Montgomery County, Maryland, is extending a popular program that allowed residents and businesses in the Maryland jurisdiction to use public streets for leisure and retail activities.
The “Shared Streets” initiative started as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, and it has been extended to at least March 2022. The county’s Department of Transportation manages the program that lets residents enjoy activities such as biking, walking, outdoor dining and shopping.
“It is evident that despite progress we have made in combating the pandemic with our highest vaccination rate and lowest case rates, many of our residents feel more comfortable gathering outside and Shared Streets has been a popular program to serve that demand,” County Executive Marc Elrich said in a statement.
Last week, the county’s indoor mask mandate was lifted after the case rate had fallen into the “moderate” range — under 50 cases per 100,000 residents over the previous seven days. However, several days later, COVID-19 rates have gone up; and the council is meeting Tuesday on a proposed amendment regarding when the mask mandate would be reinstated.
Elrich said the program has not only been economically beneficial to businesses, but it has also brought the community together and kept them safe from transmitting the virus, as well as from vehicular traffic.
“This creative solution has undoubtedly changed the way we see the public right of way and has provided a safe haven for gathering, making it feel safer and more comfortable,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin.
Shared Streets programs are in downtown Bethesda, Wheaton and Silver Spring.
A similar program in D.C. has also been extended to 2022.
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