County Planners Envision More Friendly And Inviting Norfolk Avenue

Woodmont Triangle’s main street would have more trees, more public space and “parklets”


The "shared street" vision of county planners for Norfolk Avenue in downtown Bethesda

Via Montgomery County Planning Department

Bethesda’s Norfolk Avenue could one day be paved over with brick, and its travel lanes trimmed by 10 feet to allow for a mix of cars, bicycles and pedestrians in an effort to enliven Woodmont Triangle.

Of all the recommendations county planners made last week in their 158-page Bethesda Downtown Plan, the new vision for Norfolk Avenue might be the most visually striking and most likely to occur soon.

Planners included both short-term and long-term changes for the street, which serves as the main artery for a neighborhood of downtown Bethesda restaurants and small businesses.

The plan recommends a “shared street” concept. The sharing would be between motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

The street, which now has two 16-foot-wide travel lanes and two 8-foot-wide parking lanes next to the curb, would be transformed into one 22-foot-wide “shared travelway,” and two 8-foot-wide parking lanes separated by new trees and landscaping to capture stormwater.

A rendering of the concept shows no lane markings.

That would allow five extra feet of sidewalk on each side of the street, which could be used for outdoor restaurant seating, more plantings and spaces that could be used for special events.

Cross section of long-term plans for Norfolk Avenue in Bethesda. Credit: Montgomery County Planning Department

There would be no curb. The sidewalk would be level with the street, creating what planners say will be a natural traffic-slowing effect that won’t require  separated bicycle lanes.

Until then, planners recommended adding a six-foot-wide bicycle lane on each side of the road and creating “parklets” in some curbside parking spots to make Norfolk Avenue more appealing.

The planning concept is essentially a temporary sidewalk extension. Some parklets would have benches, trees and plants. Others would have art and bicycle parking. Restaurants can use the space for outdoor seating.

The shared street concept would run on all or on just a portion of the street. The street connects to Wisconsin Avenue and planners also recommended extending it to Battery Lane.

Planners will present their recommendations May 21 to the Montgomery County Planning Board. A public hearing is tentatively set for June 25.

Norfolk Avenue today. Credit: Montgomery County Planning Department

Short-term changes that could come to Norfolk Avenue include bike lanes and parklets in curbside parking spots. Credit: Montgomery County Planning Department

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