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TRAFFIC: 2 Vehicle Collisions During Afternoon Rush Hour

by Aaron Kraut | April 15, 2014 at 3:58 pm | 357 views | No Comments

Old Georgetown Road at I-270, via at 5 p.m.) MCFRS and police are responding to a significant traffic accident Tuesday afternoon on Old Georgetown Road at I-270.

According to Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer, there are multiple minor injuries as a result of the accident, which has some lanes blocked on Old Georgetown Road.

(Original) A vehicle collided with a pole on Rockville Pike near NIH and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Tuesday afternoon.

According to MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer, crews are evaluating and additional ambulance units have been requested.

The traffic signals in that area were out earlier on Tuesday afternoon. All lanes on Rockville Pike are blocked as crews arrive at the scene around 4 p.m.

Photo via

Power Outages Lead To Messy Traffic Situation Tuesday Afternoon

by Aaron Kraut | April 15, 2014 at 3:05 pm | 396 views | No Comments

Montgomery County police carTraffic signals at major intersections in Bethesda are out this afternoon, leaving a messy situation ahead of the afternoon rush hour.

Signals were out in front of the National Military Medical Center, at Jones Bridge Road and at Woodmont Avenue on Wisconsin Avenue at 3 p.m. Lights were also not working at Battery Lane and Cordell Avenue on Woodmont Avenue.

A reminder: All drivers must treat intersections with non-functioning traffic lights as a four-way stop. Police have taken over traffic operations at Jones Bridge Road and Wisconsin Avenue.

According to scanner traffic, police will try to get Bethesda Urban Partnership crews out to fix at least the traffic signal at Jones Bridge Road before rush hour.

There were 449 customers without power in 20814 and 260 without power in 20815, according to Pepco’s outage map.

The Town of Chevy Chase reported that Meadow Lane was closed between Aspen Street and Leland Street because of a downed tree.

Cabin John Bridge To Close For 2 Days Of Repairs

by Aaron Kraut | April 14, 2014 at 12:45 pm | 139 views | No Comments

Cabin John Bridge, via Wikimedia Commons photo via Moreau1

MacArthur Boulevard on the one-lane Cabin John Bridge will be closed for much of the day on Saturday, April 26 and Sunday, April 27 as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers replaces iron fencing damaged by vehicles.

Tom Jacobus, who manages the Washington Aqueduct for the Corps of Engineers, said the bridge is inspected each year and maintenance is done on the drains and conduits that bring water down from Great Falls.

This time, inspectors noticed several sections of wrought iron fencing on the eastern side of the bridge that was damaged, apparently after vehicles rammed into the fence over the winter.

Crews will close the bridge between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. on April 26 and again from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 27 to put in new sections of fence, Jacobus said. He said the work may be finished in time to open the bridge in the afternoon on April 27.

Wikimedia Commons photo via Moreau1

Residents Not Happy With Bradley Boulevard Utility Work

by Aaron Kraut | April 14, 2014 at 11:30 am | 409 views | 3 Comments

Traffic cones and a steel plate in the roadway on Bradley Boulevard A No Parking sign at a street meter on Bradley Boulevard near Arlington Road

For about a year, Bradley Boulevard near the heart of downtown Bethesda has been a jumbled mess of steel plates, traffic cones and construction vehicles.

That has a number of residents unhappy and Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda) asking the State Highway Administration to reconsider its permitting process.

The project is not actually the work of the State Highway Administration, but instead a water main replacement project from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission that requires late night digging into the road.

Berliner, after getting numerous complaints about construction noise, lane closures and torn up pavement, sent a letter to the SHA on Friday asking the agency to reconsider its overnight construction permit policy “on all construction projects going forward.”

“Working during such hours is detrimental to the quality of life of residents and is an undue burden to those who live along the areas of construction,” Berliner wrote.

The SHA has issued WSSC permits for the pipe replacement project from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. and from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. The affected area includes a busy stretch of Bradley Boulevard around Arlington Road.

