Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008

Residents hope new traffic study will save Forest Glen tunnel

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Residents who live near the Forest Glen Metro station hope a traffic study that now includes their neighborhood will keep alive a tunnel project they say would ease pedestrian safety concerns.

The pedestrian tunnel, which would run under Georgia Avenue at Forest Glen Road, was not included by the state on a priority list of future transportation projects, but the state did agree to add Forest Glen Road in a traffic study targeting Georgia Avenue in the Montgomery Hills area.

While residents are disappointed that the tunnel was not listed as a priority, many hope the study will address pedestrian safety at the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Forest Glen Road and eventually lead to construction of the tunnel.

‘‘[The study] is keeping the momentum going forward,” said Shawn Marie Jarosz, president of the Forest Estates Community Association, a community east of the Georgia Avenue and Forest Glen Road intersection.

The $3 million Montgomery Hills study announced last month was to include 16th Street in Silver Spring to the Capital Beltway, and traffic concerns at Seminary Place⁄Seminary Road and Second Avenue, and Seminary Road, Brookville Road and Linden Lane. It now includes Forest Glen Road.

‘‘It is rather surprising that things have turned around that quick,” said Adam Pagnucco, a Forest Estates resident who has been active in pedestrian safety efforts.

Pagnucco praised state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington and the District 18 delegates for writing a letter Jan. 21 to the Maryland Department of Transportation just days after the six-year Consolidated Transportation Program list was announced. The CTP details the state’s capital projects proposed for construction, or development and evaluation during the next six-year period. It is updated every year as part of the State Report on Transportation.

The intersection, used by pedestrians walking to the Metro station, was ranked the most congested in the county in 2006 by Park and Planning.

‘‘I think the state recognizes that there is a problem with the intersection and that there are a number of different steps that you can take to help resolve the problem at the intersection,” said Madaleno, adding he would continue efforts to fund the pedestrian tunnel.

The tunnel, proposed by residents years ago, was estimated to cost about $10.6 million in 2005.

David Buck, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration, said the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority would take the lead on the tunnel project assessment and offer a new cost estimate. After that, the state would consider funding the project in its Consolidated Transportation Program.

Steven Taubenkibel, a WMATA spokesman, said Metro agreed to do an updated and more detailed cost and feasibility study on the tunnel. Funding for construction would have to come from local or state governments.

Jack Cahalan, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said the project would be considered again by the state when developing the list of projects to fund.

In the meantime, Montgomery County Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park said including Forest Glen Road in the Montgomery Hills traffic study made sense.

‘‘That is a terrible stretch [of Georgia Avenue] and Forest Glen [Road] is a natural conclusion of that,” she said, adding that the county would continue lobbying for the tunnel.

Oscar Sodani, a member of the Forest Estates Community Association, said he used to walk to Metro until he realized the danger at Forest Glen Road and Georgia Avenue.

‘‘We would be Metro riders if it weren’t for that intersection,” he said. ‘‘... It’s amazing how lawless the intersection is. We need to change that.”