Seminary Road Intersection Report

by Merrie Blocker, Traffic and Safety Committee

The intersection road changes came to conclusion in record time due to reduced traffic during the last 10 months. A few items remain:

  1. Montgomery County put in wrongly named street signs. On a walk through the intersection, neighborhood representatives and the county agreed on the correct signage, which should be installed in the next few months. Thanks to Gus Bauman for his help on getting the county to focus on this mistake.

  2. The Linden Civic Association and the NWCA worked together to obtain a sidewalk behind Sniders on the south side of Seminary Place. That sidewalk should also be installed in the next few months.

  3. NWCA is following up on county plans for maintaining the new plants and trees placed around the intersection. Phyllida Paterson of our Tree Committee will be working on this.

Traffic and Safety Committee Updates

The new Talbot Avenue Bridge in September 2020, before construction halted.

Seminary Road Intersection

The bulk of the road construction work on this project will be completed in early November. Sometime within the next six months, trees and plants will be planted.

The portion of Seminary Road between Seminary Road and Seminary Place, which is now physically a continuation of 2nd Avenue, will be officially renamed 2nd Avenue.

The new traffic lights will be operational in early November and the county will then recalibrate the timing. Also, at that time the new streetlights will begin to work.

Talbot Avenue Bridge

As of Oct. 16, 2020, all construction stopped on the bridge. Due to the inconvenience and the eyesore of the partially built structure, Lyttonsville and Rosemary Hills neighborhood associations sent a letter to Gov. Hogan and other public officials requesting that Talbot Avenue Bridge construction be prioritized in Purple Line activities. After consultation with the members of the Traffic and Safety Committee, the NWCA Board sent a letter of support that also stated the following:

“As we foresee a greatly increased volume of traffic once the Talbot Bridge is opened, the North Woodside Association also wants to take this opportunity to remind Montgomery County, specifically the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, of its commitment, made to us last January and February in a public meeting and follow up emails, that once the Bridge is reopened the County will work with all three of our neighborhoods to mitigate any traffic disruptions.”

We believe that with the support of Lyttonsville and Rosemary Hills, we will obtain the traffic mitigations we’ll request in the future.

The approval of almost all types of mitigation requests is based on traffic-volume studies. So it would be wise to wait for the bridge to be open a few months and for the pandemic to have passed before requesting such a study.

2nd Avenue

Residents on 2nd Avenue have concerns about traffic speed and volume, particularly regarding pedestrian safety. The Traffic and Safety Committee will follow up with the county to request a review of all options for better traffic control and pedestrian protection.

— by Merrie Blocker and Julie Lees, Co-chairs, Traffic and Safety Committee

Three Neighborhoods Meet to Discuss Traffic Concerns

Michael Paylor, MCDOT, fielding a plethora of questions from local residents.


by Julie Lees, Traffic & Safety Committee

Neighbors from North Woodside, Lyttonsville, and Rosemary Hills met on January 13th with Michael Paylor, Chief of Traffic Engineering, Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT). The goal was to develop a common understanding of potential traffic issues stemming from the new Talbot Ave. Bridge and the county’s plan for traffic calming and pedestrian safety.

Julie Lees, co-chair of the North Woodside Traffic and Safety Committee, began the meeting with an outline of concerns, noting that the wider two-lane bridge will potentially increase vehicular speed and may attract more vehicles, especially from out-of-area drivers. There is particular concern about pedestrian and cyclist safety in the area where the pedestrian/cyclist trail crosses the two lanes of traffic on the bridge at 4th Ave.

Michael Paylor discussed the county’s current plan for traffic control around the bridge and responded to audience questions and comments. The plan is to reestablish a three-way stop at the 4th Ave. end of the bridge. Mr. Paylor said he understood that the Purple Line was responsible for traffic mitigation on the bridge, but was told during the meeting that the state has explicitly stated that traffic mitigation and safety was the responsibility of the county. A recurring theme was the challenge of enforcement. Signs alone do not change driver behavior.

Audience members suggested a raised crosswalk for the trail, which Mr. Paylor said was feasible. There were questions about pedestrian-activated lights. There are two types of lights—one linked to a stoplight and one that sets off a blinking yellow light. Mr. Paylor said the former was a poor fit for our needs due to the short distance on the bridge. There were questions about design options that could slow vehicles, such as the bump outs on Dale Dr. and at Spring and Second. The bump outs can be done at the request of the neighborhood association in conjunction with county traffic engineers.