Residents claimed construction work has shut down two lanes of the road during the day as well, even during rush hour.

SHA spokesperson Charlie Gischlar said WSSC told the agency it had patched up the water main under Bradley Boulevard to the point where it had to be replaced. Gischlar said SHA has an inspector who goes from project to project done by all utilities throughout the area.

The plan is for WSSC to resurface the road when it’s finished, though Berliner wrote he shared resident’s concerns that the resurfacing job would not be up to par.

“If the resurfacing effort along other roads where the WSSC has worked is any indication of their quality of work, it leaves much to be desired,” Berliner wrote. “I have spoken to the General Manager and Commissioners of the WSSC multiple times asking that they ensure that all roads are resurfaced and restored to optimal condition following work. I encourage you to hold the agency to the highest standard possible.”

WSSC is expected to wrap up the project this spring or summer.

“To ask that residents suffer through nearly a year of living in an active construction site is to ask too much,” Berliner said.

PDF: Councilmember Berliner letter to SHA

NIH Public Meeting Brings Up Old Issues Of Traffic, Parking

by Aaron Kraut | April 9, 2014 at 9:40 am | 321 views | 4 Comments

National Institutes of Health

Some of the fewer than 10 residents who attended a public meeting on Tuesday expected answers as to why the Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health should have a higher parking space rate than other federal agencies.

Those answers weren’t forthcoming Tuesday. The formal public commenting process doesn’t allow for questions and answers with NIH officials on the spot.

NIH will respond later to the questions voiced Tuesday and all written comments about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for its 20-year master plan. But the meeting underscored the agency’s position that it must retain its 2-to-1 parking space per employee ratio, despite federal standards that push for a 3-to-1 parking space per employee number.

This has been of great concern to nearby residents and Montgomery County officials who see the daily traffic impact the campus of more than 20,000 employees has on Bethesda.

With a master plan that calls for 3,000 additional employees at the campus over the next 20 years, a few residents from surrounding neighborhoods announced their disgust that NIH wasn’t seeking the lower parking ratio.

In a presentation before the comments, NIH Director Ricardo Herring emphasized that none of the new buildings in the master plan (of which there are more than a dozen) are budgeted. NIH Environmental protection specialist Mark Radtke said only about 650 of the expected 3,000-employee increase will be new hires.

The rest will come from off-site NIH facilities that are being consolidated on campus, something Radtke said would help relieve traffic in other areas of Montgomery County.

The redevelopment mostly consists of converting old laboratories — some old and prominent enough to be considered for the National Register of Historic Places — to administrative space, while building newer labs with better technology and energy efficiency.

Old parking lots would be consolidated into parking garages and there would be a 3 percent increase in open space on the campus at full build-out of NIH’s preferred development plan.

Richard Levine, a leader of the Locust Hill Neighborhood just northeast of the Cedar Lane, Rockville Pike intersection, commented that NIH’s traffic studies are outdated and shouldn’t be used to make decisions about the next 20 years of campus development.

Levine pointed toward the county’s master plan for bus rapid transit and an anticipated bus rapid transit corridor that would use dedicated lanes on Rockville Pike right by the NIH campus.

NIH did its traffic studies in 2011 ahead of the presentation of its master plan. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which usually comes before or with a master plan, wasn’t ready in time and was presented in March.

Another resident who spoke questioned if NIH had done enough outreach to promote the public meeting, held about four miles away at the Little Falls Library on Massachussetts Avenue — what some said was too far away from the affected neighborhoods.

Karen Kuker-Kihl, a Pooks Hill resident and candidate for the House of Delegates in District 16, commented that NIH’s reluctance to push for fewer parking spaces would contribute to air pollution.

Those were the only three people who commented on Tuesday. Written comments can be sent to Valerie Nottingham, Division of Environmental Protection, National Institutes of Health, Building 13, Room 2S11, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20892 or e-mailed to nihnepa[at]mail[dot]nih[dot]gov.

