Transportation Director Orders Leland Street Barriers to Be Removed in Downtown Bethesda

Move comes after he said department didn’t follow proper process for installing access restriction


Published:

The plastic bollards installed at the Woodmont Avenue and Leland Street intersection will be removed, transportation department director says

Andrew Metcalf

The plastic bollards blocking drivers from making turns from Woodmont Avenue to Leland Street are coming down.

Al Roshdieh, director of the county’s Department of Transportation, wrote in a letter sent to county police Chief Tom Manger Tuesday afternoon that he has directed his staff to remove the barriers.

He also asked Manger to have police step up enforcement of the previous restrictions on the downtown Bethesda road that ban drivers from turning right from Woodmont onto Leland from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays. Roshdieh noted the restriction has been in place since 1989 and “there have continued to be a significant number of violations.”

Prior to the bollards being installed, a sign indicated the times when the right turns were not permitted.

Roshdieh wrote in the letter that the department did not follow the process outlined in the executive regulation that should have governed the installation of the bollards. The letter does not make clear how this process was not followed. Neither Roshdieh nor a transportation department spokeswoman immediately responded to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon shortly after the letter was sent.

However, it appears the department never held a public hearing on the matter and Council President Roger Berliner said that will now happen.

“I’m gratified that the director is now going to hold a public hearing as required by the regulations and step back and assess the situation anew,” Berliner said Tuesday afternoon.

Roshdieh wrote that the Sacks Neighborhood residents petitioned for the access restriction and the transportation department plans to “work with the community in following the procedures” outlined in the executive regulation.

He wrote that the department worked with the neighborhood for several years before installing the bollards. He did not say exactly when the barriers will be removed.

“MCDOT will be installing more signs to discourage the illegal right turns during the P.M. peak period,” Roshdieh wrote.

The move to remove the bollards, which were installed about two weeks ago, came shortly after two members of the County Council questioned the department about the access restriction and Berliner specifically asked if the department solicited public input.

Police quickly pushed back against Roshdieh’s request for more enforcement at the intersection.

In a response to Roshdieh’s letter Tuesday, Captian David Falcinelli, the 2nd District Commander for the Bethesda area, wrote that police are stretched too thin to constantly monitor rush hour restricted areas.

“With the push of enforcement resources to high crash areas, rush-hour signed areas (none of which are designated as high crash areas), have become a lesser priority,” Falcinelli responded. “Evening rush hour enforcement also faces the challenge of occurring during our highest call volume period of the day, leaving few resources to be a regular presence at this location, let alone the many other rush-hour signed neighborhoods.”

Falcinelli wrote that some officers could work with the transportation department in the short term for an enforcement push coinciding with the barrier removals.

“However, I cannot commit to any long-term enforcement plan as the overall staffing needs across the district take precedent over the needs of one neighborhood,” Falcinelli wrote.

UPDATE - 11:15 a.m., Wednesday - It appears the transportation department has already removed the bollards:

 

A copy of the letter sent to police Chief Tom Manger Tuesday by Al Roshdieh (click to expand)

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