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Officials: Safety improvements to 16th Street traffic circle taking too long

Tuesday - 1/22/2013, 5:35am  ET

Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Major safety improvements are in the works for an oddly shaped traffic circle that connects Montgomery County and D.C., but local leaders say the process of improving the problematic circle is taking too long.

Accidents are common at the 16th Street traffic circle where Colesville Road flows in, and Silver Spring meets D.C.

"It's not your imagination that there are a lot of accidents there. There are a lot of accidents there, and we know that they're only going to get worse as the area is more developed," D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) told a joint community meeting of D.C. and Maryland residents who live near the circle.

"And it's not just cars we're worried about. There are more people walking, and there are more people biking as well," Bowser said at the meeting last week.

"It's taken too long, and it's a real problem," Bowser said.

There are plans to put up new traffic signals on the Maryland side, but it's a complicated process.

"The signal would be maintained by the District of Columbia, and we would then coordinate all the signals in the circle at one point. Instead of trying to work between the two entities, it would be coordinated by one and maintained by the District," says Terry Bellamy, director of the District Department of Transportation.

Bellamy says the department is still talking with the Maryland State Highway Administration.

"We have to get some sense of urgency on that," Bowser says.

Anyesha Mookherjee, a traffic engineering manager with the Maryland State Highway Administration, says progress is being made.

"We are working on our side and with D.C. to figure out who pays for what, how is the design going to work, construction, etc.," Mookherjee says.

"I don't have any deadlines right now as to when we'll see construction on that project, but hopefully soon," she says.

Bowser and Councilmember Valerie Ervin of Montgomery County (D-District 5) have been pushing for the changes for about five years.

Ervin urged residents at the meeting to get involved and help jumpstart the process.

"This is when it's going to be required for all of you to start sending letters. Muriel and I tried to handle this through the state, through the county and through D.C. because we're your elected representatives. And they are dragging their feet. They're not moving quickly," Ervin told residents at a community meeting.

Mookherjee said she hoped to have an update on the plan in a week or two.

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