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by BethesdaNow.com — November 7, 2012 at 3:30 pm 987 0

Planners on Thursday will present recommendations for Bus Rapid Transit routes, including a number in Bethesda and North Bethesda officials hope would ease traffic issues as the area continues to develop.

The Bus Rapid Transit system would feature streetcar-like vehicles operating in dedicated lanes on repurposed existing roads with all-day service, 10- to 15-minute wait times and stations or stops every mile or half-mile.

Planners on the project will discuss potential stops along the busy Wisconsin Avenue corridor, all the way from Friendship Heights to Rockville, and a North Bethesda Transitway that would service riders traveling east or west from Grosvenor Metro Station to Rock Spring Drive.

The BRT system is very likely many years and many budget battles away from reality, but those in support of it claim it’s a cheaper and more flexible mass transit alternative for a growing county because it uses existing roads.

Much of that growth over the next 25 years will occur in North Bethesda and White Flint, where the 2010 White Flint Master Plan is estimated to bring in 14,000 more housing units and 13 million square feet of development. In their presentation before the Planning Board tomorrow, planners discuss a few potential BRT corridors in the North Bethesda area.

The North Bethesda Transitway has an estimated daily ridership of 8,000 to 10,000 riders.

Planners also modeled routes from the Medical Center Metro station east along Jones Bridge Road and Connecticut Avenue to Silver Spring and along Old Georgetown Road, south from Montgomery Mall to the Bethesda Metro station and north from Montgomery Mall to White Flint Metro station. But both those models had low ridership volumes and did not warrant dedicated lanes.

The Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue route from the Friendship Heights Metro station to the White Flint Sector Plan southern boundary showed the highest forecast daily ridership of any route studied in the entire county, with 49,000 daily riders.

Planners said since the forecast for ridership in the year 2040 exceeds existing traffic capacity on the road, two dedicated lanes should be provided by lane repurposing.

Check out all the modeled routes and stops along those routes here. Tomorrow’s hearing will take place tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at the County Planning Department’s headquarters in Silver Spring.

Images via the Montgomery County Planning Department

by BethesdaNow.com — November 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm 457 0

Montgomery County will run a 13-hour marathon of interviews with World War II veterans this Sunday, Veterans Day, and again on Monday, Nov. 12 to honor those in the county who have served.

The tribute will include extended interviews with 14 local vets of World War II and start off with the broadcast of a September ceremony honoring those veterans hosted by former Nightline anchor Ted Koppel.

The marathon will start each day at 9:30 a.m. and continue to 10:30 p.m. Many of the veterans, including 97-year-old Dee Paris, are approaching 100, making documenting their stories all the more important.

Paris, who was a tank commander in the Battle of the Bulge, sat down with a local college student. His interview will air at 10 p.m. on both nights.

The program will be shown on County Cable Montgomery (Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon).

by BethesdaNow.com — November 7, 2012 at 1:45 pm 970 1 Comment

The fight over police “effects bargaining” — which included a refused debate request, brief state prosecutor investigation and still lingering lawsuit — went the Montgomery County government’s way last night, with 58 percent of voters supporting a 2011 law that repealed effects bargaining rights.

The county police union wanted to remain the only police union in the state with bargaining rights over administrative issues such as the use of email, equipment turn-in, rules for raids and video systems in police cars. The union hired Washington D.C. lobbyist Lanny Davis, who touched off a spirited campaign against Question B and who openly accused county officials of spreading misleading information.

County officials, including County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), members of the all-Democratic County Council and head county spokesman Patrick Lacefield, said the repeal of effects bargaining was necessary as the process hindered MCPD Chief Thomas Manger’s ability to make needed and swift administrative moves, thus hurting public safety.

On Monday, the union filed a lawsuit against Leggett and Lacefield, alleging they improperly used taxpayer funds to run an informational campaign urging voters to support Question B.

They also said the county intentionally prevented them from advertising their case on county-operated Ride On buses, though county officials countered they did not act illegally in lobbying for their law.

Yesterday, 210,491 county voters supported the county’s position, while just fewer than 150,000 voted against doing away with the bargaining rights. A union official told The Gazette he was pleased the gap was so close, at least among early voters. Davis also said they would not drop the lawsuit.

Lacefield saw things differently.

“I would not be surprised if it all evaporated like the morning dew,” he told The Gazette. “The voters have spoken. The rest is background noise.”

by BethesdaNow.com — November 7, 2012 at 12:45 pm 2,248 0

Navy officials at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Saturday will unveil a new store for personnel and patients on the Bethesda base.

The Navy Exchange, the store that supplies brand name products to Navy bases and facilities worldwide, will open a 150,000-square-foot, two-story space near the soon to be reopened Gate 3 on Jones Bridge Road.

In September, Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) Commander Capt. Fritz Kass said the gate should help ease morning traffic flow on Jones Bridge Road.

The Navy Exchange underwent a $52.8 million, 22-month rebuild, according to a NSAB press release today. The old store was torn down and the new space was designed with wider aisles and other features to allow for easier access from veterans recovering at Walter Reed.

The grand opening event on Saturday will include appearances from Food network celebrity chef Robert Irvine, Subway spokesman Jared Fogle and UFC fighter Phil Davis. It also includes the introduction of new product lines that weren’t previously offered at the Bethesda Navy Exchange, including Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Brooks Brothers, Apple and Sony concept stores within the larger store.

