A change in Rockville policy could give the city's Public Works Director broader, but more defined, authority to determine parking and - in practice - throughput on roads in Business Districts. Some on the Montgomery County Council have sought similar power to slow down traffic, but in many cases those county roads are actually controlled by the State Highway Administration.
Part of an increasingly nationwide effort to reduce speeds, the objective is not always purely about public safety. For some, it is sincerely a safety or business development issue. A few proponents are part of the "war on cars," who seek to make driving as painful as possible, in the hopes of forcing drivers to "get out of their cars," and use public transit. Others include developers seeking to maximize development potential of properties along busy roads and highways, such as Rockville Pike. Plans for outdoor cafes on the curbside of roads where cars rush by have, understandably, sounded quite preposterous. Seeking to lower the embarrassment level for themselves, many have seized upon the idea of taking control of those roads, and forcing traffic to slow to 25 MPH (or even 10 MPH, in New York City). That concept is specifically being floated for state roads in the White Flint area, as well as for parts of Georgia Avenue, to name a few.
One Rockville street targeted by the potential new policy is N. Washington Street. Under the proposed policy, it could become a two-lane road with street parking. Should N. Washington Street become a 2-lane crawlspace like Maryland Avenue? A potential problem, which of course is the source of much traffic on N. Washington, is that it functions as a bypass or parallel route for MD 355. It is also an alternative route to reaching parts of the town center area. Snarled capacity on N. Washington could have a direct and negative effect on 355 traffic.
Public Works Director Craig Simoneau told the Mayor and Council Monday evening that the new policy would actually better define his existing powers to make road classification and parking decisions. Mayor Bridget Newton expressed concern that these decisions not be removed from the discretion of the city's elected officials. Simoneau argued that he currently possesses more leeway on these matters, and that a new policy would clarify his authority.