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Emergency Bridge Repair Work Means Multiple Beltway Lanes Closed Overnight

by Aaron Kraut | April 23, 2014 at 4:25 pm | 88 views | No Comments

Three lanes of the Beltway inner loop between Connecticut Avenue and Georgia Avenue will be closed Wednesday and Thursday nights for emergency bridge repair work, via TrafficLand.comThe State Highway Administration said emergency bridge repair work means it will close the three left lanes of the Beltway inner loop between Connecticut Avenue and Georgia Avenue overnight on Wednesday and Thursday.

In a news release, the SHA said the lanes would close at 10 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and open no later than 5 a.m. the next morning.

Crews must do emergency repairs on the Beltway bridge over Kensington Avenue, just east of Connecticut Avenue, according to SHA.

The work requires cutting out a large section of concrete and pouring new concrete, which takes a few hours to set.

In the news release, the SHA advised drivers traveling at that time to use East-West Highway as an alternate route.

Photo via

Police Crack Down On Group Dealing Marijuana In Downtown Bethesda Plaza

by Aaron Kraut | April 23, 2014 at 3:25 pm | 1,409 views | 12 Comments

The public plaza at 7600 Old Georgetown RoadThe plaza area at Old Georgetown Road and Edgemoor Lane in downtown Bethesda is a popular hangout spot for teenagers and a popular spot to munch on a burrito.

But last fall, county officials started to notice some “unsavory characters” hanging out in the area, which sits between a Chipotle and the county’s Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.

Ken Hartman, director of the Regional Services Center, said he coordinated with police to bring some extra attention to the plaza. A 2nd District Police investigation resulted in three people being charged for dealing marijuana near the prominent corner.

This month, those three have either pleaded guilty or been found guilty, according to court records. For two of the three charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana, their jail sentences included probation terms that require them to stay away from the area of 7600 Old Georgetown Rd.

Andrew Wooten, 28, of Silver Spring was found guilty of of distribution and conspiracy to distribute marijuana on March 6 and sentenced to 18 months in prison and three years of supervised probation earlier this month.

Bethesda police district commander Capt. David Falcinelli said an investigation found Wooten was a “higher tier street-level dealer.”

Vincent Cromer, 24, was his underling, Faclinelli said. Cromer pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana on April 15 and was sentenced to a year in prison with 18 months of probation.

David Cook, 29, of Silver Spring was also convicted on April 15 when he pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute marijuana. He will be sentenced on June 12, though the Montgomery County Circuit Court has indicated it will sentence Cook to 90 days in prison.

Because the area is so popular among teenagers and because it’s home to an apartment complex, businesses and the Regional Services Center, Hartman provided a victim impact statement to the state’s attorney during Wooten’s sentencing.

“For parents who let their kids wander around after school, there are a lot of issues that go on and it doesn’t matter where you are in the county or what community you’re in,” Hartman said. “Even in downtown Bethesda, there are people, sometimes older people, who will be up to unsavory activity.”

Faclinelli said his 2nd District officers will continue to keep an eye on the area.

“Marijuana is oftentimes a gateway to other drugs like cocaine and heroin, and we have unfortunately all seen the tragedies across the area from untimely deaths of our young people from using these drugs,” Falcinelli said. “Officers from the 2nd District will be giving extra attention to this area to ensure that it remains a place where business owners and residents feel safe.”

Audubon Naturalist Society Kicks Off Battle Of The Beltway Birdathons

by Aaron Kraut | April 23, 2014 at 1:55 pm | No Comments

Bird-A-Thon, Battle of the Beltways, via Audubon Naturalist SocietyWho can count the most birds?

That’s essentially what Chevy Chase’s Audubon Naturalist Society is asking of participants in its annual Bloomin’ Birdathon pledge drive.

The environmental organization headquartered on Jones Mill Road asks people to sponsor bird-watching efforts and donate a certain amount of money to the organization for each bird or wildflower species counted.

This year, Audubon is taking on the Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills to see which organization’s supporters have the most prolific birdwatchers.

Through May 26, individuals or teams are asked to count as many bird species as they can on one 24-hour period. That means you can sit on your couch and count the bird species that come to your backyard bird feeder, or go out and start looking for them.

The proceeds will go to Audubon’s environmental classes and conservation programs, which include operation of a number of nature sanctuaries.

For more info, visit the fundraiser website.

Image via Audubon Naturalist Society

Ecodistricts, Amenity Fund Could Be Coming To Downtown Bethesda

by Aaron Kraut | April 23, 2014 at 12:30 pm | 95 views | 2 Comments

A rain garden in an ecodistrict in Malmo, Sweden. Flickr photo via La Citta Vita

Incentives for sustainable design features, district heating and cooling systems and a fund for public amenities could be things coming to downtown Bethesda through the Planning Department’s ongoing master plan for the area.

