February’s back-to-back blizzards buried Montgomery County under a record of more than 40 inches of snow, left more than 80,000 County households and businesses without power and caused hundreds of trees and tree limbs to fall. To meet the challenge of these historic storms, Montgomery County government responded aggressively, mobilizing an unprecedented amount of snow removal equipment, opening shelters, conducting door-to-door welfare checks on elderly and disabled residents, making snowplows available to accompany PEPCO crews to ensure they had access to areas where power was out, and so much more.
County call takers handled 31,000 phone calls and email service requests. Maryland National Guard personnel and 20 Humvees assisted County Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) in reaching seniors and others with special needs. During the period from Sunday, February 7 to Friday, February 12, FRS checked on the welfare of 325 people. Nearly 70 volunteers with four-wheel drive vehicles also pitched in to help the County.
During February’s two blizzards, the staff of the Division of Highway Services (DHS) worked 18 straight days, 24 hours a day to combat the storms, with only one break so staff could visit with their families on Sunday, February 14, Valentine’s Day. During DHS’ full mobilization, crews eat and sleep at the depots or even in their trucks and work non-stop until the roads are once again passable. What makes their efforts even more exceptional is the record winter season we’ve experienced: DHS has fully mobilized for 13 winter storm events between December 5 and February 25, including working Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.
For the February storms, DHS rallied to commandeer resources throughout the region. They deployed an unprecedented 1,200 pieces of equipment – up from 550 for the December storm – to clear 900 miles of primary and secondary routes and 4,128 lane miles of residential roads. The County called in contractors from as far away as North Carolina and Florida to tackle the clean-up, reflecting County Executive Leggett’s determination to use whatever resources necessary to dig out county neighborhoods.
There are so many incredible stories of crews rescuing stranded motorists, fire trucks and PEPCO crews. They cleared paths to power lines so PEPCO could restore power, caretakers could get to disabled residents or residents could get medical assistance. DHS staff proved their incredible dedication to service and provided extraordinary efforts to aid the public in a situation that was challenging and difficult for all.
The County website helped many residents make decisions in dealing with the two record-breakingsnowstorms that hit the metropolitan area between February 5 and 10.The storms brought a 46 percent increase in the number of page views of the Montgomery County website.The number of page views for the Department of Transportation increased 204 percent, Emergency Management wasup by 203 percent and the press release views rose by 537 percent.
Leading up to, during and following the storms, the County regularly issued winter storm updates that included the status of snow plowing, Ride On service plans, and information regarding power outages, trash and recycling collections, opening of shelters, government facility closures and winter safety tips.
Over 150,000 subscribers to Alert Montgomery received regular, continuous updates. Residents are strongly encouraged to subscribe at https://alert.montgomerycountymd.gov to stay updated on the latest important information. Alerts can be sent to one or more electronic devices, including cell phones, text pagers, wireless PDAs, and home and work emails.
Additionally, Montgomery County tweeted winter storm advisories to its 2,127 Twitter followers, posted a winter storm update with weather-related safety tips on YouTube, posted 44 press releases to its 1,084 Facebook fans and emailed a Special Winter Storm Update to another 70,000 County homes.
The aftermath of the recent record-breaking storms has produced more than mountains of snow. As anyone who has driven or ridden on area roads recently can attest -- pothole season is here. The conditions have been ideal for forming potholes – freezing temperatures at night, above freezing temperatures during the day and plenty of water from melting snow to seep into minute road surface cracks. As this daily freeze-thaw cycle expands and contracts pavement, the dreaded potholes are created. No area is immune from their presence and they seemingly appear overnight. However, there is something residents can do: Report potholes on the County’s website or call 240-777-6000.
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), Division of Highway Services has been selected as a 2009 Asphalt Pavement Award winner by the Maryland Asphalt Association for its work to rehabilitate the roads in the Bethesda neighborhood of Battery Park. Most of the roads were in very poor condition, and MCDOT removed and replaced deteriorated concrete sidewalks, curbs and gutters, as needed, ground off two to four inches of the roadway surface, further evaluated the road substructure for damage, patched where needed, installed geo-textile fabrics to strengthen the road base, and resurfaced the roadway with hot mix asphalt.
MCDOT worked closely with the community to keep the current configuration of streets and to minimize the impact on residents during the project. The cost for the project was $1.1 million and it was completed in December 2008.
The rehabilitation of the Battery Park neighborhood was completed under a new program County Executive Isiah Leggett began in 2008 that is taking a more systematic and comprehensive approach to maintaining the County’s transportation infrastructure. For the first time, MCDOT conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the more than 5,000 lane miles of County roads, and is using this assessment to prioritize its decisions about the types of improvements needed to maintain the County’s transportation network. To ensure that the County maintains an up-to-date assessment of road conditions, the evaluation will be conducted every two years.
Montgomery County’s Ride On bus system will change its fares the first week in March to coordinate with the introduction of a new fare structure by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro). The Ride On fare changes are designed to make transfers between Metrobus and Ride On simpler and less confusing by keeping fares for the two transit systems compatible. Changes include an increase of 10 cents per trip (from $1.25 to $1.35 for fares paid with a SmartTrip® Card and from $1.35 to $1.45 for fares paid with cash or tokens).
