Councilman wants less traffic on Darnestown Road
Britton and city staff offer traffic, pedestrian improvements
A Rockville councilman would like to see Darnestown Road get a "road diet."
Councilman John B. Britton sent an e-mail to his City Council colleagues last week proposing a number of pedestrian safety initiatives, which include narrowing a portion of Darnestown Road from four lanes to two.
The intent is to not only slow traffic, but also to lessen the amount of cars on that road.
"For the past 50 years we have built our roads to accommodate the free flow of traffic, to get a car from point A to point B," said Britton, who also serves on the county's Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee.
"Putting that road on a road diet' really would be a good test of changing the paradigm in Montgomery County and that's what we should try to do," he added.
His proposal was sent in response to a letter the city received from the county that said the city's request to remove trucks from Darnestown Road was not viable because the road is an arterial road and allows a high volume of traffic, including trucks.
"And because trucks use it, it has to be designated an arterial," Britton said.
"I read that book, it's called Catch-22,'" Mayor Susan R. Hoffmann joked during Monday's meeting.
Britton pointed to two examples of "road diets" at portions of Arcola and Connecticut avenues in Wheaton that were recently narrowed from four lanes to one lane going in each direction and where more visible crosswalks and pedestrian refuges were installed.
County pedestrian safety coordinator Jeff Dunckel said the improvements have slowed traffic that used to travel an average of 44 mph on a 30 mph road down to 32 mph.
A request from Rockville to give Darnestown Road a "road diet" would have to go through the county's transportation department to determine the feasibility of such a project, Dunckel said.
Britton is in line with what Rockville staff is proposing.
City staff told the council Monday night that they have been looking into and implementing pedestrian safety initiatives to be put into a comprehensive policy.
City transportation planners presented plans to draft a "Complete Streets" policy that shifts the traffic engineering focus from vehicular-centered to pedestrian-friendly.
The city will designate transportation planner Carrie Sanders as Rockville's official pedestrian safety coordinator as part of the process.
The city has been working on a number of pedestrian safety initiatives this year, including installing missing sidewalks and pedestrian crossing signals.
In April, the city identified the top 10 most dangerous intersections for pedestrians based on collision reports and the current conditions. The city evaluates all intersections every two years and makes recommendations.
The city also plans to purchase and install countdown pedestrian signals at all 45 signalized intersections it owns. The signals indicate to pedestrians how much time they have to cross the street.
Rockville also plans to retrofit more than 40 crossings with Accessible Pedestrian Signals for the hearing and visually impaired. The signals use sounds and vibrations to alert the pedestrian when it is safe to cross the street.
The city is also looking into new technologies, such as the Enhancer, a crosswalk device that, when activated, signals rapid-flashing lights to alert motorists of pedestrians crossing.
City staff are preparing to pilot the device in the next couple of months and are suggesting installing them at either Great Falls Road and Monument Street, Maryland Avenue and Vinson Street, or Maryland Avenue and South Washington Street, said Emad Elshafei, Rockville's chief of traffic and transportation.
Staff are also hoping to pilot the High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK) signal, which would flash a red light to stop traffic for pedestrians crossing near schools. Staff has not yet identified a location for the HAWK signal.
Staff plans to draft the Complete Streets policy and bring it to the council for review next summer.
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