Chevy Chase Village Hopes To Get Rid Of Unnecessary Street Signs

by Aaron Kraut | April 8, 2014 at 2:40 pm | 200 views | No Comments

Illegal parking near an intersection in Chevy Chase Village, via Chevy Chase Village Illegal parking on a curb in Chevy Chase Village, via Chevy Chase Village

There are 49 “Neighborhood Watch” signs in Chevy Chase Village and no Neighborhood Watch, three “This Area Under Surveillance” signs and no active video surveillance and 40 “Bump” signs that are dozens of feet away from actual speed bumps.

The 0.43-square mile town of about 2,000 residents is ready to tear down, replace, clean off and change up its collection of hundreds of street signs after a survey found a number of oddities.

The Village’s police chief and another officer in the department surveyed all of the town’s 935 street signs over a two-month period last fall.

They found a number of changes need to be made, including the unnecessary signage and trouble spots where the lack of “No Parking” signs might be leading to parking near intersections and over curbs.

The Village is accepting comments about the new sign policy, which will go into effect as recommended unless residents send in objections.

Police Chief John Fitzgerald suggested tightening up the Village’s policy for bump warning signs. The policy now lets the Public Works Department place the signs wherever it “finds most suitable.” But that was before the Village came up with its official Speed Hump Policy in 2011, which could be part of the reason why some signs are very far from actual speed bumps.

One is as far away as 100 feet from the bump.

Fitzgerald also recommended getting rid of the 49 “Neighborhood Watch” signs and three “This Area Under Surveillance signs.”

He also recommended removing all “Traffic Laws are Photo Enforced” signs in areas where there are actually no speed or traffic cameras — except for three of the signs along Brookville Road, where there is no speed camera.

“There are only 3 such signs along Brookville; this roadway is heavily traveled and leaving them in place may have a calming effect on traffic on that roadway,” Fitzgerald wrote.

He also suggested adding 21 “No Parking Any Time” signs near “Stop” signs, intersections and other problem areas where curbside parking reduces sight lines and could block roads.

Photos via Chevy Chase Village

MoCo To Start Another Pothole Fixing Blitz

by Aaron Kraut | April 3, 2014 at 1:25 pm | 69 views | No Comments

Pothole on Woodmont Avenue near Battery LaneStarting Thursday, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation will devote most of its resources to filling potholes in a two-week push to repair cracked pavement damaged by a wet winter and warming temperatures.

County Executive Isiah Leggett announced MCDOT will have about 60 percent of its resources on pothole duty, a task that’s reliant on resident reports.

Residents can report potholes online or by calling the MC311 Call Center at 311 or 240-777-0311, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The county said it filled 2,600 potholes in a few days during a brief warm period in February. It snowed a few times after that, though it’s actually the warming temperatures of spring that cause an acceleration of pavement damage and pothole formation.

MCDOT is responsible for the 5,000 lane miles of County roads, meaning you should call the State Highway Administration at 301-513-7300 to report a pothole on a numbered route such as Wisconsin Avenue or Old Georgetown Road.

NIH Standing Firm On Parking Ratio

by Aaron Kraut | March 26, 2014 at 3:25 pm | 552 views | 10 Comments

NIH entrance map and major road routes, via NIH NIH Master Plan map, new buildings are in yellow, via NIH

NIH’s preferred alternative for development on its Bethesda campus keeps the current one parking space per two employee ratio, despite newer standards from the National Capital Planning Commission that call for fewer parking spots to encourage more use of transit.

In its Draft Environmental Impact Statement, released this month, NIH says it will stick to the 2-to-1 employee to parking spot standard because the 3-to-1 ratio is unrealistic:

NIH views the NCPC goal as unrealistic for NIH because of the high concentration of employees at the Bethesda Campus, and the wide geographical dispersion of its employees throughout the region. A Metro Station (Medical Center) is located on the campus; however, it does not adequately serve NIH’s employees’ transportation needs as many live beyond the areas served by mass transit alternatives.

