Friday, March 11, 2016
Town of Somerset gives thumbs down to through lane on River Rd. at Little Falls Pkwy.
The draft Westbard plan contains not a single project to increase vehicle capacity on River Road, despite proposing to add 5000 more vehicles to it. But Council Deputy Adminstrator Glenn Orlin has proposed building a project that was called for in the Friendship Heights sector plan. It would create a third through lane westbound on River Road between Greystone Street and Butler Road. The problem is, it would end and dump traffic back into the remaining two lanes.
The Town of Somerset has now raised objections to the project, which has not yet been endorsed by the County Council PHED committee. Writing on behalf of Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Z. Slavin, Town Councilmember Marnie Shaul told the Council that the third lane would create safety issues. Most notably, many Somerset residents need to use Greystone to reach River Road. Parents driving their kids to Westland in the morning often use Little Falls Parkway, which requires crossing the two westbound lanes of River to reach the left turn lane at the parkway. A third lane would make this more difficult, Shaul wrote.
Even a right turn lane being added would make it nearly impossible for Somerset residents to get in and out of their neighborhood during the evening rush, Shaul argued. Among other concerns of the town, are the impact of widening River on homes, and reduction of the new bike facilities proposed under the plan that would be required to add the lane.
This issue is like many brought up after the public process was finished: the plan to turn the Little Falls Library into an apartment building, the plan to dump massive amounts of countywide-serving low-income housing into a two block area at Westbard, etc. As Shaul wrote, "The Town of Somerset was surprised by this proposal, which had not been discussed during the Westbard planning process." Sounds familiar!
While a third lane all the way down River Road from Ridgefield Road into the District at Wisconsin Avenue would have real benefit, this short stub being proposed is likely to cause more backups than it helps. You might as well have the full bike facilities along River in that case. My suspicion is that the project was put into the Friendship Heights plan to provide some more phantom capacity for development up there. In practice, the road will be just as jammed with it as without.
The PHED committee will take up this, and many other issues, on Monday.