian Access Issues Come to the Forefront at Prince William County Snowzilla Response Meeting

People who walk, bike, and take the bus to work in Prince William County have been significantly impacted  long after the recent storm, due to huge piles of snow blocking crosswalks, sidewalks, bike trails, and bus stops. Many crosswalks and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant access ramps are still blocked almost 2 weeks after the event.

PRTC bus shelter 4 days after the storm passed.

Packed PRTC bus shelter 4 days after the storm passed, 27 Jan 2016.

Active Prince William members attended the  County’s “Snowzilla Plowing, Plans And Problems” Community Meeting, convened by  Occoquan District Supervisor Ruth Anderson, on Saturday,  Feb 6, 2016, to point out the lack of pedestrian access on the our sidewalks, crosswalks, and trails. VDOT NOVA, Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC), Prince William County Fire and Police, and others including Deputy County Executive Susan Roltsch and VA Delegate Richard Anderson were in attendance to answer questions about the snow storm response.

The video below is the WJLA Channel 8 News story about the meeting, focusing on the pedestrian access issues. Rob Delach and Rick Holt, of ActivePW were in attendance.

Those most impacted by the blocked sidewalks, crosswalks,  and bike paths are predominantly low income and disadvantaged populations in our County. VDOT owns, maintains and is responsible for snow removal on most of the roads in Prince William County, but it is their policy not to clear snow from sidewalks or bus stops along its roadways. To compound this problem, Prince William County residents are not required to clear sidewalks adjacent to their properties, unless they live in the towns of Occoquan, Quantico, or Dumfries, or the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.  The end result is that few sidewalks in Prince William County are fully passable, almost 2 weeks after the storm.

Snow pile blocking PW Parkway bike path on 6 February 2016. Photo courtesy of Rick Holt.

Snow pile blocking PW Parkway bike path on 6 February 2016. Courtesy of Rick Holt.

VDOT and PWC do not have funding to clear the sidewalks themselves, so it seems that low or no cost options need to be considered, here are two.

Low or No Cost Snow Removal Pedestrian Access Solutions for PWC.

  1. Establish a County Ordinance that requires businesses and residents clear sidewalks that are adjacent to their property.  This will help most with residential streets to improve sidewalks for children to get to bus stops and walk to school more quickly after a storm. Gaps will still exist along major roadways. Local ordinances are in place in the towns within Prince William County as well as Manassas and Manassas Park. In fact, 83% of local jurisdictions across the US have ordinances requiring sidewalk snow removal by residents.
  2. Promote a volunteer network of residents to clear snow for those who are not able to do so themselves, and to clear key access points such as crosswalks and access ramps at intersections.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Law requires local Departments of Transportation (DOTs) to provide snow removal on pedestrian facilities constructed with Federal funds, saying that “reasonable snow removal efforts” must be taken for pedestrian facilities on federal funded roadways.  VDOT has patently ignored this stipulation. But the problem is far worse than VDOT just not following the federal law, they actively plow huge snowbanks onto the pedestrian crossings and sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to walk in the only place they can, in the roadway. Due to the size of the snow piles, they effectively render those facilities useless for weeks after a large snow storm. For the recent event, now almost 2 weeks after the storm, most crosswalks and ramps are still under several feet of snow.

Sidewalk Snow Removal in Prince William County, its Unincorporated Towns, and Greater Manassas

Many of us have experienced the frustration of trying to go for a walk, run, or bike ride after a major snow storm, and finding that sidewalks and trails are inaccessible due to lack of snow removal. Property owner responsibility for snow removal on sidewalks varies within Prince William County, its unincorporated towns, and in the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. Here we provide a summary of what the law requires in the various jurisdictions.

The various cities and townships within Prince William County area all require property occupants or owners to clear snow from sidewalks that are adjacent to their property1. Details vary on how long property owners have to accomplish this after the snowfall ends. The real news here is that Prince William County as a whole does NOT require sidewalk snow removal, which is in keeping with the policy (or lack thereof) of its larger neighbor to the North, Fairfax County.  Similarly, they are not alone in their lack of response to the inability of pedestrians and cyclists to safely navigate our neighborhoods and along our streets after a snow storm. The Virginia Dept of Transportation (VDOT) owns most of the public road rights-of-way in Northern Virginia outside of incorporated cities, but they refuse to provide snow removal for any sidewalks2. If you’ve ever wondered why County schools are often closed for days on end after a substantial snowstorm, it is often due to lack of sidewalk access for students who walk, rather than any issue with buses navigating the roads.

The following is s summary of the local requirements to remove snow from sidewalks in the Prince William and Greater Manassas Area:

Sidewalk Snow Removal for Prince William County, Unincorporated Towns, and Greater Manassas

JurisdictionOccupant/Owner
Required to Clear
Sidewalks?
How long after snow
fall is clearing
required by?
Prince William County Not Requiredn/a
City of Manassas Yes12 hours
City of Manassas Park Yes8 hours of daylight
Town of Dumfries Yes12 hours
Town of Haymarketinfo not availableinfo not available
Town of Occoquan Yes12 hours or if after dark
by 5PM next day
Town of QuanticoYes24 hours

Prince William County

There is no legal requirement in Prince William County for property/business owners or residents to remove snow from sidewalks.

“We ask that people clear snow from their sidewalks so that there is a safe place for people to walk. Otherwise, children and other pedestrians end up walking in the street, which is not a safe alternative.” – link

City of Manassas

The city clears snow on sidewalks adjacent to city properties within 12 hours after snowfall.
Property owners are responsible for clearing sidewalks adjacent to their properties.
Manassas Snow Removal Policy

City of Manassas Park

Occupants or homeowners of any property abutting a  sidewalk, are responsible to clear their sidewalk within the first eight (8) hours of daylight following a snow/ice storm.

City reminds residents to Clear Sidewalks and Help Keep Children Safe
Town Code – Removal of snow and ice from sidewalks

Town of Dumfries

Property owners are required to clear sidewalks adjacent to their property within 12 hours after the snow has ceased to fall.
Town Code – Removal of snow from sidewalks

Town of Occoquan

The occupant of any property that has a sidewalk abutting their property needs to remove snow and ice from it within 12 hours after it has ceased falling, or if it snows overnight, it should be removed by 5 pm on the next day.
Occoquan Snow Removal Policies

Town of Quantico

Owners or Tenants shall remove snow/ice from sidewalks in front of any business or property within the town within 24 hours of cessation of snowfall.
Quantico Code – clearing of sidewalks by business owners

Town of Haymarket

1 – As of the writing of this post, we have not been able to find any information online about their sidewalk snow removal policies and have not received a response from the town.

The town takes pride in its historical town center along Washington St., and the Haymarket Architectural Review Board Guidelines promote “a town center with a historical feel in which residents and visitors can walk, shop, eat, conduct business and relax.”