Employees who live beyond the range of the radial Metro system do not have economical or efficient means of transportation alternatives. For example, east of the campus there is no mass transit cross connection between eastern Montgomery County and Prince George’s County where a significant number NIH employees live. Similarly, the significant numbers of employees who reside in Frederick, Howard, Carroll, Anne Arundel, Calvert or St. Mary’s Counties, Baltimore, or Northern Virginia, have few, if any, mass transportation options. There are also a number of NIH employees that commute from West Virginia and Pennsylvania. NIH is committed to the previously accepted Transportation Management Plan and would continue to promote the reduction of traffic in the Bethesda area.

There are roughly 20,594 people who work on the campus today, making NIH the largest employer in Montgomery County.

It is now seeking community feedback on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which is required for its 2013 Master Plan. That Master Plan would seek to demolish, renovate and rebuild more than a dozen buildings on the 310-acre campus to accommodate about 3,000 additional employees.

Those employees would come from NIH facilities off-campus, in leased office buildings and research facilities that account for the agency’s greatest costs.

New construction would also include new parking garages to replace surface lot parking. According to the Draft EIS, there are 10,302 total parking spaces on the NIH campus today. Without visitor spaces, that total number is 9,208.

Using the 9,208 number, the NIH says it is within the 0.50 employee-to-parking space ratio required. But that agreement was made in 1992.

The National Capital Planning Commission, which oversees development of federal land in the D.C. area, is now pushing the 0.33 ratio, something NIH says it simply cannot reach.


Planners Say No To New Chevy Chase Road

by Aaron Kraut | March 25, 2014 at 1:10 pm | 350 views | 2 Comments

Platt Ridge Drive extended, via Montgomery County Planning Department

A 600-foot road that Montgomery County says would relieve traffic congestion in a small Chevy Chase neighborhood shouldn’t get special treatment when it comes to removing trees, county planners say.

On Thursday, April 3, planners will recommend against granting the Montgomery County Department of Transportation a tree variance to build Platt Ridge Drive extended.

The new road would be built from Jones Bridge Road just west of Connecticut Avenue north through North Chevy Chase Local Park to Montrose Drive.

County transportation officials say the two-lane road would provide safer traffic patterns for residents of the Spring Valley neighborhood, who must deal with more traffic on Jones Bridge Road because of the expansion of Naval Support Activity Bethesda and Walter Reed Military Medical Center.

But staff from the Planning Department says the county has yet to prove the road is necessary enough to remove 14 specimen trees and impact another nine specimen trees in the road’s path. Planners also disapproved of the project as a whole, though the Planning Department has legal authority only over the tree variance and forest conservation plan.

In their recommendation to be considered by the Planning Board next week, planners say the removal of the trees doesn’t fit the area’s Master Plan and that the neighborhood is already well served by an interim traffic signal:

The Plan is inconsistent with the recommendations in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Master Plan (“BCC”); the Forest Conservation Law; Chapter 50-32 of the Montgomery County Code; and Montgomery County Environmental Guidelines. The plan does not comply with the intent of the laws, codes and guidelines for tree and forest protection. …

… The design of the proposed road has not “minimized” forest clearing, nor have there been ”reasonable effort” taken to minimize the cutting or clearing of trees and other woody plants. This reasoning is based on the first step of a proposed road which is justification of need and purpose. According to M-NCPPC Transportation Planning staff, the need for safe access to the Chevy Chase Valley neighborhood has been met by the installation of the ‘interim’ traffic signal which has resolved access and safety issues that generated the road proposal in the first place. Therefore the road seems unnecessary. If the “interim’ traffic signal stays in place, the parkland could be preserved. This is the first course of action to minimize the clearing and loss of specimen trees and its associated forest.

The loss of an parkland with the varying topography and mature forest can never be replaced in the suburban community of Chevy Chase.

Planners later go on to say, “The Applicant will be removing irreplaceable contiguous forest inside the Beltway.”

