Back in February, we showed you a Silver Spring sidewalk closure that violated SHA’s own policies.
Three months later, the intersection remains virtually unchanged, and pedestrians are still forced to choose between backtracking nearly 1,000 feet or dashing across a busy highway.
In an email last week to both officials and state and county transportation staff, Evan Glass of the South Silver Spring Neighborhood Association explained that “the neighborhood’s patience eroded months ago.”
For more than two years, in fact, Silver Spring residents have navigated unnecessary sidewalk detours due to residential construction at the intersection of East-West Highway, Newell Street and Blair Mill Road.
There have been small changes to the corner, but it remains closed. In late March, operating pedestrian crossing signals were removed and new signals were installed, but these remain inoperable.
In addition, “no parking” signs were placed along the approaches to the corner in front of 1200 East-West Highway. Despite the no parking zones, barriers for a temporary sidewalk to protect pedestrians were not installed. Finally, the sidewalk is in the process of being built, but it’s unclear how quickly that will be completed.
One of SHA’s District 3 engineers responded to the email from Evan Glass. The reply seems to push blame for the delay to Pepco.
"Our SHA inspectors are coordinating on a weekly, if not daily, basis with the developer, his contractor and the utility companies to facilitate the completion of the work at this intersection,” the response explained. “Once the signal work is complete and Pepco finalizes its work to power the new signal controllers, the contractor will be able to complete the sidewalk and pedestrian ramps and have them open to pedestrian traffic again.”
Regardless of the cause of this months-long delay to open a sidewalk, the issue remains: during construction, there should have been a temporary provision for pedestrians. SHA’s own policies state that “completely closing a sidewalk for construction and rerouting pedestrians to the other side of the street should only be done as a last resort.”
This “last resort” has been standard operating procedure at this and other intersections for too long. Pedestrians continue to cross at this corner. The latest delays only extend the dangerous conditions that should not have been created in the first place.
The treatment of pedestrians at this intersection has been unacceptable. Pedestrians don’t just disappear when construction happens, especially in an urban, transit-accessible area like Downtown Silver Spring. It’s disappointing that SHA has allowed projects to all but ignore pedestrians during years of construction. The latest delay is just adding insult to injury.