Saturday, September 24, 2016

New Wheaton Rescue Squad truck placed in service

Today, the Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad (WVRS) placed its new heavy rescue squad truck, Rescue Squad 742, into service.  While the WVRS is not located in Four Corners, units from Wheaton frequently respond to our community for a variety of EMS calls, traffic collisions, and structure fires.  In particular, heavy rescue vehicles from Wheaton cover most of the downcounty area east of Rock Creek, including: Kensington, Forest Glen, downtown Silver Spring, Aspen Hill, Four Corners, and Glenmont.

The new heavy rescue squad vehicle, Rescue Squad 742.  Photo from WVRS.

The rig that was placed in service today is a heavy rescue vehicle, the flagship of the WVRS fleet.  This rescue vehicle is technically a "firetruck", but it doesn't carry water or ladders like most fire apparatus.  Instead, this truck is basically a giant toolbox on wheels.  It carries a plethora of tools and equipment for dealing with a variety of rescue situations.  Most notably, heavy rescue vehicles such as this one carry the "jaws of life", the hydraulic extraction tools used to free people from mangled cars.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Silver Spring & Four Corners

Is Four Corners in Silver Spring?  Most local residents would say yes, but the US Census Bureau says no.  Prior to the 2010 US Census, the Census Bureau had Four Corners as part of the Silver Spring census-designated place (CDP).  For some reason, they made Four Corners its own place in 2010, roughly comprising of Woodmoor, North Four Corners, and South Four Corners.  Indian Spring and the neighborhoods inside the Beltway remained part of the Silver Spring CDP.  

The Silver Spring CDP (dark orange) in 2010, with most of Four Corners left out.  Image from Wikimedia Commons.

I decided to revisit the topic after reading Dan Reed's blog post about what areas people view as Silver Spring.  He and Christy Batta polled 66 people and asked them where they though Silver Spring was.  Of the respondents, 23 of 66 said Silver Spring is "entirely inside the Beltway", which is the correct answer according to the Census, but it's not that simple.  Most Four Corners residents would consider Four Corners to be in Silver Spring, although the Census Bureau views much of Four Corners as independent of Silver Spring in its latest census.  So what's going on here?    

The topic of "where is Silver Spring?" is fascinating to me.  First of all, it shows that few people know or care about census-designated places (CDPs), which give borders to all unincorporated places in America, but the question is an interesting social phenomenon as well.  I wrote on this topic over two years ago, but let's delve a little deeper into the relationship between Four Corners and Silver Spring.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Could Woodmoor have a dog park?

Adjacent to Pine Crest Elementary School in the middle of Woodmoor, there are about 2.1 acres of unused wooded land, between the school and the backyards of homes Hillmoor Drive.  The land seems to have been empty since the neighborhood was built, and before Pine Crest was reconstructed in the 1990's.  It is not part of nearby Pinecrest Park, and it appears to be owned by MCPS.  Could part of this land be made into a dog park?

Looking towards Woodmoor Drive from the wooded area next to Pine Crest.  All photos by the author.

Occasionally, there is some kind of event on the property, such as an Easter egg hunt, but the partially wooded nature of the land makes it unusable for most types of recreation.  The sporadic trees and rolling hills make it difficult play any kind of sport, but there aren't enough trees for it to be fully wooded either (like Northwest Branch).  For these reasons, most people just use this area as a shortcut to Pinecrest Park from the front of the neighborhood, but no one spends much time on the property because there's nothing to do there.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Silver Spring / Takoma Park Restaurant Week 2016

The second annual Silver Spring / Takoma Park Restaurant Week kicked off last night at Not Your Average Joe's restaurant in downtown Silver Spring.  Restaurant week began yesterday, September 6, and runs through Sunday, September 11.  Restaurant week was organized by Councilmember Tom Hucker's office to showcase the diverse array of restaurants in Silver Spring and Takoma Park.

During Silver Spring / Takoma Park Restaurant Week, participating restaurants will offer two-course lunches for $12 and three-course lunches for $17. Two-course dinners will be available for $17 and three-course dinners will be offered for $27.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Flagrant red light running

Along University Boulevard near The Oaks retirement home, there is a pedestrian-activated signal that stops traffic when a button is pushed by a person waiting to cross.  These signals are fairly common on roads in suburban Maryland, and they are visually similar to the type of signals used at fire stations across the state.  They have three stacked lights on each signal head: a big red light, a big yellow light below that, and a small yellow light on the bottom.  When not activated by a pedestrian, they small yellow lights flash in tandem at a steady rate as an advisory to motorists.

The type of signal in question.  The small yellow lights on the bottom flash constantly.  All photos by the author.

