Two government agencies have individual plans for improving Veirs Mill Road for pedestrian and bicyclist safety and to decongest traffic following two deaths of bicyclists there since December.
The State Highway Administration is planning to update their design plans to build a corridor to connect Montrose Parkway from MD-355 to Veirs Mill Road.
Meanwhile, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission plans to review the Veirs Mill corridor to potentially improve accessibility for residents to the future Bus Rapid Transit system.
The president of the Aspen Hill Civic Association Jamison Adcock said the end of this corridor won’t be too far from the intersection at Veirs Mill Road and Turkey Branch Parkway, where 31-year-old bicyclist, Oscar Mauricio Gutierrez Osorio, died last month after a car hit him.
According to Adcock, there is still concern from the community regarding whether these projects will address the safety issues of this intersection.
“Given that Georgia Avenue is kind of ‘trafficy,’ I think a lot of people were skeptical about taking lanes away for buses,” said Adcock, referring to plans for installing Bus Rapid Transit lanes along the corridor.
Adcock also said the yellow lights that pedestrians turn on to warn cars they are about to cross are not “sufficient” and can sometimes cause confusion.
Instead, Adcock suggested there should be a stop light pedestrians can activate when they have to cross the road.
“A stop light that is pedestrian activated, so if I want to cross the street, I press the button and the light turns red and the cars have to stop,” Adcock said.
However, in an email to County Council member Hans Riemer (D-At large) after the fatality in December at the same intersection, Assistant District Engineer for Traffic for the county Anyesha Mookherjee said the “pedestrian volumes” did not qualify the Matthew Henson Trail crossing at the intersection to have a pedestrian-activated traffic signal.
She said this was according to Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
Glenn Kregar, the Chief of the Area Two Division for the MNCPPC and a Silver Spring resident who drives by the area to and from work, said another driver almost rear-ended his car when he stopped for a pedestrian to cross the road.
“I know exactly what it’s like,” Kregar said.
Kregar also said though MNCPPC’s plans focus on safety and are long-term, it shouldn’t stop any short-term solutions for these safety issues from happening.
Kregar, the commission will review the Veirs Mill corridor in September as a part of their two-year master plan. Kregar said the commission already reviewed other areas in Kensington, near Georgia Avenue and Randolph Road, and downtown Wheaton.
However, the commissioners never addressed Veirs Mill Road.
“(Bus Rapid Transit) made it seem timely,” he said. “The county Department of Transportation is working on preferred alignment, which tells you exactly where the facilities are going to be located. It’s the specific location and route. You can run BRT where the lines run down the curb or you can have some where they run down the median.”
Kregar also said they will also look for potential improvements in that area and there might be potential for two BRT crossings on Randolph Road and Georgia Avenue.
“We’ll be looking at specific locations where redevelopment might be appropriate. Until we actually start evaluating the corridor I can’t tell you,” Kregar said.
Kregar said they will be looking for input from the community on what specific issues the commission should address in the process of preparing for the BRT line.
He also said they will be working with several interested organizations such as the SHA, the Department of Housing, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Recreation Department.
“We invite them all to participate and some will and some won’t. There’s a whole list. We just haven’t identified all the issues,” Kregar said.
According to Kregar, the commission has yet to have a “project scope” and the details such as construction and specific projects are still to be determined.
However, the development of the master plan will begin in September and will be done by spring of 2018.
According to the spokesperson for the Maryland Transit Administration Paul Shepard, Montgomery County is funding the review with $6 million. He also said there will be an “open house” sometime this fall to talk about the results of the review with the public.
The County will also be paying for another project called MD Phase 2 plan from the SHA, which will connect Montrose Parkway from Rockville Pike and will end at Veirs Mill Road.
According to the project manager Luis Gonzalez, total cost estimate of the project is within the “$60 million to$90 million” range, with noise walls along Montrose Parkway costing another $6 million.
He said the SHA is in charge of the design of the project, which they have yet to update to include the “noise walls,” or barriers to “protect the residents from traffic noise.”
Once the design is complete, the County will be in charge of the implementation of the design. Gonzalez said they will be done with the design by the end of the year.
“We will help the county with producing what they need. We made it clear that this is their project,” Gonzalez said.
The purpose of the project will be to reduce traffic and accidents. In the original design, SHA didn’t include Montrose Parkway and only intended to relocate Randolph Road.
However, Gonzalez said due safety issues on Randolph Road and how often driver use the road to travel east to west, the state asked the administration to include Montrose Parkway in the design.
“If you’re on Randolph Road and you want to go west, you’ll have to get off Randolph Road and get on Montrose Parkway,” Gonzalez said about the new design.