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Paths of Resistance?

Proposed bike and pedestrian paths raise congestion and right of way concerns.

A few years from now, will cars could cruise down Seven Locks Road as pedestrians and bikers share two paths running alongside.

Some Potomac residents who live on Seven Locks have expressed concern that to make this image a reality they will have to give up portions of their front yards. Montgomery County Officials say the project is intended for the safety of the public.

"We've had two fatalities in the last two years, and one was a biker and the other was a pedestrian," said Aruna Miller, a project manager for the Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPWT) who is overseeing the design process.

The proposed mixed-use bike and pedestrian path that could be running along both sides of Seven Locks Road by 2016. DPWT is in the initial planning and analysis stages of the project that will add bike lanes to the shoulder areas of Seven Locks Road as well as an additional path to each side of the road for both pedestrians and bikers to use.

If the planning and approval process goes smoothly, the project could begin construction in six to seven years, Miller.

The path was a recommendation of the Potomac Subregion Master Plan, Miller said.

Jerry Garson, the president of the Seven Locks Civic Association, thinks the plan is a bad idea.

"If its not broke, don't break it," said Garson.

"Garson said that the objection that he and those that he represents have to the plan is that it would offer no congestion relief for the busy road. Instead it would create an eyesore for which many residents who live along Seven Locks Road would lose portions of their yards to the county.

As Garson sees it, the plan would offer no congestion relief for the busy road but would instead create an eyesore for which many residents who live along Seven Locks Road would lose portions to the county.

According to preliminary DPWT estimates, some parts of the project would require the use of land 65 feet to either side of the center line of Seven Locks Road. Garson said this will take the path very close to the doorsteps of some Seven Locks residents.

“This is huge, what [the county is] proposing, and they don’t have the land for it,” Garson said.

PRELIMINARY RENDERINGS and maps of the path were on display at a meeting of the Transportation Committee of the West Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board on Monday, April 9. The committee is a citizen advisory panel to the County Executive .

“It looks like it will add more concrete for bikes and pedestrians than it will for cars,” Garson said of the plans.

The mixed-use paths would run along the 3.3-mile stretch of Seven Locks Road between Montrose Road and Bradley Boulevard. The plan still must go through more extensive planning, as well as review from the Montgomery County Planning Board and then approval by the County Council and inclusion in the county’s budget and Capital Improvement Program.

“During all of this [review and approval] there’s a lot of room for change,” Miller said.

Garson hopes one change will be to address what he considers to be growing congestion on the road for commuters who utilize I-270 and 495, and use Seven Locks Road as a shortcut.

Garson said that he wants to see three to five additional turning lanes added at various intersections along Seven Locks Road and would support increasing the width of existing sidewalks from five to eight feet.

Miller said that traffic studies along Seven Locks Road led DPWT to conclude that increasing road capacity was not necessary.

The plan is currently in initial planning stages and will be presented to the Montgomery County Planning Board based on the design team’s recommendations at the end of the month, Miller said.

DPWT has held public meetings to discuss the concerns surrounding the project several times, most recently on March 6, said Callum Murray, the Potomac Team Leader of Planning Board’s staff.

“I think DPWT has made really tremendous efforts to make this inclusive and to consider all the public comments,” Murray said.

A PATH SIMILAR to the proposed Seven Locks path could be under construction along MacArthur Boulevard by 2011.

Both lanes of MacArthur Boulevard from Old Angler's Inn to the Maryland/Washington, D.C. border will have three-foot-wide shoulders that will double as bike lanes, said Yasmine Esmaili of DPWT. Along the southbound lane, an existing footpath will be rebuilt as an eight-foot wide shared-use path that will also extend from Old Anglers, through Glen Echo, and to the D.C. border.

“The Bannockburn community is strongly supportive of these plans,” said Dick Ramsey, the president of the Bannockburn Civic Association. The plans will include crosswalks to help pedestrians cross MacArthur Boulevard. “We urge construction to begin as soon as possible."

The plan will narrow each of MacArthur Boulevard’s lanes from 11 to 10 feet in width to accomodate the expanded shoulders, said Esmaili. A five-foot area of grass and shrubs will separate the southbound lane from the shared-use path when possible, though in some places where space is limited a retaining wall will be used, Esmaili said.

Garson questioned the narrowing of the road and suggested it could lead to head-on car collisions.

The project will not require the acquisition of any private property to be built, Esmaeli said. DPWT is looking to schedule a date to present the plan to the Montgomery County Council for consideration, said Esmaili.