Planners will likely pitch ecodistricts and a general public amenities fund as two of their preliminary recommendations as part of the Bethesda Downtown Plan, according to county planner Marc DeOcampo.

DeOcampo talked about the recommendations at a Citizens Advisory Board meeting on Monday, ahead of the Planning Department’s next planned workshop on Saturday, May 17.

Ecodistricts are an emerging planning concept that involve reusing water, capturing waste and prioritizing sustainable building design. The idea is that planning more sustainable and more environmentally friendly development at a neighborhood scale — rather than project-by-project — will get better results.

DeOcampo said the Planning Department is pursuing a consultant who worked on the SW D.C. Ecodistrict Plan. In January 2013, the National Capital Planning Commission approved a plan that provides the framework for an ecodistrict in the 15-block area of mostly federal office buildings located just south of the National Mall.

Over a 20-year period, the NCPC hopes the plan will result in most  of the area’s energy, water, and waste being captured, managed, and then reused. Greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 51 percent, even with the potential addition of 4 million square feet of development.

Potable water consumption would be reduced by 70 percent, all stormwater will be managed and 80 percent of waste could be diverted from landfills.

Portland, Ore. has five designated ecodistricts that were initially cared for and maintained by a city-created nonprofit, before control was ceded back to the city.

Montgomery County planners have identified social sustainability, economic sustainability and environmental sustainability as the three themes guiding the Bethesda Downtown Plan since almost the beginning of their work on it.

The amenity fund idea has been pitched by a number of downtown residents, including the Board of Directors of the Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District.

It’s not yet clear precisely how the Planning Department’s recommendation would look.

But community activists would like to see money from the private developers of downtown Bethesda help finance projects like a semi-permanent sculpture garden along Norfolk Avenue, a community black box theater or a civic green space that’s accessible and visible.

Montgomery County now provides a public amenity option to developers that want increased density, a common occurrence in downtown Bethesda. In an attempt to create a more vibrant urban place, developers can provide open spaces and public art.

But in Bethesda and elsewhere, those amenities are usually restricted to the developer’s property.

Flickr photo via La Citta Vita

Driver Crashes Through Second-Floor Bethesda Garage Wall

by Aaron Kraut | April 23, 2014 at 11:15 am | 414 views | No Comments

A driver this week accidentally punched a hole through a concrete wall of a Woodmont Triangle parking garage with her car.

As reported by Bethesda blogger Robert Dyer, the accident happened in the St Elmo/Cordell Avenue Garage on Monday around 5 p.m. on the garage’s second floor.

A witness said a woman drove her car into the wall, which left a hole hovering over the back of the Gringos & Mariachis space on Cordell Avenue.

A guard rail took heavy damage but didn’t break, apparently saving the car from busting through the hole.

My Two Cents: Brown, Glen Echo and Whitman High School

by Joseph Hawkins | April 23, 2014 at 10:10 am | 357 views | 3 Comments

My Two Cents is a weekly opinion column from Bethesda resident Joseph Hawkins. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Joseph HawkinsMay 17, 2014 is the 60th anniversary of Brown v. the Board of Education.

Brown is the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, a 1896 Supreme Court decsion that established racial segregation as legal. From Plessy emerged what were commonly referred to as Jim Crow laws and customs.

Several weeks ago, when returning home from a quick day-business trip, the taxi driver that dropped me at National Airport at the crack of dawn returned and chauffeured me back to Bethesda. It was the heart of rush hour when we pulled out of the airport, and I told the driver to head up the Cabin John Parkway, avoiding the George Washington Parkway. 

When we exited the Parkway, pulled onto MacArthur Boulevard and drove past Glen Echo Park, the driver looked to his left, saw the huge Glen Echo sign, caught my eye in the rearview mirror, and asked, “Isn’t this the park that was white people only in the past?”

I paused momentarily before answering because, honestly, I was surprised the driver knew this piece of Bethesda history.

As we drove up Cabin John, the driver, a young Latino guy probably in his early 30′s, told me that he had been raised in Louisiana. So, I was thinking, what does this guy know about Glen Echo?

Students from Howard University and neighbors of Glen Echo Park protest the park's segregation policy in the summer of 1960, via National Park ServiceI answered back, “Yes. This is the former Glen Echo Amusement Park, and when I was a young ‘colored’ kid, I was not allowed to walk through its gates. No black people were allowed.”  I also told the driver, who was noticeably brownish in complexion, that he also would have been stopped at the gates.

Glen Echo opened it doors to all people, regardless of skin color, in 1961, ending its whites only policy. I use the word ‘colored’ to describe myself because that is the word used to describe blacks during this time period. In 1961, I was 10- years-old.

