Downtown Silver Spring pedestrians will have a few more seconds to cross the street as all traffic signals will have their pedestrian clearance times changed to reflect a slower walking speed, Montgomery County transportation officials said.
The current time is 4 feet per second; that will change to 3.5 feet per second.
The reason is simple: With more people downtown, it takes longer to cross streets, officials said.
Also, they said, development projects and new transit systems in the central business district have sparked the need for traffic changes.
The conversation between county officials and members of the Silver Spring Transportation, Energy and Environment Committee took place Monday at the Silver Spring Civic Building.
“We intentionally held off [the changes] on the urban areas because [intersections] are so intricate. We want to make sure we get it right when we do it,” said Bruce C. Mangum, manager at the Division of Traffic Engineering Operations with the county transporation department.
According to county spokeswoman Esther Bowring, the changes will be made in all of the county’s urban areas and are needed to accommodate people who cannot walk quickly.
During the meeting, Evan Glass, chairman of the Silver Spring Advisory Board, asked how pedestrian growth influences crossing time calculation.
County officials said there isn’t any mathematical forecast for pedestrian crossing, adding that it becomes subjective if they choose which intersection has more or less time, and officials do not want to “get into that.”
Mangum said intersections such as Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street are going to be a challenge as the number of pedestrians grows after the new Silver Spring library and Purple Line open.
“It is a very heavily pedestrian intersection. A lot of pedestrian traffic in that intersection. It is going to become more challenging when the library opens,” Mangum said.
Transportation officials said they try to balance the needs of the community — both pedestrians and drivers.
But traffic signals belong to the state, so any change such as adding a “No U-Turn” sign must be evaluated and made by the state.
Day-to-day timing operations — such as how long green or red lights or pedestrian signals stay on — are all handled by the county.
Committee members also asked about traffic timing cycles at the intersection of Georgia and Sligo avenues, saying the light is always out of sync outside of rush hour.
They also asked if officials could synchronize traffic signals on Colesville Road and East West Highway with the traffic light at the entrance of the Blairs Shopping Center.
County officials explained that they can coordinate traffic effectively in only “one direction at a time” but said they would “take a look” at the intersections mentioned in the meeting. Montgomery County has more than 800 traffic signals.