Anyone walking or driving on Seven Locks Road on or after October 16 will have noticed the construction work for the installation of crosswalks at several intersections. This project is the culmination of over five years of effort by a number of Cabin John residents and provides a textbook example of the need for persistence, and the benefits of having multiple advocates for a cause. It may be worthwhile to recount the journey so that others may benefit from our “lessons learned.”
As many local residents know, Seven Locks Road is a hilly commuter road with a sidewalk for pedestrians on only one side. Persimmon Tree Lane and MacArthur Boulevard are also commuter roads with a sidewalk on only one side, but Seven Locks Road has the unhappy distinction that most of the homes are on the side of the road without a sidewalk. Furthermore, most of the side streets do not have other outlets—Seven Locks is the only way to come and go. In addition, it provides foot and vehicle access to the shopping center at the corner of Seven Locks and MacArthur, and to Palisades Pool and neighboring Seven Locks Park. Hence, there has been a long-standing concern about pedestrian safety on Seven Locks Road.
We are fortunate that Cabin John is a walkable community, but we are also situated along busy commuter roads and pedestrian safety is a real concern. CJCA leadership, along with a number of local community members, have been lobbying for crosswalks at a number of key locations on Seven Locks, MacArthur, and Persimmon Tree for years. Residents who have raised this issue include Andrew Strasfogel, and myself on Cypress Grove Lane; Jaime Montoya of Thornley Court; Kelly Banuls and Jessica Blake Hawke of the Persimmon Tree neighborhood, and probably others behind the scenes. Between all of us, we have been in contact with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), Montgomery Planning, and several of our elected officials (especially Councilmember Andrew Friedson and Delegate Marc Korman).
Progress was slow and uneven. The 2019 requests for crosswalks resulted in some signage along Seven Locks Road, but no crosswalks. We were told that requirements set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) required ramps wherever there were crosswalks. This, of course, added to the cost and complexity of such a project. Another criterion for the installation of crosswalks and ramps was the level of pedestrian traffic, but the occasions when county employees monitored the flow of pedestrian traffic were not times of peak usage. Thus, our requests for crosswalks were rejected several times.
But we persisted. And found new allies. In 2021, members of Palisades Pool indicated a need for a crosswalk at the access road leading to the pool and Seven Locks Park. Later, the county announced plans for pedestrian safety upgrades farther north on Seven Locks, prompting us to renew our request for support for our part of the roadway. These efforts grew towards the end of 2022, when Korman’s and Friedson’s offices both got actively involved. They connected us with a very helpful staffer in the MCDOT office, and things started to move.
One issue throughout the process was where to install the crosswalks. Having crosswalks at all the intersections was clearly untenable, but everyone who made a request proposed a somewhat different mix and number of crosswalks. A key breakthrough came thanks to a suggestion to put crosswalks at the same intersections where signs had been installed a few years ago. The logic behind the location of those signs was never completely clear, but it proved to be a recommendation that the county couldn’t challenge. Indeed, the final list of approved crosswalks was exactly the list we submitted based on the existing signs.
Not every advocacy story has such a happy ending, but in this case, the effort was undoubtedly helped by a combination of factors: a number of people advocating for the same thing, which must have helped convince the powers-that-be that the need was real; persistence over several years and continued efforts even when we got negative responses; and the assistance of vigilant staffers in the offices of our elected officials.
Charlotte Troup Leighton, CJCA’s Co-Vice President, reports that we should stay tuned for additional progress updates, saying “The new crosswalks on Seven Locks are a win for Cabin John, but CJCA will continue to advocate for additional pedestrian crosswalks and other safety improvements in our community.”
By Gail H. Marcus
Cabin John resident