On January 15, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett announced his recommended FY 2011 capital budget and Capital Improvements Program FY2011-2016 (CIP) that includes important transportation projects to help relieve traffic congestion and improve pedestrian and vehicle safety. Below is a summary of the transportation projects in the CIP.
Funding is included to accelerate the modernization of the County’s nearly 30 year-old traffic signal management system. November’s traffic system failure demonstrated how essential a modern, state-of-the-art system is to the economic well-being of the county. Leggett put funding for the six-year upgrade in his first CIP budget. This budget accelerates that schedule.
Under this budget, the Silver Spring Transit Center, Montrose Parkway West, Father Hurley Boulevard and Woodfield Road Extended projects will be completed. Increased funding will be provided to construct the Montrose Parkway East and Chapman Avenue Extended. A new project is recommended that will begin planning, design and right-of-way acquisition for improvements along Snouffer School Road. Funding is included to determine the next steps in allowing future improvements to dedicated but un-maintained County roads.
To maintain the County’s transportation infrastructure, Leggett recommended a new permanent patching project for residential/rural roads to accelerate extensive patching on roads that are not scheduled to be rehabilitated in the near future.
With the County’s bus transit system nearing capacity, new and expanded bus depots are needed to park and maintain the bus fleet. Funds are included to complete the Brookville Service Park, construct the North County Maintenance Depot and relocate the Equipment and Maintenance Operations Center. Funding is also provided for renovations to existing park and ride lots and completion of the Transit Center at Montgomery Mall, the Northern Damascus Park and Ride Lot and the Brookville Service Park.
This budget enhances pedestrian and cyclist safety and supports alternative transportation. Continued funding is recommended for the Annual Sidewalk Program, Pedestrian Safety Program, and the Sidewalk and Infrastructure Revitalization Project. A new project is recommended to begin planning and design for the Metropolitan Branch Trail that will connect the Silver Spring Transit Center and an existing trail in Takoma Park. Funds have been included for a shared use bike path on Needwood Road. The budget funds construction of the Dale Drive Sidewalk, the Greentree Road Sidewalk, the Shady Grove Access Bike Path and McArthur Boulevard Bikeway improvements, and continues design for the Falls Road East Side Hiker/Biker Path. The budget adds funds to construct a bikeway network and pedestrian facilities surrounding the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda in anticipation of the federal Base Realignment and Closure consolidation.
Funding is recommended to rehabilitate the Cedar Lane Bridge over Rock Creek and replace or rehabilitate the Clarksburg Road, White Ground Road and East Gude Drive bridges.
This CIP also includes funding for several storm drainage and roadway improvement projects on Henderson Avenue in the Kensington/Wheaton area and Maple Avenue in Bethesda. In addition, two more phases of improvements to the storm drainage system in the Town of Chevy Chase will address ongoing frequent flooding.
Montgomery County is faced with a projected budget shortfall of $608 million for fiscal year 2011. To help close the gap, the County is proposing to reduce or eliminate Ride On routes that have the fewest riders or those where other alternative service is available, and raise fares by up to 20 cents.
Residents who wish to comment on Ride On’s proposed service reductions can attend a public forum on Monday, February 1, starting at 6:30 p.m., at the Executive Office Building Cafeteria, Terrace Level, located at 101 Monroe Street, Rockville. In case of inclement weather, the public forum will be held on Tuesday, February 2 at the same location.
The Montgomery County Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed Ride On fare increases on February 4at 7:30 p.m. in the 3rd Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville.
For information on the specific proposed route changes or rate increases, giving testimony at the forums, or submitting written comments, go to the Ride On website.
At a January 12 County Council Transportation and Environment Committee meeting, Council members praised the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) hard work in clearing December’s record 24-inch snowfall in record time.
The National Weather Service declared that the December 19 blizzard dumped the most snow for a single storm ever recorded in Montgomery County. Yet, within 55 hours of the end of the storm, every one of the County’s more than 5,000 lane miles of road that the Division of Highway Services (DHS) clears had been made passable.
Council Vice President Valerie Ervin told DOT Director Art Holmes, Deputy Director Al Roshdieh and DHS Chief Keith Compton that she “never had such great removal on my street.” DHS did “fantastic work, and we thank you for that. ….. It was exemplary.”
