A public draft of the Complete Streets Design Guide is now available for review.

Montgomery County is developing a new approach to designing county roads using a concept called Complete Streets, roadways that are designed and operated to provide safe, accessible, and healthy travel for all users of the roadway system, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists. On a Complete Street, it is intuitive and safe to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to school. Click to read the newly released Complete Streets Design Guide.

  1. Safety – maximize safety for all (pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicles),
  2. Sustainability – enhance ecological functions and economic appeal of a streetscape, and
  3. Vitality – create streets that are great, dynamic places.

Schedule

In July, a formal public hearing will be provided by the Montgomery County Planning Board with additional opportunity for public comment. Planning Board work sessions will follow in September, with transmission to the County Council for their review anticipated in January 2021.

Contacts

For more information, you are encouraged to contact either of the two co-Project Managers listed below:
Montgomery Planning – Steve Aldrich (301) 495-4528 Email
Montgomery County DOT – Andrew Bossi (240) 777-7200  Email

District 16 Delegation Asks for Route 355 Crosswalk Repairs

In a recent letter to the State Highway Administration, Senator Susan Lee and Delegates Mark Korman, Ariana Kelly, and Sara Love wrote:

… In recent months, we have received increased reports of crosswalks along MD 355 that are in need of maintenance. In the attached document, we have compiled a list of crosswalks that warrant your office’s attention. The document catalogs every crosswalk along MD 355 that is in need of either A) new paint,B) stripes added, or in some cases, both. The pictures in the document are current as of January 2020. Consistent with SHA’s own recommendations laid out in the Context Driven guide, we encourage the addition of “continental” crosswalks because they are more visible to motorists than the standard parallel lines. Additionally, the continental stripes indicate to pedestrians where to cross safely.

Thank you, delegation from District 16, for staying on top of this important pedestrian safety issues, and we look forward to seeing those new and improved crosswalks from SHA.

Here are are few images from their document, and you can see all the crosswalks by clicking here. (The White Flint/Pike District section begins on page 19.) Because of the advocacy of Friends of White Flint, the intersections of Route 355 and Nicholson Lane, Marinelli Street, and Old Georgetown Road already have freshly painted crosswalks with stripes.

How is MoCo Doing on Pedestrian Safety?

Adam Pagnucco wrote a terrific analysis in The Seventh State about spending on pedestrian safety projects and the impact of that spending. The entire article is below, but if you only have a couple of minutes, here are the sentences Friends of White Flint thinks is most important. This analysis argues for smarter, lighter, quicker, faster projects to enhance pedestrian safety in the Pike District and across Montgomery County. (See our blog post from Feb. 12)

MoCo’s spending on pedestrian and bikeway projects steadily accelerated from $44 million in the FY7-12 CIP to $225 million in the FY19-24 CIP.  Major projects like the Metropolitan Branch Trail, the MD-355 BRAC crossing and the Capital Crescent Trail are partially responsible for these increases.  However, the FY21-26 executive recommended budget is a step back.  The six-year total pedestrian and bikeway spending of $181 million is the lowest since the FY13-18 amended budget.  So is the percentage of the total capital budget accounted for by pedestrian and bikeway projects.

MoCo spends a lot of money on pedestrian projects, but is the county getting a good return?  A 2007 county council press release states that the county averaged 430 pedestrian collisions per year from 2003 through 2006.  The Maryland Department of Transportation estimates that the county averaged 459 pedestrian crashes from 2014 through 2018.  Between the two periods, the county’s population rose by 13% while its pedestrian crashes rose by 7%.  Is that a sufficiently positive result from the enormous sums the county has spent in recent years?  Given the significant needs in this area and the limited resources in the capital budget, the county may wish to study the most cost-effective ways of promoting pedestrian safety and direct its funding accordingly.

From The Seventh State by Adam Pagnucco

Pedestrian safety is arguably THE hottest issue in MoCo government right now.  With several recent high profile pedestrian deaths and residents swarming a county council meeting on the subject, alarmed elected officials are terming pedestrian crashes a “public health crisis” and demanding action.  The county has responded by hiring a full-time pedestrian safety coordinator and is promising more to come.

Pedestrian safety has been a challenge in Montgomery County for decades.  How well is the county doing on this issue?

First, let’s look at MoCo’s rate of pedestrian involved crashes in comparison to the rest of the state.  The table below, sourced from data provided by the Maryland Department of Transportation, compares the average annual number of pedestrian crashes by county to county populations.

Three of the top four counties on a per capita basis – Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County – are among the most urbanized jurisdictions in the state.  The other county in the top four – Worcester – has an unusual amount of pedestrian activity on the Ocean City boardwalk.  MoCo ranks 7th of 24 counties on crash rate but its average annual crash rate per 1,000 residents (0.44) is below the state average (0.54).  Admittedly, the state average is skewed upwards by Baltimore City.

It’s interesting that MoCo’s pedestrian crash rate is similar to less urbanized jurisdictions like Wicomico, Dorchester and Washington Counties.  Urbanized counties should have greater volumes of pedestrian activity because of a greater abundance of walkable districts.  MoCo certainly has more of those than Wicomico, Dorchester and Washington Counties.  That suggests that MoCo isn’t a relatively bad performer on this measure given its substantial (and increasing) urbanization.

One thing MoCo does is spend significant amounts of capital money on pedestrian projects.  The table below compares capital budget spending on pedestrian and bikeway projects (the two are one category) to total capital spending excluding the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission in the last 16 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) budgets. 

MoCo’s spending on pedestrian and bikeway projects steadily accelerated from $44 million in the FY7-12 CIP to $225 million in the FY19-24 CIP.  Major projects like the Metropolitan Branch Trail, the MD-355 BRAC crossing and the Capital Crescent Trail are partially responsible for these increases.  However, the FY21-26 executive recommended budget is a step back.  The six-year total pedestrian and bikeway spending of $181 million is the lowest since the FY13-18 amended budget.  So is the percentage of the total capital budget accounted for by pedestrian and bikeway projects.

All of this gives rise to two questions.

1.  MoCo spends a lot of money on pedestrian projects, but is the county getting a good return?  A 2007 county council press release states that the county averaged 430 pedestrian collisions per year from 2003 through 2006.  The Maryland Department of Transportation estimates that the county averaged 459 pedestrian crashes from 2014 through 2018.  Between the two periods, the county’s population rose by 13% while its pedestrian crashes rose by 7%.  Is that a sufficiently positive result from the enormous sums the county has spent in recent years?  Given the significant needs in this area and the limited resources in the capital budget, the county may wish to study the most cost-effective ways of promoting pedestrian safety and direct its funding accordingly.

2.  As noted above, the executive’s new recommended capital budget decreases pedestrian and bikeway spending to its lowest level in seven years.  One reason for that is that the overall level of capital spending is declining.  (That’s a subject for a future series.)  With all areas of the capital budget under stress and the looming possibility that school construction delays will trigger residential moratoriums, it’s extremely difficult to add or even maintain funding for any program, not just pedestrian and bikeway projects.  That said, county elected officials will look terrible if they declare pedestrian safety to be a “public health crisis” but then cut funding for pedestrian and bikeway capital projects.

Overall, MoCo’s record on pedestrian safety is not a bad one when compared to the rest of Maryland.  But funding constraints could hinder its prospects for improvement.