Sunday, February 16, 2014

Build a pedestrian bridge between Indian Spring and Blair

Indian Spring and other neighborhoods south of the Beltway have long had a certain level of dis-connectivity from the rest of Four Corners.  Currently, the Beltway provides a barrier between the neighborhoods and the intersection.  Before that, it was the Indian Spring Country Club that separated the neighborhood from the rest of the community.  Indian Spring, North Hills of Sligo, and Franklin Knolls lack any form of commercial establishment.  Picking up some milk or a prescription requires getting in your car and travelling on the same roads as regional commuters.  The traffic levels on Route 29 and University Boulevard make many residents prisoners in their own neighborhood at rush hour.  It is possible to get to the commercial establishments at the intersection during peak times, but the time and hassle involved with doing so discourages many residents from patronizing local businesses.  

The Beltway is a barrier between Indian Spring and the rest of the community.  Photo by the author.

Much of Indian Spring is within 1/2 to 3/4 miles of the Woodmoor Shopping Center, and the rest of the businesses at the intersection.  This distance is a reasonable one to walk, but the journey is inconvenient and somewhat dangerous.  The stroll from Indian Spring to the shopping center requires crossing at least two Beltway ramps, which are some of the most unfriendly places imaginable for pedestrians.  Drivers travelling at high speeds to and from a limited-access highway are concerned about getting to where they are going as quickly as possible.  If your walking, you have to watch out for motorists; because as a pedestrian in an auto-oriented environment, you are the last thing on their mind.

An example of an off-ramp with poor sight-lines.  Photo by the author. 
A pedestrian bridge from Indian Spring to the back of Blair could solve some of these issues, or a least provide an alternative.  When the new Blair was being proposed back in the mid 90's, there was some talk of building a pedestrian bridge over the Beltway between Indian Spring and the school.  The bridge was most likely floated as an idea to appease the local residents who opposed the school.  Of course, once construction started, the bridge was not brought up again.

While the idea has been mothballed by the county and SHA, there is still a need for such a bridge.  Many Blair students who live in Indian Spring would not need to drive or take the bus to school if there where a bridge.  For those students that already walk, the journey would be safer and more direct.  The bridge would have many positive benefits to other Indian Spring residents as well.  The shopping center would be more reachable by foot and bike, which would probably help the businesses there.  Even if only a few customers a day walk or bike over from Indian Spring, that's still more than zero.

A bridge would also allow Indian Spring residents to better enjoy the recreational facilities at Blair.  The track, tennis courts, and basketball courts would be a short walk away.  Indian Spring Terrace Park already has a basketball court and two tennis courts, but on nice evenings they tend to fill up.  Blair has eight tennis courts and three basketball courts, so there is much more space available.  Indian Spring also has good recreational facilities at the YMCA (pool, tennis courts, fields), but those are for members only.  A bridge would help more taxpayers access the facilities they pay for.      

An example of a pedestrian bridge over the Capital Beltway in Bethesda.  This bridge carries the Bethesda Trolley Trail.  Photo from Google StreetView.

There is already an example of a pedestrian bridge over the Beltway in Bethesda.  The bridge was built in 2002 to carry the Bethesda Trolley Trail, which runs from Bethesda to White Flint.  I believe this project was paid for by the county.  A bridge between Indian Spring Terrace park and Blair would require coordination between M-NCPPC, MDSHA, and MCPS.  Any bridge over the Beltway should be paid for by the county, since county taxpayers would be the primary beneficiaries of such a project.  Hopefully bureaucratic red tape wouldn't prevent a project like this from happening.  

I think a pedestrian bridge would be beneficial for Indian Spring residents and Four Corners as a whole.  The cost would probably not be too high compared to other infrastructure projects.  If Bethesda was able to get a bridge for a lightly used trail, there's no reason why Four Corners shouldn't have one too.  I think the potential positive outcome and relativity low costs should make such a bridge plausible.

It would be nice if a petition or something could be started to feel out support for such a project, I'm sure there would be a lot of it.  


  1. I completely agree. This would be amazing.

  2. What a great idea!

  3. This is a great idea -- I wonder if the Blair Parent / Teacher / Student Association would be a great place to plant such a seed. (Alison Beman)

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