MoCo Recommends Forest Glen Tunnel (AGAIN)

Recently the Montgomery County Planning Department of the Maryland-National Captial Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) recommended the inclusion of the Forest Glen Pedestrial Tunnel under MD97 (Georgia Ave.) as part of the Montgomery Hills MD-97 redevelopment project.

With almost 800 pedestrian trips per day at Georgia Ave and Forest Glen Rd. and over 80,000 vehicles crossing this intersection – this area is in dire need of a safe pedestrian crossing.

Despite this recommendation, this isn’t the first time the Forest Glen Pedestrian Tunnel has been discussed.

In 2005, WMATA conducted a study for the proposed tunnel and determined that such a structure was feasible but would cost over $11 million to construct. At that time there was even a community push by residents and Holy Cross Hospital to bring awareness to the issue – but unfortunately nothing materialized. By 2006, WMATA began presenting the study to various entities, including the County Council, but since WMATA did not have the funds for such a project – construction never started. In 2008, a $3 million Montgomery Hills traffic study once again brought hope to residents that the tunnel project could regain life.

By 2012, MCDOT also conducted a feasibility study on the tunnel and provided their recommended option, the “Tunnel Alternative 2,” shown below.

 

MCDOT’s Preferred Plan

Based on the study, it would take almost 3 years to construct the tunnel with 6 major phases of construction. In the same study, MCDOT even contemplated a pedestrian bridge as a possible crossing to the station.  According to MCDOT’s pedestrian bridge model, the structure would have both stairs and elevators (making it ADA compliant) and would be integrated into the existing staircase that goes down to the mezzanine of the station. This in theory would have allowed pedestrians to have quick access to the other side of Georgia Ave.

The pedestrian bridge had significant advantages – it would take only 15 months to construct and cost only $5.8 million – almost half of the cost of the proposed tunnel. But visually the design was awkward – standing high overlooking the Montgomery Hills Baptist Church. Public feedback on the bridge option was also poor – with residents stating that they felt the stairs were too long and the overall design was too dangerous for daily use.

 

Forest Glen Pedestrian Bridge Concept

The Montgomery County Planning Department was also not convinced that the concepts worked and determined that more work needed to be done. By this time MCDOT even applied for two U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grants but funding was not approved.

By 2013, MCDOT’s Forest Glen Passageway Study selected its preferred alternative “Tunnel Option 2” and today the project is out of the engineering phase and is ready for construction.

Last year, we reported that the tunnel proposal reached Governor Hogan’s desk and was awaiting funding. Even WMATA, when it opened Forest Glen for redevelopment proposals, included a requirement for developers to improve pedestrian access across Georgia Avenue.

Fast forward to 2016, locals continue to deal with Maryland’s most congested intersection. In some cases, locals are so scared of this intersection that they often resort to driving from relatively short distances instead of walking to the neighborhood station. The below graphic from a WMATA study shows a rather large number of residents living within a mile of the station that are driving to the Forest Glen parking lot (based on data received from SmartTrip address records).

With such challenges facing the Forest Glen area, one can only hope that Maryland and the SHA (State Highway Administration) will recognize that this project needs immediate funding. With Forest Glen redevelopment on the horizon and the Purple line close by, the pedestrian tunnel could be the final piece of the redevelopment puzzle that connects East and West Forest Glen. In a local survey of Forest Glen residents, 80% of respondents stated that they would walk or bike across Georgia Ave to get to the redevelopment sites if pedestrian access was improved. A pedestrian tunnel seems like the perfect conduit for a physically separated community waiting for its moment.

 

Why did the chicken cross the road?

She didn’t -because there was no tunnel.

 

Forest Glen Tunnel Concept

 

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11 thoughts on “MoCo Recommends Forest Glen Tunnel (AGAIN)

  1. Does anyone else find it disturbing that Metro would publicly release the addresses of the people who park at a Metro station on a particular day?

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  2. Would like to see the tunnel connect on the south side of the intersection. The connection can go directly to the lobby of the elevators, add turnstiles, shorter tunnel but this can connect to the nice wide sidewalk along forest glen road straight to HCH.

    Too many folks wind up walking in the street on the north side of Forest Glen Road with the design as proposed on this post.

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    • Building a ramp on the North side of Forest Glen strongly impacts the church and at least two houses.
      Are you going to ask people to give up their homes so you don’t have to cross the street?

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      • MS – the design that was engineering by the County is a tunnel and not a ramp. It would be across the street from the church on the same side as the Forest Glen Medical Center and would not displace any homes.

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  3. Thanks for posting this! One suggestion: nix the term “tunnel”. In fact what MCDOT engineered and the Planning Department has approved is an east-side Metro entrance. It will look identical to the existing west-side Metro entrance from the Kiss & Ride and parking lot, only it’ll be significantly shorter. It will merge with the existing west-side entrance passageway right next to the big room with the turnstiles and fare machines. Imagine crossing the intersection diagonally, turning left, and you’ll be at the gates.

    Is that existing west-side entrance one a “tunnel”? I suppose so, in the same sense that every Metro entrance is a tunnel. But “tunnel” misleads people into thinking we’re talking about a dim grimy concrete-walled scary place with newspapers and trash strewn about and people lurking. That’s not this. Metro will maintain and manage it the same way they do the existing west-side entrance and every Metro entrance. It’ll have the same floor and walls with ads and lighting and gate as the west-side entrance. It’s a Metro entrance, not a tunnel!

    Re the new entrance being at the NE corner of the Forest Glen/Georgia intersection instead of SE corner, MCDOT evaluated a SE entrance and determined there isn’t enough room there next to the church.

    Walking to Holy Cross from the NE corner of the intersection is a long-standing problem that badly needs fixing whether or not a new Metro entrance is built. The north-bound Metro bus stops are on the NE corner of the intersection. Many, many people get off the bus at the NE corner and have a hard time getting to the hospital. Better Forest Glen crossings are badly needed. A sidewalk along the north side of Forest Glen would be great, though the terrain will make that a little difficult. Hopefully this problem will be fixed before or together with the new Metro entrance, so there won’t be much difference for Metro users going to the hospital whether the entrance is on the NE or SE corner. Meanwhile there are a whole bunch of homes (well over 1,000) within an easy 1/2 mile walk of the NE corner, while the SE corner is hemmed in by the beltway. Also a NE entrance will better serve future development of the Medical Center property.

    Very excited for a new Metro entrance (not tunnel)!!

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