In: Stop Signs; Out: Trees

In: Stop Signs; Out: Trees

Residents Respond to Plan

Drivers along Persimmon Tree Road can expect to see some changes soon.

The Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPWT) has completed its study of Persimmon Tree Road, and its recommendations are already being put into effect. Major improvements include an all-way-stop at Eggert Drive and clearing brush near Saunders Lane.

While people are happy with many of the changes, not everything residents requested has made it onto the list.

“We are grateful that they completed the study so quickly,” said Robin Warsaw, general manager of the Avenel Community Association. “The actions they are taking will enhance safety,” she said. But Warsaw and others were not happy with the scope of the changes.

“We’re disappointed we didn’t get an all-way stop at Saunders Lane, and we’re surprised the speed limit was not reduced,” Warsaw said.

“I’m glad that some actions are being taken,” said Potomac’s representative on County Council, Howard Denis (R-1). “To have the study be so comprehensive is gratifying.” However, he wants to hear from residents before making a final judgment. “I want to get feedback from the community. There may be some things we’d like done that aren’t being addressed, ” Denis said.

There are people who feel that more needs to be done than was recommended, primarily at the corner of Persimmon Tree and Saunders Lane.

These sentiments were echoed by Sanjit Shah, a Saunders Lane resident. Shah’s brother, Sumil Shah, 20, and cousin, Nikesh Shah, 18, were killed in a fiery crash on Aug. 12, 2002 along Persimmon Tree just south of Saunders Lane.

“I thought the recommendations were good, but they didn’t really address the Saunders Lane area,” Shah said.

According to residents in that area, drivers turning onto Persimmon Tree from Saunders Lane have problems seeing far enough to know when it is safe to turn.

“You can’t see the cars coming from the right side,” Shah said. Speed is also an issue. “It’s an easy road to go fast on,” Shah said.

Some feel that the area must be entirely restructured “We feel the hilly, curvy, narrow conditions are particularly critical near Saunders Lane,” Warsaw said.

Fred Ward, a resident of Saunders Court agreed.

“It’s too narrow. Until it’s widened and flattened, you won’t see any real improvement,” Ward said.

The engineer who conducted the study, Kyle Liang, Senior Planning Specialist with county transportation, has a different view.

“The trees, not the hill, are blocking sight distances,” Liang said. The recommendations call for the removal of the trees which fall in the county right-of-way, not on private property.

Reducing the speed limit might not have the desired affect, Liang said. “Some drivers drive based on the posted speed limit, others just drive,” Liang said. Therefore, slowing down some drivers while others continue to flaunt the posted speed limit could create a different set of problems.

The Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPWT) may do more, after all of the current recommendations have been implemented.

“Whenever we implement changes, we evaluate the conditions to make sure that what we’ve done has had the desired effect,” said Anthony Ricchiuti, Chief of Traffic Operations for DPWT. According to Ricchiuti, more may or may not have to be done, but the future evaluation will be what determines possible further action.

The study itself, according to Liang, looked at Persimmon Tree from Bradley Boulevard to MacArthur Boulevard. Issues taken into consideration included an accident analysis, speed study, a study of current pavement markings, and a review of curves and intersections.

Some of the improvements are already in the works.

“The work orders have already been signed,” Liang said. The brush removal will likely be the first item completed, although an exact date is not available.

Other projects will have to wait for warmer weather.

“The signs and stoplines have to be done together,” said Khursheed Bilgrami, engineer with the DPWT. Bilgrami will be heading the crew who does that portion of the job. One of the main reasons for doing the work simultaneously is a cost savings of not having to send a crew to the same place twice. “The road surface temperature must be at least 50 degrees,” Bilgrami said. According to Bilgrami, if the road is colder than that, or becomes colder shortly after the work is done, the pavement markings will peel off of the ground. He hopes to be able to implement his improvements with a month or two.