Changes are coming to a much maligned crosswalk in downtown Bethesda, but probably not the pedestrian activated signal some had hoped for.
The Wisconsin Avenue crosswalk at the intersection of Stanford Street has no traffic signal and is often disregarded by motorists. According to state law, drivers must stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk, which is a popular connection between the U.S. Post Office and Trader Joe’s grocery store.
The State Highway Administration will remove the existing crosswalk on the north side of the intersection and move it to the south side. The SHA will also add a pedestrian refuge in the existing median as part of its $2.2 million safety and resurfacing project for Wisconsin Avenue.
The crosswalk spans six lanes of Wisconsin Avenue/MD 355 near the southern edge of downtown Bethesda.
Montgomery County Police have done a number of pedestrian safety sting operations in the crosswalk. Earlier this year police issued 24 citations in two hours to drivers who didn’t yield to an undercover police officer crossing the road.
David Buck, a spokesperson for the SHA, said the many signalized intersections near Stanford Street make it unlikely that a pedestrian activated signal would be installed there.
“There are numerous signalized intersections along MD 355 in this area with signalized intersections at Bradley just 400 feet or so to the south and Leland/Woodmont just 500 feet to the north,” Buck wrote in an email. “Since MD 355 at Stanford is not signalized, we could potentially create an unsafe situation by adding a mid-block pedestrian crossing with no signal at Stanford. And with signals so closely spaced to the north and south, it is doubtful a signal would be considered at Stanford.”
The Wisconsin Avenue project includes new pedestrian countdown signals at the intersections of Montgomery Avenue, Old Georgetown Road, Waverly Street, Elm Street, Bethesda Avenue, Willow Lane and Leland Street. The SHA will also add a small camera to the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Montgomery Lane to allow a traffic signal controller to respond to real-time traffic conditions.
Some of the improvements started last September until the winter and restarted about a month ago, Buck said. The SHA plans to issue another press release in the next few weeks to notify people of upcoming grinding and resurfacing work that will mean nighttime lane closures.