While this light is supposed to stop traffic, it doesn't do its' job very well.  After seeing a few motorists run the red light in the past, I decided to go up there and film the light, to see how many I could get on video.  I filmed the below video on Saturday evening, August 20th, and caught at least 15 people running the red light.  I was only there for about 35 minutes.  Some drivers ran it just after it turned red, and others blatantly ran it (without even touching their brakes) several seconds after it turned red.  It's a pretty shocking video:        

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Is it the distance, or the road?

Yesterday, a story aired on WJLA about children who have to walk up to 1.5 miles to Eastern Middle School in often dangerous conditions.  The story focused largely on the distance children have to walk, since any student within 1.5 miles of the school is not eligible for busing per county policy (parents have requested busing to give their kids a safer trip to school).  However, I think this situation is also an opportunity to examine how the design of one road, University Boulevard, makes this walk both uncomfortable and dangerous.

Narrow sidewalks at the curb are standard on most of the county's six lane roads.  They're also known to be the most dangerous pedestrian facility imaginable.  Photo by the author.

Eastern Middle School draws a large portion of its students from the neighborhoods south of the school along the University Boulevard East corridor, from Franklin Knolls down to New Hampshire Estates.  From any one of these neighborhoods, walking along University Blvd is the most direct route to reach the school, since adjacent neighborhood streets are disconnected or very indirect.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Four Corners could use more public art

We don't have much in the way of public art here in Four Corners, but wouldn't it be nice if we had more?  One of the more visible forms of public art are murals, of which there are many in Silver Spring and Takoma/Langley.  Most of these seem to be on the sides of commercial buildings, where formerly blank walls are now filled with colorful scenes.   

Refugee inspired mural on the side of Kefa Cafe in Silver Spring.  Photo from Mural Locator.

Mural on the side of Whole Foods in Silver Spring.  Photo from Mural Locator.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Indian Spring Country Club

For 33 years, Indian Spring Country Club was very much the center of Four Corners' life.  The club, which was located on the combined land of Blair High School, the YMCA, Indian Spring Terrace Park, and the Beltway operated between 1924 and 1957.  While the club moved away almost 60 years ago (and closed permanently in 2007), its' influence remains.  It probably shaped the development of the modern Four Corners we know today more so than any other factor.

Indian Spring Terrace Park is comprised entirely of land that was once the golf course (this sign seen from the aptly named Fairway Avenue).  The trees in the background on the left side of this sign date to when the course was still open.  Photo by the author.

The club was founded as "Indian Spring Club" by movie theater magnate Fayette Thomas "Tom" Moore in 1924.  In that year, there were no built subdivisions around Four Corners at all.  The only homes in the area were on small farms surrounding the rural crossroads.  The location was far out in the countryside for the day, with the population of Montgomery County being just 34,000.  

The first rounds of golf at the course were played in the spring of 1924, as reported in the below Washington Post article on April 28, 1924 entitled "First club event at Indian Springs [sic] gets large entry":   

"The first of a series of club events which the golf committee of the Indian Spring club has arranged for the entertainment of the members of that organization occurred yesterday. Sixty-four players, divided into foursomes were arranged in two teams under the captaincy of Tom Moore, president of the club, and Basil M. Manly, and competed in a round of eighteen holes."

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Updated: Long Branch apartment explosion and fire

A large explosion and fire occurred at the Flower Branch Apartments near Arliss Street & Piney Branch Road just before midnight last night.  Dozens of people lost their homes and belongings in this fire.  Information about helping those affected can be found here.

The blast caused significant structural damage to the building, and it started a large fire which went to two-alarms on initial dispatch.  This complex is in the "first due" response area of Station 16, and all four pieces of apparatus from the station responded to the call (Paramedic Engine 716, Truck 716, Ambulance 716, and Breathing Air Unit 716).  The fire engine and ladder truck from Station 16 were first arriving on the call.  The fire engine and ladder truck from Four Corners remained at the site assisting investigators until late in the evening.

Image from the Fort Detrick-Forest Glen Fire Department, who responded on the second alarm.

Tower 719 of Montgomery Hills flowing water into the area most affected by the explosion.  Mike Hugg Photography.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Why no crosswalk at Crestmoor?

