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Press Releases - County Council

Keeping Sidewalks Open Key to Pedestrian Safety and Quality of Life

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, December 3, 2019

From the Office of Councilmember Friedson

ROCKVILLE, Md., December 2, 2019—District 1 Councilmember Andrew Friedson tomorrow will introduce legislation to limit the closure of sidewalks adjacent to construction sites and require the County to create standards for maintaining pedestrian access.

“This legislation will clarify and codify our expectation that pedestrian access must be maintained as a default and that we view sidewalks not as a luxury, but as an essential part of our transportation infrastructure,” Councilmember Friedson said. “We rarely allow part of a County roadway to be taken for a year or more to accommodate a construction project. We shouldn’t allow that to happen to a sidewalk either.”

Bill 38-19, Streets and Roads – Permit to Obstruct Public Rights-of-Way – Amendments would:

  • Require the County Executive to draft a regulation for permits to close sidewalks in the public right-of-way limit the closure to the minimum time necessary;
  • Require the Department of Permitting Services to regularly review right-of-way permits to determine if the permittee must immediately reopen the sidewalk or begin to provide a safe alternative path on the same side of the street – such as a covered walkway or protected pathway in a parking lane or curb lane;
  • Specify the standards a permittee must meet to demonstrate that maintaining pedestrian access is an extreme hardship; and
  • Require the County to publish right-of-way permit applications and permits online.

Maintaining pedestrian access is critical to the safety and quality of life of the community and is something Councilmember Friedson has focused on since taking office. In December 2018, on his second full day as the councilmember for District 1, he led a walking tour of downtown Bethesda during which closed sidewalks were a major concern. He has continued working with residents, local businesses, the Department of Permitting Services, the Department of Transportation, State Highway Administration, and other stakeholders to address these issues.

Councilmembers Evan Glass and Will Jawando are co-sponsoring the legislation, which is scheduled for a public hearing on January 14 at 1:30 p.m.

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Release ID: 19-378
Media Contact: Aaron Kraut 240-777-7962