Friday, July 31, 2009

Statement by County Executive Isiah Leggett On Council Disapproval of a Pedestrian Bridge For the New Silver Spring Library

Statement by County Executive Isiah Leggett
On Council Disapproval of a Pedestrian Bridge
For the New Silver Spring Library

July 30, 2009

"I am very disappointed that this week the Council defeated an amendment to the Silver Spring Urban Renewal Plan that would have allowed a pedestrian bridge to be built connecting the Wayne Avenue garage to the new Silver Spring Library.

"From early on in the planning process for this project, I have favored the bridge as a viable means of providing safe access to the library. My staff and I have met individually with Councilmembers and, on the morning of the vote, I met with the entire Council and again urged their approval of the bridge.

"At the earliest stages of the library design I instructed my staff to make sure the library accomplished 5 important public objectives; (1) the new Silver Spring Library programs and collection will have a strong focus on the disability community; (2) the design must take full advantage of the County’s already built infrastructure, the Wayne Avenue Garage, demonstrating good fiscal stewardship; (3) in keeping with the County’s efforts to promote mass transit, walking, and cycling and reducing the overall carbon footprint of the new facility, no new parking spaces will be constructed; (4) the parking and access solution must not shift the economic burden or hardship onto other businesses or users in the Central Business District, and (5) the parking and access solution must be available from the day the library opens and cannot depend on future actions of other parties, or future construction funding or efforts."

"I believe the proposed pedestrian bridge would facilitate a better, safer access to the library for everyone – especially for families, seniors, and people with disabilities. Alternatives proposing onsite parking to achieve the same purpose would be less effective and – in fact – cost more than the pedestrian bridge. I have serious concerns that, when constructed, access to the library will be a problem for some library users.

"The Council has legislated free parking for library customers, which would, in effect, encourage use of the garage; I think the next logical step in this case would be to provide safe access from the garage to the library. In fact, surveys have shown that approximately one-third of the customers of the Silver Spring Library come by car. The absence of a pedestrian bridge would mean that a fairly large number of library users would have to navigate a number of challenges to reach the library. While our plan includes improvements to nearby intersections, this is only a partial solution.

"I will continue to work with the Silver Spring community, library and pedestrian safety advocates, seniors, and the disabilities community to reverse this unfortunate decision. I thank Councilmember George Leventhal for his unwavering support of the pedestrian bridge. He has supported our view of the bridge from the beginning.

"The Silver Spring community wants and deserves a new library, fully accessible to all. This is no time to cut corners on safety and access."

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