GRANOLAPARK: A bridge too narrow

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

You’ve got a year to finish making that personal rocket-chair, bird-suit or other gravity-defying device you’ve been working on. The Carroll Street Bridge will close for repair as soon as March, 2016. That’s the earliest estimate, says the Takoma Park city council – that’s what the beloved State Highway Administration says. Beloved as a tyrannosaurus rex.

And since this is the SHA talking, add several months to that estimate. They say the contractor will be picked by August, 2015. 6 – 9 months are needed to prepare before the bridge is actually closed.

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Carroll Avenue Bridge. Photo by Bill Brown.

One of the preparations is a pedestrian bridge. Which gives the council something to complain and argue about already – the bridge width.

SHA proposes a 5 to 8′ wide bridge. The city wants 8 feet at minimum – and would prefer 10. They are thinking of bicyclists and how much room they will need. The discussion revealed a rift in the bicycling community – Councilmember Seth “Buzz-bomb” Grimes saying bicyclists should be able to cross the bridge on two-wheels, and Mayor Bruce “Safety-First” Williams saying that bicyclists should dismount and walk.

Yeah, well, said Dayrel Braithwaite, Public Works director, the thing is that the wider the bridge, the more support it needs and the more support it needs, the bigger the foundations you need – and that means digging more holes, taking more trees, disrupting more wildlife habitat, creating more silt . . . . But, hey, if you guys want to take it up with the SHA and Park and Planning and the EPA and the United Nations and the Intergalactic Sustainability Police AND your tree-hugging constituents – you go right ahead.

Many meetings, many requests

Widening the pedestrian bridge is just one of many community requests made at 10 neighborhood meetings held to discuss the upcoming bridge closure.  The council reviewed the requests at it’s Monday, March 2 meeting.

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Carroll Avenue Bridge. Photo by Bill Brown.

The requests included those for pedestrian crossing signs, turn and parking restrictions, speed humps, speed cameras, stop signs, and traffic signals.

There was a request to hold a children’s sign contest, the winning signs to be installed along residential routes.

Familiar script

The staff wanted to know if the council would go along with a temporary fast-track speed bump approval process so Public Works can plunk down the requested bumps without a lot of red tape. The council thought that was probably a good idea, but first they had to have The Bike-Friendly Speed Bump discussion with the Public Works Director. It followed the familiar script, which in abridged form goes:

“Can we have a bike-friendly speed bump? I saw a picture of one in . . . ”

“I saw a picture of a unicorn once. They don’t exist either.”

“But, . . . ”

“Forget it!”

Don’t say . . . you-know-what!

City planner Erkin Ozberk discovered – the hard way – a phrase that has the same effect on the city council as rolling a garlic bulb into a vampire convention.

“Paper streets.”

Ozberk could barely get heard, let alone attention, after he dropped the PS bomb.

Imagine seven people all talking at and over each other, most of them making oblique references to places, people and incidents.

Oh, mygawd, remember that you-know-what you-know-where with you-know-who?

You mean when that thing happened? Horrible, awful, hell-on-earth!

Touchy subject, these paper streets.

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Ozberk was not there to dwell on paper streets. He was there to give a report on public land and open space management.

He pushed on with it after a long pause for the council and staff to swap terrifying reminiscences.

This was supposed to be a discussion of public land and open space management planning. Ozberk had a thorough report listing every inch of city-owned land.

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Nice map! From the report. Link to pdf below.

The reason for the report is another report which was in response to an initial report. This is government at work, Dear Readers.

In short. The city council was urged by some people to buy up open bits of property to preserve green spaces. The Committee on the Environment said, “whoa! The city has plenty of property it could just manage better and get the same result.

Also, said the committee, take a look at whether recreation opportunities on existing public land is equitably distributed around the city. And, be sure to look at storm water management, climate change goals, the tree canopy, and wildlife habitat.

Lucky-duckies

The council gets to devise a policy out of this, lucky them. It’s always handy for future councils to have a policy they can ignore, then reinvent in about 10 years.

Ozberks’ report, meanwhile, is pretty cool. It has a map with pretty colors, and lots of informative charts. Of note is a chart showing recommendations of the 1994 Takoma Park Public Open Space Plan, the 2000 Takoma Park Master Plan, the 2008 NH Ave. Corridor Concept Plan, the 2012 Takoma Langley Crossroads Sector Plan. the 2013  Long Branch Sector Plan – and how many of them have been accomplished or are ongoing. The PDF is here.

– Gilbert

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About the Author

Gilbert
Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.