Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Glenora Hills residents concerned over pedestrian safety proposals

Say they already had a solution worked out with the city

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While Rockville city staff looks into options to improve pedestrian safety on Darnestown Road, neighboring residents are upset that those options may squash current plans to install medians in the roadway.

In a memorandum to the City Council, City Manager Scott Ullery presented three options: install a crosswalk without a signal across Darnestown Road from Glenora Lane to Oak Knoll Drive in Fallsgrove, install a traffic signal at that intersection, or construct sidewalks on the south side of Darnestown.

The options were a response to Councilman John B. Britton’s request for staff to look into pedestrian safety concerns during a January City Council meeting. Britton made the request after Randy Alton, a community activist who lives near Darnestown Road, lobbied the council to address the issue of the safety of residents of neighboring communities, particularly when they will be walking to the new Thomas Farm Community Center in Fallsgrove.

The community center, which is being constructed on Fallsgrove Drive near Key West Avenue (Route 28), is slated to open by the end of this year.

But residents in the Glenora Hills community said they already worked with the city and county to address pedestrian safety for the past two years, resulting in a plan to install medians at the intersection of Glenora and Oak Knoll.

Installing a crosswalk or traffic light would make their work ‘‘all for naught,” said John duFief, president of the Glenora Hills Citizens Association.

The communities decided on a ‘‘pork chop-shaped” median, which allows cars from Glenora Lane to make left turns onto Darnestown, but prevents cars from driving straight across Darnestown Road into either community. The medians were approved by county officials in the fall and were set to be installed this spring.

‘‘They were just on the precipice of installing it and Randy Alton jumped up and down and stopped it,” duFief said.

Alton said his intention was ‘‘not to pit neighbor against neighbor,” but to ask city staff for an assessment of the safety of all pedestrians who might walk or bike to the new community center.

‘‘I knew when I put that out there that it would be problematic, but I’m not going to just say this is OK,” Alton said. ‘‘I think it needs a review and what I asked for was an assessment.”

The Glenora Hills Citizens Association agreed that the best path for residents to take to Fallsgrove is to take a trail that leads west to the intersection of Glen Mill and Darnestown roads, where there is a signalized crosswalk, duFief said.

‘‘We don’t want to cross Darnestown there [at Glenora Lane],” duFief said. ‘‘We would like what we have planned with the city.”

Emad Elshafei, the city’s chief of traffic and transportation, said city officials plan to meet with residents this week to get feedback on the proposed options.

However, Alton said his concern is not just with a single intersection, but with the safety of pedestrians in that region who might frequent the community center, including those coming from the new pedestrian bike bridge across Interstate 270 and from the King Farm community. Alton said he is disappointed in the staff report that only addresses the Glenora and Oak Knoll intersection.

‘‘I think there are many ways of addressing pedestrian safety enhancements we haven’t thought of,” Alton said.

He said he would like city officials to add signs along the road to guide pedestrians to safer paths, such as the Millennium Trail.

Whether or not residents agree on the installation of a crosswalk or traffic signal at Glenora and Oak Knoll, city officials are looking into the possibility of installing sidewalks on the south side of Darnestown Road, from Windy Knoll Court to West Montgomery Avenue (Route 28).

Councilwoman Anne M. Robbins, a Glenora Hills resident, previously expressed interest in erecting a full traffic signal at the intersection, but said Monday that after talking to residents, she does not believe putting a crosswalk at that site would be a good idea.

‘‘We’re trying to work with the neighborhood to see if we can’t get safety, but also do it within the constraints of what we have up there,” Robbins said.