Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Creek Road Bridge Repair Update

After many months of delay, on August 16th, the Town received notice from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the biological opinion on the Creek Road Bridge repair project has been completed. The opinion is required for compliance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Creek Road Bridge in Fairfax was damaged by the flood waters of the December 31, 2005 disaster. The bridge was initially closed then reopened to foot and bicycle traffic only, and then when engineers detected movement of the bridge in December 2006, the bridge was closed to all use and has been closed since, pending the environmental permitting process. The bridge is a FEMA project as a result of the disaster, and all repairs and work must be completed in accordance with Federal and State regulations.

The proposed work is to repair approximately 130 feet of bridge embankment damaged by the high stream flow, to prevent further erosion of the stream bank which supports the bridge. Temporary fill needs to be removed and fill material will be placed and compacted as a backfill.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued 7 conservation measures and 19 terms and conditions in order for the Town to be in compliance with the Endangered Species Act. As such, the Town will need to take various measures to protect red legged frogs and their habitat, and well as protect any bats, pond turtles, and any other native reptiles and amphibians found during the course of the bridge repair.

The Town is working to expedite the next step of approval from the State Office of Emergency Services (OES) in order that the Town can bid for the project work. It is anticipated that if OES approval is received soon, the Town will be able to have the work completed prior to the 2007 rainy season. Once the repair is complete, Creek Road Bridge would return to full capacity for use by vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.

A status report on Creek Road Bridge is slated for the Town Council meeting of September 5th. We are aware that the bridge and its usage has become a controversial issue, with advocates asking that we keep it closed to vehicles on a permanent basis. We have received many emails and we received petitions last year on this issue. In my opinion, the larger issue that we need to discuss is traffic calming in the area of Creek Road. The bridge closure has given the neighborhood the experience of lessened traffic, and we all like that effect for our own neighborhoods. This was an unintended, but I understand welcome, effect of the flood damage. The Town needs to follow State and Federal guidelines and repair the bridge to its pre-flood state, else we will risk the funding for this project. We also need to ensure swift police and fire access during emergencies. I invite us to have a larger community conversation on traffic calming and making the area safer for the residents of the affected streets, and I will be asking the Town Council to address this issue.