Beginning on or about November 1, Bethesda Parking Lot 31A, located south of Bethesda Avenue and east of Woodmont Avenue, will be temporarily closed for about 60 days to relocate utilities. The lot will reopen in January 2010. Lot 31A is the smaller lot across the street from the much larger Parking Lot 31, which will remain open.
In the spring of 2011, both Lots 31 and 31A will close for the construction of a new underground parking garage.
Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation recently completed a project in Friendship Heights with private sector developers that significantly enhances pedestrian, transit and traffic access in this dense, urban center.
The improvements include reconstructing the median on Wisconsin Avenue between Willard and Western avenues; adding pedestrian and streetscape features; resurfacing pavement; and adding new lane markings to create an additional left turn lane for southbound traffic at Western Avenue.
As a condition of their site plan, New England Development Company reconstructed curbing and installed streetscaping features on the west side of Wisconsin, as called for in the Friendship Heights Sector Plan. The Chevy Chase Land Company did similar work on the east side.
For more information on other infrastructure projects, visit the County’s website.
To recognize the importance of National White Cane Day on October 15, the 45th anniversary of this annual event, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett urged drivers to be cautious when encountering a visually impaired pedestrian with a white cane or a guide dog. Leggett has made pedestrian safety a priority of his administration, and an important component in reaching the goal of making the county a more walkable community is educating both drivers and pedestrians about the steps they can take to prevent pedestrian collisions.
White Cane Day has been celebrated since 1964 and now focuses on recognizing the independence of the blind and their right to participate fully in society. Every state throughout the nation has a white cane law that addresses pedestrian safety for the blind and guarantees civil rights protections.
According to Philip Strong’s History of White Cane Safety Day, “It was not until the twentieth century that the white cane was promoted for use by the blind as a symbol to alert others to the fact that an individual was blind.”
The Division of Transportation Engineering recently started construction on customer service enhancements to help meet the increasing transit needs of White Oak Ride On and Metrobus riders. Since 2003, with the consolidation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in White Oak, almost 4,600 employees have relocated to the campus. By 2013, this number will double. More than 1,200 daily passengers currently use the White Oak bus stops.
The transit upgrades include six new bus shelters on Lockwood Drive at the White Oak Shopping Center. Passenger waiting areas will include benches, low-level lighting, trash cans, streetlights, pedestrian crossings and landscaping. Additional work will include reconstruction of curbs and sidewalks on both sides of Lockwood and installation of traffic calming devices, including two additional concrete medians.
The cost of these improvements is about $1.6 million. The project is expected to be completed by next spring. For more information, visit the County’s website.
This fall, the Division of Transportation Engineering (DTS) will begin construction on a project to extend Father Hurley 1.2 miles from Wisteria Drive to Germantown Road (Maryland Route 118). The project should provide much needed traffic congestion relief in the Germantown Road corridor.
The new road will be a four-lane divided highway and include a bridge carrying traffic over the CSX railroad tracks; an eight-foot-wide bikeway along the west side of the road; a five-foot-wide sidewalk along the east side; street lighting; stormwater management features; landscaping; and reforestation.
The road should be completed in the spring of 2011. For more information about the project, go to the County’s website.
On October 7, County Executive Isiah Leggett, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and other dignitaries joined Bethesda Elementary School students, staff and parents on their walk to school to celebrate International Walk to School Day. Bethesda Elementary is weaving this year’s safe walking campaign into their Green Schools curriculum, with a special emphasis on fitness and wellness. Fire engines and “Sparky” the fire dog were special attractions for the students. Officials also celebrated a new sidewalk built by Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation next to the school at the corner of Arlington Road and Wilson Lane. The new walkway improves pedestrian access and safety.
This year, Walk to School Day was celebrated by 5,000 schools throughout the U.S. and 40 countries around the world. More than 22 schools in the county participated. Events focused on the need for safer routes for walking or bicycling and emphasized increased physical activity among children.
For more information about pedestrian safety and the County’s Safe Routes to School program, go to the County’s website.
Pedestrian safety becomes an even greater concern during the annual change from Daylight Savings Time to Eastern Standard Time, which occurs this year on November 1. Pedestrian collisions spike during the winter months and according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, fatal pedestrian/motor vehicle collisions occur most often between 6 p.m. and midnight.
To stay safe, pedestrians are encouraged to wear reflective materials at dusk and night. They should never assume drivers can see them, even when in the beam of a vehicle’s headlights. Drivers should slow down and be aware that pedestrians can be virtually invisible at night or in bad weather.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett launched a public education campaign at the Leisure World Plaza Shopping Center to raise awareness about pedestrian safety in parking lots, especially for seniors. Over the last three and one-half years, there have been 1,496 pedestrian collisions in the county, and of those, about 22 percent, or 324 collisions, have occurred in parking lots. Pedestrian safety in parking lots has received little attention, either regionally or nationally.
Drivers 45 years of age and older and pedestrians ages 18 to 29 were disproportionately involved in parking lot collisions compared to the percentage of these age groups in the general population and among licensed Maryland drivers.
The County has prepared an online toolkit to facilitate conversations with neighbors, civic associations, community groups, religious organizations, service groups and others about staying safe in parking lots. The kit includes a 10-minute downloadable PowerPoint presentation, an article for civic or school newsletters or online list serves, a tip sheet for drivers and pedestrians about how to stay safe, and ways to get neighbors and friends involved.
For the online materials or more information, go to the County’s website.