Add a former governor to the group calling for a more pedestrian-friendly road network in White Flint.
Former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, now the president of a national smart growth advocacy group, joined the Friends of White Flint and Councilmember Roger Berliner on Saturday for a walking tour of the White Flint/North Bethesda area.
Friends of White Flint Executive Director Lindsay Hoffman, Glendening and Berliner pointed out spots along Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike where they felt pedestrian improvements were needed to accommodate the mixed-use redevelopment planned for the area.
Glendening echoed the concerns of residents and smart growth advocates over the design of a small stretch of Old Georgetown Road. Concerns over ongoing design work for the road by Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation set off weeks of back-and-forth between residents, Berliner and county officials.
“If we don’t do this right, it’s going to be hard to do the whole thing right,” Glendening said, while standing on the corner of Old Georgetown Road and the recently build Grand Park Avenue. “The key is to get that start in the right direction.”
He also pointed out utility poles installed in the middle of sidewalks and spoke about the need for more walkable communities on a broader scale.
“This is about even more than this immediate area,” Glendening said. “We have 91 million millennials coming on-line and they much prefer this style of walkable living. Are we going to plan for that or are people going to continue to move farther and farther out?”
About 40 people took part in the walk.
Hoffman, who first criticized MCDOT for its plans for the section of Old Georgetown Road, said the county is working with her group and others to find ways for bike lanes, more accessible sidewalks and smaller lane widths.
Ramona Bell-Pearson, an assistant chief administrative officer who’s been working on White Flint issues, also came along on the walk and again emphasized that the fate of Old Georgetown Road rests largely with the State Highway Administration.
Many of the questions from participants on the walk focused on how the county can balance pedestrian and bicyclist needs with the need to move vehicle traffic, especially now that most of the area’s strip shopping centers are planned to be redeveloped with more density.
Glendening pointed to the high-speed “slip lanes” at the intersection of Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road as an example of how the balance is — at least for now — in favor of vehicle traffic.
The slip lanes allow drivers turning onto Old Georgetown Road or southbound Rockville Pike to veer without having to stop at the traffic light, though pedestrians technically have right of way to cross.
“That approach emphasizes that the car has the right of way,” Glendening said.
Glendening’s message wasn’t all critical, though. He praised County Executive Isiah Leggett, Berliner and Montgomery County for the overall vision of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, calling it a national model for smart growth initiatives.
The walking tour ended at the tree-lined corner of Marinelli Road Executive Boulevard, which provided a much calmer environment than the curb cuts and constant traffic along Rockville Pike.
Hoffman, who will be stepping down from her Friends of White Flint position to become a Council staff member, said the goal is to eventually make all of White Flint look and feel the same way.
“It’s not just about all of the little things we talked about today. If you don’t feel safe, you’re not going to get out of your car,” Hoffman told the group. “It’s a matter of what you feel.”