|Two men walk in the roadway|
head-on toward oncoming traffic
on Wisconsin Avenue last evening
|Commuters walking towards|
Bethesda Metro station in
roadway at 7272 Wisconsin after
|Man walking in roadway|
(center of GIF image)
toward southbound traffic
runs for his life, as he realizes
light further up is changing
The life-and-death pedestrian drama we're watching now represents a threefold failure of government, in a county where government increasingly cannot deliver the basic functions we pay taxes for. During its current term, the County Council has tackled teenage tanning beds, Styrofoam, backyard insecticides and "healthy vending machines." Meanwhile, outside their now-fortified headquarters at 100 Maryland Avenue, trash isn't being picked up, the 911 service failed, and pedestrian safety is an afterthought for developer-beholden politicians.
Failure 1: The Montgomery County Planning Board and County Council failed to require the sidewalks and roadway remain open in their Minor Master Plan Amendment on the Apex Building. In fact, they stipulated very little, as Capital Crescent Trail advocates were horrified to learn recently. This was a guiding document that the County had full control over. They were in a position to make any demands or requirements they felt necessary, as the potential developer could only redevelop this site with their approval. Only their reliance on developer campaign contributions can explain why they would not have thought through all of the potential problems, and addressed them in the agreement.
Failure 2: Montgomery County officials are claiming they have no idea what Carr Properties is up to, or why the Maryland State Highway Administration allowed Carr to shut down the sidewalk and southbound lane. Huh?! That is an astonishing admission. This is a public-private partnership project related to the Purple Line, and partner Montgomery County doesn't know what its other two partners are doing, or even what the schedule is? Embarrassing.
Failure 3: Once learning that a situation they should have known would happen has happened, County officials have failed to act, or have again been proven to be impotent, and unable to move their partners to do anything. I thought that we would see some action Monday, but as business hours ended last evening, nothing had been done. In fact, one citizen contacted 311 - as we're told to do to "get it done" - early Monday morning. By day's end? Nothing had been "done."
There is absolutely no reason for a lane to be closed on Wisconsin Avenue for six months, or the next three years. The Apex Building exterior structure isn't even being demolished at this time! That is an egregious misuse of public property and right-of-way, on one of the most congested roads in the D.C. region. And there is no reason for not having a covered walkway, as Washington Property Company provided down the road during their construction of the Solaire Bethesda apartments.
Two cities, Seattle and Raleigh, have been dealing with this using modified shipping containers with interior lighting. New York City doesn't allow the kind of sidewalk closures Montgomery County has, yet has more construction than Bethesda will ever have. The Council passed not one, but two, laws that would supposedly reduce or forbid such dangerous sidewalk closures. But it has failed to enforce either one of them.
Apologists for the Council will claim this is the state's fault, but the reality is, there are currently other sidewalk closures around downtown Bethesda on County roads, and the Council hasn't acted on a single one of them. And it's simply beyond belief that the County Council has never discussed these most basic logistical issues with their two partners. Are you kidding me? No trash, no 911, and now we hear that they don't discuss logistics on a billion dollar project, with taxpayer money on the line? Don't ever tell me again that we are getting "highly-qualified" councilmembers, for their outrageous $137,000-a-year salaries.
Is this hands-off policy again driven by their reliance on developers for campaign funds? Is the Council so inept and impotent that Pete Rahn and Carr Properties are just laughing at them behind their backs at this point? And perhaps if the County's Bethesda regional services center took the time they spend putting links into taxpayer-funded emails to boost traffic and revenue for a local small and slightly-failing magazine, and spent it instead on the sidewalk issue, we wouldn't have people running for their lives on Wisconsin Avenue.