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Turn on a bulb-out to protect White Flint pedestrians

If Montgomery County is serious about creating walkable places, it must fix dangerous intersections like Hoya Street and Montrose Road in White Flint. Drivers turning right from southbound Hoya to Montrose can't see pedestrians beginning to cross. A bulb-out would make pedestrians visible and the intersection safer.

Last fall, my mother tried to cross here, and told me that she would have been run over here if she had crossed when the walk signal turned green. So I went to see for myself. Recent pedestrian safety improvements had not made the intersection safe. Drivers turning right from Hoya onto Montrose can't see pedestrians on the north side of Montrose Road because a wall at the Monterey Apartments complex blocks drivers' view.

That wall was there before the pedestrian improvements. Why hadn't the changes included a solution for this hazard?

Image from Google Maps.

The Hoya/Montrose intersection was part of the $117 million Montrose Parkway West project. Before 2010, Montrose Road intersected Old Georgetown Road here, before crossing Rockville Pike and becoming Randolph Road on the other side. But in 2010, Montgomery County finished building the adjacent Montrose Parkway at a cost of $70 million.

The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) also finished their own $47.2 million project, which removed the intersection between Montrose Road and Rockville Pike. The end result is that Montrose Road now ends at what used to be part of Old Georgetown Road, now renamed Hoya Street, while Old Georgetown meets Rockville Pike farther south.

Pedestrian safety improvements followed between 2010 and 2012: new curb ramps, a pedestrian refuge in the median of Hoya Street, an improved pedestrian island between the main part of Montrose Road and the slip lane onto southbound Hoya Street, and a marked crosswalk across the slip lane. And yet, nobody in MCDOT or SHA fixed the hazard the wall causes. Why not?

Photo by Peter Blanchard on Flickr.

When asked via email how to make this intersection safe for pedestrians, Bruce Mangum, head of MCDOT's signals engineering team, said that they will add two signs reading "Turning Traffic Yield To Pedestrians." One will put one on the traffic signal and the other at street level just behind the curb.

Mangum added that "[n]o amount of engineering (signs, signals, pavement markings) can assure safe intersection operations unless motorists and pedestrians alike know and recognize their respective responsibilities." But a few more signs won't make this intersection safe. Research shows that these signs don't significantly increase the likelihood of drivers yielding to pedestrians during right turns. So extra signage likely won't help. And that's at intersections where the drivers can see the pedestrians. Even the most responsible drivers and pedestrians can't see through a wall.

Fortunately, there actually is an engineering solution that can make the intersection safe: a bulb-out (also called a curb extension), where the sidewalk extends farther toward the middle of the road.

With a bulb-out into Montrose Road, a driver making a right turn would be able to see pedestrians waiting to cross. Also, pedestrians would only cross one lane of traffic, instead of two.

It's true that a bulb-out would reduce westbound Montrose Road from two lanes to one at the intersection. But since Montrose Road no longer connects with Rockville Pike, it doesn't need two lanes there anyway. Plus, since this intersection is part of Montgomery County's transformational 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, pedestrian safety and walkability should be the priority.

Signs alone won't make this intersection safe for pedestrians. Sooner or later, a right-turning driver will hit a pedestrian here. Installing a bulb-out would prevent this from happening. MCDOT, please do it.

Miriam Schoenbaum lives in upcounty Montgomery County. She is a member of the Boyds Civic Association, the Boyds Historical Society, and the Action Committee for Transit


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No amount of bulb-outs will make this a pleasant place to walk as long as there's absolutely nothing there to see or go into, and one has to cross what appears to be four or five wide lanes of traffic.

by LowHeadways on Apr 3, 2014 10:46 am • linkreport

Rather than just a bulbout (depending on what sort of design you're imagining,) the entire corner needs to be extended in a way that turns the intersection into something closer to a 90 degree right-hand turn. Even if you can see the pedestrians standing further out into the road, it won't truly keep them safe until it's impossible to speed through that turn at 30 mph.

by Steve D on Apr 3, 2014 10:51 am • linkreport

"It's true that a bulb-out would reduce westbound Montrose Road from two lanes to one at the intersection. But since Montrose Road no longer connects with Rockville Pike, it doesn't need two lanes there anyway. "

WHAT. I agree the whole operation that changed Montrose Road/Old Georgetown/355 was very expensive and left many a mess, and multiple areas near impossible to walk. But I'm aghast that on here the proposed solutions are always to reduce driving lanes.

by asffa on Apr 3, 2014 10:56 am • linkreport

Why not tear down the wall? (I'm old enough to have always wanted to say that)

by asffa on Apr 3, 2014 10:58 am • linkreport

There's also a traffic sign planted squarely in the middle of the narrow sidewalk. Right next to the sidewalk is a stretch of pavement that is painted to exclude vehicles. Moving the sign onto the pavement would let it perform a positive function (keeping vehicles out of a place they aren't supposed to be) instead of a negative one (keeping pedestrians, especially those on wheelchairs, out of a place they are supposed to be).

by Ben Ross on Apr 3, 2014 11:38 am • linkreport

I believe that the existing intersection improvements mentioned in the article are part of the "tens of dollars" that SHA and MCDOT have spent "to make sure that active transportation users can get around safely" that GGW reported on Tuesday.

by Peter K on Apr 3, 2014 11:38 am • linkreport

Wow, it's been awhile since I've been through there, looks like a pedestrian wasteland. Everyone often talks about walkable communities, but this is like the opposite. All it needs now is a nature bandaid (apologies to James Howard Kunstler's TED talk) Maybe while they're at it, MCDOT can stop putting signs in the middle of the sidewalks. Doesn't look ADA compatible to me. Why spend time/money for ramps but block the sidewalk. Ugh.

by Bob Smith on Apr 3, 2014 11:41 am • linkreport

Since this is also an off-ramp from Rockville Pike that starts out as one lane, there is no reason why there should be more than a left turn lane and a thru/right turn lane here, thus leaving room for a bulb-out.

by DaveG on Apr 3, 2014 11:46 am • linkreport

While I can appreciate the historical significance of "tearing down the wall", asffa, MCDOT can't do much of anything about it. On the other hand, they maintain the intersection so it is reasonable to suggest alterations to it.

