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by Aaron Kraut — October 17, 2014 at 11:20 am 0

Closed northbound lane of Hillandale Road in Bethesda

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation has shut down one lane of Hillandale Road after part of the roadway buckled.

According to the Department’s Division of Highway Services, a storm drain culvert under the roadway was found to be degraded.

That led to an emergency pavement repair on Thursday. On Friday morning, the northbound lane of Hillandale Road starting at Little Falls Parkway was still closed.

A Montgomery County official was on site inspecting the damage.

The closure cuts off access to the Bethesda Swimming Pool (6300 Little Falls Parkway) and Willet Parkway from the south. Detour signage has been set up to direct drivers to northbound Arlington Road, eastbound Bradley Boulevard and then southbound Hillandale Road.

by Aaron Kraut — October 15, 2014 at 6:20 am 242 0

A jack-knifed tractor trailer and fuel spill closed all lanes of the Beltway inner loop before the Old Georgetown Road exit.

The accident happened near the Bradley Boulevard overpass before 5 a.m.

The emergency response include a hazmat team to deal with fuel leaking from the truck.

All lanes of the inner loop remained closed at 6:20 a.m. The tractor trailer was being hauled away shortly before 6:30 a.m.

by Aaron Kraut — October 14, 2014 at 2:35 pm 1,235 12 Comments

New traffic signals at Arlington Road and the Bradley Shopping Center entrance

It won’t be long before those who frequent Arlington Road will have a new set of traffic signals to look out for.

As part of the apartment project at the former site of the Arlington Road post office, Montgomery County has installed a set of new traffic lights and crosswalk signals at Arlington Road and the north entrance to the Bradley Shopping Center.

The five-floor, 140-unit apartment from Philadelphia-based developer Keating appears close to completion. Operational traffic signals are required before occupancy permits can be issued.

New crosswalk signals at Arlington Road and the Bradley Shopping Center entranceThe new traffic lights are set up at the south side of the apartment project, where there will be a drop-off area and where drivers will be leaving an underground parking garage.

That 211-space garage will accommodate 44 fewer peak-hour trips during weekday mornings and 19 fewer peak-hour trips during the evening rush hour than the Post Office generated, according to County Planning staff.

The apartment’s ground floor retail space will be leased by Ourisman Volkswagen of Bethesda — which is moving its showroom from Tenleytown to the 7,000-square foot space.

by Aaron Kraut — October 10, 2014 at 3:25 pm 236 0

A MCPS bus outfitted with one of five new school bus cameras to catch drivers who pass stopped buses (file photo)There are 35 MCPS school buses outfitted with cameras to catch drivers who illegally pass when the bus is stopped, enough to net Montgomery County $78,250 in fines since the program started in January.

The Montgomery County Police Department, which reviews all camera citations, will give the Council’s Public Safety Committee an update on the program on Monday.

There have been 733 citations issued for vehicles caught on camera illegally passing buses with stop arms extended at bus stops. Of those, 607 of the $125 fines have been paid. Sixteen cases have been scheduled for court.

The county began the program in January with 25 buses outfitted with the cameras. The original plan was to outfit an additional 75 buses with cameras to allow the cameras to be moved along high-priority routes as needed. Police have outfitted an additional 10 buses with cameras and apparently have no immediate plans to wire up more.

Councilmembers will likely ask police officials whether they intend to install the remainder of the planned cameras. They may also ask for data that shows where the most violations are happening and if there are any other trends in terms of routes or road types.

In just the program’s first three months, the cameras resulted in 272 citations. In April, police projected that about 100 citations would be issued per month during the 2014-2015 school year. That would mean 1,000 total citations over a 10-month school calendar. Assuming a 90 percent collection rate, that would net the county about $112,500 in revenue.

The county is paying $250,000 annually for its three-year contract with the vendor for the program.

by Aaron Kraut — October 7, 2014 at 10:15 am 215 1 Comment

The four BRT corridors under study, via MCDOT

Montgomery County is looking for about 40 residents and business owners to help it plan a rapid transit system along Rockville Pike and Wisconsin Avenue.

The county on Monday announced the creation of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Corridor Advisory Committees (CACs) for four major corridors projected to be among the first where the countywide BRT system is implemented.

The 355 South Corridor would run along 9.3 miles of Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue with 14 stations from Rockville to the Bethesda Metro station. Thanks to $10 million in funding from the state, Montgomery County is conducting planning studies with the State Highway Administration to get some idea of what BRT along the corridor would look like.

The County Council approved a master plan last year that set up the framework for a 10-corridor, 80-mile BRT network.

Sensing the controversy that permeated the master plan process, the Council required the county’s Department of Transportation to set up the CACs on a route-by-route basis.

The 355 South Corridor was originally proposed to extend all the way to the Friendship Heights Metro station and D.C./Maryland line in Chevy Chase. But the Council agreed to cut off the planned corridor at the Bethesda Metro station, unless the District of Columbia begins studying its own BRT system that could be connected along Wisconsin Avenue.

