NPCA Annual Meeting takes up Jones Lane Sidewalk Issue

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The NPCA held its annual meeting on June 20, 2017, at the North Potomac Community Center.   It addressed a request for the construction of sidewalks along Jones Lane made by residents in that part of North Potomac.  Those in attendance said walking along this two-lane road alone or with children, baby carriages, and/or dogs, etc., is hazardous, especially during winter months after a snow, since residents were forced to share the narrow roadway with motor vehicles.  They noted that after school activities at the Jones Lane Elementary School or on its playgrounds also attracted young pedestrians along this road. 

Mr. Bruce E. Johnston, Chief, Division of Transportation Engineering, Montgomery County Department of Transportation, discussed the procedure for citizens requesting the installation of sidewalks in their neighborhoods.  His division is responsible for designing and constructing sidewalks.  He said sidewalks must be requested; the county won’t survey neighborhoods for needed sidewalks.  The amount of citizen support matters in getting approval to install sidewalks and a public hearing is required.  The hearing officer issues a report of his/her findings on the matter.  In most cases they find for installing the sidewalks.  The sidewalks must be at least 5 feet wide to meet ADA requirements.  Jones Lane is an open section roadway, meaning that it has no curbs and gutters.  Therefore, sidewalks must be properly graded to avoid flooding.

Mr. Johnston advised us to go to the Montgomery County website/ government/transportation/ transportation engineering/sidewalks for a sidewalk application form.  The best approach, he said, is to organize a community petition, plus the endorsement of the local school principal would be an asset.  He said that there is no special benefit assessment for sidewalks, no extra taxes assessed to homeowners and the county will replace trees and work with homeowners regarding any shrubbery displaced by the sidewalk installation.  He also said that there’s no threshold requirement on the number of people who might use the sidewalk in relation to the merits of the application.

Mr. Johnston added that up to 12 miles of sidewalks are budgeted each fiscal year, and it takes about a year from submission of an application to the start of construction, assuming that the application is approved.

Catherine E. Mathews, Director of the Montgomery County Upcounty Regional Office, and Ian Westin of the UpCounty Citizens Advisory Board were in attendance and said that they could send a letter of support for a sidewalk application. 

Before the meeting adjourned, the current NPCA Board was re-elected for another year by acclamation.