Working to close a $300 million dollar budget gap in fiscal year (FY) 2012, which begins July 1, County Executive Isiah Leggett announced his recommended operating budget on March 15. The County continues to struggle with a challenging financial situation as the economy recovers.
The proposed budget for the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) contains several program and service reductions, but in no case will the public’s safety be compromised. The budget reduced funding for general roadway maintenance, such as grass mowing and road patching; and reduced spending for non-safety traffic engineering work, such as traffic studies, signal loop detector repairs and pedestrian signal retiming.
Other budget measures involved fee increases. The discount on Ride On’s monthly pass would be reduced, the cost of Call and Ride’s second voucher book would be increased, long term parking rates in Bethesda and Silver Spring are proposed to increase by 10 cents an hour and parking charges are proposed for Bethesda ’s lots and garages on Saturdays.
Despite the difficult fiscal picture, MCDOT will continue its commitment to innovation and providing an efficient transportation system. The Executive proposed no reduction in Ride On service. The traffic signal modernization program remains on track. New funding was added for replacement of the Division of Highway Services’ oldest dump trucks. Other initiatives that will continue include real-time bus information for Ride On passengers and installing more energy efficient lighting in the County’s parking garages.
County Executive Isiah Leggett announced this month that cell phones can be used to pay for parking at 5,250 County parking meters in Bethesda . By summer, the program will be expanded to include meters in Silver Spring , Wheaton , Montgomery Hills and North Bethesda – for a total of 11,000 parking meters.
To use pay-by-cell, first-time patrons register for the program once by going online anytime to www.mc.goparknow.com or calling 301-830-7074. Parkers set up an account and indicate which credit card will be used for the parking charges. The step-by-step instructions are printed on each meter and direct parkers to:
Use a cell phone to call 301-830-7074.
Or, send a text message to 32075.
Follow the phone/text prompts to enter the meter location number (located on the meter decal).
Select the amount of time desired for parking.
The patron then receives voice and text messages confirming the start of the parking session. A 35-cent transaction fee will be charged in addition to the parking fee.
The new parking system provides many conveniences to parkers. Those who use pay-by-cell will get a text message reminder that their parking time is about to expire. Patrons can extend parking time remotely (as long as the posted maximum parking time is not exceeded) and view transactions online. Parkers can stop a parking session upon returning to a vehicle, so they only pay for the parking time they have used.
In January 2010, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s Division of Parking successfully tested a pay-by-cell phone system at 1,250 parking meters in Bethesda . Customer feedback was very positive about the program. Since the pilot began, the 11,500 customers who registered to participate in the program used their cell phone for about 110,000 parking sessions. MobileNOW! LLC is the County’s contractor for the pay-by-cell program.
Ride On bus passengers in Montgomery County can help needy families and receive free bus rides by donating canned or nonperishable food during Ride On’s annual food drive. A free trip will be provided to riders who donate food from Sunday, April 10 through Saturday, April 16. Food collected through the drive goes to Manna Food Center , which feeds 3,000 hungry families a month.
For 20 years, Ride On collected food at Thanksgiving. However, food donation centers usually receive more food than they can store during the winter holiday season. So three years ago, Manna Food Center , the non-profit organization that distributes Ride On’s food contributions, asked Ride On to change the time of its food drive to the spring.
During the Give and Ride promotion, food collection bags will be placed near the fare boxes on all Ride On buses. Riders using free shuttles and other transit services can participate by bringing their donations to a Ride On bus. In addition to non-perishable food, children’s items are also needed. Disposable diapers, formula, baby or toddler food and juice are especially useful to families in need. Plastic containers are preferred.
All food donations, regardless of the number of cans, will be valued at the regular fare rate of $1.70. Passengers who transfer buses will need an additional food donation to ride free on the second bus. Checks made out to Manna Food Center will also be accepted. Writing in “Ride On” on the “For” or “Memo” line in the lower left corner of a check will make it easier to track the success of the program.
For bus stop locations or bus schedules, call 311. Route and timetable information is also available on Ride On’s web site.
With the return of warmer weather, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) Residential Road Rehabilitation program has resumed in the Forest Glen community.
In response to the County Executive ’s call for a more systematic approach to maintaining the County’s transportation infrastructure, MCDOT responded by rating the condition of every County road. Under this program, Forest Glen had many streets rated very poor. This project, which involves reconstructing 16 lane miles of roads, sidewalks and curbs, was begun last year and should be completed this fall.
MCDOT will not widen or alter the character of the streets in Forest Glen. Typical steps include developing a tree protection plan; identifying curbs and sidewalks needing repair, then reconstructing them; replacing driveway aprons for residents who opt into this program; making extensive pavement repairs; milling the road surface; and finally resurfacing the streets with hot mix asphalt.
MCDOT is also resuming its pavement preservation program, which is temperature dependent. Resurfacing roads with hot mix asphalt is one of the long-term strategies the County is using to preserve and enhance transportation infrastructure.
