For some residents along Veirs Mill Road, going to school, work or stores by any method other than driving can be a dangerous proposition.
Every day, Jennifer Broome said she must cross Veirs Mill Road to catch her bus near the road’s intersection with Norris Drive to make her commute to the Wheaton Metro station, where she catches the train into the District of Columbia. There are no sidewalks on Veirs Mill near her home — only mud pits. And drivers are whizzing by at speeds of anywhere between 40 and 60 mph.
“Every day I’m forced to take my life into my own hands,” she said.
Broome was one of more than 80 residents who attended Thursday night, some of which gave testimony to members of the Montgomery County Council on the Veirs Mill Road corridor master plan, a document that spells out long-range development goals for an area between Rockville and Wheaton.
The plan, released in December by the county Planning Board, calls for a number of infrastructure improvements to improve pedestrian safety, such as eliminating unsignalized left turn lanes, adding more pedestrian crossings and sidewalks and improving bikeways.
The council will hold a number of work sessions in the next few weeks to review the details of the plan, said Council President Nancy Navarro.
There have been two fatal accidents along Veirs Mill Road between Wheaton and Rockville since 2015 and eight that resulted in serious injury, according to a county log of pedestrian crashes.
Alison Gillespie, the mother of two students at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, said a lack of sidewalks mean “anyone not in a car is literally marginalized.” She said “sad little trails have been carved into the grass” on the shoulders of Veirs Mill from pedestrians who make their way north or south along the road.
Gillespie added that it “makes her cringe” to watch students from Einstein’s track team run so close to the traffic.
“They really should be able to do what kids at so many other county schools do effortlessly – that is, train to compete in their own neighborhood,” she said.
Randall Luttenberg, a member of the Rock Creek Palisades Citizens Association, said although he lives about a mile from the Wheaton Business District, “it might as well be five miles” when walking, due to the dangers of crossing Veirs Mill and University Boulevard. He said better transportation improvements are necessary to help bring more business to downtown Wheaton.
“There is no safe and practical way for us to walk or bike to the Wheaton business district,” he said.
The neighborhoods along Veirs Mill are 75 percent minority, according to the U.S. Census bureau, and some of the residents at Thursday’s meeting spoke through translators. Nohemi Benitez asked for pedestrian signs to include multiple languages. Additionally, Juan Gonzalez Cardenas asked for cameras to be installed, telling the audience that his brother was killed by a car at the intersection of Veirs Mill and Connecticut Avenue.
“You need to stop counting every cent you save, and start counting lost lives,” he said.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org