Pedaling up the hill on South Stonestreet Avenue on his bike, Rockville Councilman Mark Pierzchala said cars whiz closely by him.
There is no bike lane or sidewalk, putting him, as well as all who bike to the Rockville Metro on that side of Stonestreet, on the road with the traffic.
Not for long, though.
The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a $827,200 grant to the city of Rockville to put in a sidewalk and bike lanes, and to make pedestrian safety upgrades near Rockville’s other transit hub, the Twinbrook Metro.
The grant is just a portion of the $52 million that the Federal Highway Administration awarded to communities nationwide as part of its Transportation, Community and System Preservation Program.
The project on South Stonestreet Avenue will add the new bike lanes and sidewalk from Baltimore Road to Park Road, and will narrow that portion of the road from four lanes to two, according to Craig Simoneau, the city’s director of public works.
Near the Twinbrook Metro, the city will redo a crosswalk to make it more visible to motorists, add median extensions and curb extensions to make it safer for pedestrians, and make other enhancements, Simoneau said.
The city applied for the grant to ensure that the areas around its major transit hubs were accessible and safe, and more “walkable and bikeable,” Simoneau said.
Improving transit stations always is a priority, because of the high traffic they bring, Pierzchala said.
The station served more than 4,700 riders in 2011, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. It also is a county bus depot; each day more than 10,000 people ride one of the buses, the C2,4, between Twinbrook and Greenbelt.
The upgrades are much needed, said Jeremy Martin, chair of the city’s traffic and transportation commission.
“Almost all of the dangerous intersections in Rockville are on the Rockville Pike,” Martin said. “And the especially dangerous ones to pedestrians are the ones with the most traffic, near the Metro stops.”
In July 2009, the city adopted a Complete Streets policy, which has been adopted in communities across the U.S.
The policy states that new construction and reconstruction roadway projects in the city must accommodate not only motorists, but also pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users, and they should adhere to the city’s bikeway master plan, pedestrian policies, sidewalk prioritization policy and other policies.
It also gives design guidelines for sidewalks and bikeways to ensure they are safe.
At Twinbrook, already busy intersections are set to become busier, Martin said.
In April, the Rockville mayor and City Council approved a development with 792 multifamily units, a 190-room hotel, a health club, and office and retail space, and developer JBG has yet to complete a 2.2 million-square-foot project at the Metro station.
Martin said that although everyone believes that the urban development is the future of the corridor, the projects won’t work unless pedestrian safety is a priority.
“The success of those developments rely on people feeling safe, and using the pedestrian access,” he said.
It may be a while before the upgrades are completed, Simoneau said.
On a standard timeline, it takes about 18 months to get projects such as these through approval, design and construction phases, he said.