Bay Friendly Proposal for Proposed Wisconsin Avenue Sidewalk

Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 3:10pm

Up-date on the Green Mile

First, keep those letters coming - visit our website at http://www.lfwa.org/save-trees-wisconsin-avenue for a list of officials to write to. We are getting people's attention. We've been on channel 5 news, in the Gazette, in the Patch and on numerous on-line sites.

Second, focus attention on our County Executive Ike Leggett. I had the chance to talk with him at the Somerset Fourth of July picnic and he said two things of interest - 1) he thinks that everyone wants the sidewalk as he hasn't heard from anyone who doesn't want it. And 2) he (or his office) decides which State Highway Administration sidewalk projects get built. He said there is a list of proposed sidewalk projects, with a 3 year waiting list, and based on what people want, his office prioritizes them. If people don't want this sidewalk, he can take it off the list.

His email address is ocemail@montgmerycountymd.gov.

Bay Friendly Alternative
The State is quoted in a Gazette article that the sidewalk will be built as proposed because "there is no reasonable alternative. (Opponents) are not offering an alternative."  So, LFWA has come up with a Bay Friendly alternative to the full sidewalk. According to our correspondence with the State, the primary reason for the reason for the sidewalk is to make the mid-block bus stops safe. However, these bus stops can never be safe unless there are controlled crosswalks allowing bus riders to safely cross the 6 lanes of Wisconsin Avenue which is not in the plan. Everyone who uses the mid-block bus stops is coming from or going to the west side of Wisconsin.  The east side of Wisconsin is a golf course.  There are no residents or businesses mid-block.   We strongly recommend that all bus riders use the bus stops at the controlled intersections at Grafton or Bradley. This is the safest way to cross Wisconsin to and from the northbound bus.

However, some improvements to area will increase the safety.  These can be done without greatly impacting the tree canopy:

Sidewalk between Hesketh and Grafton:
A five-foot wide sidewalk between Hesketh and Grafton (as shown on page one of the state plan) would necessitate removal of only three trees. It would greatly benefit the residents of Hesketh who now have only a dirt path to the bus stop and controlled intersection at Grafton.

Up-grade the Mid-block Bus Stop Pads:
The mid-block bus stops are used only by riders who must cross Wisconsin Avenue to or from the west side as the bus stops are adjacent to a golf course, not a residential area. Again, we strongly recommend that all bus riders use the crosswalks and bus stops at the controlled intersections at Grafton or Bradley as the safest way to board or disembark from the northbound buses. However, upgrading the current mid-block bus stops will make them safer for those who are brave enough to cross six lanes of traffic on Wisconsin Avenue without a light or crosswalk.

The mid-block bus stops need larger pads as the current pads are too small to wait safely and do not extend far enough back from the highway. We suggest that the State install 10' x 8' pads with benches much like there are on River Road and many other State highways where there are no sidewalks. This could be done with no or minimum loss of trees.

Finally, it is not necessary to connect these bus stops with sidewalks as everyone using the bus stops must cross mid-block to and from the west side of Wisconsin Avenue. There are no houses on the east side, only the Chevy Chase Club golf course. Bus riders can use the bus stops at the controlled intersections if they do not wish to cross mid-block. By not connecting the bus stops, dozens of trees will be saved.

Save the Green Mile:
The Little Falls Branch is one of the most impaired streams in Montgomery County. It starts right in the Chevy Chase Club so anything that is done adjacent to the golf course is especially detrimental to our stream. LFWA has been working with the County to educate our residents on the need for rain gardens, trees and conservation landscaping to help the stream, save the Bay and to meet the requirements of the MS4 permit. We have installed Bay friendly landscaping on public and private lands. We see cutting down 53 trees and paving over this area for a 3/4 mile sidewalk as a step in the wrong direction for the health of our stream, for Bay revival and not necessary for pedestrian safety.

It is not just "unfortunate" that the trees will be cut down; it is an environmental catastrophe. Stormwater run-off will increase, as well as the urban heat index. We will lose ground water necessary for recharging our stream. The State of Maryland has made trees a priority. It is our hope that the State will continue to make trees a priority and consider our Bay friendly solution for Wisconsin Avenue.

Please help us save the beautiful "Green Mile" - a gateway to Montgomery County.