ROCKVILLE — The Transportation and Environment Committee of the Montgomery County Council heard updates on the Dale Drive Pedestrian Facility Improvement Project.
On June 10, the three-member committee heard from the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) concerning their work to improve the pedestrian experience on Dale Drive in Silver Spring. The area is between Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road.
The project includes improvements to intersections along the road, sidewalk and pedestrian improvements and bike safety improvements, such as clear shared-use markings on the road.
Glen Orlin, who is the deputy director of the council, said that briefings like these provide the committee with the opportunity to give guidance to MCDOT on which aspects of the project they would like to see prioritized or carried forward.
“MCDOT doesn’t have to take up or listen to the committee’s guidelines, they don’t have to accept it but most of the time they do. But the point is, it’s a check in the middle of the process,” Orlin explained.
John (JT) Thomas, manager of the Transportation Planning Section at MCDOT noted that many larger projects tend to have two phases. In the case of Dale Drive, he explained, in order to streamline the process, MCDOT is providing updates to the committee during phase one before moving on to the next steps in the project.
“What normally would have been a phase one and then a stop to come to the committee, this is phase one and a brief stop in order to do everything faster and on a more-efficient basis,” Thomas said. “I think we’re going to be able to do a shorter, more-streamlined process going forward for some of the smaller, shorter projects, for things like bikeway projects, sidewalk projects. If there is a major project with lots and lots of different alternatives, that phase one process may be more drawn out.”
He explained that even though there have been efforts to streamline the process of the Dale Drive project, the public engagement portion has not changed. The department has still been conducting public workshops to gain an understanding of what residents would like to see.
Angel Cheng, who works for MCDOT as a project engineer, explained to the committee that as of now, Dale Drive has very minimal sidewalks; moreover, there is a roadway wide enough for two lanes of traffic and about six-to-nine feet of shoulder on either side of the street.
Alternative build options include creating a sidewalk or shared-use path on the north or south side of the street.
A shared-use path creates enough space for bicyclists and pedestrians on one side of the road with some amount of buffer space that is usually a strip of grass. For the Dale Drive project, the grass buffer is projected to be about 5 feet.
Cheng noted that through community-engagement sessions, MCDOT has found that residents really wanted to see improvements to the sidewalk.
Although there was some disagreement over deciding between a sidewalk or shared-use path, the community expressed their desire for some kind of improvement for pedestrians along Dale Drive.
She also noted that due to the layout of the neighborhood, placing a sidewalk or shared-use path will have an affect on the properties. According to MCDOT, depending on the option between 43 and 53 properties could be affected by changing the sidewalks in the area.
Cheng also highlighted the preliminary costs associated with the project, including relocating the utility lines on the street. She noted that depending on the alternative option, the preliminary costs to move the utility line could be between $354,000 and $766,000.
According to the report by MCDOT, the preferred option for Dale Drive is a shared-use path on the north side of the street.
“It’s crazy how much this costs, I know it’s in every project, but it’s like our infrastructure just becomes moving utilities from one side of the road to another; it’s like all we pay for, practically,” Councilmember Hans Riemer said.
Part of the Dale Drive project also includes work to realign a complicated intersection where Dale Drive turns into Columbia Boulevard and meets with Woodland Drive. What should be a three-point intersection turns into a five-point one, according to a bird’s eye view of the juncture.
Options for this intersection include installing a roundabout, realigning the roads so they are less complicated to navigate, or placing green space in the middle of the intersection with clear pedestrian pathways.
The committee decided to send a letter to MCDOT director Al Roshdieh, outlining the recommendations they had received about the project.
Over the next few months, MCDOT will finalize their designs and develop a cost estimate to complete the project. According to MCDOT, the project is expected to go into 2020.