Last year, Woodmoor resident Ted Henson requested that the SHA make a few safety improvements to Route 29 between Lorain Avenue and Northwest Branch.  Included in this request, which was made via Councilmember Hucker's office, was a marked crosswalk and traffic light at the intersection of Route 29 & Crestmoor Drive.  The SHA denied all of his requests.  This was their explanation for rejecting a traffic light and crosswalk at Crestmoor, where America's Sorriest Bus Stop is located:
"Thirteen hour turning movement counts of the intersections did not reveal significant volumes of motorists exiting from the side streets to warrant traffic signals or significant pedestrian activity at the intersections. Peak hour reviews at the intersections suggested that observed delays and queues were not unlike similar intersections in Montgomery County. A review of the most recently available three year police reported crash at both intersections history did not indicate a pattern that is correctable by installing a traffic signal at either location or a pattern of pedestrian related crashes. In addition, our review of the sight distance indicated that adequate sight distance exists for motorists approaching US 29 (Colesville Road) at Crestmoor Drive to allow pedestrians to cross safely and legally. ...For these reasons, a marked crosswalk is not justified at this time at US 29 (Colesville Road) at Crestmoor Drive."
Safe by engineering standards?  Sure.  Safe in anyone else's opinion?  Not even close.  Photo by the author.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Compelling reasons

The following quote is found in yesterday's Washington Post article about the bus stop at Route 29 & Crestmoor:
"SHA agrees this bus stop is in a less than desirable location. There is continuous sidewalk on the other side of U.S. 29 leading all the way down to the intersection at Southwood Drive [sic], therefore there is no compelling reason anyone should be crossing U.S. 29 in an attempt to use this mid-block bus stop."
-David Buck, State Highway Administration spokesman 

Here's a question for the reader to ponder:  In the late 1950's, why was Route 29 expanded from a 2 lane road to a 6 lane highway?  

The simplest answer is "convenience".  The old road was becoming overwhelmed by rising traffic volume, which was causing motorists to be delayed in their travels.  Since the state recognized that this delay was inconvenient to said motorists, they widened the road to move them along quicker.  It's a simple concept.

Back to the sorry bus stop.  Is there really no compelling reason for someone to use it, as the SHA spokesman asserts?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Four Corners may have America’s Sorriest Bus Stop

The bus stop on southbound Route 29 at Crestmoor Drive is one of the most dangerous bus stops imaginable.  It's built into a steep hill, and due to this terrain, there is no sidewalk leading to or from the stop from the North Four Corners side of the highway.  The stop can only be accessed by crossing 6 lanes of Route 29 in an area with no marked crosswalk.  The situation of the bus stop is so absurd, it is almost macabre.

Thanks to a competition at Streetsblog, our dangerous bus stop is in the running to become "America’s Sorriest Bus Stop".

Our sorry bus stop.  All photos by the author.

The bus stop was nominated by my friend and fellow blogger Dan Reed of Just Up The Pike.  The Streetsblog contest is a March Madness-style completion, where voters determine which bus stop is worse through 4 rounds.  Currently, the Crestmoor stop is in the Elite Eight, and it has far more votes than its current opponent, another sorry bus stop located in Asheville, NC.  The polls for this round close tonight, and it looks like the Crestmoor stop is headed for the Final Four (but vote for it here anyway!).

Monday, July 25, 2016

Take me out to the ballgame

Yesterday evening my dad and I attended a Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts baseball game.  The Thunderbolts were playing the Gaithersburg Giants in the first round of the playoffs in the Cal Ripken League.  While the Thunderbolts have played at Blair Stadium here in Four Corners since 2002, I somehow hadn't attended a game until tonight.  I'm very glad I did, since it was a great experience.

The Thunderbolts banner along the fence of the bullpen.  All photos by the author.

Who are the Thunderbolts?

The Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts are a wooden bat collegiate baseball league.  They are a charter member of the Cal Ripken League, where they play against teams including the Bethesda Big Train, the Rockville Express, and the Gaithersburg Giants.  The team consists of college ballplayers who play in the summer to keep their skills sharp, and ideally, to get noticed by MLB scouts.  Players are recruited from colleges across the country in the fall prior to the summer season, which runs from early June to late July.     

Players from outside of the D.C. area live with host families for the summer while they play for the club, in a similar manner to exchange student programs.  During the seven week season, the team plays nearly every day, similar to the schedule of a prop team.  The season also includes an all-star game during the first week of July, in which several Thunderbolts participated.      

Monday, July 18, 2016

Crossing Beltway ramps could be safer

If you've ever driven to the College Park Ikea on the Beltway from around here, you've used the ramp from I-495 to U.S. Route 1 north.  While that cloverleaf ramp in College Park may seem mundane, there is something interesting about it.

Despite the presence of a generous merge lane from the ramp onto Route 1 northbound, many drivers stop at the top of the ramp, and most slow down significantly.  Why slow down (or stop) if there's plenty of room to merge onto Route 1?  Why not just continue at 30 or 40 MPH off the ramp and onto the road?  This seemingly inconsequential highway off-ramp can teach us quite a bit about pedestrian safety at highway interchanges.

The ramp where it meets Route 1.  Despite the merge lane, most drivers stop or slow down before entering Route 1.  Photo by the author.

