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Planners Say Rockville Pike Could Handle Major Bus Rapid Transit System

by BethesdaNow.com | February 21, 2013 at 3:40 pm | No Comments

Montgomery County planners think Rockville Pike is the county’s best candidate for a “true” Bus Rapid Transit route, meaning the traffic-clogged artery could support a two-lane median busway similar to major systems that serve millions of riders in other countries.

The finding came today in a briefing from planners in front of the Montgomery County Planning Board and a little more than a week after it was revealed that an outside consultant found a potential 150-mile BRT system in Montgomery County would not have enough riders.

Today, planners presented a modified 87-mile BRT system they said would attract more riders than the outside report from the New York-based Institution for Transportation and Development Policy suggested.

“ITDP’s report’s focus is on which corridors are best suited to high-quality “true” BRT with frequent all day service. The report finds that MD355 is the best candidate for this treatment, but expresses a concern that if future BRT ridership is only double the existing bus ridership, it would be very low compared to other BRT operations nationwide,” reads the Planning Staff’s memo. “ITDP did not do any ridership forecasting however, whereas our transportation modeling work has shown that the forecast 2040 ridership on MD355 is far higher and we are confident that we should begin planning for a two-lane median busway for most of this corridor.”

The Planning Staff briefing also found that the proposed North Bethesda Transitway BRT route (with a previously estimated daily ridership of 8,000 to 10,000 riders) was a corridor that could stand alone, without the benefit of a county-wide network.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth, a D.C.-based nonprofit lobbying for smart growth initiatives and transit funding, had supportive words for the latest proposal.

“The planning staff’s network is smaller than the full Transit Task Force proposal but also much larger than the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) proposal.  The staff’s analysis is both rigorous and practical, and results in a network that can be effectively implemented,” Coalition for Smarter Growth Stewart Schwartz said in a statement.

Daily ridership projections by 2040 presented at a Coalition for Smarter Growth meeting last week show between 44,000 and 49,000 riders for a southbound MD 355 system and between 22,000 and 34,000 riders for a northbound MD 355 system. The projections for the North Bethesda Transitway range from 4,000 daily riders to 10,000.

Photo by Juanman 3 via Wikipedia; route map via Montgomery County Planning Department

Pepe Food Truck Bringing Free Sandwiches To Bethesda Row

by BethesdaNow.com | February 21, 2013 at 2:40 pm | No Comments

The food truck from D.C. restaurateur Jose Andres will be giving away sandwiches when it stops in Bethesda Row next week.

A Facebook announcement this afternoon from the Pepe Food Truck said the first 100 sandwiches will be free when the truck stops near the Equinox gym (4905 Elm St.) on Tuesday, Feb. 26 from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Equinox is partnering in the promotion.

Sandwiches include shredded beef, eggplant, fried chicken, Spanish pulled pork and the Futbol Club Barcelona, or club sandwich. The menu also includes chicken noodle soup, spinach and garbanzo bean salad, chips and patatas bravas.

One of Andres’ Jaleo tapas restaurants is on Bethesda Row (7271 Woodmont Ave.) and the chef credited with popularizing tapas in the U.S. lives in Bethesda.

Flickr photo by justgrimes

Westfield Shows Off New Montgomery Mall Food Court, Movie Theater

by BethesdaNow.com | February 21, 2013 at 12:45 pm | No Comments

Westfield Montgomery Mall yesterday released a video via Facebook of what its new food court and luxury movie theater could look like when the project is finalized later this year.

Bethesda Patch first reported the unveiling of the “Sneak Peak,” a visualization of renderings of the Mall’s new Dining Terrace set to be completed this fall and an ArcLight Cinema, a 16-screen luxury movie theater set to open in spring 2014.

The ceiling of the existing food court will be raised to allow for the new look and parts of the food court will be closed off to customers through the construction process. The ArcLight theater will go above the existing food court parking garage and expanded over the driveway leading up to the food court. The project also includes more “fast casual” eating options on the third floor with the theater, according to the Facebook announcement.

Video from Westfield Montgomery Mall via Facebook

Workers On Strike From Subcontractor Protest In Front Of Developer’s Chevy Chase Headquarters

by BethesdaNow.com | February 21, 2013 at 11:55 am | No Comments

 

UPDATE: A public relations representative for JBG Cos. said the company sent the following response to the organizer of the “Justice For Wings Workers” a few weeks ago, but received no response:

Dear Ms. Fani-Gonzalez,

I appreciate your concern about this matter and I expressed that when we spoke during your sidewalk visit a week ago. As I said then, however, your concern is not a matter for The JBG Companies or any JBG employee to address or resolve. Our company plans and develops properties under close scrutiny of government regulators and the community, and abides by all laws. We do not dictate to contractors who or how they should hire, but expect them to comply with all pertinent laws as well. JBG has a long and reputable history and a strong record of building well and responsibly. We value that record and reputation and will not jeopardize it, including by inserting ourselves into matters outside of our purview. I trust you understand this and therefore realize that JBG has no role in this matter.

