Montgomery Co. considering ‘road diet’ project for North Bethesda’s Tuckerman Lane

Transportation officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, are considering implementing a “road diet” pilot project that would reduce the number of lanes on one of its busiest roads.

The Tuckerman Lane project would reduce 1.17-mile stretch of the road from four lanes to two lanes (with one lane going in each direction) between Old Georgetown Road to Rockville Pike in North Bethesda. The project would use flexible plastic posts to close off existing lanes. The goal of the project is to enhance safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

The proposed road diet project on Tuckerman Lane. Click to view full-size. (Courtesy MCDOT)

“The intent of this diet is to reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians and bicycles using Bethesda Trolley Trail,” said Michael Paylor, chief of Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s Traffic Engineering and Operations Division.

Paylor presented a video during a meeting Wednesday showing people nearly getting hit by vehicles while crossing the section of road where the project is set to take place.

“You can see bicyclists and pedestrians crossing the road in front of moving vehicles without using the pedestrian hybrid beacon, and near-crashes occurring,” he said. “You’ll see in a few moments as a jogger that’s about to come into view and he’s about to be struck by this vehicle and the car stops at the last minute.”

Earlier this year, a jogger was killed after being struck on another stretch of Tuckerman Lane — where a woman was also killed crossing the street in 2019.

Several residents shared their thoughts about the proposed project during the meeting — and many were not happy about it.

“It seems to me that what’s going to occur here is only going to cause traffic jams,” said one man.

Artur Kalil said he thinks the project does not address the traffic safety issues in the right way.

“You’re creating more problems to try to solve a problem that won’t be just because of … behaviors, not because of the way it’s designed,” said Kalil. “You’re trying to out-engineer a problem that’s not an engineering problem to begin with. It’s a behavioral issue.”

Elyse Grossman asked if Montgomery County DOT thought about looking at the use of the road during different times when planning the project.

“It seems like maybe you went out once or twice and said, ‘OK, this is a problem, but it’s a very different road depending on what time of day, whether it’s a weekday or a weekend, whether it’s raining,'” she said. “And if the issue is just where the trolley trail is, there has to be a way to address that without ruining the entire road for those who live there and who want to get home.”

If implemented, a decision will be made about whether or not to make the project permanent in one year.

Stetson Miller

Stetson Miller is an anchor and reporter for WTOP. He has worked in TV newsrooms for the last several years in New York, Baltimore, Washington and Charleston, SC.

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