Korman Introduces Bill To Ease Sidewalk Closures

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A state delegate introduced a bill that would require construction crews to provide three-days’ advance notice of a sidewalk closure and post signage giving the duration of the closure and contact info for the party behind the project.

District 16 Del. Marc Korman announced the bill on Monday. In a press release, he said the measure will act as companion legislation to a County Council bill that would require the informational signage when it comes to sidewalks along county roads.

Korman’s proposal, which was co-sponsored by District 16 Delegates Bill Frick and Ariana Kelly, would apply to all sidewalks closed along state roads — including Wisconsin Avenue and Old Georgetown Road in downtown Bethesda.
“Construction in our community is a sign of economic success, but it can be frustrating for residents and businesses dealing with numerous and unpredictable sidewalk closures,” Korman said in the press release. “Many roads in our community gathering spaces — such as Bethesda and White Flint — are state roads including Wisconsin Avenue, Old Georgetown Road, and Bradley Boulevard. We need a solution for both our state and local roads to provide more notice and certainty for residents as they navigate our sidewalks.”
Roger Berliner was one of the council members who introduced the county bill in January.
“I am so glad that Delegate Korman, with the support of Senator Lee, and Delegates Kelly and Frick, is putting forward this important piece of legislation. With this important bill at the state level, and then the bill that I’ve sponsored at the county level, we’ll make it very clear that sidewalks should only be closed when necessary, and that the public deserves to know for how long they are closed,” Berliner said in the press release. “Minimizing the duration of sidewalk closures will help pedestrians, bicyclists, and our local businesses.”

Under the yet-to-be-approved county bill, all contractors that get permission from the county Department of Transportation to close a sidewalk for construction must inform pedestrians about the duration of the closure, the permit number for the project and the permit holder’s telephone number.
Last year, Berliner asked MCDOT for a list of all approved sidewalk construction closures over the previous three years. The sidewalk waivers, as described by MCDOT Chief of Traffic Engineering Emil Wolanin, allow contractors and developers to close a sidewalk next to a construction project for more than two weeks.
In October, Wolanin told Berliner that MCDOT only approves those waivers if the contractor proves pedestrian safety would be at risk or there’s no other way to complete the project.
Contractors, for instance, aren’t allowed to close a sidewalk simply to stage or store equipment on that space.
But Wolanin also said a lack of enforcement means “we’re seeing developers who have not asked for permission” close sidewalks around construction sites.

In booming downtown Bethesda, that has led to numerous prolonged sidewalk closures and numerous complaints to the offices of local elected officials.

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