Tires ruined by safety improvement
WTOP's Andrew Mollenbeck reports.
Andrew Mollenbeck, wtop.com
CHEVY CHASE, Md. — A safety measure for people crossing the street has become a costly hazard for drivers.
Now community members are asking Montgomery County for a change.
Earlier this month, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation added what it calls pedestrian refuge islands along Jones Bridge Road.
But the crossing in front of North Chevy Chase Elementary School, just east of Connecticut Avenue, has become a trouble spot for drivers.
"Going west on Jones Bridge Road, you can't see it coming up the hill when the sun is in your eyes," says Robert Weesner, the village manager of North Chevy Chase.
The skinny island is already striped with tire tracks and has had noticeable chunks of concrete ripped away.
Bridget says her neighbor, who lives directly in front of the pedestrian island, was one of the first to nail it.
"She turned the corner at night, and she forgot — it was like the second day — she forgot that those were there. She sideswiped [it] and blew out two tires. $800 worth of damage to her car," she says.
Weesner wrote a letter to the County's Department of Transportation, spelling out the problem and calling for action.
"Get rid of this little skinny island. Period. That's the only thing in the whole project that we have a problem with," he says.
The space between the skinny island and the concrete barrier in the median is slightly more than 11 feet. The narrow space, combined with limited markings, have made it a magnet for front wheels.
"They have now been put on notice that it was a bad engineering job and that they probably are liable for any damages they cause because it was defectively engineered," Weesner says about his letter.
The transportation department has seen the letter, and the division chief and another chief engineer have been out to review the project.
A spokeswoman says the project is not yet complete and the final pavement markings have not been installed to guide vehicles through the new project. That has been one of the central complaints.
"Although they have marked it now, it's not well-marked, and it wasn't marked at all for the first week," Weesner says.
The transportation department uses similar designs throughout the county. At this particular site, the Coquelin Run Citizens Association had asked for improvements out of concern for speeding and pedestrian safety.
The so-called traffic-calming measures have been shown to reduce traffic speeds by 11 mph in residential areas, the transportation department says.
The county is investigating whether the drivers' collisions with the pedestrian island happened during construction or more recently. The transportation department says it will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the project.
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