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The Road Ahead

Work on local roads has the eye of some residents and commuters.

The mobile road sign at the intersection of Glen Mill Road and Wootton Parkway says it all: Expect Delays. Wootton Parkway is scheduled to be repaved beginning on Tuesday, Aug. 14. It is one of several recent or ongoing road projects in the area that have caught the attention of local commuters.

B.B. Meer lives off of Seven Hill Lane in Potomac and drives down Wootton Parkway at least four times a week. In her mind repaving the road “for no rhyme or reason, at least to the layman’s eye,” as she put it, doesn’t make any sense.

“All I know is that it’s not a very old [road], and plus the fact that it was fine. It was perfectly fine,” said Meer.

The City of Rockville oversees maintenance of Wootton Parkway and saw it differently.

“It’s just normal maintenance on the road,” said Mike Wilhelm, the Chief of Contract Management for the city. “It’s been about fourteen years since it was last repaved.”

The city has been stripping the top layer of pavement on the road for the last two weeks, but paving of the road — initially scheduled to begin in early August — was delayed due to mechanical difficulties, Wilhelm said.

Wilhelm said that the city wanted to have the project done before the county’s school year begins — and the daily volume of traffic subsequently increases — but the delay will make that impossible.

“We do the best we can. Unfortunately our funding runs from July to July [of each year], so school was already out a couple of weeks before we had the money to start these things.”

Meer said that she thinks there are better ways to spend the county’s money than on repaving a road that doesn’t need it.

“I just think we should start looking at what’s going on around our neighborhoods,” Meer said. “I just want to know how my tax dollars are being spent.”

THINGS HAVE been relatively quiet along River Road since a project just north of the intersection with Falls Road was completed in mid-July. During the project the right hand of two westbound lanes was changed from a lane that merged into the left lane to a designated right-turn only lane onto Gary Road. Some residents have said that that designation isn't effective.

“[C]ar after car after SUV after truck after car all use the new River Road “right turn only” lane for Gary Road as an extended merge area,” said Diana Conway, the president of the Potomac Elementary School PTA. That practice is particularly relevant to Potomac Elementary, as it is less than a quarter-mile up from the road, and during the school year the practice of such merging poses a potential threat to parents and students, Conway has said in the past.

Chuck Gischlar, a spokesperson for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said that the significant amount of signage and road marking along that stretch should be enough to properly direct drivers. The engineers overseeing the project will monitor it over the next couple of months before determining if changes are necessary.

“Our traffic engineering department is keeping an eye on that to see if it works and then we’ll make a decision,” said Gischlar. “I think the real test then will also come when school starts.” If it appears that drivers consistently violate the directions given them, that would be a matter for the police, Gischlar said.

“We have signage up telling motorists what to do — if they continue to disobey the signs then it becomes a law enforcement issue,” said Gischlar, adding that further adjustments such as adding a narrow, low-rise curb or plastic dividing markers would be a last resort.

“We put the signs up; we expect folks to follow the signs,” Gischlar said.

COMMUTERS WHO have felt the pinch of the ongoing lane closures on the American Legion Bridge will soon find relief, Gischlar said. The cleaning and repainting project that has completely closed down the right-hand northbound lane on the bridge and has periodically resulted in lane closures in southbound lanes as well is ahead of schedule and is nearing completion.

“We are looking to open that [northbound] lane by mid-September — rather than mid-November,” said Gischlar.