Capital Crescent Trail Safety Improvements Have Reduced Crashes

Capital Crescent Trail Safety Improvements Have Reduced Crashes

$1.4 million project narrows lanes on Little Falls Parkway

| Published:
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A rendering of the proposed changes to the Capital Crescent Trail/ Little Falls Parkway intersection in Bethesda.

Rendering via Montgomery County Planning Board

Safety improvements at a roadway’s intersection with the Capital Crescent Trail that have been tested for three years will likely be made permanent.

After a bicyclist was struck by a car and killed in 2016 at the intersection of the trail and Little Falls Parkway in Bethesda, the county implemented a “road diet,” decreasing the cross-section from four lanes to two lanes by closing the outside travel lane in each direction.

With fewer crashes and “near-misses” recorded since the road diet was introduced, the county Planning Board next week is expected to approve a plan to make the reduced lanes permanent.

Additional planned improvements include a raised crosswalk, new street lights, removal of the roadway’s existing median, connections to adjacent trails and new green space.

The cost of the project is estimated at about $1.4 million.

The Planning Department staff credits the road changes with reducing the number of crashes at the intersection from 12 in the two years prior to the safety modifications to five in the two years following the changes.

The number of crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists was reduced from six to three, with no fatalities, according to Planning Board documents.

“We want to ensure the safety of park users at all of our trail-road intersections,” Montgomery Parks Director Mike Riley said. “We have evidence that the road diet we implemented at the CCT – Little Falls Parkway intersection is working, so making it a permanent solution is the right thing to do.”

When an intersection has four lanes, drivers are more apt to collide with pedestrians and bicyclists, according to Planning Department staff, in a phenomenon called “a multi-lane threat” – when one driver stops to allow a pedestrian to cross the street and a different driver coming from the same direction hits the pedestrian because the stopped car obscures the second’s view of the person crossing the street.

The interim changes have had minimal impact on drivers’ commute times on the road, according to Planning Board documents, but there has been a roughly 14% decrease in commuter traffic as drivers opt to instead take other nearby roads as alternate routes.

The Capital Crescent Trail is an 11-mile trail that runs from Silver Spring to Washington, with approximately 5.5 miles of the trail in Montgomery County. It was created in the 1990s and about 5,000 people use the trail daily.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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