Urban Roads Bill For MoCo Put On Hold

A high-speed right turn lane from Old Georgetown Road onto Rockville Pike (file photo)A County Council bill that would change Montgomery County’s road standards to limit the width of streets and set lower speed limits in urban areas has been put on hold.

Montgomery County Transportation Engineering chief Bruce Johnston said Councilmember Roger Berliner, who introduced the bill with Councilmember Hans Riemer, has agreed to a multi-agency working group that would examine the issue.

County transportation officials hope to avoid a blanket approach to building new streets. The bill would require travel lanes in urban areas to be 10 feet wide and institute maximum 15-foot requirements for turning radii.

Johnston talked about the working group on Tuesday, as he introduced the Chapman Avenue Extended project to the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee. Chapman Avenue is set to include 12-foot wide lanes.

“In certain instances when you have large vehicles and a heavy amount of vehicles turning, you’re going to end up putting people on that 15-foot radius waiting to walk across and that large vehicle is going to be trying to drive right over where they’re standing,” Johnston said. “We don’t like that mix.”

Johnston said the group will look at other urban areas and he cited Boston’s Complete Streets policy for intersection design as an example.

“In an urban area, where you might have a large van, like a 40-foot truck, or a bus turning all the time, you’ve got to be able to accommodate that with some frequency,” Johnston said.

Johnston said the county “stumbled into the right way to do it,” in a Germantown development, where a large 30-foot turning radius allows large trucks to make deliveries to a grocery store just half-a-block away from a 15-foot radius that’s more conducive to pedestrians.

MCDOT has been the target of criticism from supporters of redevelopment in White Flint, which includes a new street grid around Old Georgetown Road and Executive Boulevard.

Developers and pedestrian safety advocates testified in support of the bill last month. But not all who spoke were in favor.

Ron Welke, a retired veteran transportation planner with MCDOT and M-NCPPC, said intersections and road designers shouldn’t be constrained to a one-size-fits-all approach.

“It is not appropriate to legislate traffic engineering design elements such as maximum target speeds, maximum curb radii and maximum lane widths in urban areas. Specific conditions relating to each situation must be taken into account before a decision is made and that is the job of professionals,” Welke testified. “A balance must be reached between the competing and often conflicting roles of safety and mobility of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit vehicles in an urban environment.”

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