Thursday, August 31, 2023

Update on the Fernwood Rd and Democracy Blvd intersection improvements


After a burst of activity at the beginning of the month, construction on the Fernwood Rd and Democracy Blvd intersection has been quiet for the last week or so.  There is clearly still work to be done, but now's a good time to check on the intersection construction.

The median between the two sides of Fernwood Road south of Democracy Blvd has been moved to the left a couple of feet. This gives the northbound lanes a little more space which is important since they are converting the two lanes to three lanes (two left turn only and one right turn only).

The median was also pulled back several feet to be further from the intersection.


In a few places they had to tear up the sidewalk. Most places they put blacktop down as a temporary patch, but here they jut filled it in with dirt and put a traffic barrel over it.  Not pedestrian friendly at all.


S.E. Corner of Fernwood and Democracy

At the Southeast corner, they removed the traffic island that used to be here, you can still see the outline of where it was and traffic barrels block cars from using it.

S.W. Corner of Fernwood and Democracy
At the Southwest corner, they also removed the traffic island.  The patching job wasn't as good and there is a deep pothole on the right side of where the island was.  They also redid the curb here.

N.W. Corner of Fernwood and Democracy

Moving to the Northwest corner, they have mostly removed the traffic island. since the traffic signal is here they have left it with a bit of grass. There are trafic barrels and caution tape around it.

Also worth noting, they removed the "push button for walk signal" to cross Democracy Blvd and you don't automatically get a walk signal when the lights change so you are basically at the mercy of turning traffic when you cross here.  Very pedestrian unfriendly.


Median at the North side of Fernwood
The median on the North side of Democracy Blvd was also pulled back several feet. This eliminates the pedestrian refuge so you can't go halfway across the road then have a safe space to stand in.  They do this a lot and I don't like it, I find it much more pedestrian friendly to have the crosswalk go through the median (in an accessible way, of course).

N.E. Corner of Fernwood and Democracy
On the Northeast corner the sidewalk was redone, you can't really see the impact from here, but a different photo will make it more clear. They also have left the island at the turn, I believe this will remain.

N.E. Corner of Fernwood and Democracy

Another view of the Northeast corner, from here, you can see the sidewalk was pulled way back and a concrete area that is slightly raised was put in as a mountable curb for trucks that can't make the turn.

Stop here on Red

Somewhat amusingly, there is a "Stop here on Red" sign where there is no traffic light (and never was). This is at the Northwest corner of Fernwood and Democracy

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Solaire 7607 Old Georgetown Road construction


Solaire Bethesda will be a 22 story apartment building with 198 unites and a trivial 1,500 square feet of retail space. One thing it has going for it is the location.  Bethesda in general is a pretty good place to be, but this is just across the street from the metro station, so one of those return-to-office people you can catch the subway without any trouble.

Ground Level Solaire

I last posted about this project in February. Since then most of the building facade has been put up.  The best part of this project being close to done is that there is a chance the long term lane closure on Old Georgetown will end.

Solaire Bethesda from Commerce Ln


The project is on the corner of Old Georgetown Rd and Commerce Ln, where the La Madeleine french bakery and cafe once was.

Monday, August 21, 2023

The Camile / 7000 Wisconsin Ave construction update


The Camile at 7000 Wisconsin Ave in Bethesda, MD is nearing completion.  It is a 14 story mixed-use development with 181 residential studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units.  It should be finished next month

 I last posted about the Camile in January and a lot has been accomplished since then. There is still work going on at street level, but you can really get a good idea of what the building will look like when it is complete.


The view from the corner of Sanford St and Wisconsin Ave looking towards the south end of the building. There are no windows here, but there is a gray and white grid on the building so it doesn't look like a blank wall.