I remember the Park’s whites only policy because my Catholic elementary school gave its white kids free Park passes, but gave its colored kids passes to the Tivoli Theatre (now the home of the Gala Hispanic Theatre in D.C.).

When we drove a little farther up MacArthur, I pointed out the Bannockburn community to the driver and told him that homeowners in this community partnered with black university students to protest Glen Echo’s whites only policy. And then the driver surprised me again, when he asked, “So, things changed, right?”

I said, “Yes, a lot changed for black people since 1960. Things are different, things are better.”


Stone Ridge Coping With Surrounding Road Construction

by Aaron Kraut | April 23, 2014 at 9:05 am | 171 views | No Comments

With State Highway construction on the edges of its campus and the summer closure of Cedar Lane nearing, the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart is smack in the middle of some of the most pronounced BRAC-related changes in Bethesda.

It hasn’t been easy for Stone Ridge — a pre-K through grade 12 all-girls Catholic school that has also had to deal with the enrollment decreases that hit most private institutions during the recession.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Implementation Committee, Stone Ridge Board member and Committee representative Rich Vogel said the traffic-clogged state of Rockville Pike and the many road improvement projects did encourage a discussion of moving the school some place else.

But Stone Ridge leadership decided to stay put, doubling down on the school’s location at Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane with a campus improvement plan.

Construction could start on the first major part of that plan — a $6 million, FIFA regulated size turf field — in early May.

“It’s very much our home,” said Eric Osberg, the school’s director of finance and operations.

Osberg on Tuesday explained that the field was crucial to keeping Stone Ridge up to par with other private school facilities in the area. It’s also crucial to a new road and traffic circulation pattern on campus necessary because of SHA projects in the area.

The campus has three existing entrances, one on Rockville Pike and two on Cedar Lane.

The Rockville Pike entrance will have to be moved south toward Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) to accommodate SHA work on that side of the road — work that has already begun on the edges of Stone Ridge’s campus.


Morning Notes

by Aaron Kraut | April 23, 2014 at 8:15 am | 120 views | No Comments

Dalecarlia Tunnel and the Capital Crescent Trail

Chevy Chase Circle Remains A Hotspot Of Collisions – The traffic circle that divides Maryland and D.C. along Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase continues to have a high number of traffic collisions each year. From 2007 to 2011, Chevy Chase Circle averaged about a collision every two weeks — just on the Maryland side of the circle. Chevy Chase Village’s police chief is publicizing a campaign to teach drivers the right-of-way rules. [The Gazette]

Council Passes Package Of Environmental Sustainability Bills – A package of nine bills from Councilmember Roger Berliner (Bethesda-Chevy Chase) were passed on Tuesday to push for more electric vehicle charging stations, make permitting for solar panels easier and require the county to get more of its energy from renewable sources, among other initiatives. Berliner cited a recent U.N. report that discussed the effect climate change was already having in his remarks. [Montgomery County Council]

Kessler Responds To CASA’s Defense Of Sol Gutierrez – On Tuesday, CASA de Maryland defended District 18 Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez over a recent trip to vote in El Salvador’s election that meant she missed two days of the 90-day 2014 General Assembly. The group also criticized Rick Kessler, the candidate for a District 18 delegate seat who questioned Gutierrez’s commitment to the district because of the trip. Kessler’s campaign later responded to CASA on the Seventh State political blog. [Seventh State]

Rapid Transit Presentation Coming To Bethesda Green – A group of bus rapid transit proponents will present and discuss what a Rapid Transit System on Rockville Pike and Wisconsin Avenue would look like. The event is set for 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 30 at Bethesda Green’s offices above the Capital One Bank at 4825 Cordell Ave. [Communities for Transit]

Whitman Named Best Public High School In Maryland

by Aaron Kraut | April 22, 2014 at 3:25 pm | 4,870 views | 6 Comments

Walt Whitman High School, via MCPSPerennially high-achieving Walt Whitman High School is the No. 1 public high school in Maryland and No. 61 best public high school in the country, according to rankings published Tuesday by U.S. News & World Report.

The website’s popular annual rankings gave seven MCPS schools a gold medal rating for being among the top 500 public high schools in the nation. Four others got a silver medal rating for being among the top 2,019 schools.

The analysis used 2011-2012 data on overall student performance on state-mandated tests, education of minority and economically disadvantaged students and school performance on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams.

For a glaring reason not to take the rankings too seriously, just take a look at Winston Churchill High School, which somehow wasn’t ranked at all.

The Potomac school was ranked as the best public high school in Maryland in both the 2012 and 2013 U.S. News analysis. Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Walter Johnson High Schools were also unranked this year.

The top 4,707 high schools in the country qualified for the list, U.S. News said.

Wootton (No. 65), Poolesville (No. 83) and Richard Montgomery (No. 163) followed Whitman among MCPS schools.


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