Whether residents referred to the traffic pattern at 16th Street and Colesville Road as a circle, a roundabout or a jut-out, one thing was clear at Monday night’s meeting at Shepherd Park Elementary School in Washington, D.C.: it’s not working.
The meeting, held jointly by Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring and District Councilwoman Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), created a cross-jurisdictional discussion between members of the Silver Spring and Washington, D.C., community and government members from Montgomery County, the District government and Maryland. Public safety, traffic concerns, parking and development were among the topics discussed Monday night.
Bowser and Ervin said they began meeting in 2008 to discuss cross-jurisdictional issues. Agreements about the 16th Street Circle began in 2011, though the jurisdictions are still figuring out a design, a timetable and who will pay for the solution.
Members of Maryland’s State Highway Administration and Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation suggested installing traffic lights on the Maryland side of the circle, a long-term solution to the safety of drivers, bikers and pedestrians in the circle.
“Every week, we are seeing an accident,” said Rick Toye, a resident of the D.C. side of Eastern Avenue.
Other residents also were concerned about the sight line across the circle, which they said could be solved by clearing out and trimming some of the bushes and trees to increase visibility.
In addition to traffic concerns, residents of Shepherd’s Park in D.C. said finding parking in their neighborhood has become increasingly difficult. They said the increased development in South Silver Spring, coupled with too little parking being available at the new developments, has pushed Silver Spring residents to park for free on their neighborhood side streets.
Rick Siebert, chief of the county’s Department of Transportation parking management division, said that when county parking rates increased this month, the price of monthly parking permits went up from $95 per month to $123 per month.
However, a pilot program in South Silver Spring froze the price of monthly parking permits to $95 per month as an incentive for residents to take advantage of the parking offered in the county instead of traveling across the line to park for free in the District. The freeze was only for the Kennett Street and King Street garages in Silver Spring.
District residents said that despite changing signs along some District streets to resident-only parking until midnight, they were still seeing Maryland drivers parking on their streets.
Keith Cross, the District’s parking enforcement administrator with the Department of Public Works, said that even though D.C. owns Eastern Avenue, they have been asked not to enforce parking on the Maryland side of the road.
Nakengi Byrd of Silver Spring said she found the parking issue to be one of the more important conversations Monday night.
“Parking is an issue. It’s a really big issue,” said Byrd, who does not own a car because she cannot afford the $125 per month parking fee at her building, The Veridian Apartments on East-West Highway.
Ervin said three developments in Silver Spring — the Blairs development, the Falklands and property on Newell Street — are anticipated, noting the area will become “quite dense.”
Community members noted that decreasing parking spots to get residents to use public transportation over their own vehicles does not work because very few people in the area are living without cars. Residents of both Silver Spring and the District also expressed concerns that the new developments will only create more density.
Ervin said she hopes to address those concerns with the council this year.
“This is not resolved,” Ervin assured community members. “This is a long way from being resolved.”
Jourdinia Brown, a Washington, D.C., resident from Shepherd Park, spoke about her concerns with parking and development at a green space meeting in Silver Spring in November. While she was happy to hear officials are working on the issues, she said Monday night that she wished they could expedite the process.
“We are discussing but not moving fast enough on the issues,” Brown said, noting that taking action is the next step.