Vote puts damper on plans for pedestrian bridge at library
Bridge would have connected parking garage to new Silver Spring library
Two Montgomery County Council committees on Tuesday voted not to amend a 10-year-old urban plan for Silver Spring, in effect voting against a pedestrian bridge that would connect the Wayne Avenue parking garage to the new Silver Spring library.
In a joint work session, the council's Health and Human Services committee and Planning, Housing and Economic Development committee voted 4-1 not to amend the 1999 Silver Spring Urban Renewal Plan that prohibits bridges over Wayne Avenue because it would be detrimental to nearby street-level retail.
The pedestrian bridge had been proposed, and supported by County Executive Isiah Leggett and the county Commission of People with Disabilities, to allow the disabled and elderly to get to the library without having to cross the busy intersection of Fenton Street and Wayne Avenue.
But council members and staff from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission said handicap-accessible parking could be placed elsewhere without necessitating a bridge.
"It can't be this is the one place in Montgomery County where, in order to achieve fair access, we need a bridge," Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park said.
Councilman George Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park cast the dissenting vote; Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At large) of North Bethesda was absent.
The vote all but sinks the county's chances of installing the bridge, which would connect the fourth level of the library with the third level of the Wayne Avenue garage at an estimated cost of $750,000. A full council vote could come as early as Tuesday, but Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring has already come out against the bridge.
If the bridge is voted down by the full council, other alternatives for handicap-accessible parking will be considered.
Planning staff suggested a three-phase system that would first put five to six parking spaces on Bonifant Street at the now-vacant site of a future residential building that is part of the library project. When construction on that building begins, those spaces will be moved to a lane of Bonifant Street that will be occupied by the Purple Line. When the underground parking garage that will serve the residential building on the library site is completed, the handicap spaces will be moved there indefinitely.
Department of General Services representatives said that option will cost $1 million and require disabled library users to travel up too steep a grade from the parking spaces to the library entrances on Fenton and Wayne.
"It looks nice on paper, but you've got to actually put it there," said David Dise, director of the Department of General Services.
Cindy Buddington, chairwoman of the disabled commission, was concerned about the second phase of that plan, which would require crossing the Purple Line tracks to get to the library.
But planners said the cost will be in the $400,000 to $500,000 range, which would be less expensive than the bridge, and the parking spaces would be about 170 feet from the library, on par with the estimated distance using the pedestrian bridge.
Before planners presented the parking alternative Tuesday, the only previous option was putting handicap-accessible spaces at street level near the library entrance, which would require the entire library building to be raised a level, costing $3.5 million.