A Planning Board briefing on Bethesda Purple Line issues scheduled for Thursday includes some updates on how an Elm Street light rail station would affect the Capital Crescent Trail.
The Maryland Transit Administration told Montgomery County last fall that it might be able to fit a five- to seven-foot sidewalk in the existing Capital Crescent Trail tunnel along the Purple Line after all. It originally said the light rail would take up too much room and the County Council agreed it would be too costly to create enough space for a new Trail.
But in the briefing on Thursday, Planning Staff is expected to tell the Board that a future tunnel crossing for the Trail under busy Wisconsin Avenue is not completely out of the question. The revision of the Bethesda Central Business District Sector Plan could afford the county an opportunity to build a new one:
The Planning Department’s work program includes an update to the Bethesda CBD Sector Plan starting in April 2014 and Planning staff has asked MTA to determine whether a new tunnel crossing for the trail beneath the Apex Building, Wisconsin Avenue, and the Air Rights Building is feasible, and if so, to identify the location and spatial requirements of the tunnel so that it can be considered as part of the Sector Plan update.
That could be welcome news for Trail supporters and cyclists, who worry the post-Purple Line trail alignment across Wisconsin Avenue could put users at risk.
Meanwhile, plans for creating the street-level pedestrian and bicycle crossing of Wisconsin Avenue continue. Planning staff reports the design process is underway and the Montgomery County Department of Transportation should have Phase I of the planning done by late this summer.
The County Council requested designers consider prohibiting eastbound drivers on Bethesda Lane from turning left onto Wisconsin Avenue, where cyclists and other Trail users would most likely feed onto the road. But businesses and the Town of Chevy Chase opposed that:
Council requested that the project team consider a protected signal phase for pedestrian and bicycle crossing of MD 355, and consideration of a left turn prohibition for eastbound Bethesda Avenue at MD 355. Businesses and the Town of Chevy Chase oppose the turn prohibition. MCDOT has developed a potential signal phasing concept that provides for a protected portion for the trail crossing within the signal cycle, while maintaining the left turn movement.
Flickr photo by thisisbossi
With the March 1 federal sequester deadline looming, the White House yesterday released a memo detailing cuts that would come to the federal government in each state.
Maryland would lose about $14.4 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 200 teacher and aide jobs at risk. Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for about 800 children in the state. About 46,000 civilian employees of the Department of Defense would be furloughed, among other cuts in a range of areas.
Montgomery County is home to 17 federal agencies. Because the county has 47,000 federal workers and thousands of businesses that contract with the federal government, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) has warned of a “severe slowdown” if Congress does not delay the sequester or come up with a budget agreement before Friday.
Bethesda is home to a number of federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, which stands to be subject to significant funding cuts. A host of Bethesda-based federal contractors, from defense giant Lockheed Martin down, could also be affected.
How would the federal sequester affect you?
Just west of Connecticut Avenue, tucked in along a golf course and the Capital Crescent Trail, is a neighborhood of single family homes and an aging apartment complex called Newdale Mews that is perhaps the most controversial issue in the plan to redevelop Chevy Chase Lake.
As the County Council prepares for a March 5 public hearing on the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan, a set of zoning changes in which the Planning Board approved a 45-foot height for Newdale Mews apartments before the Purple Line light rail is built and a 55-foot height if it is built, the residents of the Chevy Chase Hills neighborhood say they have been railroaded by a planning process they feel was too heavily weighted in the favor of developers.
Neighbors, especially those whose homes on Lynwood Place back up to Newdale Mews, say the county shouldn’t allow the apartments (currently 35 feet) to be built to 45 feet if the above ground Purple Line is never built just south of the property. The Planning Board differed with the recommendation of Planning Department Staff. Staff said a height increase shouldn’t be allowed until the Purple Line (which could compromise the three-story apartments) was built.
“There have been times when you think, ‘I don’t know if this process is totally fair,’” neighbor Bill Buchanan said. “We’ve talked about just saying, ‘Look, forget it.’ People assume we’re all NIMBYs, which is crazy. This is not a never-build thing, this is a build sensibly thing.”
Rob Bindeman, owner of the apartments, says the desire to rebuild the apartments is fueled solely by structural problems, including a failing floor joist in one of the buildings. He also said the fear that the taller apartments would loom over backyards and homes is not justified.
The Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Educational Foundation will host its 7th annual Wine, Chocolate and Cheese Party on March 14 to raise money for its three signature programs at the school.
The Foundation supports the TAP (Time for Academic Progress) program, which offers after-school academic support, CollegeTracks, a Bethesda nonprofit that helps students who are often the first in their families to go to college navigate the college admissions and financial aid process, and Summer Academy, a three-week summer transition program for incoming 9th graders and 10th graders.
The Foundation also provides grants to fund the school’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Program.
This year’s Wine, Chocolate and Cheese fundraiser, set for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on March 14 at the Woman’s Club of Chevy Chase (7931 Connecticut Ave.), will highlight and honor some of the faculty in the IB program and the AP program, as well as in B-CC’s theater, arts and music departments.
To purchase tickets, make a donation or learn more about the event, visit the organization’s website.
‘One-Man Crime Spree’ Faces 58 Years Behind Bars — Michael Bernard Dorsey, 47, of Silver Spring on Thursday was convicted in the last of five trials that saw him convicted of 20 counts of theft from autos over the last two years in Potomac and Bethesda. [The Washington Post]
Obama Stops By Strathmore For Daughter Sasha’s Recital — Barack Obama stopped in Saturday night at the venue in North Bethesda to see his daughter’s dance recital, according to pool reports. Obama left for the White House about an hour after arriving. [h/t @PoliticoKevin]
Walter Johnson Senior Wins State Swimming Title With Injured Arm — Barry Mangold, a University of Virginia recruit, dislocated his shoulder on Friday, then won the Class 4A/3A state titles in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle on Saturday. Mangold set the state record in the 50-yard event and helped Walter Johnson to its second straight team title. [The Gazette]
Is Chris Van Hollen Destined For House Speaker? — A profile portrays the Maryland Congressman and Kensington resident as a candidate for the House’s highest leadership position if the Democrats take control. [New Republic]
Flickr photo by ehpien