Platt Ridge Drive would require the clearing of about .71 acres of forests with slopes between 15-25 percent and another .23 acres of steeper slopes that would be removed.

MCDOT said a recent intersection study it conducted indicated that the neighborhood is affected by NSAB/Walter Reed traffic, especially during the evening rush hour when cars on eastbound Jones Bridge Road typically queue up, causing a major traffic chokepoint.

MCDOT argued that meant an “unwarranted hardship” for the Spring Valley neighborhood, which would merit a tree removal variance.

Image via Montgomery County Planning Department

Police Ticket 31 Drivers In Under An Hour For Using Cell Phones

by Aaron Kraut | March 25, 2014 at 9:35 am | 1,346 views | 8 Comments

Montgomery County police carIt took less than one hour on Monday for 2nd District police officers to nab 31 drivers for talking or texting on their cell phones.

Capt. David Falcinelli, commander of the Bethesda-based 2nd District of the Montgomery County Police Department, said his traffic officers conducted aggressive enforcement on Monday “and will continue to do enforcement operations to make our roads safer.”

The law says drivers must have their hands free of cell phones at all times. Falcinelli said many people still believe holding a phone in your hand while using the speakerphone isn’t illegal. He also said many people incorrectly assume reading, writing or sending a text or email when stopped at a stoplight is legal. It’s not.

“One crash on a major artery during rush hour makes life miserable for the rest of us using that road. Is that text or call really that important to risk your life and the lives of other drivers?” Falcinelli wrote in a public safety update provided by the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.

Police will also look to beef up enforcement of the no call and no texting laws near schools.

As for other area police news, Falcinelli provided updates on three high-profile crimes that police say were carried out by suspects from outside of Montgomery County.

Police recently got an anonymous tip that helped detectives identify one of the two men suspected in a Nov. 25 home invasion and robbery in the Wildwood neighborhood. A U.S. Park Police officer got into a chase and exchanged gunfire in D.C. with the suspect in a March 13 armed carjacking in Chevy Chase.

And on Thursday, police went on a lengthy foot chase through the streets of downtown Bethesda to catch one of two suspects who broke into a home in nearby Chevy Chase.

All of these suspects live outside of Montgomery County but chose to commit their crimes here. I cannot stress enough that you know your neighbors and your neighborhoods better than anyone else, and you must be our eyes and our ears,” Falcinelli wrote. “If you see someone not familiar to your neighborhood acting in a suspicious manner, please make note of a description of the person and/or any associated vehicle and call our non-emergency number 301-279-8000. Your phone call may help us prevent a crime from occurring and/or discourage these criminals from coming back to Montgomery County.”

NIH To Release Details On Master Plan

by Aaron Kraut | March 21, 2014 at 3:25 pm | 432 views | No Comments

NIH Campus, BethesdaThe National Institutes of Health is expected to publish proposed environmental and traffic requirements on Friday for improvements to its growing Bethesda campus.

The NIH Bethesda Campus Master Plan will bring a host of projects, including building renovations, a new administration building and intersection improvements to accommodate a projected 3,000 employee increase over the next 20 years.

Eventually, NIH plans to add a new north gate on Cedar Lane. NIH is already the largest employer in Montgomery County with an estimated 20,262 on its 310-acre campus.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is expected to be published Friday on the Federal Register. That will kick off a 60-day comment period in which NIH will take observations and complaints about its proposed environmental and traffic mitigation.

NIH is also hosting a public meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 8 at Little Falls Library (5501 Massachusetts Ave.). During the meeting, NIH officials will take comments about the Draft EIS.

The comment period will end on May 23, 2014.

Comments can be sent to Valerie Nottingham, Division of Environmental Protection, National Institutes of Health, Building 13, Room 2S11, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20892 or e-mailed to nihnepa[at]mail[dot]nih[dot]gov. Questions regarding the meeting can be directed to Mark Radtke, Environmental Protection Specialist, Division of Environmental Protection, National Institutes of Health, 301-496-7775. Questions about the meeting can also be sent via e-mail to the same address above.

