GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
Drivers are facing years of detours and traffic disruptions in Takoma Park.
Two city bridges will be closed or partially closed for repair work, one of them as soon as this month.
At least they will be closed serially, not at the same time, according to the SHA (State Highway Administration) project manager who gave a report to the Takoma Park city council Jan. 28. He was there to report and answer questions about his Carroll Ave. bridge project, but the discussion grew, along with the council’s anxiety, to include the New Hampshire bridge project.
The SHA representative was not as well prepared to discuss the other project, underlining the fact that SHA communications with the city have been uneven and worrisome. Whereas SHA has made a point of putting the city in the planning loop about the Carroll Ave. bridge project, they only recently informed the city about the other one – with no opportunity to take part in the planning. That plan includes closing off New Hampshire Ave. access to and from Sligo Creek Parkway.
This does not help the SHA’s reputation in Takoma Park, where many times it has been cast as the villain, whether because it stopped maintaining State Route 410 for years, or refused to install crosswalks on state roads where the city requested. The SHA’s control over state roads supersedes the city’s. So while the city can toss crosswalks or speed bumps down anywhere it likes on a city road, it can’t on a state road.
Any day now, the New Hampshire Ave. bridge crossing Sligo Creek will be partially closed for an unknown amount of time. At the same time, Sligo Creek Parkway will be closed to traffic at that junction.
Public Works director Darryl Braithwaite says that despite inquiries to the SHA, she has been given no time estimates. She’s heard a number of rumors, she says, one of them said the project could take 2 years.
New Hampshire Ave. Bridge over Sligo Creek, at junction with Sligo Creek Parkway. (facing south)
Ironically, traffic congestion on New Hampshire may be improved, she said. The 6 lane avenue will be reduced by one lane on each side during the day, and will be reduced to 1 lane in each direction at night. But, said Braithwaite, since the traffic light at that bridge will be turned off, traffic may flow faster past the construction site. New Hampshire Ave. carries a significant amount of commuter traffic into and out of Washington, DC.
Electronic sign close to New Hampshire Ave. bridge repair site.
A big electronic construction sign sits just up the street from the New Hampshire bridge, ready to be wheeled into position to alert motorists to the change. Apparently, the project is on hold. Speculation in the city’s Public Works Dept. is that SHA was so eager to get to work it overlooked a few details that are now being sorted out, such as allowing traffic in and out of the two businesses located at the corner of New Hampshire Ave. and Sligo Creek Parkway.
Two businesses on Sligo Creek Parkway at junction with New Hampshire Ave.
The Parkway will be closed at that intersection for at least part of the project’s duration. Braithwaite said the city will post information on it’s website about the start-time as soon as the information is available.
The Carroll Ave. Sligo Creek Bridge project will begin, said the SHA representative, as soon as the New Hampshire bridge project is over. Councilmembers said they hoped they can trust the SHA to hold to that statement.
Sligo Creek Bridge from below, showing arches SHA aims to rebuild.
The Carroll Ave. project will close off all motor vehicle traffic for a year. Carroll Ave. is not as large a road as New Hampshire Ave., but it carries considerable traffic The chagrined council asked what the SHA proposed for detours. The answer was somewhat vague. Clearly the SHA would like the city to temporarily rescind it’s Sunday closure of Sligo Creek Parkway so that can be used as an alternative 7 days a week. Having a 6 day-only detour would be awkward.
Carroll Ave. as it crosses Sligo Creek Bridge, facing north toward Washington Adventist Hospital.
Northbound traffic could get onto Sligo Parkway eastward to New Hampshire Ave. Southbound traffic would drive west on Flower Ave. turn left at Maplewood, then left again at Maple. Maple crosses Sligo Creek at the Sligo Creek Parkway. Motorists could take the Parkway back to Carroll Ave. but if that is jammed with traffic, there are many alternative routes, including a number of small, residential streets, particularly Lincoln Ave.
Sidewalk in need of repair on Sligo Creek Bridge.
Once people realize the bridge is closed, they will develop their own alternative routes, said the SHA staffer, a thought that did not reassure the council that the city would not be turned into a giant, year-long traffic jam.
They had a lot of questions: would they keep the noise down at night for the sake of the neighbors (yes, there would be no pile-driving involved as there was with the work on Sligo Creek Parkway a few years ago). Could the temporary pedestrian bridge take bicyclists (Hadn’t thought of that one, but yes, maybe with the proviso cyclists dismount and walk the bikes). The biggest question was, CAN WE TRUST YOU? (of COURSE you can!)
The current bridge was built in 1932 and has an elegant design worth preserving, said the SHA representative. There are only 5 like it in the state of Maryland, he said. The extensive reconstruction will keep the distinctive arch design.
Sligo Creek Bridge sign.
It’s one vote away from a done-deal. The new ward boundaries map was approved (6 yeas, 1 abstention – Tim Male) Jan. 28. The map can be found on the city website.
There were no critical comments from members of the city task force as there were last time this was discussed. Some task force members were put out that the council rejected their proposals, asked for more, then made its own changes to those. Most on the council felt that the task force did not follow directions, which were not to divide neighborhoods, or draw boundaries down the middle of streets. The task force used census blocks to make sure the population of each ward was as even as possible. However the census blocks did not take communities or street divisions into consideration.
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