Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “North Four Corners News”

North Four Corners News ♦ October 2023

Council Passes Safe Streets Act

By Sharon Canavan

On 19 September 2023, the Montgomery County Council passed Bill 11–23, The Safe Streets Act, clearing the bill for signature by Marc Elrich, the County Executive.  This step supports Vision Zero goals to prioritize road safety by making improvements to eliminate serious and fatal crashes throughout the County by 2030.

Bill 11–23 requires the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) to prepare a “safe routes to school infrastructure review” following any vehicle collision with a pedestrian who was walking, biking, skating, or riding a scooter to or from school.  A report must recommend how to address deficiencies in engineering or traffic control/operations, along with recommended steps for appropriate corrective actions and crash reduction countermeasures and increased outreach and education programs.

The bill requires installation of a leading pedestrian interval (LPI) “at every crosswalk of County-owned signalized intersections located (1) in a downtown area or in a town center area, and (2) at the closest intersection within 1,300 feet in each direction of the access point of a school, park, rail, library, bus rapid transit station, or community center frontage.”  An LPI gives pedestrians a “head start” of three to seven seconds to proceed into the crosswalk before a traffic light turns green.  This allows pedestrians to “…establish their presence in the crosswalk before vehicles have priority to turn right or left.”

Route 193/University Boulevard is a County road, so LPIs will be required for the traffic lights in the Four Corners intersection, because this intersection is both near Montgomery Blair High School and the bus rapid transit stations located nearby.  In Woodmoor, LPIs will be required at nearby signalized intersections.  Similarly, LPIs will be installed at the traffic lights along University Boulevard going towards Wheaton.  The Royalton Road entrance to North Four Corners Local Park is approximately 1,100 feet from the Dennis Avenue traffic light (the “main” entrance is over 1,500 feet), so whether an LPI is installed at Dennis may depend on how “access point” is defined by MCDOT.  LPIs will be required for the traffic lights at Caddington Drive and Arcola Avenue, because Northwood High School and Forest Knolls Elementary School are both within 1,300 feet.  U.S. Route 29/Colesville Road is State-controlled; therefore, no LPI will be mandated by the bill at Southwood Avenue.

The bill also requires installation of “no right turn on red” signs in downtown and town center areas.  Even though the Four Corners intersection is both very busy and complex, this area is not considered a Town Center as codified in Section 49-31 of the County Code.

MCDOT can exempt specific intersections if the department determines that a “no right turn on red” restriction or an LPI would impair public safety.  If MCDOT makes exemptions, it must send an annual report detailing the rationale or evaluation buttressing its determination to the Council.

Finally, the bill requires the County Executive to prepare an annual report detailing plans to increase automated traffic enforcement.  The plan should describe the goals and strategies to detect infractions with red-light and stop sign cameras as well as speed monitoring devices.  This plan should specify the recommended number and type of automated enforcement cameras necessary to achieve appropriate levels of enforcement and traffic safety, as well as an implementation timeline and a funding estimate for the target number of cameras and devices.

The conversation about improving pedestrian safety and addressing traffic safety will continue to be on the Council’s radar screen. Concepts addressed in The Safe Streets Act are also elements of the Pedestrian Master Plan, which the Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee will continue to consider in ongoing Work Sessions.

[Canavan lives on Edgewood Avenue.]   ■

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