Montgomery County will Keep Shared Streets Open until Nov. 28, 2021
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, August 24, 2021
The Shared Streets program, first created in response to the pandemic, will be extended until Nov. 28, 2021. Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) has managed the Shared Streets program, which allows residents and businesses to use public spaces for in-street activities such as biking, walking, outdoor dining, and retail activity. The concept aims to bring residents together in a safe outdoor environment while supporting County businesses that have struggled from the economic impacts of COVID-19.
“The Shared Streets program has provided a safe gathering place for residents throughout a challenging time and has helped to support our economy,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “With the COVID-19 variants going around and students returning to school, we want to reduce the spread of the virus. Shared Streets is good for our public health, our businesses, and is a popular option with many patrons who prefer to dine outside. I appreciate the efforts of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation and hope that we can continue Shared Streets into the future.”
Montgomery County has reinstated the indoor mask mandate following the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant. The CDC reports that Montgomery County leads the nation with 85 percent of the eligible population fully vaccinated and 94 percent with at least one dose. However, concern over variants is widespread. While breakthrough cases of vaccinated individuals are rare, the Delta variant can be spread by vaccinated individuals. Testing is advised for anyone, vaccinated or not, who is experiencing symptoms or has traveled.
“We want to ensure we can maintain safe public spaces as we monitor COVID-19 variants,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. “Throughout the pandemic, Shared Streets has been a creative solution that has greatly impacted the way we gather. It has helped maintain community connectedness and vibrancy. The Shared Streets program has been well received, and we are happy to continue this initiative throughout this fall.”
The program has been popular with businesses and residents. While MCDOT assesses the road closures from an engineering perspective and is responsible for determining allowable uses of the roadway, the County’s Regional Services Centers collect resident feedback and inform the County on the best use for these spaces to maximize public benefit. Residents who wish to give feedback on a local Shared Streets program can call 311 and ask to be connected to the Regional Services Center for their area.
Although a concern before the program began, County officials report that Shared Streets has not seen extensive issues surrounding extended alcohol service.
“We’ve allowed for businesses to extend their alcohol service outdoors and overall, it’s worked out well,” said Alcohol Beverage Services Director Kathie Durbin. “Businesses have been compliant, and they appreciate being able to offer extended outdoor dining. They want to keep this program in place as long as they can.”
Grove Street in Silver Spring was originally part of the Shared Street program as a temporary Neighborhood Greenway has been converted to a semi-permanent Neighborhood Greenway as part of a pilot project. Greenways welcome pedestrians and bicyclists while limiting vehicles to local traffic only. Temporary Greenways were set up in residential neighborhoods as a part of Shared Streets to provide space for outdoor activity and physical distancing. The Grove Street pilot project will remain in place until spring, when the space will be evaluated for permanency.
Other temporary greenways, established during the pandemic, will remain in place until November when they will be removed for the winter season and reopened to thru traffic.
As part of the ongoing Shared Streets program, County residents can apply for a block permit to bring a smaller version of Shared Streets to their neighborhood. Once approved, MCDOT will temporarily limit vehicles to local traffic for the selected road. There is no cost to residents for a block permit, and applications can be found here.
For more information on MCDOT’s Shared Streets program and a listing of locations visit, https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/dot/sharedstreets/. Follow @MCDOTNow on Twitter, and subscribe to MCDOT’s ‘Go Montgomery!’ newsletter.