Apparent Road Rage Incident Causes Traffic Snarl On I-270

by Aaron Kraut | March 14, 2014 at 12:05 pm | 1,536 views | 1 Comment

Montgomery County police carA fight on the shoulder of I-270 just north of the Beltway caused a brief traffic back-up Friday morning in Bethesda.

Police were called to the apparent road rage incident at about 10:30 a.m. Witnesses said two drivers had stopped their cars on the right shoulder of northbound I-270 just north of where it splits from the Beltway.

Some folks were apparently recording the altercation instead of attempting to stop it, according to scanner reports.

By the time the police arrived, a physical altercation had taken place. Several other drivers reportedly pulled over to break up the fight.

Both Montgomery County and Maryland State Police were called to the scene. Traffic returned to normal shortly after the incident.

UPDATED: Police Arrest Bank Robbery Suspects On I-270 Near Beltway

by Aaron Kraut | March 11, 2014 at 10:21 am | 11,946 views | 6 Comments

(Updated at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday) Montgomery County and Maryland State Police on Tuesday closed down I-270 in both directions on Tuesday morning in search of suspects in an armed bank robbery in Rockville.

Police closed the major highway just north of the Beltway split at about 10:15 a.m.

They arrested three suspects — who police said tossed a bag of stolen cash in a dump truck nearby — in a vehicle stopped in the southbound lanes at about 10:45 a.m.

Police say the two suspects who entered and robbed the bank were Earl Michael Kenney, 55, of the 1500 block of Rollins Avenue in Captal Heights and Michael Anthony Heard, 40, of the 2700 block of Martin Luther King Boulevard in Washington, D.C.

Both were charged with one county of armed robbery and one count of using a firearm in commission of a violent felony.

Ricko Damon Ford, 20, of the 1900 block of Rochell Avenue in Forestville, was charged with one count of armed robbery and one count of conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

Police said the suspects attempted to get rid of the cash once they realized they were cornered. They also said they found the handgun used in the robbery inside the suspects’ vehicle — a silver Kia SUV.

Kenney and Heard are being held on $1 million bond and Ford is being held on $300,000 bond, pending bond review.

The robbery happened at about 10:02 a.m. at the Wells Fargo Bank at 404 King Farm Blvd. in Rockville. Police released the below surveillance images of the robbery in progress.

Police went car-by-car searching for the suspects. According to scanner reports, but unconfirmed by police, the cash stolen from the bank included a GPS tracking device.

Police said a Prince George’s County Police helicopter helped them locate the vehicle, which was just south of Tuckerman Lane.

The I-270 closure caused major delays in all directions.

Photos via @tewarren, @adambsimon, Montgomery County Police

County Government Open, Metrobus Open Tuesday

by Aaron Kraut | March 4, 2014 at 6:35 am | 230 views | No Comments

Flickr photo by Bill in DC

Metrobus service will be restored on all routes at 7 a.m., but WMATA officials are warning of some route adjustments and delays.

Metrobus will operate under a moderate snow service plan, which means snow detours will be used to keep buses off hilly streets, narrow side streets and other problem areas. Get detailed maps here.

Montgomery County government is open Tuesday with liberal leave in effect for non-essential employees. The federal government offices are open with a 2-hour delayed arrival.

As you’ve probably heard, MCPS has closed school for the second straight day Tuesday.

Montgomery County snow removal operations have not yet reached many neighborhood streets. Ken Hartman, director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, said crews hope to have snow removed by Tuesday afternoon:

Beach Drive has been reopened but remains closed at East-West Highway (the intersection of East-West and Jones Mill Road) in Chevy Chase because of ice.

Also, here’s your obligatory reminder to be careful because of that ice. Near-record low temperatures overnight mean plenty is leftover on roadways and sidewalks.

Flickr photo by Bill in DC


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