Tuesday, November 20, 2018

John Wetmore Testifies Before Maryland Legislature Hearing

On November 14, John Wetmore, producer of the cable TV series Perils for Pedestrians, testified before Maryland's Joint House and Senate Priorities Hearing. His comments dealt with the Maryland Transportation Authority, which owns and operates the toll roads and toll bridges in Maryland. One of those is the U.S. 301 Bridge over the Potomac River 50 miles south of Washington. Built in 1940, the narrow two-lane bridge is considered obsolete and will be replaced with a four-lane bridge. In 2008, the laws governing the MD Transportation Authority were modified to empower the head of the Authority to allow pedestrians and bicyclists on Authority facilities. This led in 2012 to the selection of a four-lane design that included a barrier-separated ped-bike path. However, the 2008 law did not require that the Authority accommodate peds and bikes, and the Hogan administration lacks a firm commitment to peds and bikes. The minor legal patch in 2008 has turned out to be inadequate, and a more comprehensive reform of the Maryland Transportation Authority is needed for this and future projects.

Senators and Delegates:
I would like to touch briefly on two topics tonight.

First, it has been half a century since the last major legislation governing the Maryland Transportation Authority. It is time to take a close look at the Authority to see if it meets the needs of the 21st Century.
In its current form, the Maryland Transportation Authority is concerned about only two things: moving automobiles and paying bondholders. It is stuck in a 1960s world where transportation agencies ignored their impact on the community and ignored the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists.
This outdated approach to transportation is very obvious with the replacement U.S. 301 Bridge over the Potomac. In a modern agency, a barrier-separated bicycle and pedestrian path would be a fundamental part of the bridge, and would be automatically included in the Scope of Work, as it was in the alternative selected in 2012. It is scandalous that the bike-ped path was downgraded to just a disposable option by the current administration.
The legislature needs to conduct an in-depth investigation into the Maryland Transportation Authority and explore what legislation is needed to ensure that the Authority meets the current needs of Maryland’s citizens.
Second, there are still many missing sidewalks along state roads in Montgomery County. For example, there is no sidewalk on either side of 16th Street (MD 390) where it meets Georgia Avenue (MD 97). There is no sidewalk on the west side of 16th Street from Lyttonsville Road to Spring Street.
In four years, the Purple Line will open, and residents of Montgomery Hills and the apartments along 16th Street will want to walk to the Woodside Station on 16th Street. Will they be able to walk there on opening day? Only if we get serious about building sidewalks now. There is no time to waste.
Thank you for your attention.

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