Council President Nancy Floreen echoed Ms. Ervin’s statement, saying “terrific job” and “We should all be very proud.”
Councilmember Roger Berliner told DOT staff, “Many of you didn’t stop for four days….. I know how hard you worked…. This was an unprecedented level of snow.”
Councilmember Nancy Navarro said she wanted to “express gratitude for the very hard work you did… in this unprecedented blizzard. I appreciate the support you gave us.”
The last comparable snowfall that occurred was in 1996. During that storm, DHS fielded more than 10,000 resident calls for service. During December’s storm, DHS received about 1,300 calls.
Compton talked about the challenges that the December storm posed. At times, more than 1.5 inches of snow fell each hour, requiring DHS to replow main roads and emergency routes more than five times. Winds created snow drifts up to three feet and blew recently plowed snow back onto cleared roads. Compton told Council members that his crews and contractors used more than 500 pieces of equipment, worked non-stop for four days, and drove more than 18,000 miles.
Compton explained that many of the calls from residents originated because they expect neighborhood streets to be plowed to bare pavement. Although emergency routes, main roads and arterial roads are cleared to bare pavement, DHS’s policy is to make neighborhood roads passable. Even if it were possible to obtain more snow removal equipment, trying to clear neighborhood roads to bare pavement would cause much greater environmental damage from salt and abrasives, quadruple costs and significantly delay plowing of all neighborhoods.
Winter, unfortunately, is not over yet so the next time it snows, residents and business owners are asked to assist disabled and elderly residents who may need help in clearing snow and ice from their sidewalks.
County law requires all residential and commercial property owners to clear their public sidewalks within 24 hours of the end of a snowstorm. All residents or property owners are strongly encouraged to be good neighbors by clearing the sidewalks in front of their homes and businesses, as well as assisting those who may not be physically able to do so.
For a limited time, the County Executive has reopened the public hearing record on the Division of Transportation Engineering’s proposed Parkwood Drive sidewalk project. Residents may submit their comments beginning Monday, February 1 until Monday February 15 at 5 p.m. Information and documents previously submitted for the public hearing conducted on August 25, 2009 will continue to be included in the official hearing record and do not need to be re-submitted.
The public record has been reopened to receive additional information from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and other interested parties. After the record is closed, the Hearing Officer will report his/her findings and recommendations to the County Executive for further consideration, as outlined by the County Code.
Written comments should be submitted to: Jan Melvin, Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Annual Sidewalk Program, 100 Edison Park Road, 4th Floor, Gaithersburg, MD 20878. For more information, contact Jan Melvin at
The South Silver Spring Pedestrian Linkages Project was completed in December when officials opened Bottleworks Lane, a one-way street connecting East West Highway and Kennett Street. This key County project is designed to enhance pedestrian safety, business development and overall livability in an emerging South Silver Spring community. The roadway runs beside Gramax Towers, a 15-story former office building that stood vacant for 15 years before being converted into 182 housing units.
Developed by the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs over ten years, the linkages project consists of eight segments of convenient, safe and attractive pedestrian walkways through South Silver Spring. The links help overcome the inconvenience and isolation created by the unusually large block pattern in the area.
The name “Bottleworks Lane” was selected for the final segment in recognition of the former Canada Dry Factory that was located near this link. Bottleworks Lane includes pedestrian lighting, parking meters and a water filtration system that collects runoff before it enters the storm water management system.
Two openings for members who represent the general public are available on the County’s Taxicab Services Advisory Committee (TSAC). The nine-member committee advises the Department of Transportation director and helps evaluate the performance of the taxicab industry in serving all residents, including those with special transportation needs, such as seniors and persons with disabilities. Four members of the committee represent the taxicab industry and five members represent the general public.
Members serve three-year terms without compensation, but are eligible for reimbursement for travel and dependent care associated with attending the committee’s meetings. The evening meetings are held at least quarterly at the Executive Office Building in Rockville.
Earlier this month, the Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration (SHA) significantly shifted traffic patterns at the new interchange of Rockville Pike and Randolph Road. The change was originally scheduled for December, but was delayed due to the December 19 snow storm.
