Get off your high horse! That’s essentially what the Ritchie Citizen’s Association has to say to the councilmembers and citizens who last week saddled up to oppose county-proposed rush hour traffic restrictions on Ritchie Avenue and in neighboring Sligo Park Hills.
At the March 15 council meeting association president Richard Payne acidly posed a question to critics, including councilmembers, who the previous week cited “modern” theories of keeping “the road grid open.”
“WHAT grid?” asked Payne.
The only other east-west road between East-West Highway and Ritchie Avenue is Grant Avenue, he pointed out. Grant Avenue in Ward 1 is physically closed off to prevent cut-through traffic. The continuation of Grant Avenue in Ward 3 has a one-way section.
Grant Avenue happens to be where Ward 3 council representative Dan Robinson, who strongly objected to the Ritchie Ave. restrictions, lives.
Payne cited other streets with restrictions in Takoma Park, implying those who charge Ritchie and Sligo Park Hills residents with selfish motives and lack of community spirit are hypocritical.
The decision whether to restrict traffic or not is best made by the county, said Payne. Councilmembers reflecting the negative views of their constituents would not be objective, he said.
He promised that the residents of Ritchie and Sligo Park Hills will continue to campaign for restrictions even stronger than those the county proposes – they want “no-entry” signs. You know, sort of like Grant Avenue, ahem.
Councilmembers mentioned alternatives to restrictions, he said. He challenged the council to be specific, and demonstrate that the alternatives would work. The deadline for the county’s decision is approaching (April 9), he noted. What did the city council plan to do?
Mayor Bruce Williams responded that the city is compiling citizen comments to submit to the county, and has been considering a council response. The council will briefly discuss the matter at the next (March 22) meeting, he said.
Councilmember Robinson, eyeing the giant red arrow bobbing over his head, observed that some of Payne’s remarks seemed “directed at me.” He responded by saying that Grant Avenue is only one-way for one block. He said reason for the restriction was that it is “not possible to turn left” onto Carroll from Grant. That traffic restriction is more of a burden than a boon to residents of the street, he claimed.
He pointed out that a previous discussion that evening between Ward 2 residents and the council had shown that current restrictions on Jackson Avenue were not working as intended, and it would be “better to take down the sign” there to open up the grid. He cited other examples in the Pinecrest area where restrictions signs were removed due to ineffective or unexpected results.
Robinson said he could understand why Payne would prefer the county’s procedures, However, the councilmember said he was piqued by the “precious little communication” from the county. He also continues to find fault with what he called the county’s “narrow report” on wider traffic restriction repercussions.
Payne’s point about existing traffic restrictions was underscored by two other citizens. One, suggested that “maybe you forgot,” all the other restricted streets throughout the city. He said he had requested a list of them all from the city clerk. Your Gilbert has requested a copy.
This leaves us, Dear Readers, wondering if indeed those who champion the open grid theory would apply it evenhandedly. Would they unblock Grant Avenue? How about Manor Circle? Would they make Park Avenue two-way? Would they reopen the Philadelphia spur at Memorial Park, and Anne Street where it used to open onto Carroll Ave.?
Yes, Dear Readers, once again the county is trying to grab our precious ladder truck out of the city’s loving grasp. Under the cost-cutting county executive’s proposed budget Ladder Truck #2 would be moved to another station. The budget also skimps on support equipment.
Ironically, the new fire station, built to accommodate large vehicles such as the ladder truck, is scheduled to open Jun. 1 of this year.
Mayor Williams is preparing to plead the city’s case to keep the truck April 6th. There is the oft-used argument that the city has several older, multistory apartment buildings where a top-floor fire would require rapid response from a ladder truck capable of dousing a high location. Also, said Wiliams, as the Montgomery County executive may not know, Prince George’s County is cutting back services near the city border, so the previous level of overlapping services cannot be expected from them any more.