The Not-Exactly-Welcome Sidewalk
Crosswalks are not included in the sidewalk planned for Wisconsin Avenue, critics note.
Construction of the "Green Mile" sidewalk appears to be a done deal, Town of Somerset Council members agreed at this month's council meeting.
To construct a sidewalk along this tree-lined stretch of northbound Wisconsin Avenue—Maryland state Route 355—between Friendship Heights and Bethesda, 120 trees and 255 shrubs likely will need to come down, according to plans from the Maryland State Highway Administration.
"A lot of trees need to come down ... and removing some of the trees could enhance the lifespan of those that are there, [Maryland State Highway Administration officials] say," Town of Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin said at Somerset's August council meeting.
Council members from the Town of Somerset—which is across Wisconsin Avenue from the Green Mile—met with Maryland State Highway Administration officials earlier in the summer to discuss the details of the upcoming changes to the Wisconsin Avenue landscape.
"It sounded to me like this is a project that they are going to go ahead with, no matter what we say," council member Barbara Condos said.
The sidewalk would start at Grafton Street and continue north, along the eastern side of Wisconsin Avenue, to Bradley Lane, according to state highway plans. The sidewalk—actually, a shared walking-biking path—would be eight feet wide for all but its southern-most block (between Grafton and Hesketh streets), where it would be five feet wide.
Removing invasive plants and trees that are dead or dying would be a part of the project, as would be reforestation—along the Wisconsin Avenue median and possibly along Connecticut Avenue. Town of Somerset Council members suggested that the Maryland State Highway Administration consider planting trees in the Little Falls Parkway median and building tree wells around some of the existing trees, Condos said.
As for the trees that are slated to be taken down, state highway officials have determined that some already have reached the end of their lifespans—including some trees lining Wisconsin Avenue that have been hit by trucks, according to Condos.
Not included in the Maryland State Highway Administration's plans are marked crosswalks, council members reported.
"We said that we felt it was counterproductive to have a sidewalk and no crosswalk," but state highway officials explained that because of the limited sight lines for drivers, marked crosswalks are not part of the project, Condos said.
Several bus stops line this stretch of Wisconsin Avenue. With sidewalks on both sides of the road, pedestrians may be more inclined to jaywalk, council member Barbara Zeughauser said. "We’re just setting ourselves up [for accidents] on Wisconsin Avenue."
With no crosswalks, it's hard for people in wheelchairs to cross the road, Zeughauser added. "It just seems like a misuse of funds in my mind."
As planned, a curb will separate the sidewalk from Wisconsin Avenue. The fence surrounding the Chevy Chase Club property (which runs adjacent to the Green Mile for much of the sidewalk's length) will need to be moved back. A stone wall likely will help shore up the sloping land adjacent to the sidewalk, Slavin said.
In all, 52 trees and 33 shrubs between the existing curb and country club fence will need to be taken down. Between the existing fence and the state's right-of-way, 68 trees and 222 shrubs will need to come down, according to Maryland State Highway Administration plans.
Holly trees are counted as shrubs, Council Member Marnie Shaul added.