Friday, May 15, 2009

Bridge debate in Silver Spring carries on - Washington Business Journal

Friday, May 15, 2009, 11:13am EDT | Modified: Friday, May 15, 2009, 11:55am

Washington Business Journal - by Tierney Plumb Staff Reporter

The debate of whether or not to build a new pedestrian bridge in downtown Silver Spring is heating up, with the Montgomery County Planning Board now split on the decision.

County planners have recommended against a proposal for a pedestrian bridge connecting a new library with the third level of a parking garage in downtown Silver Spring.

While the staff recommended no bridge, the board was split in a two-two vote on Thursday, with one member absent.

With the tie vote, the motion to accept staff’s recommendation failed.

The board is, however, not the final decision-maker.

Comments reflecting the board’s split vote will be sent to the County Council, which has the final vote.

They will have the chance to approve or deny an amendment to a Silver Spring urban renewal plan that would allow for a bridge to link library goers to the Wayne Avenue parking garage. The urban renewal plan currently prohibits pedestrian bridges across several downtown streets, including Wayne Avenue.

The new library is slated for Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street and would replace an aging, overcrowded library on Colesville Road.

County Executive Isiah Leggett is for the bridge and his staff says the bridge would accommodate library users, especially those with disabilities.

The proposed library will include a special book collection for the disabled.

Planners suggest a library design with limited parking on the first level to serve people with disabilities.

Planners are against the bridge because it links to a parking garage and they say that encourages cars over more energy-efficient modes of transportation.

Planners also said a bridge would discourage foot traffic on the streets and could harm business. Other jurisdictions like Baltimore and Rosslyn, they said, have removed pedestrian bridges for those reasons.

County planners and the county executive’s office aren’t the only parties taking sides.

The county council’s Health and Human Services Committee, which reviewed the library proposal, supported the library with a bridge. The Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Committee does not.

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