Sunday, August 20, 2023

Woodward High School construction update for August, 2023


My last update on the construction of the new Woodward High School on Old Georgetown Road was back in February, so it is time for another one. To Recap, in Spring of 2021, the old Woodward High School / Tilden Middle School was torn down. A new Woodward High School is being built in the same location. When the first phase is complete, it will be used as a holding school for two years while Northwood High School is rebuilt. Originally, Northwood was supposed to move here for the 2023-2024 school year (as in now), but that was delayed by one year due to fiscal constraints. Now Northwood will use this school for the 2024-2025 and 2025-2026 school years and it will re-open as Woodward H.S. for the 2026-2027 school year.  The budget for this project is 196 million dollars. Full details are in the budget.

 I actually like the yellow-and-orange-with-green-lines motif, it's different and fresh.  They are covering it up with bricks though.

There is also some information about the planning for the school on the MCPS Charles W. Woodward High School Reopening Project page.  I find these project pages get some updates early in the process then nothing until the project is complete, so information there is out-of-date.  You can find all my posts on Woodward H.S. here.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Pig races at the Montgomery County Fair


If you go to the Montgomery County Fair in Gaithersburg this year, make sure you check out the pig races. The fair runs through Saturday the 19th.

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Caroline Freeland Park Renovation

Caroline Freeland Park in Bethesda, Maryland is currently closed for renovation and has been since July 10th.  The park is still in the demolition phase with piles of concrete and stacks of tree trunks and roots scattered around.  This renovation will be significant and will take a while. The park isn't scheduled to reopen until some time in 2024.

This is where the playground was. As you can see, almost all the play equipment has been removed and is strewn about. The replacement playground will be in the same spot and according to Montgomery Parks, it will be larger.  The current playground renovated in 2010.

Piles of wood and piles of concrete at the site of the Caroline Freeland park. This area of the park will retain an emergency vehicle accessible Hampden Lane and will have an open central plaza

This is a photo from today showing that the park is blocked off with a chain link fence. Arlington Road is on the left, the library is not in the picture but is just to the right.


This is a photo from June, showing the park from roughly the same spot prior to construction starting.


Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Fernwood Rd and Democracy Blvd intersection improvements


Fernwood intersection construction, northbound
This week Fernwood Road has been closed in both directions at Democracy Boulevard during the day for intersection improvements.  I got these photos yesterday afternoon, after they had re-opened the northbound (leaving Bethesda) lane.  These improvements have been in the planning stage for years, I last wrote about them in April of  2021!

New median on Fernwood Rd

The major changes will be on Northbound Fernwood Rd at this intersection. They include making it so there are two left-turn only lanes and one right-turn only lane, which should improve traffic flow during the afternoon rush. Other changes include removing three of the free right turn slip lanes, those traffic islands that make the right turn skip the traffic light. This is to enhance pedestrian safety (though, as a frequent pedestrian, this time of lane is far from my biggest issue).  The westbound right turn will remain with a different style of curb.  This description comes from the county website and there is a diagram there as well. The diagram and the text are hard for me to reconcile so I'll wait until April of 2024 when the project will be complete to see the final configuration.  The project is called "Democracy Boulevard and Fernwood Road Intersection Traffic Signal Reconstruction Project" even though the majority of the work seems unrelated to traffic signals.

Part of the project also includes Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant pedestrian sidewalk ramps.  I am unclear what part of the old ramps were not ADA compliant. With all the other changes to the intersection, replacing the ramps was probably needed anyway, regardless of their ADA compliance status.

This work started in early July, with a day of Fernwood closure and has had intermittent work and closures since then. There is actually quite a lot. As you can see in the above photos, the concrete divider on Fernwood has been replaced and the concrete islands on both sides of Fernwood at Democracy have been removed.  While construction is in progress life is difficult for everyone, including pedestrians (as seen in the photo directly above). There have also been sidewalk closures to facilitate replacing the ramps. If you are fully capable of walking then going through the grass is an easy detour, but if you have limited mobility there is no feasible detour, you are just stuck.

Fernwood Road southbound was closed at Democracy Blvd, the turn lane was blocked off