A proposed shared-street amenity in Bethesda is being reconsidered in the wake of the pandemic, according to the Montgomery Planning Department.
According to the Bethesda Downtown masterplan, adopted in May 2017, a portion of Norfolk Avenue was to be designated as a shared street for pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobiles traveling at low speeds.
Certain streets were modified in 2020 as “streeteries” to provide outdoor dining and recreation spaces, as part of Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s Shared Streets program.
The MCDOT defined these streeteries as “smaller pockets designated for recreation during the pandemic and allow[ing] businesses to use streetside parking spaces and sidewalks.”
Norfolk Streetery was one among four such spaces, according to the MCDOT.
Now three years later, Montgomery Park and Planning officials say the streetery is here to stay even as they rethink the proposed shared-street plan.
“[The] consensus was that closing blocks of Norfolk to design for public activity was currently more desirable than [the] shared street concept,” said Robert Kronenberg, deputy director at Montgomery Planning Department in a statement to Bethesda Beat.
The Action Committee for Transit, an advocacy organization which calls for safer roads in Montgomery County, expressed its appreciation for streeteries in the area.
“As an organization, we have a vision of a county built for people and not for automobiles….we support efforts to reallocate road space from cars to people, including through streeteries and other pedestrianized areas,” said Miriam Schoenbaum, board member on the Action Committee for Transit.
However, Kronenberg said this decision is temporary as long-term plans for the Norfolk Avenue area are still being discussed by planning officials.
“The Committee solicited designs and completed a concept plan for two blocks (Saint Elmo – Del Ray). And MCDOT also has a Capital Improvement Program currently underway to study the long-term design and use for Norfolk Avenue,” he stated.
A definite timeline is yet to be released by the planning department on future steps regarding these plans.