Vehicle Access Restriction, which requires a specific percentage of out-of-area traffic, was discussed as an option. Examples of VAR include the restrictions on Second Ave. access in Woodside during rush hour. Mr. Paylor noted that VAR restricts turns or entrance for residents as well as out-of-area vehicles. In the three- neighborhood area, examples include one-way access to the bridge during rush hour or restrictions on feeder streets such as Grace Church at 16th St. No recommen-dations or preferences were noted.

Geoff Gerhardt, NWCA vice president, asked that MCDOT provide our neighborhoods with a list of traffic mitigation and safety options for our consideration. This was met with audience applause. Mr. Paylor agreed to this request and said he would be meeting with his staff to discuss our suggestions and concerns.

To request a more detailed summary of the meeting, contact the Traffic and Safety Committee.

Lyttonsville, North Woodside, and Rosemary Hills neighbors mingle, check out the Talbot Avenue Bridge map, and ask questions of Michael Paylor, MCDOT, after the meeting.

Talbot Avenue Bridge Design and Traffic Mitigation

Courtesy Purple Line

The traffic committee has made some headway on the Talbot Avenue Bridge design issue—the fencing will now be faux-wrought iron backed by chain-link over CSX tracks (two-thirds) and by plexiglass over Purple Line tracks (one-third). Previous designs featured plexiglass across the entire bridge and, later, only chain link over the CSX tracks. Note: The plexiglass and chain link in the current design are elements required by Purple Line and CSX standards.

We are also working with Lyttonsville and Rosemary Hills to set up traffic mitigation discussions with Montgomery County Department of Transportation for when the new Talbot Bridge opens. Stay tuned for future meeting notices.

Neighbors who are interested in working on the Traffic and Safety Committee on these and other traffic/pedestrian safety issues can contact the co-chairs.

Farewell to a Historic Bridge

Talbot Avenue Bridge Candlelight Vigil, on eve of the century-old bridge’s final closure before demolition.

On June 4, 2019, the Purple Line Transit Constructors closed and began demolition of the historic wood and steel Talbot Avenue Bridge. Built in 1918 from an overturned train turntable from West Virginia, the century-old Bridge was the last remaining historically-significant structure of the historically African-American community of Lyttonsville, founded in 1853 by free man of color Samuel Lytton. Originally two-lane, the Bridge served as a lifeline to Lyttonsville residents through a significant portion of the 20th Century, when Silver Spring was very starkly racially segregated and ~50 neighborhoods in Silver Spring, including North Woodside, had racially restrictive deed covenants that prohibited African Americans from owning property or living in them, except as domestic servants. In recent years, current and former Lyttonsville residents have shared visceral memories of racial bigotry they experienced in North Woodside, and how they viewed efforts by North Woodside residents to permanently close the Bridge in the 1990s as racially-motivated.

A year ago, Lyttonsville, North Woodside, and Rosemary Hills neighbors came together to organize the Talbot Avenue Bridge Centennial Celebration at which NWCA President David Cox presented a unanimously-passed NWCA Board resolution acknowledging and strongly denouncing racial bigotry in all its forms, past and present. North Woodside is the first (and only so far) neighborhood in Montgomery County—and one of only a few in the U.S.—to publicly acknowledge and denounce racist deed covenants of the past. Read the resolution in full and view its presentation.

Over the past year, neighbors connected by the Bridge have continued to collaborate, organizing a number of Bridge-related social and educational community events. At sunset on the eve of the Bridge’s closing community members gathered on the Bridge one last time for a Candlelight Vigil to mark this transition and enjoy a final moment in the historic space.

On July 5, 2019, a small crowd gathered for the much anticipated lifting of the Bridge’s steel girders. The girders are currently being stored by the County, along with other saved parts, for eventual placement along the Capitol Crescent Trail in a new County park that will be created in Lyttonsville following Purple Line construction.

For photos, videos and more info about Talbot Avenue Bridge events this past year, go to: talbotbridge100.org (click on “Events”).

Thanks to all neighbors, too numerous to list, who have contributed in one way or another to Bridge-related events this past year!

For more information about the history Talbot Avenue Bridge and racial segregation in Silver Spring, watch Silver Spring: A Sundown Suburb in the Capital’s Gateway, a presentation by public historian David Rotenstein or check out his collection of writings on the the topic.

On June 13, 2019, County Executive Marc Elrich presented Montgomery County Civic Federation’s Wayne Goldstein Award to the Talbot Avenue Bridge Centennial Committee for their work for racial reconciliation and preservation of elements of this historic bridge to educate future generations about segregation in Montgomery County’s history: Alan Bowser, Marcie Stickle, George French, Charlotte Coffield*, Joel Teitelbaum†, Pat Tyson*, Elmoria Stewart*, Merrie Blocker‡, Eva Santorin†, Anna White‡. Not pictured: David Rotenstein, Laura Hussey. *Lifelong resident of Lyttonsville; †Rosemary Hills resident; ‡North Woodside resident

North Woodside Traffic and Road Construction Update

Traffic. Nobody likes it, but a certain amount is to be expected in a community that is located near a thriving urban center. Unfortunately, there are a number of construction projects about to get underway that are likely to increase traffic in and around our neighborhood.

The North Woodside-Montgomery Hills Citizens Association will continue to work with officials from the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, state transportation agencies, Purple Line and others to minimize the impact. But there is an inevitable it’s going to get worse before it gets better aspect to the next several years. Here is a short summary of the projects about to get started or that are in the planning stages.

Seminary Road Intersection

The Seminary Road Intersection Improvement Project is intended to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety at the so-called mixing bowl where Second Avenue meets Seminary Road, Seminary Place and Linden Lane. Construction is scheduled to begin in July 2018 and be completed roughly 12 months later. While traffic will be allowed to use the intersection throughout the project, backups and delays should be expected.

In May, the county’s Department of Transportation hosted a meeting at Woodlin Elementary where officials walked through the project’s schedule and heard testimony from residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. At that meeting, I provided input on the project on behalf of NWMHCA. One of the points I emphasized is that our neighborhood is greatly impacted by cut-through traffic on Second Avenue, which often backs up at the mixing bowl intersection. I pointed out that this problem could be reduced by allowing left turns at rush hour from Georgia Avenue onto Seminary Road, Seminary Place and Forest Glen Road.

Purple Line and Talbot Bridge

In late April, the Talbot Avenue Bridge was permanently closed to vehicle traffic following an inspection that found the bridge was no longer safe for cars. DOT says the bridge is still safe for pedestrians and bicyclists. No advance notice of the closure was given to the surrounding communities. NWMHCA worked with DOT to develop better detour signage than what was originally put in place.

Now that the lawsuit regarding the Purple Line has (mostly) been resolved, replacing the Talbot Bridge is high on the county’s priority list. The new bridge is slated to be about 41 feet wide (compared with 11 feet wide for the current bridge) in order to accommodate three lanes two for vehicle traffic and one for the Capital Crescent Trail.

NWMHCA petitioned county and Purple Line officials to reduce the size of the new bridge to be more consistent with the current bridge. We asked that the new bridge have one lane for alternating two-way vehicle traffic and one lane for the trail. However, we were informed that this proposal would violate federal safety standards, which requires new bridges to have two lanes for vehicle traffic. Therefore, the new bridge would be built as originally planned.

We are now actively working with the Lyttonsville and Rosemary Hills civic associations on ways to ensure that both vehicle and trail traffic can use the bridge safely. We want to promote traffic calming measures on the surrounding streets and look at ways to improve the aesthetics of the new bridge. We are also supporting efforts spearheaded by Lyttonsville to preserve portions of the current bridge in order to memorialize its unique history.

Lyttonsville Place Bridge

The Lyttonsville Place Bridge will also be replaced as part of the Purple Line project. The timing is unclear, but it looks like the Lyttonsville Bridge will be closed after the Talbot Bridge is replaced. It is likely that some traffic that would ordinarily go over the Lyttonsville Bridge would be rerouted over the Talbot Bridge. We are working with DOT on strategies to minimize the effect on North Woodside. These would includes establishing a detour route that will encourage traffic to travel on larger state roads like 16th Street and making sure trucks aren’t allowed over the new Talbot Bridge. The situation is going to be further complicated by construction on the Spring Street Bridge as part of the Purple Line.

Seminary Road Bridge

This winter, the state Department of Transportation will start work rehabilitating the Seminary Road Bridge over Interstate 495. The project will take about a year to complete. The state plans on keeping two lanes of traffic open through- out the project, but lane shifts will be required and traffic back-ups could occur.

Georgia Avenue Study

The Maryland Department of Transportation has spent several years looking at ways to improve Georgia Avenue from 16th Street to Forest Glen Road. The planning study was funded by the county, although no funds have been set aside to actually make any of the proposed changes.

Options being looked at by DOT include installing a median, adding a dedicated bike lane and providing left turns lanes from Georgia Avenue onto Seminary Road, Seminary Place and Forest Glen Road. In September, Maryland DOT announced it was still working on identifying the preferred alternative for the project and conducting additional engineering analysis. The preferred alternative is supposed to be announced this fall. At this point, it is unclear how the planning study will be affected by Gov. Hogan’s proposal to add four lanes to the Beltway.