Visually impaired pedestrians getting more help at Rockville’s intersections -- Gazette.Net



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As part of its efforts to make the city friendlier to the visually impaired, Rockville is continuing to make improvements to several of its intersections.

The city’s mayor and council has approved a bid for more than $447,000 to a Washington, D.C., company to install accessible pedestrian signals, which use nonvisual technology to help blind or other visually impaired people safely navigate the streets, at eight intersections.

The $447,073 bid was awarded to Fort Myer Construction. The work should take six to eight months, with construction expected to start in late July, said Daniel Seo, a transportation engineer for the city.

The contractors will likely work on one corner of an intersection at a time to minimize the impact on pedestrian traffic, he said.

The eight intersections getting the new signals:

• Nelson Street, Mannakee Street and Martins Lane

• Park Road and North Stonestreet Avenue

• Park Road and South Stonestreet Avenue

• Seven Locks Road and Fortune Terrace

• Wootton Parkway and Henslowe Drive

• Wootton Parkway and Preserve Parkway

• Wootton Parkway and Tower Oaks Boulevard

• Wootton Parkway and the entrance to Thomas S. Wootton High School.

Along with new signals at seven intersections already under construction after being approved in the fiscal 2013 budget, the eight new intersections would bring the city’s total to signals at 32 of the 48 intersections the city controls.

The new signals use audible tones, verbal messages, tactile surfaces on push buttons and vibrating buttons to help blind and other visually impaired pedestrians locate the crossing buttons and know when they can safely cross the street.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 3.3 percent of Americans have difficulty seeing. That means that roughly 2,000 Rockville residents could benefit from the new signals.

Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said the signal improvements are part of making sure Rockville is a walkable city.

Newton said she wants to make sure the new signals are spread throughout the city as they’re being installed.

rmarshall@gazette.net