Earlier this month, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett joined parents, teachers, and children around the world in celebrating International Walk to School Day. This year’s focus school was East Silver Spring Elementary School (ESS) where Leggett walked with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Raymond LaHood, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, and other dignitaries. The annual event promotes safer streets, healthier lifestyles, and cleaner air. Thirty schools across the County participated with various Walk to School Day commemorations.
ESS is one of the most diverse schools in the County and was the first to hold a Walk to School Day celebration in 1999. A legally blind parent at the school, William Smith, was the impetus behind this event, as well as Maryland’s designation of walking as the State exercise. Smith is a tireless advocate for pedestrian safety and was a guest of honor at the Walk to School Day event.
Supporters of the event included Takoma Park Safe Routes to School; Safe Kids Montgomery County; AAA Mid-Atlantic's Foundation for Safety & Education; Federal Express; Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, Police Department 3rd District, Department of Transportation, and Public Schools Division of Food and Nutrition Services; and East Silver Spring Elementary School.
Montgomery County is upgrading safety at schools thanks, in part, to the federal Safe Routes to School program created in 2005. The program provides resources to communities to retrofit roads and create sidewalks and bike paths that allow children to safely walk or bike to school. Funding also supports enforcement and education campaigns.
October proved to be a tragic month with four pedestrian fatalities. The County averages about 450 pedestrian collisions a year, and each one is a tragedy.
Motorists are urged to slow down and watch for pedestrians. However, in any collision between a car and a pedestrian, it’s the pedestrian who will bear the brunt of the impact, regardless of who is at fault. Pedestrians are urged to remember:
When you’re in the street, you’re in the danger zone!
Stay on guard even when you’re doing everything right.
Don’t expect drivers to see you or react in time.
Before you step off the curb look left-right- and then left again.
Get off the cell phone so you’re not distracted.
While crossing, keep looking around for cars.
The County has an aggressive pedestrian safety program that has invested millions of dollars in improvements – and they’re making a difference. In cooperation with the State Highway Administration, the County is working to address engineering improvements to reduce collisions on both State and County roads. Police are also doing their part through enhanced enforcement to ensure that motorists obey the law.
The message to pedestrians is: Stay alert to stay alive in the danger zone.
Starting November 1, trains moving through an at-grade railroad crossing at Forest Glen Road in Silver Spring will no longer be required to blow their loud whistles after a two-year effort by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT). The crossing will be the first “Quiet Zone” of its type in Maryland.
In February, MCDOT installed a median barrier as a first step to ensure safety. The barrier prevents cars from going around the gates that come down when a train is coming. It also added protection for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers using enhanced crosswalks, lighting and signage. MCDOT also plans to put a sidewalk on either side of the tracks to make the area more walkable.
MCDOT was first contacted by the Rock Creek Hills neighborhood association about the noise in 2000. However, following a rule change by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in June 2005, the noise level became worse. The rule, “Use of Locomotive Horns at Highway-Rail Grade Crossings” requires locomotive horns to be sounded as a warning to highway users at public highway-railroad crossings. The rule pre-empted any state or local laws that allowed for “whistle bans.”
MCDOT worked with the County Council, Federal and State officials, neighborhood representatives, and other stakeholders to find a solution. Specific safety improvements that provide the same calculated level of accident risk reduction as a train locomotive horn had to be in place before the FRA could designate the area as a Quiet Zone.
FRA accident reports state that three vehicle-train crashes occurred at the site in the last three decades. Two of the three crashes (in 1977 and in 1985) involved a vehicle driving around the lowered automated gates. The third accident (in 2000) consisted of a backhoe being struck while working on the tracks.
Construction now underway on Silver Spring’s Parking Lot 16, located at 1011 King Street, will result in market rate and affordable housing (the new Galaxy Apartment Complex) above a 160-space County-owned, underground parking garage. The public-private partnership will maximize use of the space, which was previously a surface parking lot. Excavation of the underground garage is complete, and passers-by can next expect to see a tower crane erected in preparation of concrete work. The new garage should be completed by fall of 2011.
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s Division of Transportation Engineering has begun an extension to Nebel Street in Rockville, from Randolph Road north to the existing segment behind Target. The current street -- that runs from the intersection of Bou Avenue and Chapman Avenue -- was previously built by a developer. Improving the road network in this area is an important component of the Master Plan to help reduce congestion on Rockville Pike and provide improved access for motorists, bikers, and pedestrians.
The new road segment will be four lanes wide, with a sidewalk, an asphalt bike path, streetlights, and landscape trees. Improvements will be made to the intersection of Nebel and Randolph, and modifications made to the signal at Bou and Chapman. In addition to connecting residents with retail stores in the area, the newly extended road will serve the White Flint and Twinbrook Metro stations and a proposed MARC station at Montrose Crossing.
The $14 million project is expected to be completed by the end of 2011.
On October 23, a group of Montgomery County Department of Transportation employees, their family members and the Keep Montgomery County Beautiful Task Force participated in Community Service Day by cleaning Grubb Road, portions of East-West Highway, and surrounding streets in the neighborhood. The results: 15 bags of trash, a collection of wooden poles and illegals signs, a hubcap and a microwave oven, all picked up from the roadside. Business partners in the project were The Daily Dish restaurant and Dynamite Graphics.