The Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday reversed its decision to realign the Capital Crescent Trail’s crossing with Little Falls Parkway in Bethesda.
After a bicyclist was struck by a car and killed on the trail while attempting to navigate the intersection in 2016, the county implemented what it called a “road diet,” narrowing Little Falls Parkway from four lanes to two. The change was intended to slow traffic and reduce how many lanes of traffic pedestrians had to cross.
In June, the Planning Board voted 4-1 to reinstate the road’s four lanes and move the trail’s crossing to an existing traffic signal at Arlington Road, just a few yards away.
Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson was the lone member to vote against the move.
At the time, board members said the road with fewer lanes was also dangerous because it did not provide a signalized crossing for pedestrians.
The decision sparked unease among community members and elected officials who said the change weakened the county’s effort to eliminate pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries by 2030, an initiative known as Vision Zero.
When an intersection has four lanes, drivers are more apt to hit pedestrians and bicyclists, county planners said in a report to the Planning Board. The phenomenon is called “a multi-lane threat” – when one driver stops to allow a pedestrian to cross the street, a second driver coming from the same direction hits the pedestrian because the stopped car makes it tough to see the pedestrian.
The county Parks Department staff said reducing the number of driving lanes on Little Falls Parkway reduced the number of crashes in the area from 12 in the two years prior to the safety modifications to five in the two years following the changes.
On Thursday, the Planning Board voted to delay funding the $2.5 million project to move the Capital Crescent Trail’s crossing with the roadway at least five years and keep the current two-lane configuration on Little Falls Parkway.
The County Council’s Transportation & Environment Committee, which challenged the board’s decision to eliminate the “road diet,” applauded the Planning Board’s Thursday decision.
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. About 5,000 people use the path daily.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org