Council Resurrects Controversial Silver Spring Pedestrian Bridge Project
The bridge would provide access for people with disabilities to the new Silver Spring Library from a parking lot.
A contested proposal to amend development regulations and allow construction of a pedestrian walkway in downtown Silver Spring is back on the table, fewer than two years after county council members voted 8-1 to kill the idea.
The proposed bridge would link a parking garage to the Silver Spring library, which is currently under construction. County executive Ike Leggett and members of a county commission for people with disabilities have sought to amend a 1999 urban renewal plan to allow the pedestrian walkway for several years.
"We love it. We're for it. We're gonna get it this time around," Leggett's spokesman Patrick Lacefield said. "We think it's the best way to provide access for people who are using the garage to get to the library. It will be good for seniors, people with disabilities, people with little kids and folks in general who want to use this library."
Lacefield noted that in 2009, county staff estimated that creating a pedestrian bridge would be significantly cheaper than other alternatives to provide parking for people with disabilities. Analysts then estimated the walkway would cost roughly $750,000 compared to about $1.1 to $1.6 million for seven handicapped parking spaces and 20 short-term spaces.
This time, the project has the backing of newly-elected council president Valerie Ervin, who represents the area on the county council.
"While I initially did not vote to amend the Urban District Renewal Plan, I cast my vote with the belief that executive branch staff would be able to accommodate accessible parking for our disabled residents in and around the site," Ervin said in an e-mailed statement.
She said the county has explored other options but right now a Wayne Avenue parking garage is the primary access to parking for a significant number of people with disabilities.
"This parking issue is exacerbated by the plan to make the new Silver Spring Library one of the few libraries in the county serving those with special needs," Ervin said. "Since no other solutions were developed to address this issue, I believe it is time for the council to reconsider constructing an elevated pedestrian walkway for the Silver Spring Library."
Jeff Zyontz, a legislative attorney for the county council, said the Silver Spring urban renewal plan specifically prohibits building pedestrian bridges in most of the area covered by the plan because the walkways are seen as "anti-urban."