Montgomery County traffic islands blow tires, draw protests

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Local,Maryland,Transportation,Liz Essley

New concrete traffic obstacles installed along one clogged Montgomery County road blew out the tires of several cars and have neighbors protesting.

The low concrete barriers that extend into traffic lanes, narrowing Jones Bridge Road near North Chevy Chase Elementary School, were meant to slow speeders and help pedestrians cross a road teeming with thousands of cars traveling to the nearby Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. But some say the cure causes pains of its own.

"In less than a week, at least a half-dozen cars have hit the edge of the island with enough force to blow out one or more tires," North Chevy Chase Village Manager Robert Weesner wrote to Montgomery County's Department of Transportation. "Failure to [remove the island] would indicate that Montgomery County is willfully maintaining a known hazard."

Weesner complained that the island is unmarked, increasing the likelihood of drivers hitting it. The barrier also contributes to traffic jams because other vehicles now can't go around Metrobuses that stop near the barrier, he said.

At least one neighbor was angry enough to post protest signs. "These medians are ill-conceived," reads one. "Why were cyclists not considered?" asks the other.

County officials say they're looking into the problem but that the islands were requested by locals who feared for the safety of children crossing the busy road to go to and from school.

"Our division of traffic engineering is in the process of review what they had done, whether it was completed, whether it is in fact a problem and what corrective action they need to make if there is a problem," said Edgar Gonzalez of the Transportation Department.

But other nearby residents say the fix has helped reduce speeding and made the street safer.

"As far as Jones Bridge Road as a safer place, it's a thousand times better," said Sarah Jones, who lives on the road and helped the Coquelin Run Citizens Association petition for the barriers. "I almost put up my own sign saying, 'Better ill-conceived than not at all,' but I didn't do that."

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner