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Montgomery Unveils 'Road Diet'

Montgomery County wrapped up a week of pedestrian safety events on Tuesday when it formally unveiled the redesign of Arcola Avenue, a neighborhood street that also has served as a speedy shortcut for commuters passing through Wheaton.

Arcola Avenue Leggett.jpg County Executive Isiah Leggett explains new safety features. (Thomson)

While the redesign is too new to evaluate, county officials say they are encouraged to see drivers slowing down and pedestrians getting a break. But they will continue to monitor the results and could tweak the system. Some neighborhood residents, for example, are asking for more help in making left turns along the avenue.

The engineering features, collectively refered to as a "road diet," are innovative but not experimental. It wasn't a case of, "Let's pour some concrete here and see if that helps."

Arcola Avenue crosswalk.jpg New design eases pedestrian crossing by narrowing walk distance. (Thomson)

The county narrowed this portion of the avenue from four lanes to two, added concrete "bump-outs" that add to the narrowing effect, redesigned crosswalks to shorten the walk distance for pedestrians and put up many attention-getting safety signs.

"Innovative engineering can make a difference," said Jeffrey R. Dunckel, the county's new pedestrian safety coordinator.

Elaine and Jerry Taragin, who live right on Arcola, are among the community residents who are encouraged by the results so far. The project gives them a fighting chance of crossing the street, Elaine Taragin said. They think traffic is moving more slowly and drivers are giving pedestrians more of a break.

Dunckel and other county officials noted that engineering isn't everything. One of the string of announcements this month unveiled a pedestrian safety education effort aimed at reducing pedestrian injuries and deaths among non-native English speakers, which the county says is one of the groups at highest risk of being involved in pedestrian collisions.

Arcola Avenue sign.jpg Bolder signs get attention. (Thomson)

A safety video, called "Walk SafeTM: Keeping Pedestrians Safe in the Danger Zone" will be distributed to adult English-as-a-Second Language teachers at Montgomery College and in Montgomery County public schools. It also will go to nonprofit groups, churches and employers that provide English language instruction in Montgomery. You can request a copy from the county by clicking on this link.

"This is an important mission for us," County Executive Isiah Leggett said of the safety campaign. He added that it's a mission that won't be accomplished in a string of announcements, but rather will take years to carry out. "We are focused on doing this over and over again," he said Tuesday, while spotlighting the Arcola Avenue safety features.

There were 17 pedestrian deaths in the county last year; 13 so far this year.

By Robert Thomson  |  September 10, 2008; 8:54 AM ET
Categories:  Driving , Safety  
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