Developers and Montgomery County have been working on plans to build at the bustling intersection of Woodmont and Bethesda Avenues since 2005.
Only now, a few weeks after construction started on the project that forced the closure of Woodmont Avenue south of Bethesda Row, are many residents and businesses starting to take notice.
Many of their reactions have not been kind.
“To drive down Woodmont and suddenly dead end into a wall of construction, only to have to detour either left into hell, or right into hell!,” wrote Bethesda resident Deborah Stevens in a letter to The Gazette newspaper last week.
“I’m starting to think of other ways to get around,” said Joanna Colbourne, a Bethesda resident who works in an office building on Bethesda Avenue just west of Wisconsin Avenue.
She said afternoon rush hour congestion on Bethesda Avenue means cars leaving her office parking garage are backed up to the second level. A trip that typically took 30 seconds can now take eight minutes.
Zen Tara Tea, also on Bethesda Avenue, tweeted that construction has caused sidewalk disruption in one of Bethesda’s most walked areas. A temporary pedestrian crossing has been constructed just north of the road closure.
Stevens admitted “I don’t think anyone saw it coming.”
At a meeting of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board on Monday night, a group of residents from the Crescent Plaza Condominium on Woodmont Avenue spoke to County Council President Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) about the disruptions.
One was surprised to learn one of the permanent changes of the 20-month project will be a median on Leland Street. Drivers will not be able to make left turns onto Woodmont.
Last week, county traffic chief Emil Wolanin said the closure, in general, has affected traffic and congestion as officials expected.
The county’s Department of Transportation added some signage to Leland Street to keep motorists from cutting through the residential neighborhood.
StonebridgeCarras, the lead developer of the project, is building a parking garage under what is now Woodmont Avenue, part of its agreement with the county to buy the publicly-owned parking lots and redevelop them with two apartment buildings.
Wolanin said the 20-month closure was unavoidable because of the large scale nature of the project.