I can recall like it was yesterday… jumping on my one-speed BMX bike as an elementary school boy and pedaling three miles from my parents’ house on Black Rock Road up to my friend’s house at Wye Oak and 28. From there, we’d count our dollar bills and quarters and ride the remaining mile and half to hit McDonald’s and the High’s convenience store (now the Dunkin Donuts) to load up on candy and assorted junk. And no joke—McDonald’s ice cream cones were literally 25 cents.
I’m not trying to sound like someone’s grandfather, sitting on the front porch rocker with a pipe scratching his chin, but the times have changed and three and half decades later I can’t foresee any scenario where I’d let my own kids do that with the traffic we have now.
The volume of cars (and bikes) throughout Darnestown has grown significantly and, at least anecdotally, the number of accidents on Rt. 28 and the smaller cut-through roads has increased as well. Between Riffleford Road and the center of Darnestown there is a seemingly endless flow of traffic during rush-hour. That anxiety of turning onto Rt. 28 from Turkey Foot, Ancient Oak, or any of the side streets (elevated knowing you have several other cars behind waiting on you) and the frustration of cars flying through the cut-through roads—we all experience it.
Darnestown is unique and it’s in the cross-hairs when it comes to traffic. Up-county cars (Poolesville, Germantown, Clarksburg), as well as traffic from Frederick and even West Virginia, pass through Darnestown each day to avoid 270 to get down-county or into Virginia and back. The development and congestion pressures around us have put stress on our roads and intersections that were not built to support it. These pressures and road safety concerns will only increase, and as an Association we don’t advocate for an up-county crossing to Virginia (because of the detrimental impact it could have on Darnestown), we don’t support widening Rt. 28 (since that will turn our quaint town into a thoroughfare), and nobody wants to sit through a dozen traffic lights throughout town. So what gives?
Well, let me first say that traffic and road safety is now one of the DCA’s very top priorities and we have recently established a task force of residents and Board members that is just getting off the ground. Their objective is to work with State and County representatives and engineers to develop a comprehensive plan to address traffic volume, speed, and intersection safety throughout Darnestown. In the past year our residents have successfully worked to install speed bumps on Spring Meadows and improvements at the Seneca Road/River Road intersection. It’s time for the DCA to help, and the same folks involved in those efforts are part of our task force.
The first and foremost goal of the task force is safety, specifically Rt. 28 intersections and speed on cut-through roads. Our longer term goal is to be proactive in solutions that align how Darnestown fits into the greater traffic and road plans throughout Montgomery County and the DMV to divert traffic from Darnestown. Both of these goals will take some time and a great deal of effort and influence, but we are taking a very deliberate approach, based on facts and working with the experts on the best possible options, that will be as all-inclusive as possible for our town. We encourage your input, expertise, and any participation you’d like to offer. More to come on this.
One of the other big initiatives for the DCA this past quarter is the launch of our new website at www.darnestowncivic.org. I want to thank Ben Jamieson and Neil Agate for all of their hard work—the website is awesome and we’re working hard to keep it updated with relevant information for our residents.
We’re also into our 2020 membership drive and if you’re not a member, we really encourage you to join by visiting the new website. Your funds and participation drive everything we do for the residents of Darnestown—including our quarterly The Little Acorn, social events, website, US flags during the summer holidays, welcome baskets for new residents, and operational expenses to represent Darnestown on issues like the roads and schools.
Finally, I want to thank two Board members who have served us for well over a decade each. Karen Hinrichsen, a Trustee, has recently moved to Florida and has been a trusted advisor to the DCA and keeper of the deer fences in Seneca State Park. Guy Armantrout is our Treasurer (and involved in just about everything else) and has announced he will be retiring shortly. You have both put in countless hours to support our community and have been incredibly helpful and supportive in my transition. We all thank you and wish you the best of luck!