Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Chevy Chase) this week is calling on the county’s Department of Transportation to make its plans for a new White Flint road network friendlier to pedestrians and cyclists.
After a meeting last week on the county’s 35 percent design plans for the Western Workaround, Berliner on Tuesday sent Department of Transportation Director Art Holmes a letter, according to Friends of White Flint.
In the letter, Berliner points out the section of Old Georgetown Road between Executive Boulevard and Rockville Pike as an area where he says the county’s designs are inconsistent with the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.
Regrettably, MCDOT’s 35% design drawings include no bike lanes and only a 13 foot shared use path/sidewalk as opposed to a sidewalk and a shared use path. The combined facility would not be wide enough to allow for the desired café seating in front of the adjacent properties, customers exiting and entering retail establishments, and safe access for pedestrians and bicyclists. These functions simply cannot coexist in a 13 foot span directly adjacent to retail structures. The shared use path should be ten feet wide according to ASHTA standards.
Adding to these concerns is the fact that this segment of Old Georgetown Road is also supposed to accommodate the Recreation Loop called for in the approved Sector Plan (p. 59). In the current design you shared at the meeting on Monday, there is no Recreation Loop. If it will not be possible to accommodate this element, important to many – if not all – residents involved in the WF Sector Plan process, then I am interested in hearing what options are being considered as an alternative route
After a meeting of the White Flint Implementation Committee last week, some weren’t happy with the 40 mph speed limit proposed along the section of Old Georgetown, which would remain six lanes. Developers and other supporters of the White Flint Sector Plan see that design as more suited for the area’s existing strip mall shopping centers than the mixed-use, street retail and shops that are being built at Federal Realty’s site at the Mid-Pike Plaza.
County Transportation Engineering chief Bruce Johnston said the county was trying to institute that vision, but has had to negotiate key design elements with the State Highway Administration. Dee Metz, the county’s White Flint Implementation Coordinator, has said convincing SHA to drop its normal vehicle-oriented standards for building roads is difficult.
Johnston said if the county went ahead and connected Hoya Street, what has long been a service road behind Mid-Pike Plaza, the SHA has indicated it would be more open to allowing bike lanes on Old Georgetown. A connected Hoya Street could allow some of the north-south traffic flow to avoid east-west Old Georgetown, allowing more room for lanes and other streetscaping features.
Berliner pushed for that solution in his letter:
We can avoid a duplicative, costly construction project by doing one of two things: (1) Eliminate one of the left turn lanes currently being considered; or (2) forward fund Hoya Street which would provide an essential through-connection between Old Georgetown and Montrose Parkway. Opening up roadway capacity on Hoya would draw significant through traffic away from the heart of the retail district, thus allowing for more flexible design of Old Georgetown between Executive Blvd and Rockville Pike. Although I personally find the first option a viable option worth consideration, accelerating the build out of Hoya would provide the best long term solution, and save valuable tax dollars that would not need to be spent redesigning Old Georgetown Road at a later date. Let’s do it right the first time, in keeping with the vision for White Flint our residents expect.