Although SHA has not released detailed maps of their proposed alternatives, the project brochure published earlier this week provides illustrations of what Segment D of MD 198 could look like as it passes through Burtonsville.
Page 20 of the brochure shows road cross-sections of SHA's proposed alternatives. The top alternative is the two-way center turn lane, and the bottom is the median.
Since the illustrations from SHA's brochure do not include the existing conditions or the locally-preferred alternative of established in the 2012 Burtonsville Crossroads Neighborhood Plan, we decided to illustrate them ourselves.
The cross sections below represent the 15500 block of MD 198 (Old Columbia Pike), between the Burtonsville Village Center and Jerry's Subs and Pizza.
The images were created using a free tool on StreetMix.net.
Cross Section 0: Existing Conditions
The shops on the north (left) are approximately 40 feet from the edge of MD 198. Most of that space is currently occupied by a parking lot with two lanes of parallel spaces. On the south (right), there is approximately 30 feet of open green space between MD 198 and the parking lots.
Cross Section 1: SHA Alternative 2 Base Option
Although SHA's "No-Build" option does not propose any new lanes, it does widen the road to accommodate new 4-ft wide bike-compatible shoulders, a 5-ft sidewalk on the north, and a 10-ft shared use path on the south. As shown in a map by the SHA dated July 2016, a portion of the parking lots on the north would be displaced by the road widening.
Cross Section 2: SHA Alternative 3 (TWCTL)
One of the proposals by SHA is to install a 16-ft wide two-way center turn lane (TWCTL), which would allow drivers to wait in the middle of the road before turning into or after turning out of businesses. This alternative would result in approximately 20 additional feet of property displacements than the No-Build alternative.
The proposed TWCTL is similar to the one on New Hampshire Avenue in front of the Cloverly Safeway (shown below).
While the TWCTL would be safer than the status quo, it would not resolve the turning conflicts in places where vehicles have to compete for space to make left-turns in an already congested area.
SHA also noted that a TWCTL would not be as safe as the median alternative. Project manager Jeremy Beck acknowledged, "It is safer for vehicles and pedestrians to have raised medians and exclusive turn lanes if the volumes exceed 20,000 vpd [vehicles per day]," referring to a report published by the Transportation Research Board.
Cross Section 3: SHA Alternative 3 (Median)
The other alternative proposed by SHA is to install an 18-ft wide full-length median, in which drivers would have to make a U-turn to access businesses on the other side of the median
This alternative is opposed by business owners, who fear that customers will not patronize their shops if a median forces drivers to make a U-turn, despite multiple studies that debunk this myth. That being said, community members also oppose this alternative because they believe the road is not wide enough to safely make U-turns at the intersection of MD 198 and Old Columbia Pike (shown below).
At a recent community meeting to discuss MD 198, residents overwhelmingly opposed all of the alternatives proposed by the SHA. Attendees complained that the alternatives described above not significantly improve the safety, walkability, connectivity, aesthetics, character, or economic vitality of Burtonsville's commercial district.
Fortunately there is another design alternative that could provide the safety and aesthetic benefits of a median without limiting access for businesses, one which has been promoted by local residents and county planners for two decades, but is not currently being proposed by SHA.
Cross Section 4: Burtonsville Crossroads Neighborhood Plan
This alternative offers the best of both worlds: it provides a grid of local streets and left-turn pockets so customers can access businesses without having to make U-turns, and also provides a median to separate opposing lanes of traffic and improve safety.
This alternative is exactly the same width as SHA's Alternative 3, but has wider sidewalks, buffers, and bike lanes. This is achieved by making the median and travel lanes narrower, which would also discourage speeding. As evidenced by the 10-foot wide lane widths of Route 1 in Beltsville, heavy trucks can operate safely in narrow lanes.
This alternative concept for MD 198 is similar to the Burtonsville Crossroads Neighborhood Plan (BCNP), which incorporates several elements from the earlier 1997 Fairland Master Plan. The BCNP was developed by the Montgomery County Planning Department with input from local residents and unanimously approved by the County Council in 2012.
A major component of the BCNP is transforming MD 198 into an attractive and walkable "Main Street". To accomplish this, the plan envisions several elements that are missing from SHA's design alternatives, such as a landscaped median with multiple breaks to establish a grid of local streets and crosswalks.
A page from the Burtonsville Crossroads Neighborhood Plan illustrating the "main street" concept. Image by Montgomery County Planning Department.
Because the community overwhelmingly supported the BCNP alternative at our last meeting, the Coalition to Fix MD 198 will petition that the SHA give this option more consideration.
Scroll through the gallery below to view all the cross sections as full-size images.