Since the state approved a concept plan to to put a signal on the Maryland side of the circle, some short-term improvements have been made. The county has built a new sidewalk on the west and north sides of the circle. The state upgraded pavement markings in 2011 and last year installed four bicycle lane signs near the circle. And the District has put in traffic-control signs and markings.
What remains up in the air is the traffic signal planned at the intersection of Colesville Road and 16th Street. Montgomery County estimated it would cost $250,000. Although the state approved the concept four years ago, Mookherjee said, nothing is in writing, including who will pay for it.
Maryland and city officials say it makes sense for the District, which already has traffic signals on its side of the circle, to maintain and operate any new signals in the Maryland side so that all are synchronized.
The three jurisdictions are to meet next week to come up with some answers and a clearer plan of action.
“Looking back, we can’t speak as to why there weren’t conversations about the signal, but we are moving forward,” said Christopher S. Bishop, the State Highway Administration’s Montgomery County liaison.
The traffic, combined with the growing number of cyclists and pedestrians in the area, makes the circle a bigger priority, said Salvador Lopez, a Silver Spring resident who crosses the circle on foot to go from his home on 16th Street to a bus stop on Eastern Avenue NW.
Better traffic signals and a greater police presence could ease the concerns and encourage drivers to be more cautious, Lopez said as he walked to catch the S2 bus.
“As a pedestrian, it is really hard when you are trying to compete with 3,000 cars,” Ashley Southall, 26, said as she waited to cross Colesville Road from the District side to the Silver Spring side.
For two years, Southall has managed to cross the road to get to the bus stop, but she said she finds it difficult each time. Northbound 16th Street traffic drives from the District into Montgomery, some cars turning right at Colesville Road and ignoring the white pedestrian crossing marks on the pavement.
“They should yield to pedestrians,” she said. “But they don’t.”
Bowser and Montgomery County Council member Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring), who represent the area, said at a recent joint community meeting that they are frustrated after five years of pressing their local transportation agencies and the state to make improvements.
In a letter they sent last week to the three transportation agencies, Bowser and Ervin urged the jurisdictions “to work together expeditiously.”
“While we recognize the inherent complexity of the project, we remain extremely frustrated that it is not near completion after almost five years,” the letter said. “The individuals living in this area, as well as the drivers traveling through it, have waited far too long for positive change.”
Evan Glass, chairman of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, said even with the pedestrian enhancements, those who drive and live in the area know how dangerous the circle remains.
“I am not sure how many more accidents the Maryland State Highway Administration needs recorded before they decide to fix this traffic circle,” he said. “How many more pedestrians are going to be hit before they fix this situation?”