Bradley Boulevard Improvements Project Q&A: Part 1
Bethesda residents respond to questions on county plans to build sidewalks and bike lanes along busy Bradley Boulevard.
At a recent public workshop on the Bradley Boulevard Improvements Project, county transportation planning staff presented three options for a dual bikeway along Bradley Boulevard which includes both on-road bike lanes as well as an off-road shared use path. Since the community has offered a wide variety of opinions of the project, Patch is asking a series of questions to residents who are in support of the project, and to those residents who are not.
John Wetmore lives at 5305 Bradley Boulevard, on the northeast corner with Barrett Lane. He is an advocate for pedestrian safety improvements in transportation planning.
Editor's note: This is the first part in a two-series. Patch is following up with a resident who is not in support of the project for the next installment.
Patch: Are you satisfied with the options the county has offered? Please explain why you are for/against the project or which option of the project you'd be willing to accept.
John Wetmore: I am in favor of the improvements, particularly the option with a south side sidewalk and a north side shared path. Any street as busy as Bradley Boulevard needs sidewalks on both sides. Crossing is too difficult to have it on just one side.
Patch: What is your opinion of the county master plans that have played into the development of the different project options? Do you feel the county has equally taken into account the concerns of pedestrians, bicyclists and homeowners?
JW: The county went through an extensive public process in creating the master plan for the Bethesda area two decades ago. In fact, the draft plan called for widening Bradley Boulevard to four lanes. In response to public concerns, the final master plan removed those extra lanes for automobiles and instead provided for improved facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists within the existing 100-foot right of way. Similarly, the master plan for bicycles was created through an extensive process of public input.
All sides have been listened to, and the county has done what it can to meet the concerns of all sides. There are some property owners who will not be happy with any change to the public land next to theirs. You see this with virtually every sidewalk project the county has ever undertaken, including the existing sidewalks farther east on Bradley.
Patch: Why do you feel the project has become such a divisive issue?
JW: Sidewalks and paths always run into opposition from some nearby property owners. There are people who feel that if they planted a couple of bushes on public land, they now have a right to that land. And people in general do not like change. This is not unusual....I have been surprised by the number of people expressing very negative attitudes toward cyclists, as if every family on bicycles was behaving like a bike messenger on "K" Street.
Patch: Do you feel the meetings/public workshops have been productive? Are you satisfied with the public comment format and do you feel you've been able to have an impact on how the plans were produced?
JW: I feel I have had ample opportunity to comment, and I have made many comments. My questions have been answered. At the last meeting, the county was set up to discuss specific issues at every point along the right of way. I believe that the plan has been improved by the extensive public input. One example of an important change as a result of input is the extension of the project another block east to Glenbrook Road to form a better connection to the Capital Crescent Trail. Critics were right to point out that Goldsboro was not a good place to end the path.
Despite all the public outreach, I am dismayed by the vast quantity of erroneous information that is still floating around. Some people still talk about how much wider Bradley will be, when in fact in some places it will be narrower where excessive shoulder width is removed. Someone else was concerned that the path would be "right under my window" when it would be 80 feet away.
Patch: Do you think improvements along Bradley Boulevard will lead to increased traffic (pedestrian, bicycle and auto)?
JW: I doubt the improvements will lead to any immediate change in automobile traffic -- it will take the cumulative effect of many projects like this to see a big shift in those numbers. Nevertheless, I would expect to see more pedestrians and bicyclists along Bradley once they have decent facilities. Furthermore, the improved facilities will make life safer and more pleasant for the many existing pedestrians and bicyclists along Bradley, who currently are making do with a very inadequate situation.
Community members have until Dec. 8 to submit their comments on the plan to the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. Residents can also meet individually with project manager Patricia Shepherd. She can be reached at 240-777-7231 or at Patricia.email@example.com.