GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
Last Monday the Takoma Park city council and city staff sounded like an old married couple.
“Honey, have you seen my bus bay?”
“I got rid of it.”
‘WHAT? Why did you get rid of it? I loved that bus bay!”
“We had to. I told you all about it.”
“You DID NOT! “
“You never listen to me. I left a note, and I put it on the kitchen calendar.”
“You KNOW I never look at the kitchen calendar! And I didn’t see any note!”
“You never pay attention to my notes, ever.”
Filled-in bus-bay on Ethan Allen Ave.
“Hey, I am the elected official, here! E-LEC-TED.”
“And, I’m the professional – the one who actually DOES things?”
“I TOLD you that keeping the bus bay was a priority. It was in my task force report YEARS ago. THAT should be your PROFESSIONAL priority.”
“Task force report? That’s not a law. That’s a wish-list you and your buddies put together over a few drinks. Wasn’t ‘We proclaim Tuesdays “Beer-Appreciation Day’ on that list?”
“That’s totally beside the point! You KNOW we wanted to keep the bus bay! You got rid of it to spite me.”
“And I TOLD you the state was going to make ADA-compliant upgrades to that section of highway. Any PROFESSIONAL could see that crummy old bus bay was not ADA compliant!”
“Crummy? It had character! But no, you wouldn’t appreciate that!”
“You’ll get another bus bay across the intersection where there’s room. But, er . . . there’s a catch.”
“Now what? Is this about the dog again? I am NOT getting a stupid dog!”
“You need a new crosswalk so pedestrians can get to it – and the state won’t give us one until 2015. And you know the kids and I really want a dog – you’re so selfish!”
The bus-bay-that-is-no-more was at Takoma Junction. It was on Ethan Allen Ave. a few feet before it intersects with Carroll Ave. It allowed busses to pull out of the single lane to load and unload passengers. This allowed cars to pass the bus. That’s when bus drivers complied. Reportedly, they often did not.
Traffic is notoriously bad at that intersection. Now it’s worse. The State Highway Administration (SHA) is making repairs – one of which was to fill in the bus bay. Now cars can’t pass, they must wait for the bus to unload and load.
Former bus-bay at Takoma Junction. Other street repair and renovation work continues between Park and Woodland Avenues on Rte. 410.
Kitty-corner across the intersection, in front of the barber shop on Carroll Avenue, there’s room to put another bus bay. There’s two lanes of traffic there, as well. All it needs, besides building the bus bay, is a crosswalk spanning Carroll Ave.
Here’s where the big but comes in, and it belongs to the SHA, which specializes in big buts.
BUT, SHA won’t put a crosswalk there until 2015, because it takes that long to process requests.
All of this was revealed in a tense, angry grilling session June 17. The anger was first directed at sacrificial goat, er . . . staff person Roz Grigsby, community development coordinator. Grigsby laid out the chronology of events leading up the bus bay burial. Councilmembers Seth Grimes and Tim Male were particularly put out. Male bus commutes, or used to, from that very bus bay. Grimes was on the Takoma Junction Task Force. Both of them have heard constituent complaints. Their wards border the Junction.
The Junction itself is in Ward 3, represented by Kay Daniels-Cohn. Daniels-Cohn continues to attend meetings by phone, though she is battling cancer. Not being the sort who, like others on the council, seem to think the staff is out to thwart them, she directed no outrage at Grigsby. She had plenty for the state highway agency, however.
“It’s incredibly frustrating to see them manhandle Takoma Park.”
Filled-in bus-bay. The city’s proposed location for a new bus bay is across the intersection, roughly about where the truck in the far distance is.
She asked, rhetorically, how SHA could move a bus bay in a few days, but hold off on a painting crosswalk for 7 years? That’s how long she’s been pleading for a crosswalk at that spot, she said.
Councilmember Fred Schultz also helped redirect frustrations from the city staff to the SHA. Though “people are blowing their stacks,” he said, it’s not the fault of anyone in city government. The SHA’s repairs and changes did not come up “all of a sudden,” he said. To claim so is not to fully recognize all the prior discussions with the state and WMATA, the regional agency that runs the busses.
“Why can’t SHA put a simple thing like a crosswalk in?” he asked.
Mayor Bruce Williams said that dealign with SHA at Takoma Junction is “the most frustrating thing I’ve had to deal with” in his time on the council.
He said he will schedule time to discuss the issue at a future meeting.
Map of Takoma Junction from soil report showing city-owned lot. Map also shows the former bus-bay, top right. Proposed new bus bay would be in front of white-roofed buildings on Carroll Ave. at top left.
Here’s some good news about the Junction.
“The investigation did not identify any significant risk or contaminant concentrations in subsurface soils requiring mitigation at this time”
The city has long been terrified that the Takoma Junction site it purchased for development years ago was contaminated. Fears were that the former occupants – a junk yard and/or gas station had left nasty things under the ground.
They’ve put off soil testing because if they found bad things – they would have to clean it up, a potentially big expense.
Developing that lot is key to the revitalization of Takoma Junction, however, so with gritted teeth they contracted soil testing.
The results are good, says the report from Rummel, Klepper & Kahl, LLP.
Now the city must decide what to do with the lot. It is partly on a steep, wooded hillside, partly on a flat area – the parking lot between the food coop and an auto-repair shop on Carroll Ave.
The council took a second look at proposed construction at Montgomery College. It was just an uncomfortable and tense as the first one.
The college plans to renovate the building known as Pavillion 3 at 609 New York Ave. Tucked into a block of historical residences, the modern building is passionately hated by residents. They don’t feel any better about the proposed revisions. They feel even worse about the process.
According to prior agreements with the college and historic district requirements, the neighbors told the council, they should have been informed earlier about the college’s intention.
The council was terse with the college’s vice president and provost Dr. Brad Stewart, who was there to update the council and residents.
The word “lawsuit” was used several times by both residents and council members.
This is going to be a tough issue. Clearly, the college is firmly on track to build something on that site, though they say will incorporate city input in their design. Local residents, who already have a grudge against the college, are livid and not in a compromising mood.
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