IMAGE: Construction personnel warns off Voice photographer.
BY DOLORIS FLAPAY
APR 1 — A segment of Sligo Creek Parkway underneath Carroll Avenue Bridge was closed to regular traffic this week. The closure was needed to truck in large, heavy equipment and materials to be used in rebuilding the 70 year old bridge spanning Sligo Creek. The shut-down came with only a two-week warning. The items delivered came as a complete surprise – and a mystery.
“You don’t want to go down there!” warned construction crew members as they blocked civilian and media access to the construction staging area underneath Carroll Avenue Bridge. They could barely be heard over the clank and almost animal-like roaring of machinery from under the bridge arches.
Public access was prohibited for safety and security reasons, said BG Gruff Construction Company personnel at the scene. There were no glimpses to be had of the new technology being installed.
It came as a surprise that the bridge will be a toll collection point. State Highway Administration representative Hugh Glaffer said new toll collection facilities around the state, including this one, are necessary to shore up the state Highway User Revenue fund. He pointed out that municipalities such as Takoma Park will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the fund. During the recession, the percentage of HUR funds shared with municipalities dropped, and has not been restored. New tolls, said Glaffer, will make up for some of the municipality’s lost revenue.
The move is supported by Montgomery County. A portion of the tolls will go to county coffers as well. Montgomery County Department of Public Relations official Tripper Trapp said that the county is strapped due to last year’s Supreme Court case in which the county was found to be double-taxing residents with out-of-state earnings.
Despite the potential revenue Takoma Park city representatives were not so thrilled.
“Are they nuts?” said Ward 5 council member Jarrett Smith, “Carroll Avenue traffic is already backed up from the light on Flower Avenue down to Takoma Junction!” The Flower Avenue intersection and traffc-light is within sight of the bridge just to the east. Takoma Junction is a few blocks to the west on the other side of the bridge, and is routinely jammed at rush hours.
SHA rep Glaffer said that Smith has nothing to worry about. “The new technology is fast, and I mean fast!” he said. “Traffic is highly motivated to keep moving.”
The technology, which is known in the trade as “trollware,” has what Trapp called “trilateral functions.” It provides not only toll collection, but structural support and security. Because of its multiple roles, it is a cost-efficient system, said Glaffer.
SHA document shows aspects of the bridge rebuilding, including “trollware,” on right, second panel down. Click on image or here for larger view.
The structure will be safe from acts of terror, sabotage and even graffiti. However, warned Glaffer, pedestrians and bicyclists on the Sligo Creek hiker/biker trail “are advised to stick to the path and do not linger under the bridge.” On the positive side, he said, “you’ll see a decrease in the area of vermin, feral cats and deer, which are disease vectors.”
Another side benefit will be traffic calming on Carroll Avenue and Sigo Creek Parkway. Speeders will learn to beware the long arm of the law.
SHA document includes cut-away view of the new bridge showing trollware at the ready for toll collection. Click on image or here for larger view.
“There will be zero tolerance, so speed at your own risk” said Glaffer. “On the other hand, I don’t recommend driving real slow, either.”
More information about this project can be found on this webpage.