ORIGINAL STORY: A small group of workers on strike from a subcontractor this morning began banging drums in a protest in front of developer JBG Cos. Chevy Chase headquarters, causing JBG officials to call Montgomery County Police.

Ronnell Howard said the group hoped to pressure JBG to stop allowing general contractors from using Wings Enterprises, a D.C.-based concrete and iron work subcontractor in an ongoing dispute with some workers over wages and safety training. The company has denied past charges of low wages, poor safety conditions and retaliation against workers who protested.

Howard, who said he was kicked out of an apprenticeship program after his complaint with the D.C. Department of Employment Services forced Wings to pay him $11,000 in back wages, said workers two weeks ago presented JBG with a set of OSHA violations and statements from workers.

Howard said the group of about six workers on strike came back to protest on Thursday because they were unhappy with the lack of response from JBG. A JBG representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

Police were called to the scene in the 4400 block of Willard Avenue a little after 10:30 a.m., when a JBG official complained about the noise the drums were making. Howard said police told the group a supervisor would come out to measure the decibel level of the drums.

Supporters of the strike were passing out flyers claiming that JBG officials wouldn’t listen to their claims.

Drumline Stage Show Coming To Strathmore

by BethesdaNow.com | February 21, 2013 at 11:00 am | No Comments

A group of graduates from some of the most celebrated black college marching bands in the country are coming to the Music Center at Strathmore (5301 Tuckerman Lane) next week.

“Drumline Live!” is a stage show version of performances from marching bands at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the type that have increased in popularity and profile, especially since the 2002 film “Drumline.”

The performance at Strathmore includes a troupe of 30 dancers, musicians and a drum major with a style that includes hip hop, pop, Motown and big band styles with trumpets, French hours, basses, euphoniums and percussion.

Tickets range from $28 to $58 and can be purchased on strathmore.org. For more information on the show, visit the Drumline Live website.

Photo via Strathmore

Leggett Talks Fiscal Stewardship, New Initiatives In State of the County

by BethesdaNow.com | February 21, 2013 at 10:00 am | No Comments

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) often portrays himself as a fiscal steward, who upon starting his first term in 2007 was met with the the economic recession and the responsibility of reining in county spending.

On Wednesday night, in his first State of the County address in four years, Leggett amplified that point, this time with the prospect of facing his predecessor in a 2014 re-election campaign.

“There were longstanding deficiencies in county finances, years of living beyond our means even during the good times,” Leggett told the audience in the Silver Spring Civic Building. “When I was elected to this office, county spending had increased during each of the previous four years by an average of more than 10 percent, an astounding 42 percent over four years. Simply put, that was not sustainable.”

The man in charge of the county then was former County Executive Doug Duncan (D), who has announced he will run for his old job in 2014.

Leggett has said he is undecided on running for re-election against Duncan, telling us in October he didn’t anticipate running again before reconsidering in November. If he does run, it’s clear what much of his message will be.

(more…)

Morning Notes

by BethesdaNow.com | February 21, 2013 at 8:45 am | No Comments

Voltaggio Sandwich Shop Coming To Chevy Chase Pavilion — Celebrity chef Bryan Voltaggio will bring a Lunchbox sandwich shop to Chevy Chase Pavilion to go along with his restaurant, Range, and the Civil Cigar Lounge. It’s expected to open sometime this year. [Washingtonian]

Afghan National Youth Orchestra Comes To U.S., Rehearses At Strathmore — A group of 10- to 21-year-olds are part of Afghanistan’s first orchestra in 30 years. The Taliban banned most music. Before performing at the Kennedy Center on Feb. 7, the group rehearsed with the Maryland Youth Orchestra at the Strathmore in North Bethesda. [CBS News] [h/t @georgina_javor]

Baltimore Sun: Gas Tax Opposition Taking The Easy Way Out — The Sun yesterday delivered an editorial criticizing those who oppose a state gas tax hike that would help pay for transportation projects and bring revenue to a dwindling transportation fund. The editorial says some opponents are misleading constituents. [The Baltimore Sun]

Two Bethesda Teachers Up For County Teacher Of The Year — Steven Katz, a math teacher at Westland Middle School, and Dawn Charles, an English teacher at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, are two of three teachers nominated as finalists for Montgomery County Public Schools Teacher of the Year award. The winner will be announced in April. [The Gazette]

Flickr photo by dan reed!

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