Sidewalk projects await decision on brick pavers
Council weighing the use of the streetscaping material in urban districts
A County Council proposal to eliminate the use of brick pavers on right of way sidewalks would have a big impact on downtown Wheaton if passed, said officials with the Mid-County Regional Services Center.
Brick pavers are the most-used streetscaping material in Wheaton's Urban District and in other parts of the county, said Joe Callaway, the chief of operations for the urban district. But some oppose the use of the pavers because they can pose hazards to pedestrians, especially the handicapped, if they're poorly installed.
Several of Wheaton's sidewalk improvement projects will be stalled until the council decides whether or not to prohibit brick pavers, allow them as decoration on corners or allow them to be used freely in urban districts that have a fulltime management team (all possibilities before the council), Callaway said.
Callaway said workers are ready to break ground on a sidewalk renovation on east Fern Street between Reedie Drive and University Boulevard that calls for brick pavers. About 700 feet on Georgia Avenue between Reedie and University is waiting to be finished with brick.
"So we're kind of in limbo until something's resolved," he said.
But unlike several urban districts, Wheaton is not necessarily opposed to the resolution, said Natalie Cantor, the director of the Mid-County Regional Services Center.
In fact, Cantor said Wheaton's Urban District team was already considering making the move to concrete because of cost and out of a shared concern with councilmembers on safety of bricks that come loose, she said.
Because of the extra base that must be laid down before the bricks, brick pavers are more expensive than concrete to maintain, according to a memo Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson sent to the council's Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, which is slated to revisit the issue in a meeting Monday before sending it to the full council.
To save money, Cantor said the urban district team has been working on a secondary streetscape almost identical to the one the council committee suggested: smooth concrete in the rights of way with brick pavers used as edge treatments.
But the extra layer under brick pavers can support heavy traffic better than concrete, Hanson said, and he and others have recommended central business districts be allowed to use them.
That recommendation bodes well with the Silver Spring Urban District Advisory Committee, said its chairman, Jon Lourie.
Lourie, along with urban district advisory committee members in Bethesda and Chevy Chase, have asked councilmembers to reconsider the restriction on brick pavers.
They've insisted that when properly installed, bricks don't pose a hazard to pedestrians because they don't come loose.
And having to stop using brick pavers when that's been the plan for decades will create a "hodgepodge of paving types," Lourie said.
Cantor said having a mishmash of different paving types is her only concern if brick pavers were to be eliminated.
While safety is the priority, Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park said she'll consider all the arguments in the upcoming meeting.
What's most likely is a compromise suggested by the county executive that allows central business districts with designated management and safety teams to use brick pavers if they can afford to maintain them, she said.
"It may make the best sense. Those urban districts have a revenue source and a commitment to the maintenance that other parts cannot," she said.