The new traffic patterns are described below:
1) Motorists traveling west on Randolph Road beyond Rockville Pike must now use Montrose Parkway, which connects to Randolph near Maple and Chapman avenues. Westbound traffic will have direct access from Randolph Road to the new underpass beneath Rockville Pike. Drivers wishing to access I-270 or all other points west simply stay on westbound Montrose Parkway, as the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) has now opened the last segment of Montrose Parkway between East Jefferson and “old” Old Georgetown Road.
2) While a new ramp is constructed, motorists driving west on Randolph Road will not be able to turn left or right onto Rockville Pike. Drivers will be required to follow westbound Montrose Parkway, go under Rockville Pike, make an immediate right onto “old” Old Georgetown Road and then another right onto Montrose Road to get to Rockville Pike. Drivers will then be able to turn left to go north or right to go south.
3) Motorists driving north on Rockville Pike will no longer be allowed to turn left at Montrose Road. Drivers wishing to access westbound Montrose Road are required to use the new exit ramp to Montrose Parkway. At the bottom of the ramp, drivers take a left at the new signal onto westbound Montrose Parkway, make an immediate right onto “old” Old Georgetown Road and then turn left onto Montrose Road.
4) Motorists driving west on Randolph Road are no longer allowed to cross over Rockville Pike to access Montrose Road. To access Montrose Road from westbound Randolph Road, drivers take westbound Montrose Parkway, pass under Rockville Pike, make an immediate right onto “old” Old Georgetown Road and then a left onto Montrose Road.
To view a map, go to MCDOT’s website. For more details on the interchange project, see SHA’s website. The new traffic pattern is part of the $47.2 million MD 355/Montrose Parkway/Randolph Road interchange project in Montgomery County, which should be completed in late fall 2010.
For more information about Maryland Route 355 or any State numbered roadway in Montgomery County, call SHA’s District 3 office at 1-800-749-0737.
Starting in February, the Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration (SHA) will begin a $1 million traffic signal upgrade on Georgia Avenue between East West Highway and Wayne Avenue in Silver Spring. The project is expected to be completed in summer 2011.
SHA will upgrade the existing signals to include accessible/countdown pedestrian signal, upgrade existing sidewalk ramps to Americans with Disabilities Act standards, paint signal poles and upgrade lighting to provide improved visibility of pedestrian crosswalks.
SHA is also enhancing the intersections of US 29 with the following roads:
On January 12, the Baltimore Sun reported that Maryland ranked among the top four states in the nation on the annual report card issued by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS). The state got a ratings boost from its recently adopted ban on text-messaging behind the wheel.
The state was given credit for adopting more than 11 of the 15 model laws recommended by AHAS. Achieving a high score in the ranking has become more difficult as the group has ratcheted up its goals for tougher laws.
Ranking first in safety in this year’s list was the District of Columbia, which was credited with adopting more than 13 of the model laws. New Jersey and Illinois also scored higher than Maryland. The laws cover such areas as required safety devices (seat belts and motorcycle helmets), child passenger safety, teen driving, drunk driving and distracted driving.
Areas in which the group said Maryland fell short were its failure to set 16 as the minimum age for a learner’s permit (it did raise the bar to 15 years, nine months), passenger and cell phone restrictions on teen drivers and an ignition interlock requirement for all drunk drivers. Maryland improved its score by adopting the texting ban and by raising its minimum age for an unrestricted license to 18 in 2009.
(Source: Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun, January 12, 2010.)
Ever pull into a parking space only to be out of exact change or without a Cash Key? If so, the County’s Department of Transportation, Division of Parking’s test of the “pay-by-cell phone” concept in Bethesda may be the answer. About 1,200 parking meters at Lot 31, Garage 57 and some adjacent streets are temporarily designated with stickers that indicate they accept payment by cell phone and list the instructions.
The test will be conducted until April 4, at which time the meters will no longer accept cell phone payments. The County will then evaluate the success of the test and determine whether to issue bids for the service on a wider scale. The decision to go ahead with the project is also dependent on whether the pay by cell phone project is approved in the FY2011 budget.