To give perspective of what pedestrians experience traversing Georgia Avenue, Montgomery County Council member Natali Fani-González (D-Dist. 6) took Gov. Moore (D) on a walking tour of Downtown Wheaton on Wednesday to see firsthand the lack of bike lanes, narrow sidewalks and the challenge of crossing a busy road.
Yenifer Argueta Hernandez, a 10th grader at Wheaton High School spoke at the meeting and said that she has many concerns about public safety in the community.
“For me, pedestrian safety is a big concern as I take public transportation every day from and to school. I would like to feel safer when I’m crossing the streets and going home,” she said.
During the meeting, Fani-González said that Georgia Avenue is one of the most dangerous roads in Maryland and she would like to redesign the road into a boulevard to slow cars down, improve pedestrian safety and walkability within the community surrounded by businesses. This comes after the Montgomery County Planning Board approved the Pedestrian Master Plan on May 25. Once approved by the County Council the document will guide improvements to the pedestrian experience in the county for years to come.
Redesigning Georgia Avenue into a boulevard would bring protected bike lanes, connection to the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, a healthy canopy of trees, more crosswalks and wider sidewalks for wheelchair users, Fani-González said.
“We are serious about making this happen,” Gov. Moore said, joined by Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul J. Wiedefeld and Secretary of Commerce Kevin A. Anderson.
In an interview with MoCo360, Fani-González said, “People who live in Wheaton, Aspen Hill, Glenmont, they’re facing the experience that every time they walk around, go to a store or get on the bus, they have the situation that they can get killed just simply by crossing the street because those streets were designed for cars to go really fast instead of people moving around.”
According to county data, from 2015 to 2022 five pedestrians were killed in Downtown Wheaton. In that same time frame, there were 51 crashes in the area that led to serious injury, 28 of which involved pedestrians.
In response to the crash and fatality statistics of the area, Gov. Moore said, “These points right here, this is why we are here. … It is not fair, it is not right, and we have to act upon it.”
The county has been working to reduce and eventually eliminate pedestrian deaths and serious injuries with its Vison Zero initiative which was first introduced in 2016. As Georgia Avenue is run by the state (MD Route 97) the state department of transportation must lead the charge on changes.
Other government and elected officials attended the walk, including County Executive Marc Elrich, County Council members and State Del. Marc Korman (D-Distr. 16), who is also the chair of the environment and transportation committee.
Fani-González told MoCo360 that she felt hopeful after the meeting with the governor. And said the proposed change is “crucial for the regional economic development goals that we have to both as a state but also as a region.”