BY LYLE KENDRICK, PHOTOS BY BILL BROWN
Two construction projects aimed at improving pedestrian safety and environmental impact are going forward in Takoma Park—and the city won’t be billed for most of it.
The Ethan Allen Gateway Streetscape and the Flower Avenue Green Street Project will put more sidewalks, bike lanes and lighting throughout the city, said Erkin Ozberk, a city planner.
The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board’s transportation alternatives program awarded $2.3 million to Takoma Park for the projects.
The Ethan Allen Gateway Streetscape will rebuild the Ethan Allen section of East-West Highway and part of New Hampshire Avenue. The project will improve cycling infrastructure, create better access to public transportation and a develop a better pedestrian environment.
Ozberk said the city did a similar streetscape project on Carroll Avenue with new street lights, benches and brick walkways. He said he hopes the new streetscape on New Hampshire Avenue will have the same high quality.
Much of the planning came from community input.
Ozberk said adding bike lanes to East-West Highway is something that came from public meetings.
The Flower Avenue Green Street Project will add a sidewalk and new bus stops and stormwater facilities to reduce the impact of the street on the environment, Ozberk said.
The city will capture the stormwater, collect it, filter it and clean it before it enters nearby creeks.
Daryl Braithwaite, public works director, said the city will be following state and federal laws relating to clean water but also hopes to go beyond that.
“We want to make this project as green as possible,” she said.
Fred Schultz, councilmember for Ward 6, said a green street is a new project for Takoma Park.
“It’s kind of an experiment,” he said.
Permission yet needed
Braithwaite said the city is also looking to potentially include decorative street lights.
Plans for the Flower Avenue project could impact nearby property owners.
Braithwaite said the proposed sidewalk would go on 14 properties and the city needs to meet with each of those property owners to get their permission.
If the owners refuse, the project will be brought back to the drawing board, she said.
Schultz said because Flower Avenue has not seen major improvements in several decades, there is a chance that abandoned sewer, gas or old utility lines could surface during construction.
He said despite these potential challenges, residents are enthusiastic and the projects will be updating two vital areas of Takoma Park.
“They are entrances to our city,” he said.
The Ethan Allen Gateway Streetscape will receive $1,255,000 of the transportation alternatives funding. The Flower Avenue Green Street Project will receive $1,040,000, Ozberk said.
The projects were the only two selected from Maryland.
“We were ready and no one else was,” Braithwaite said.
While budget plans for both projects are not finalized, Braithwaite and Ozberk said the $2.3 million does not fully cover the projects’ expenses.
The Maryland State Highway Administration, Montgomery County and the Chesapeake Bay Trust gave money for the projects for street resurfacing, sidewalk installation and the design process.
The projects are still in the planning phase.
The final design for the Flower Avenue project is 30 percent complete, Braithwaite said.
The city still needs to have another series of community meetings and hopes to have the design finalized by the year’s end, she said.
Braithwaite said construction could start as early as spring 2014. The city has to go through a bidding process before it hires contractors.
Ozberk said he will have a better idea in September of how the timetable for the Ethan Allen project will look.
He said engineering and design will continue during the next six to 12 months as the city handles permits, works with state and county agencies on the project’s environmental impact and makes traffic considerations.
The $2.3 million funding did not have a major impact on the projects’ schedule.
“It was big news but it doesn’t necessarily fast track anything or change anything that was already happening,” Ozberk said.