Paving of streets in the Plantations subdivision in Damascus began this month and is expected to be completed in three to four weeks, weather permitting. The work consists of the following steps:
Full depth patching removes and replaces distressed pavement areas to restore the pavement’s structural integrity and ability to support vehicle loads.
Edge and full-width pavement milling removes the entire surface of the roadway to a depth of one to two inches.
Utility adjustments to bring storm drain and sewer manhole covers and valves to the same grade as the renewed pavement.
Crack sealing to repair large cracks with a flexible filler.
Concrete curb replacement (if needed or appropriate) to remove and replace damaged and misaligned curbs.
Although the Kids Ride Free program has been suspended, the Youth Cruiser Pass is still available at a great price -- just $11 a month. Youth Cruiser Passes provide those ages 18 and under unlimited rides for an entire month.
In addition, youths can get unlimited rides for June, July and August, by purchasing a Summer Youth Cruiser Pass for only $18. The passes go on sale this spring and
may be purchased by mail, online, at the TRiPs stores in Silver Spring or Friendship Heights , or at Ride On Headquarters in Rockville .
For more information about the Youth Cruiser Pass and other Ride Fare media, visit the Division of Transit Services’s website or call 311, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or outside of the County, call 240-777-0311).
A number of parking projects may be of interest to downtown Silver Spring commuters and visitors:
The King Street parking lot has been sold to a Rockville developer as part of a public-private project to build market rate and affordable housing. The new Galaxy Apartment Complex will feature an underground garage with 160 spaces open to the public. Construction has started, and the County expects to open the new garage this fall.
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation closed a large portion of the Bonifant Street Parking Garage for major maintenance. The Dixon Avenue entrance and the bridge over Bonifant Street are both closed. There is still plenty of parking in the garage, but motorists must use the Bonifant Street entrance. Construction should be done by early 2012.
Most of the Spring-Colesville Garage has been closed, but a limited number of short-term parking spaces are open on the ground floor. Long-term parking remains readily available in two nearby garages: the Ellsworth-Roeder Town Square Garage, located at 801 Ellsworth Drive and the Spring-Cameron Garage located at 8700 Cameron Street .
For more information about the County’s parking options in Silver Spring , as well as Bethesda , Wheaton and Montgomery Hills, go to the Division of Parking Management’s website.
Overtime parking means continuing to “feed” coins into a meter after parking for the posted maximum time allowed. This will result in a ticket for overtime parking. Inserting additional coins after the maximum time has elapsed does not extend the allowable time a vehicle may remain parked in the same space.
The fine for overtime parking is $55. Long term parking is available at public parking lots and garages. To see lists, maps, and photographs of parking facilities in the County’s four Parking Lot Districts, visit the Division of Parking Management’s website or call 311, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or outside of the County, call 240-777-0311).
It’s that time of year when spring showers may bring much needed rain to get the growing season started. But, there is always the danger that heavy storms can cause flooding. Montgomery County has developed tips to help residents prepare for potential flooding and advice on what to do following a flood that may have caused damage.
Some helpful flooding facts are listed below:
Swiftly moving floodwaters only six inches deep can sweep you off your feet.
Nearly half of all flash flood fatalities are people in vehicles. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground.
Roads covered by floodwaters could already be washed away, so don’t drive across roads that are not visible.
The Montgomery County Police Department has developed a list of roads that have a history of flooding in severe rain storms.
On March 29, the Washington region launched its spring Street Smart pedestrian and bicyclist safety campaign. Sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments ( COG ) and the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB), the Street Smart public awareness and enforcement campaign is in its ninth year. Aimed at reducing the number of pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and deaths in the Washington metropolitan area, the campaign uses creative radio and television advertising in English and Spanish to reach drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, while targeting them through outdoor and transit advertising on bus shelters and bus sides. In addition, law enforcement and local, county and state agencies will be distributing handouts and tip cards to further spread awareness and educate drivers and pedestrians.
The Street Smart campaign materials and more information about Street Smart are available online, or follow the campaign on Twitter.
Join thousands of area commuters on Bike to Work Day on May 20 for a celebration of bicycling as a clean, fun and healthy way to get to work. Ride solo or join friends and colleagues in a bike convoy. Registrants are eligible to win prizes and bikes through regional and local raffles and receive a free Bike to Work Day t-shirt.
In 2010, this event attracted more than 8,000 bicyclists at 32 pit stops throughout the Washington area. This year, there are 49 regional pit stops with great prizes, food, drinks and more.
Bicycling is a cost-effective and healthy commuting alternative that provides the benefits of exercise, stress reduction, air quality improvements and traffic congestion reduction.
The 10 pit stops in Montgomery County are:
Rock Spring Business Park
Bethesda , National Institutes of Health Building One
Bethesda , National Institutes of Health Executive Boulevard
Bethesda Naval Medical Center
Rockville Town Center
North Bethesda White Flint Mall
Rockville-Fallsgrove Transportation Center
Silver Spring Discovery Communications
Silver Spring Food and Drug Administration, White Oak
Spring is upon us and that means that, along with the flowers, potholes are appearing as well. Division of Highway Services crews and contractors will be working all spring and summer making needed repairs.