The reason so many drivers stop or slow down as they exit this ramp onto Route 1 is the angle at which the ramp meets the road.  In the mid-2000s, as part of the Ikea project, the State Highway Administration (SHA) wanted to create more merge room for motorists merging northbound onto Route 1 from the Beltway, to both improve access to the store and improve traffic flow on this part of Baltimore Avenue.    

Friday, July 1, 2016

Forgotten subdivisions of Woodmoor

Last week we wrote about Indian Spring Village, a subdivision that comprises about half of the Woodmoor neighborhood.  This week, we'll look at some of the smaller subdivisions that are also part of Woodmoor.  There are five of them: Indian Spring Highlands, Indian Spring Knolls, North Takoma Highlands, Warrenton Village, and Franklin Knolls.  Each one is shown on the interactive map below.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Route 29 bike path idea

The Montgomery County Planning Department is working on a new countywide bike plan.  It's an ambitious plan that seeks to make biking in the county safer, and more importantly, comfortable.  It's great for things to be statistically safe, but if a bike facility isn't comfortable, only the most confident cyclists will use it.  Currently, Route 29 is the farthest thing from a comfortable bike facility.  I've cycled in the right lane of Colesville Road before on the segment pictured below, and it was a near-death experience.

Route 29 is labelled as a "high stress" biking environment on the Montgomery County Planning Department's Bicycle Stress Map, while local streets are labelled blue for "low stress".

Route 29 is one of the few paved crossing of Northwest Branch in eastern Montgomery County for vehicles and pedestrians, as the next nearest crossings are miles away.  This makes Route 29 and important bike connection between Silver Spring and points north, since there are few other ways to cross the creek if you're trying to keep your shoes dry.    

What if there were a safer path paralleling Route 29 (while not being right next to it) which cyclists, joggers, and pedestrians could use to traverse this part of the corridor in comfort?  I have an idea for such a path across land that is already publicly owned, which I have drawn on the map below.  This post will be a description of the proposed route and my reasoning for choosing it.  

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Indian Spring Village

I live on Williamsburg Drive in Woodmoor.  At the entrance to this side of the neighborhood where Williamsburg meets University Boulevard, there's a nice sign that reads "Woodmoor", so that everyone knows the name of the community they are entering.  There are similar signs at Crestmoor & Colesville and Lexington & Pierce (and the stone sign at Woodmoor Circle & Colesville).  

Woodmoor sign at the entrance to Williamsburg Drive.  Photo by the author.

The only problem is that this side of Woodmoor isn't actually in Woodmoor.  At least it wasn't intended to be by those who built the subdivision.  

I live in the subdivision of Indian Spring Village, as does anyone else who lives in the area bordered by University Blvd, Saint Lawrence Drive, Northwest Branch, and Whitestone Road (this includes most, but not all, of the homes lining Saint Lawrence).  See the map below for reference.  

Map of Indian Spring Village from the Maryland Historical Trust, with properties of interest noted.  Click photo to enlarge.

The current neighborhood of Woodmoor is actually made up of several different subdivisions built by various developers over the course of ~20 years.  Indian Spring Village is the second largest of the subdivisions that now comprise Woodmoor, with the largest being Woodmoor itself (which includes everything north and west of Hillmoor Drive).  

Indian Spring Village was one of many "Indian Spring" named subdivisions built around Indian Spring Country Club, with other examples being Indian Spring Terrace, Indian Spring Club Estates, and Indian Spring Manor.  Most of these Indian Spring-named subdivisions are now inside the Beltway in the neighborhood just called "Indian Spring".  The name of the adjacent country club was used in many subdivisions because proximity to a golf club added a sense of financial security and prestige to buyers.    

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Around The Corners is back

Hello Everyone. After about a year of being inactive, Around The Corners has returned.  As many of you may know, most blogs that die-out do so because the author has difficulty finding time to write posts.  That's the reason this one went inactive for almost a year (my reason: finishing college).  Now that I have recently graduated from college; I once again have time to blog regularly.

Blogging can be a time-consuming process (especially writing high-quality posts), but I am committed to keeping this blog going for largely the same reasons that I started it: no one else is blogging about the Four Corners area with regularity.  My friend Dan Reed has kept Just Up The Pike going for a remarkable 10 years, which is a true accomplishment.  His blog is currently the only one that covers the Route 29 corridor here in eastern Montgomery County.  As great of a job as he does, no one blog can effectively cover such a large "underblogged" area.  

Aside from that reason, I am resuming the blog because it's fun.  I enjoy writing about this area, and I like the feedback I get from neighbors who appreciate what I do (and apparently some of my former St. B's teachers read this, which is cool).  

Photo by the author.