Also, are you seriously suggesting that a park-and-ride needs 2 lanes to handle exit traffic? This stretch of road is still configured for being the major east-west route through the area. It isn't any more, so it is perfectly reasonable to suggest alterations that reflect this new reality.

by Adam S on Apr 3, 2014 12:02 pm • linkreport

Adam S
Your comment would be apt if your proposal was directly inside the car park. (The ridiculously-placed and viciously walker-unfriendly park and ride (or cop-stop, naive drug dealer stop or where people trying to continue through Randolph get accidentally turned around and lost area.)) I thought it was about narrowing at Montrose on the area people use to get around from the Jewish center, etc. towards 355. If it's the latter that was meant, that's not reasonable.

by asffa on Apr 3, 2014 1:23 pm • linkreport

I'm pretty sure if I put up a barrier that blocked the view of vehicles at my home, I'd have to move it or trim it down. I don't see why the apartments involved aren't under pressure to fix the situation.

by asffa on Apr 3, 2014 1:31 pm • linkreport

BTW, is there a bus stop or something at that "Park and Ride" to give it legitimate purpose?

by asffa on Apr 3, 2014 1:55 pm • linkreport

If Montgomery County is serious about creating walkable places

They're not. So this intersection is working as designed.

by cminus on Apr 3, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport

An intersection near and dear to my heart. I come through here several times a week. Montrose is an absolute waste of asphalt here. There is absolutely no need for this many lanes. I've never seen more than a handful of cars at this light, and when there are, they're just spewing CO2 because the light is so poorly timed. A bulb out would be great. A new use for the stupid park and ride would be greater. Just feels like they got bored at the end of the Montrose parkway work and gave up.

by doug on Apr 3, 2014 4:04 pm • linkreport

@asffa: Why are you "aghast" at the idea of removing driving lanes? As @doug points out, the intersection, like the area as a whole, is oversupplied with driving lanes, and is a dangerous hellscape for pedestrians (I know: I lived in White Flint for a year). Those two facts are not unrelated.

by alurin on Apr 3, 2014 9:30 pm • linkreport

Yes, it's a horrible, dangerous hellscape for pedestrians at that corner, the one next, the one before, across the street (also for several blocks in a row) because the whole design of the area was done badly. I haven't measured for how long around that way would take a few lives out of a cat to try walking.
This writer's suggestion doesn't make sense though - not only in comparison to doing something about that wall and the sidewalk, etc. but the lack of safe crossing destination that direction anyway. Doesn't solve the problem and creates an unnecessary new one, and the region of expensive bad committee ideas doesn't need to be reminded about Montrose.

by asffa on Apr 3, 2014 10:51 pm • linkreport

Also - "Also, are you seriously suggesting that a park-and-ride needs 2 lanes to handle exit traffic?"

No, I'm not suggesting that. no, just don't take the lanes for Montrose/Randolph.

If you want to take all the lanes for the park and ride, the badly-timed light that serves the park and ride , and the stupid "park and ride" itself away (in it's current useless form)..
be my guest.
But the lanes for people using Montrose and Randolph keep open, and don't bump. Okay? :)

by asffa on Apr 3, 2014 11:05 pm • linkreport

The radius of the edge of the sidewalk at the NW corner of Hoya and Montrose seems pretty wide, no? Looks like it's ~30 ft from Google Earth. Compare that to street corner radii at downtown intersections, most of which appear to be around 10-20 ft depending on how wide the streets are. The point is, a shorter radius would force drivers to take the turn slower--and give the sidewalk a significant amount of extra room at the intersection.

Also, maybe that dinky little shoulder could get eaten up by the sidewalk? Looks like if it did, the sidewalk would be 10 feet across. What purpose does that shoulder serve anyway?

by anObserver on Apr 4, 2014 2:10 am • linkreport

I walk around there about once a month and it IS dangerous. In this case the intersection is located near where many elderly live. That's unacceptable.

Smooth corners like that are for cars - not pedestrians.

At Wisc/Rockville/355 and Jones Bridge Road, there is good visibility at the corner, but the newly-smoothed corner on the Southeast side of the intersection discourages drivers from slowing down before making the turn. Montgomery County seems to be installing these dangerous intersections in many locations.

by Capt. Hilts on Apr 4, 2014 8:40 am • linkreport

The whole design of the area is bad, but we can't change the design of the area. Got it.

by MLD on Apr 4, 2014 8:57 am • linkreport

Another stupid thing about the sign in the middle of the sidewalk is that it's a DO NOT ENTER sign left over from when the road was one way. (If you move around in the street view, you can see the intersection before it was turned into a two-way divided road.)

by Nancy on Apr 4, 2014 9:25 am • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

AnObserver I notice that, too, about the shoulder. A lot of reasonable options are possible.

by asffa on Apr 4, 2014 2:16 pm • linkreport

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