County agrees to build long-awaited sidewalk on Good Hope Road

After nearly three decades of petitioning for one, residents of Good Hope Estates might soon get a sidewalk along the main entrance road to their neighborhood.

Mother and four children dodge vehicles as they attempt to cross a 20-ft wide bridge with no shoulders or sidewalks.
Almost getting run over while crossing this bridge got me involved in local issues. Photo by author.

“Anyone who’s walked on Good Hope Road knows it’s terribly unsafe for pedestrians. Students have a right to walk to school safely, commuters have a right to walk to the bus stop, and residents have a right to walk to the Good Hope Rec Center, Spencerville Park, and Ahmadiyya Community Center without endangering their lives.

“I’m so glad County Executive Leggett added the Good Hope Road sidewalk to the capital plan, and I’m going to fight as hard as I can to make sure it is funded by the Council.

“Thanks to the Good Hope Estates Civic Association for their indefatigable and effective advocacy for this common-sense priority. It will improve lots of lives and might save some.”

Councilmember Tom Hucker
Emailed Statement, Jan 2018

County Executive Ike Leggett announced on January 16 that this long-awaited sidewalk project would be included in the upcoming capital improvement program budget (CIP). The sidewalk would extend from Windmill Lane to Rainbow Drive,  with completion estimated in 2022, according to the Project Description Form (PDF) below.

“This project provides for the design and construction of a new five-foot wide sidewalk along the westside of Good Hope Road over 4,500 feet of length from Windmill Lane to Rainbow Drive in Cloverly. The project also provides a pedestrian bridge that is 40-foot long and eight-foot wide at the intersection of Good Hope Road and Hopefield Road”

Project Description Form Item P501902
FY19 Recommended Capital Budget and
FY19-FY24 Capital Improvements Program

A long time in the works

The Good Hope Estates Civic Association has been petitioning for a sidewalk for nearly three decades, and was promised one in 90s, to coincide when the Briggs Chaney Middle School would open. An article in GHECA’s July 1989 newsletter stated that the project was included in the 1991 CIP budget (see second page in the newsletter below) .

The project obviously did not get built back then. Due to a lack of records of that era, I do not know why the project was cancelled (if you know, please contact me!). That being said, one small step towards progress was made soon after: the sidewalk was added to the 1997 Cloverly Master Plan. This meant that the project was now “on the books” and had a better chance at eventually being built.

The civic association revisited concerns about pedestrian safety in 2000, when MCPS reduced the number of bus stops in the neighborhood, resulting in students being “forced to stand on Good Hope Road”, according to Gail Madden, former president of GHECA. Ms. Madden collected dozens of petition signatures from her neighbors and sent them to MCPS.

In response, the County began to evaluate the feasibility of building the sidewalk and even sent notices to adjacent property owners whose front yards would be affected. The County would have to purchase some private property to build the sidewalk because the property lines of some of the older homes in the neighborhood extended all the way to the edge of the road and did not have a County right-of-way easement. When one of the homeowners refused to sell their property, the County backed off the project in 2006.

Environmental regulations complicate sidewalk construction

By this point, the project had become more complicated and expensive due to strict environmental regulations. In 1994, the County established the Upper Paint Branch Special Protection Area (SPA) in the Cloverly area.

The SPA established an impervious limit for the entire watershed, which essentially meant that no more than 8% of the land area could be covered in impervious surfaces such as roads, driveways, sidewalks, and buildings. The intent of this regulation is to protect sensitive waterbodies like the Paint Branch from increased pollution and stormwater runoff associated with excessive development and construction.

In order to construct the sidewalk, an equal area of existing impervious surface would have to be converted back to natural surface. Furthermore, County policy does not allow credits for pervious surfaces: even if the sidewalk were constructed out of an advanced engineered material designed to reduce runoff and pollution, the surface would still be treated as if it were regular impervious concrete.

Grass pavers
Even if the sidewalk were made of grass pavers like these, the County would consider the entire sidewalk as an impervious surface. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A renewed push for safety

In January 2013, after almost being hit by a vehicle while crossing the bridge on Good Hope Road (photo at the top of the post), I decided to do something about it. I contacted my civic association to ask if I could advocate on behalf of the community for this sidewalk. Marjorie Davis, GHECA president at the time, shared my concerns and offered to support my effort.

Prior to that moment, I had zero experience in advocacy or community-building and little knowledge of County politics. Little did I know at the time that this near-miss would lead to me becoming the youngest-ever president of my civic association and a vocal advocate for safer streets and resilient communities in East County.

In the next blog post, I will write about our five-year journey to get a sidewalk on Good Hope Road, and all the steps involved in achieving our goals. Hopefully this story will inspire others to successfully advocate for improvements in their communities.

What can you do to get involved?

Although the Good Hope Road sidewalk project is included in the County Executive’s recommended budget, there is still a possibility that the Council may vote to defund the project in the final CIP.

Sign the Sidewalk Petition

  • Contact out local councilmember and urge him to make sure the project gets funded. Use the one-click, pre-addressed email template below to send an email to Councilmember Hucker and his Deputy Chief of Staff. Please take a moment to personalize the message with a sentence or two.

Email Councilmember Tom Hucker

  • Join me next week at the CIP public hearing in Rockville and testify in support of the Good Hope Road Sidewalk Project. More information below:

Wednesday, February 7th
7:30-9:30 pm
Council Office Building
Third Floor Hearing Room
100 Maryland Ave
Rockville, MD 20850
Sign up to testify here
First time testifying? Don’t know what to say? Contact me and I will walk you through the process and give you some tips.

UPDATE: If you cannot make the evening public hearing on February 7, there is also one on Tuesday, February 6th at 7:30 pm and on Wednesday the 7th at 1:30 pm. Sign up for the FY19 Capital Budget and FY19-24 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) public hearings on the county council website. Sign up early before the spots fill up!

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