Pedestrian Bridge Sought For Silver Spring Library
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Traffic officials will recommend a pedestrian bridge linking the Wayne Avenue parking garage with the new Silver Spring Library after deciding that a street-level crosswalk would be too dangerous. But some residents and planning officials are concerned such a bridge would stifle foot traffic in the redeveloped downtown.
The Montgomery County Council will have the final say on whether to approve the pedestrian bridge for the library, slated for Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street. An 85-foot bridge would connect the fourth level of the garage with the third level of the six-story library building, which will include an art center and a floor of office space.
Because no on-site library parking is included, access from the garage is a crucial issue for planners. How to achieve that access is the final part of the library design to be determined.
"There are a lot of users of the library that would need a bridge," said Gary Stith, director of the Silver Spring Regional Center.
Stith said the 63,000-square-foot library would have an estimated 1.1 million annual visits, making it one of the county's busiest. That estimate was calculated by applying to the Silver Spring site the 38 percent increase in visits to new libraries in Rockville and Germantown.
Of the 1.1 million library users, more than half would be children or seniors who might have trouble crossing Wayne Avenue, officials said.
A pedestrian bridge was included in the library's original design, approved by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and council members. Plans envision two-hour parking and handicap parking in the garage for library users and a potential book drop-off inside the garage.
But at a December meeting of the council's Health and Human Services Committee, planning officials opposed the bridge, citing its estimated $684,000 cost and the 1999 Silver Spring Urban Renewal Plan, which prohibits a bridge over Wayne Avenue.
In response, the county Department of Transportation did a feasibility study of a signaled crosswalk and a crosswalk without a signal to be constructed outside the parking garage exit, 125 feet from Fenton and Wayne. Expanding that intersection to the garage was also considered.
Fenton and Wayne is considered a failing intersection for pedestrians because of dense traffic, transportation officials said. They deemed the crosswalk options too dangerous because pedestrian traffic would be combined with large numbers of cars exiting and entering the garage.
The library site is near a potential stop for the proposed Purple Line, which could run a light-rail transit line through Wayne and Fenton, pushing the crosswalk there closer to the garage.
"There's a lot of activity going on, and when you have a lot of activity, you don't want to throw more pedestrians into the mix," said Fred Lees, the Transportation Department's manager of traffic engineering studies and operations. His comments came during a meeting last Thursday at the Silver Spring Library on Colesville Road.
Planning officials said they will continue to recommend against a pedestrian bridge, starting today at a human services committee meeting on the library. Council members will review the plan at a hearing that officials expect to schedule for next month.
"The Purple Line is coming, and the intersection needs to be fixed," John Carter, Park and Planning's chief of urban design and special projects, said at last week's library meeting.
"I don't understand the idea that a mom with two kids can't cross the street," said Silver Spring mother Joanna Slaney. "We chose Silver Spring because we get to walk places."
Jean Dunnington, chairwoman of the Library Advisory Committee for the Rockville-based Disability Resource Center, said: "If you can't get to something easily, why bother?"