Other fare changes that begin March 1 will:
Increase Metrorail to Ride On transfers from 75 cents to 85 cents.
Increase the Ride On Day Pass from $3.00 to $3.20.
Increase the Ride On express route fare for Route 70 (Milestone in Germantown to Bethesda) from $3.00 to $3.10 with a SmartTrip® Card, and from $3.10 to $3.20 for fares paid with cash or tokens.
In addition, a change to the Call and Ride program will allow low income residents to continue to purchase two books of taxi vouchers worth $60 for as little as $5.25 in March and May, and one book in April and June.
To help close the County’s projected budget gap of more than $760 million for fiscal year 2011, the elimination of some Ride On routes was proposed beginning March 1. However, additional revenues were identified, including the coordination of fare increases from Metro, so these route eliminations have been avoided for the current fiscal year that ends June 30.
For more information, go to Ride On’s website at www.RideOnBus.com or contact the Transit Information Center at 240-777-RIDE (7433).
Since Monday, February 22, residents and employees in the vicinity of the Silver Spring Transit Center site – bordered by Colesville Road, the Metro Red Line Station, Wayne Ave. and Ramsey Ave. – may have heard blasting as the County’s Department of General Services continues construction on the project. Blasting will last for four to six weeks and occur primarily between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The blasting will have little or no impact beyond the construction fence at the site. Traffic will not be impacted and pedestrian access should not be affected.
Those in the immediate vicinity of the site may hear a 30-second air horn five minutes before a blast occurs, and then three short horn tones five seconds before the blast explosion. Within about a minute of the blast, a 15-second all clear horn will blow once the Master Blaster verifies the completeness of the blast.
In the unlikely event that the Master Blaster determines that an area outside the project construction fence will be impacted, staff will stop pedestrians from entering the zone until the blasting is completed.
Go to the County’s website for more information about the Silver Spring Transit Center project.
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that Maryland will receive $14.8 million under the competitive TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Discretionary Grant Program designated for innovative, multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional transportation projects. The TIGER application was submitted by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments on behalf of its member jurisdictions and the states of Maryland and Virginia.
The funds will be used to construct three projects benefiting Montgomery and Prince George’s counties: the Takoma Langley Transit Center, a major transit hub for Montgomery County’s Ride On bus system, and priority bus corridor enhancements along University Boulevard and Veirs Mill Road.
The Takoma Langley Transit Center project received $12.3 million to supplement matching funds of $2.5 million each from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and $7.3 million from WMATA’s Transportation Infrastructure Investments fund. The transit center will be located at the intersection of University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue, on the border of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. The eight bus stops and 11 bus routes that currently serve this location make it the busiest non-Metrorail transit terminal in the region. The project will consolidate these scattered bus stops at the heavily used bus transfer point into one facility that will also serve as a station on the future Purple Line. The new facility will have bus bays, pedestrian walkways, a full canopy, restrooms, lighting and real time bus information.
TIGER funds will also provide 100 percent of project funding for two other projects: $1.26 million for University Boulevard in both counties and $265,000 for Veirs Mill Road for priority bus corridor enhancements. These two corridors are among those identified by WMATA as having the majority of bus riders in the region. To improve speed and reliability, these corridors will be enhanced by queue jumpers, traffic transit signal priority timing, bus stop improvements and real time bus information.
The Division of Highway Services has begun refurbishing the bridge on Goldmine Road. This work includes re-decking and repaving the bridge and replacing barriers along the bridge and its approaches. A detour will route vehicles along Chandlee Mill Road, Brooke Road and New Hampshire Avenue.
Call it what you will -- urban legend, rumor, a wild story -- there is no plan, secret or otherwise, to widen the Beltway and construct an off-ramp to the Bethesda Naval Hospital. In reality, the County has no authority over the Beltway, which is under the jurisdiction of the State Highway Administration (SHA), and has rejected the concept.
In 2008, at the request of the surrounding community, SHA analyzed the issue and published a technical paper explaining why a Beltway off-ramp at that location was not feasible. A year later, a local company produced an unsolicited concept for a Beltway off-ramp that it thought addressed the issues SHA expressed in its paper. SHA reviewed the new concept and produced another technical paper in September 2009 that concluded an off-ramp still wasn't feasible. Both SHA papers are available on the County's BRAC website.
Beginning in March, the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) will begin repairs to a sound wall located along I-495 at Maryland 187 (Old Georgetown Road). According to SHA, recent heavy snows and subsequent melting has caused a washout of the ground behind the sound wall. Crews will repair the drainage and erosion by installing inlets and pipes to direct and improve storm water runoff. Other work includes re-grading the existing ditch and stabilizing the surrounding affected area.
During the repairs, residents may notice an increase in noise while a sound wall panel is temporarily removed. It will be replaced once the project is complete. The work will be done Monday through Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., and should be completed in the late spring.