Route 410: Going Somewhere?

I have found no issue more difficult than State Route 410 (a.k.a. Philadelphia Avenue and Ethan Allen Avenue in Takoma Park) in the course of my 7-month tenure on the Takoma Park City Council. The roadway is a state highway. The State Highway Administration, according to Maryland code, is responsible for maintenance, yet the SHA has not done much needed repairs in recent years. Due to recently-discovered ownership questions, the SHA is asking a “perpetual maintenance easement” from the City of Takoma Park. A memorandum of understanding would lay out additional conditions. I and others have raised concerns in open and closed council sessions — here’s my last recap, posted May 13 — but I am not satisfied that the city is positioned to make the best deal with the SHA that we can.

All this said, the SHA has been responsive on immediate safety needs, and the city council has approved near-term, patch repairs for a degraded section of the roadway.

This note will be a resumé to date: the good and the not-yet good. I’ll cover the MOU points first, then go on to a couple of positive points.

The MOU, as Neil Pedersen Would Have It (?)

I believe that the city could still negotiate more effectively with the state by reminding the SHA of commitments it has made.

The city and the SHA have been talking for a couple of years. Through the good offices of Del. Heather Mizeur, then-SHA Administrator Neil Pedersen visited Takoma Park for a November 8, 2010 public hearing. The outcome was that Mr. Pedersen proposed a resolution of the issue, captured in his April 21, 2011 letter to the city.

(Mr. Pedersen’s letter talks of a “prescriptive easement,” but the parties, the city and the SHA, later determined that a “perpetual maintenance easement” would be in the parties better interests. In any case, the nature of the easement seems independent (legally separable) from the rest of the SHA proposal captured in Mr. Pedersen’s letter.)

Working from Mr. Pedersen’s letter and from the January 31, 2012 draft MOU, posted publicly by the city as part of the February 21 city-council meeting packet, I would have proposed the MOU language that follows. The process hasn’t allowed me to do that to date, so I’ll create the opportunity now, working from public materials, drawing language directly from Mr. Pedersen’s April 21, 2011 letter. Mr. Pedersen’s proposal applies to sections IV to VII of the MOU, January 31 version. Relying on Neil Pedersen’s letter —


a. In order to assure that the pavement is consistently maintained along the entire MD 410 corridor through the City, SHA will be responsible for any and all permits issued along the corridor, but would partner with the City in the process as follows:

  1. SHA would send all permit requests to the City for its concurrent review of the proposed work;
  2. SHA would address the City’s comments before issuing a permit;
  3. SHA would send the City a copy of a final permit;
  4. SHA would allow the City to have its own inspector present, along with SHA personnel;
  5. SHA would allow the City to perform its own quality review and share with SHA;
  6. SHA would allow the City to have an inspector present at any final inspection that was performed;
  7. SHA would take any and all reasonable measures to address the City’s concerns before releasing a permit;
  8. The City would continue to acquire permits from SHA for any work that would affect the pavement or roadway function.

b. The permit application and supporting documents, including drawings as well as the approved permit, when it becomes available, will be delivered to: City Engineer, Ali Khalilian, 31 Oswego Avenue, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910;; (301) 891-7620, or his successor.


a. SHA would work jointly with the City on signal issues.

b. The SHA contact in charge of communications regarding signalization in and around the vicinity of the MD 410 Easement Area is <...>, Assistant District Engineer, SHA District 3 Traffic, <...>.


a. SHA would work jointly with the City on signage.

b. The SHA contact in charge of communications regarding signage in and around the vicinity of the MD 410 Easement Area is <...>, Assistant District Engineer, SHA District 3 Traffic, <...>, or his successor.


a. SHA would work jointly with the City on pavement markings and pedestrian crosswalks.

b. The SHA contact in charge of communications regarding pedestrian crosswalks in and around the vicinity of the MD 410 Easement Area is <...>, Assistant District Engineer, SHA District 3 Traffic, <...>.

Can we, the city and the SHA, still create an MOU as former Administrator Neil Pedersen would have it? We’ll see.

Promoting Safety

As I reported on May 13, the SHA agreed to assess safety measures at the Holly & Philadelphia (SR 410) intersection. I subsequently requested that the SHA also look at the crossing at Cedar Avenue. SHA team leader Maria Bhatti graciously agreed to meet with residents, a meeting held Wednesday evening June 6 and attended by Police Chief Ronald Ricucci and Public Works Director Daryl Braithwaite. Ms Bhatti agreed to look into additional signage and pavement markings for the stretch between Piney Branch Road and Carroll Avenue and to address signal-visibility problems at Maple Avenue. The city will work with the utility companies regarding wires that obscure the signals at Maple. The possibility of flashing red lights, to supplement the Stop signs at Holly and Philadelphia, is still open.

I’ll post a complete meeting summary once Ms Bhatti has reviewed the notes.

The Fix Is (?) In

Given that, it appears, an agreement regarding Route 410 with the SHA will not be reached for some time, and it could take up to 3 months for the SHA to resurface Philadelphia (Park to Carroll) and Ethan Allen, the city council agreed to authorize City Manager Barb Matthews to do temporary patch repairs on Philadelphia, to fix the pavement and address vibration problem. Ms Matthews said that she has unspent FY12 funds available although a window of only a few weeks remain for the funds to be spent (or perhaps simply committed). These patch repairs should temporarily address the poor state of the pavement in a variety of locations and the vibrations, felt in a number of homes, when large vehicles hit the poor pavement. Of course, I’ll aim to keep residents informed about this work.

As always, please do let me know if you have questions or concerns.

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