Capital Crescent Trail needs safety boost at key crossing

Montgomery County is developing plans aimed at boosting safety on the Capital Crescent Trail where it crosses Little Falls Parkway in Bethesda, where an 81-year-old was struck and killed two years ago.

CHEVY CHASE, Md. — Montgomery County is developing plans aimed at boosting safety on the Capital Crescent Trail where it crosses Little Falls Parkway in Bethesda.

Eighty-one-year-old Ned Gaylin, of Chevy Chase, a retired University of Maryland professor, was riding a recumbent bicycle when he was struck and killed at the crossing nearly two years ago.

Since the fatal crash the county has temporarily reduced Little Falls Parkway to two lanes, one in each direction at the trail crossing.

The county said with the temporary measures in place there were two driver crashes and one bicycle crash over a year’s time; There were six driver and six bicycle crashes over a year’s period when the parkway had four lanes — two in each direction — the condition that existed at the time of Gaylin’s fatal crash on Oct. 16, 2016.

“A few options we’re looking at — a pedestrian overpass or a pedestrian tunnel. We’re looking a shifting the trail to the intersections at Arlington Road or Hillandale Road to the north and south,” said Andrew Tsai, project manager for Montgomery Parks.

Other ideas include a traffic control signal, pedestrian activated crossing lights, permanent lane reductions and speed tables.

The Capital Crescent Trail is the county’s most heavily used trail — chock-full of recreational and commuter bicyclists, joggers, hikers and baby strollers.

“I think it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 peak users, per hour, the most popular shared-used trail in Montgomery County,” Tsai said.

Montgomery County is seeking citizens’ input on the proposed changes, and plenty of people turned out Wednesday night at a community meeting held by the Montgomery Parks at Somerset Elementary School in Chevy Chase.

Gaylin’s wife, Rita, urged planners to keep safety first. “Safety is the dominant issue here, safety for all those people using the trail,” she said.

Engineers are currently reviewing a dozen different plans and hope to pare that to three in the fall, presenting one proposal by winter to the Planning Board for its approval.

Ned Gaylin was struck while in the crosswalk, and Rita believes that the best safety alternative for the Capital Crescent Trail crossing at Little Falls Parkway is a pedestrian bridge.

“I think that is the only safe way, long term,” she said.

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