- The Washington Times - Monday, August 16, 2004

Montgomery County officials hope a new elevated walkway near the Capital Beltway will improve safety and bring together portions of a divided community.

The Forest Glen Pedestrian Bridge is being built at Interstate 495 and Georgia Avenue — also known as Maryland State Highway 97.

When the 1,357-foot project is completed in the fall of 2006, pedestrians and bicyclists will be able to cross over three Beltway ramps without dodging cars near busy intersections.

“We’ve got to pay extra-special attention to the safety of pedestrians, because there’s a lot more people now walking the streets,” Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan said yesterday.

The county is covering 60 percent of the $7.7 million project. Although nearly $2.9 million in federal funds also are being used, state spending for the project is limited to $200,000.

Mr. Duncan said the walkway will improve access to Metrorail’s Forest Glen station, which serves Red Line trains.

“There are a few exits on the Beltway where drivers have an interest in getting down pretty quickly and don’t pay much attention to pedestrians who are walking along,” said Eric Schlesinger, an area resident.

Mr. Schlesinger said pedestrians frequently have to make certain they have established eye contact with drivers before proceeding across one of eight access points connecting the Beltway with Georgia Avenue.

“You can hold out your hand and that doesn’t stop them,” Mr. Schlesinger said.

Tire tracks in the mud mark locations where vehicles have driven onto the existing pedestrian islands in recent days.

The elevated path will be built just west of Georgia Avenue, between Locust Grove and Forest Glen roads, with its northern approach just outside the Metro station. A stairwell at the bridge’s midpoint near a new crosswalk and traffic signals will encourage pedestrians to cross from the east side of Georgia Avenue to use the path.

About 95,000 vehicles travel that section of Georgia Avenue each day, transportation officials said. In the 18-month period ending in June, 114 collisions, half of which resulted in injuries, were reported along the quarter-mile section of the state road paralleling the proposed walkway.

Although local officials have lobbied on behalf of the project since 1995, local funding assuring its completion just recently became available, Mr. Duncan said.

Besides improving safety, the path will provide travelers with a chance to view public art. Eleven bronze sculptures of small animals will be mounted on concrete bases along the route.

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