The pandemic forced local governments to rethink how their residents use public space, and Montgomery County, Maryland, lawmakers have decided to extend the program that closes some streets to traffic.
County Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to continue the Open Streets program, which created more open space for residents to walk, bike, shop and dine in areas closed off to vehicular traffic.
The vote came days after the county’s department of transportation announced plans to extend its Shared Streets program.
The Shared Streets initiative relates to streeteries and the expansion of businesses onto the street. The Open Streets program is relevant to recreational spaces that are blocked off to traffic.
“We are rethinking the way we’re looking at public infrastructure,” said council member Andrew Friedson, who wrote the resolution that garnered full council support.
The resolution extends the program through the summer, but Friedson said the council will have to revisit how the program affects traffic patterns and business access in specific downtowns later on, to determine where the program could remain permanently in effect. The council will also work with transportation experts and the National Park Service, which controls how parkways such as Sligo and Little Falls are managed. But he does not want to approach the subject with negativity.
“We can continue to build on the culture of yes that we’re sometimes not so good at in government,” he said.
The popularity of outdoor dining and curbside pickup options contributed to the vote to extend the program, he said.
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