**After you finish this piece, please see the update from 3/12/14 by clicking here.**
On Tuesday morning, Kyle Liang of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation attended the latest meeting of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee. He shared that MCDOT has been focused on improving pedestrian safety on the east side of the White Flint Sector and will begin with a project on Nebel Street.
Nebel is not exactly a luxury travel experience at the moment. Right now, it’s a 4-lane undivided road with parking on both sides. Although the speed limit is posted at 30 mph, it’s easy to find yourself traveling much faster along the stretch between Nicholson Lane and Randolph Road. As far as trying to get across Nebel, a pedestrian’s options are limited. There’s just one uncontrolled crosswalk (meaning no stop signs, lights or signals) at Marinelli Road. The east side of the street includes some retail but is mostly industrial properties; the west side leads into the rest of the White Flint sector and is two blocks from the Metro station. As far as new projects along this stretch, LCOR’s Aurora will open this year and Foulger-Pratt, along with ProMark, is planning a residential project closer to Nicholson.
Nebel Street looking north from Nicholson Lane. Photo by author.
According to Mr. Liang, the plan is to reduce Nebel from four lanes to three – two for travel, as before, and one for parking – the entire length from Nicholson to Randolph. The travel lanes will be 11 feet wide, which is enough to accommodate the school buses that use this route. Curb extensions will buffer the parking lane and will also shorten the distance for crossing pedestrians. Median islands are also proposed to aid with crossings.
The plan includes a bike lane that will be wider than the county standard at 5.5′ or 6′, but that’s still narrower than bicycling advocates prefer. Liang indicated that a wider bike lane might be confused by drivers as parking. But, Nkosi Yearwood of the Planning Department, who happened to be present, made a different suggestion. He raised the idea of putting a cycle track along this stretch. Separated from traffic by a curb or other barrier, a cycle track would meet the requirements of the sector plan along this route. It would also be a great connection into the White Flint Mall property, as Nebel Street is planned for extension across Nicholson.
The intersection of Marinelli Road and Nebel Street (if driving east on Marinelli). Photo from Google Maps.
Because most destinations are to the west of Nebel Street, MCDOT believes this is the right side for the parking lane. This way, people won’t have to cross Nebel to access their destinations after parking their car. But, it was noted that this is a tricky intersection already. When drivers are heading east on Marinelli and want to turn left onto Nebel (see photo above), they’re confronted with a blind left turn because of a hill and a curve. Add parked cars to the equation and turning drivers are at an even larger disadvantage. Liang suggested that this intersection might be ripe for a four-way stop and, ultimately, a traffic signal. Nebel’s intersection with Old Georgetown Road, just a few blocks north, might also eventually get a signal. It is currently controlled by a four-way stop without a crosswalk.
Marinelli Drive and Citadel Avenue. Photo from Google Maps.
Another intersection that was discussed at the meeting was Marinelli and Citadel, closer to the Metro station (above). This uncontrolled crosswalk spans a wide patch of pavement where pedestrians are reported to often double back to safety after starting to cross. Liang says he’ll ask his office to take a look at solutions that might work there. There is not enough volume for a signal or four-way stop but, perhaps, a pedestrian refuge might help.
It’s projected that MCDOT will get started on the Nebel Street project this summer but we’ll keep you posted as we learn more. In the meantime, send us your comments!