Staff from the county’s Planning Department last night presented a set of preliminary recommendations to ease traffic and pedestrian concerns along Georgia Avenue in Montgomery Hills and Forest Glen.
In June, the department launched a tool to gather public input about the issues residents experienced along the corridor as part of the process of updating the Forest Glen/Montgomery Hills Sector Plan, which was launched in October, 2017.
The major concerns reviewed at the meeting included problems with walking along or crossing Georgia Avenue, the lack of a dedicated space for bicyclists, traffic backups along Georgia, a Beltway interchange many consider to be unsafe with limited space for merges, and speeding on neighborhood streets and on Georgia through Forest Glen.
Residents also voiced support for a previously discussed plan from the State Highway Administration to realign and improve Georgia Avenue through Montgomery Hills. The preferred proposal, known as Alternative 5B, would include:
- Removing the reversible lane on Georgia
- Installing a landscaped median between the Beltway and 16th Street
- Installing a two-way bikeway on the west side of Georgia
- Upgrading sidewalks with buffers and a consistent walkway 5 feet wide on both sides of Georgia
- Installing a traffic signal at Flora Lane
- Restoring left turns at Seminary Road during peak travel hours, and
- Removing the 16th Street southbound slip lane.
The plan also proposes to add two lanes to reroute 16th Street south to 16th north (though the Planning Department is looking at some modifications to Alternative 5B).
“Tonight’s meeting and recent pedestrian deaths in the area have not only revealed the challenges facing Georgia Avenue, but also what happens when there are no upgrades to a road since 1964,” said Partap Verma, a cofounder of the Friends of Forest Glen and Montgomery Hills.
“The Planning Department is working tirelessly to come up with solutions to fix this neglected stretch, but they will only become a reality if SHA funds this critical project,” he continued. “Until then, local residents and daily commuters continue to be at risk as they navigate Montgomery County’s most blighted thoroughfare.”
To help meet concerns of pedestrians along the corridor, there is already a plan on the books to construct a tunnel under Georgia Avenue connecting the northeast corner of the intersection with Forest Glen Road to the Metro entrance at the southwest corner of the intersection.
The Planning Department is considering additional traffic signals and improved crossings, especially to better serve those who try to walk to Woodlin Elementary School or area shopping.
In addition, the department is looking at buffered sidewalks, street trees and burying utilities to improve walking along Georgia, in addition to increased enforcement and traffic-calming road designs to reduce speeding.
The planners also introduced two options for reconfiguring the Beltway interchange. One would eliminate the northbound ramp from the Inner Loop onto Georgia, routing all exiting traffic via the existing exit for southbound Georgia, with improvements to the intersection.
A second, more complex, and more expensive, option would almost completely rebuild the interchange to improve safety and reliability, eliminate traffic weaving in the area, and reduce congestion, among other benefits.
However, as noted, this option would be expensive and could induce increased travel demand, which potentially would negate any reduction in congestion.
There will be another public meeting to discuss the recommendations on Dec. 4, prior to presenting them to the Planning Board on Dec. 6.
For more information, contact lead planner Melissa Williams, 301.495.4642 or [email protected].
Graphic from Montgomery County Planning Department