The Navy Exchange now has a 175-seat food court with a Panda Express, taco shop and a Subway Cafe, the first of its kind at any Navy Exchange location.

Parking, of course, has been a major concern of NSAB officials and neighbors, who have complained that the addition of Walter Reed to the base has forced personnel to park on surrounding residential streets surrounding.

A two-level, 500-space parking garage accompanies the new Navy Exchange. NSAB last month reported a better than 3-to-1 ratio of base personnel and patients to parking spots, fulfilling a federal planning guideline.

The base is expected to see about one million visitors per year, an increase from 500,000 before walter Reed moved from Silver Spring in 2011.

by BethesdaNow.com — November 7, 2012 at 11:15 am 526 0

The State Highway Administration is warning drivers that a mix of rain and slushy snow this afternoon could make today’s after-work rush hour more sloppy than usual.

The SHA says drivers should plan for a longer than usual commute home, despite pavement temperatures that are generally above freezing. While the SHA says that should initially prevent accumulation on roads, officials want people to slow down for slippery conditions.

The SHA will not pre-treat any of its roads with salt brine because above-freezing air temperatures mean the storm will likely start with rain, which would wash away any preventative road treatment. SHA trucks will be put into action if and when the snow starts. Today’s press release claimed more than 360,000 tons of salt stocked up and ready to use this winter.

Last week, Montgomery County Department of Transportation officials gathered at their Bethesda Depot with SHA representatives, contractors and municipal snow plowing crews for their annual “snow summit.” Forecasters are predicting a more snowy than usual winter for the D.C. area.

In the press release, SHA Administrator Melinda Peters said today’s potential first snow of the winter could pose a serious challenge:

Rush hour and snow is a bad combination for commuters and for highway crews. This is central Maryland’s first winter weather this season and although it may be light, the timing couldn’t be worse. SHA crews will treat the roads with salt when it starts snowing but keep in mind, those trucks are in the same traffic on the same roads as commuters and there may be many places where the salt never reaches the road.  Pavement temperatures should be warm enough that it doesn’t stick but there are no guarantees.  Please give our crews space to treat roadways and plan for a potentially rough commute.

by BethesdaNow.com — November 7, 2012 at 10:20 am 493 0

Let It Snow? — Forecasters are predicting the Nor’easter hitting the East Coast today could bring some light, slushy snow and accumulation in the region’s first snowstorm of the season. The precipitation is supposed to start this afternoon. [Washington Post]

Campaign is Over, Political Signs Remain — County Council President Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) called this year’s election the most “excruciating” he’s ever experienced, and his is not an uncommon feeling. A local blogger reminded all that those campaign signs littering neighborhood sidewalks and state roads must be taken down by law. [Just Up The Pike]

Arts Advocates Gather to Discuss Upcoming Budget — The Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, which provides grants and supports local art projects and organizations, is meeting today in Chevy Chase to discuss strategy for the upcoming budget session. [Arts and Humanites Council of Montgomery County]

Flickr photo by Bill in DC

by BethesdaNow.com — November 7, 2012 at 9:00 am 1,088 0

Montgomery County voters played a significant role in helping Maryland become one of the first states to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote.

Officials in Maryland and Maine, both with same-sex marriage questions on the ballot yesterday, took the claim as the first state to achieve the historic designation. Either way, gay couples will be able to marry in Maryland starting Jan. 1 and Montgomery County voters appeared to shoulder much of the load in ensuring that at the polls.

Statewide, 51.9 percent voted in favor of upholding the law that establishes same-sex marriage while 48.1 percent voted against for a raw total of 1,252,568 for and 1,158,719 against. That gave gay marriage supporters a positive margin of almost 94,000 votes.

In Montgomery County alone, the margin in favor of same-sex marriage was 119,910.

It was by far the largest margin in favor of Question 6 of all six jurisdictions that ended up for same-sex marriage. The majority of voters in Baltimore City, Howard County, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County and Frederick County also voted for Question 6, according to state election data.

About 4,000 more voters in Prince George’s County, one of the state’s other large jurisdictions, voted against Question 6 than for it.

On expanded casino gambling, which was approved by a 52 percent to 48 percent split, the margin of Montgomery County voters in favor (about 38,000 votes) was less pronounced.

Montgomery County voters were for the Dream Act by more than a 2 to 1 ratio, similar to results in Prince George’s County and Baltimore.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) of Kensington won reelection by the smallest margin since he first won his House seat against incumbent Republican Connie Morella in 2002. But despite a reconfigured 8th Congressional District that includes parts of more conservative Fredrick and Carroll Counties, Van Hollen still won with a comfortable 62.5 percent of the vote.

Republican challenger Ken Timmerman, also of Kensington, won slight margins of victory in Frederick and Carroll Counties. But Montgomery County voters in District 8 voted for Van Hollen by an overwhelming ratio of more than 3 to 1.

Potomac resident and independent Senate candidate Rob Sobhani got almost 17 percent of the statewide vote after an aggressive advertising campaign. Still, most of that support seemed to come from Baltimore County, where Sobhani saw the most raw voting support of any jurisdiction. Incumbent Ben Cardin (D) won with 55 percent of the vote.

Barack Obama won Maryland with 61.4 percent of the vote and 70.6 percent of the Montgomery County vote. Just more than 27 percent of county voters chose Republican Mitt Romney, compared to 36.5 percent statewide.

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