Residents can easily report potholes online by going to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/potholes or by calling 311. Provide details about the exact location -- the street address nearest the pothole or a landmark. Highway’s goal is to fix potholes within 36 hours after the time it was reported.
A new, bi-monthly e-newsletter from the Commuter Services Section of the Division of Transit Services, called “ Better Ways to Work,” will keep you informed about commuting options and transportation news in Montgomery County .
Montgomery County ’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) joined 71 other groups over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend in a food drive that collected 40,030 pounds of food. The food drive was organized by Montgomery County 's Volunteer Center in cooperation with the Manna Food Center at 28 local Giant supermarkets.
MCDOT organized collection shifts at the Blair Park Giant in Silver Spring on Sunday and the Montgomery County Silver Spring Regional Services Center collected food at that location on Saturday. Blair Park was the top donation site, with the volunteers collecting 3,360 pounds of food. Giant Food handled bulk packaging of the donations and delivery to the Manna Food Center in Rockville .
For more information on Manna, call 301-424-1130. For information on volunteer opportunities, visit the County’s Volunteer Center website.
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) will hold a public meeting on the River Road Bikepath project on Thursday, April 7 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Potomac Elementary School , 10311 River Road , Potomac . The bikepath is proposed for the north side of River Road (MD 190) from Riverwood Drive to River Oaks Lane.
At this public meeting, the Project Manager, along with other MCDOT staff, will present the latest project design, answer questions and discuss concerns that residents may have regarding the project.
For more information or to provide email or written comments, contact:
Rebecca Park, P.E., Project Manager Transportation Design Section Division of Transportation Engineering, MCDOT 100 Edison Park Drive , Fourth Floor Gaithersburg , Maryland 20878 Rebecca.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Residents interested in receiving project newsletters may contact Marsha Wheeler-Christ in MCDOT’s Division of Transportation Engineering at 240-777-6174. For information on other transportation construction projects, visit the Division of Transportation Engineering's website.
Following County Executive Leggett’s formation of a Rapid Transit Task Force, MCDOT recently briefed members and interested residents on the results of a feasibility study that looked at constructing bus rapid transit lines throughout the County.
The study recommended developing bus rapid transit along 16 corridors, totaling 150 miles. Such a system would feature streamlined vehicles with service similar to light rail, but at a lower cost. Passengers would pay their fares in advance and enter low floor buses directly through multiple doors with no steps or lifts.
Buses would arrive at stations every 10 minutes or less, preferably operating in the median of major roads, such as Veirs Mill Road, Georgia Avenue and Randolph Road . When operating on general use lanes, the buses could be given priority at traffic signals—meaning buses can hold the green light a little longer while clearing the intersection.
Since last October, Maryland law has required motorists to safely overtake a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device (EPAMD) or a motor scooter at a distance of at least three feet.
This passing rule does not apply if the highway on which the vehicle is being driven is not wide enough to lawfully pass the bicycle, EPAMD, or motor scooter at a distance of at least three feet. Additional exceptions are:
If the bicyclist fails to ride to the right;
If the bicyclist is in a bike lane; or
If the bicyclist, EPAMD or scooter doesn’t keep a steady course.
The law now requires vehicle operators to yield the right-of-way to bicyclists riding when entering or crossing occupied bike lanes and shoulders. Bicyclists are no longer required to ride on the shoulder. However, when riding at a speed slower than vehicle traffic, a bicyclist must still ride as near to the right of the roadway as practicable and safe, except when:
Making or attempting a left turn;
Riding on a one-way street;
Passing a stopped or slower-moving vehicle;
Avoiding pedestrians or road hazards;
Using a right lane that is a right-turn only lane; or
Operating in a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side-by-side within the lane.
When riding on a sidewalk, where such riding is permitted, a bicyclist may ride in a crosswalk to continue on their route. Motorists are required to yield the right of way to a bicyclist operating lawfully in a crosswalk at a signalized intersection.
The Montgomery County Council will hold a public hearing on the County Executive ’s proposal to raise the cost of the Ride On monthly pass to $45. The hearing will be held on Tuesday, April 26, starting at 7:30 p.m. The hearing will be held in the 3rd Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building , 100 Maryland Avenue , Rockville .
Currently, Ride On has a $30 monthly pass for unlimited rides on regular Ride On routes. The County Executive proposes an increase of $15 a month that will raise the cost to $45, beginning with the July 2011 Ride On Monthly Pass. Customers will still receive a substantial savings from the use of this pass. This increase is one of many actions proposed to help offset the County’s nearly $300 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2012.
Individuals and representatives of organizations who would like to speak at the public hearing should register by calling 240-777-7803 on or before April 25 by 4 p.m. Sign language interpreter services will be provided only upon request with notice as far in advance as possible but not less than 72 hours prior to the date of the hearing. Large print format is also available upon request.
Comments on the proposed Ride On fare changes may also be written, faxed or e-mailed to the Montgomery County Council by noon on Wednesday, April 27.