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Montgomery Slows the Flow

Drivers turning onto Arcola Avenue in Silver Spring this week found themselves in a line that extended back out onto University Boulevard. The cause was the paving and pedestrian safety efforts underway along a road often used as a cut-through between major routes.

state%20law%20%282%29.jpg Getting attention on Arcola Avenue. (Thomson)

Once the paving is done, the asphalt trucks and rollers will be gone but the concrete islands and bump-outs will remain to slow drivers and aid crossing pedestrians. The roadway will be reduced from four lanes to two.

I was curious to see the avenue and its new safety devices after getting a letter from Nadine G. Sparer, a Silver Spring resident who is very upset about the results:

"How did the dangerous redesign of this road come to pass? There are no signs indicating when two lanes become one lane. The parking lanes preclude trying to get around vans and trucks. Large trucks and vans ride up on the so-called 'pedestrian safety zones' because they can't manuever around them, and avoid parked vehicles."

Pedestrian%20Island.jpg New pedestrian island in mid-street. (Thomson)

It's tough to tell what the roadway will look like to drivers once the paving and striping is done. (I took the photos on Tuesday.) But here's some background on the project.

If there's heavy traffic around the intersection of University Boulevard and Georgia Avenue, Arcola is an easy way to cut between them. Arcola also is the main street for families in the Kemp Mill neighborhood.

To protect the community, Montgomery County's Department of Transportation decided to apply a model it used last year on Connecticut Avenue between Bel Pre Road and Grand Pre Road in a neighborhood with similar concerns about cut-through traffic.

The transportation department says the measures installed on Connecticut made the avenue safer by reducing speeds by 10 mph and increasing compliance with pedestrian safety rules.

bump-out.jpg A bump-out narrows the road. (Thomson)

On Arcola, these steps are being taken:
-- The four-lane road will be reduced to one lane in each direction between Kemp Mill Road and University Boulevard, because the county determined that this is sufficient to handle the through traffic during peak periods.
-- Concrete pedestrian refuge islands have been installed in the middle of the roadway to slow traffic and reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians.
-- Bump-outs, concrete bulges from the curb, were installed to give pedestrians a shorter crossing distance.
-- A two-way center turn lane was added.
-- Bus stops were relocated to safer positions.
-- Many new and highly visible signs warn drivers to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalks.

When similar steps were taken on Connecticut Avenue, I got a lot of complaints from drivers while walkers welcomed the changes. It's tough to make drivers and walkers happy, and I wouldn't expect a different result on Arcola.

By Robert Thomson  |  July 31, 2008; 6:47 AM ET
Categories:  Safety  
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