The CACs will have about 40 members, MCDOT’s Joana Conklin said on Monday. About 30 of those members will be residents who live within 500 feet of Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue, representatives of civic associations adjacent to the corridor or business representatives nominated by the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce.

Another 10 members will be at-large and selected by MCDOT. Conklin said preference will be given to those who use transit and who live close to the road.

Nomination forms are here.


by Aaron Kraut — October 3, 2014 at 10:00 am 658 22 Comments

Woodmont Avenue at Montgomery Lane could be home to a cycle track

County officials are considering a two-way buffered cycle track along Woodmont Avenue in downtown Bethesda, what would be the county’s second use of the concept meant to provide more protection than traditional bicycle lanes.

MCDOT Chief of Traffic Engineering Emil Wolanin on Thursday told two Council committees the department has developed a concept plan for the cycle track and could install it next year.

The cycle track would stretch from the intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Woodmont Avenue south toward Bethesda Row. Wolanin said engineers have determined they can take out the existing lane of curbside meter parking and put in the cycle track without much effect on vehicle congestion levels.

MCDOT first looked at providing marked bicycle lanes on each side of Arlington Road, a piece of infrastructure long sought by advocates to effectively connect the north and south sections of downtown Bethesda.

But Wolanin said the Arlington Road concept — which would’ve meant making the four-lane road into one lane each way with a center turn lane — would’ve made intersections along the section even more congested for vehicles.

“The delays and the queues that would have resulted there just didn’t make this a feasible alternative,” Wolanin said.


by Aaron Kraut — October 2, 2014 at 10:00 am 287 5 Comments

County Executive Isiah Leggett (file photo)Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett on Wednesday wrote it’s not a question of if, but of how and when Old Georgetown Road in White Flint can be trimmed to a more pedestrian-friendly four lanes.

Leggett made the comment in a response to a group of 15 organizations and two individual residents who called on him to change the way the county’s Department of Transportation was designing the section of Old Georgetown Road from Executive Boulevard and Rockville Pike.

The 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, the county-approved planning document that set new guidelines for zoning and street grids in the area, calls for the section of Old Georgetown to be four lanes wide instead of its current six, with plenty of sidewalk space and bike lanes.

Last week, the executive director of the Friends of White Flint, criticized MCDOT for presenting an Old Georgetown Road design that kept the existing six lanes and added two lengthy turning lanes that in some stretches make the road seem like eight lanes.

Groups such as the Coalition for Smarter Growth joined in and urged residents to email Leggett voicing their displeasure and hope that the county would put more focus on pedestrians and bicyclists.

It set off a strong rebuke from county officials, who claimed that the “70 percent design” threshold for the road referred to by Friends of White Flint Executive Director Lindsay Hoffman hadn’t even been completed.

“It’s very disappointing and frustrating to see that a community group have taken facts from I don’t know where that are inaccurate and made assumptions,” said county assistant chief administrative officer Ramona Bell-Pearson last week.

Leggett echoed that sentiment in his letter, writing “Unfortunately, recent misinformation out in the community has created confusion.”


by Aaron Kraut — September 30, 2014 at 11:05 am 479 7 Comments

The Friends of White Flint revealed these designs for Old Georgetown Road. Montgomery County officials say the design is far from complete, via Friends of White Flint

White Flint residents, property owners and developers are keeping up the pressure in their push for a more pedestrian-friendly design of Old Georgetown Road near Rockville Pike.

In a letter sent Monday to County Executive Isiah Leggett, a group of 15 organizations and two individual residents called for a review of the county Department of Transportation’s policies for White Flint, more cooperation between the department and local stakeholders and a letter to state transportation officials emphasizing the importance of a four-lane Old Georgetown Road.

The letter comes almost a week after Lindsay Hoffman, executive director of the Friends of White Flint, criticized MCDOT for presenting an Old Georgetown Road design that kept the existing six lanes and added two lengthy turning lanes that in some stretches make the road seem like eight lanes.

That set off a strong rebuke from county officials, who claimed that the “70 percent design” threshold for the road Hoffman referred to hadn’t even been completed.

“It’s very disappointing and frustrating to see that a community group have taken facts from I don’t know where that are inaccurate and made assumptions,” said county assistant chief administrative officer Ramona Bell-Pearson last week.

MCDOT did present some working designs for the road to Federal Realty during a meeting about traffic studies, according to Regional Services Director Ken Hartman. But Hartman said those designs did not constitute the more formal 70 percent designs that will be complete in late October or early November.


by Aaron Kraut — September 24, 2014 at 11:15 am 853 13 Comments

MCDOT design for new Old Georgetown Road on top, compared to White Flint Sector Plan recommendations on bottom, via Friends of White Flint

The county’s latest design for a revamped Old Georgetown Road near Rockville Pike is too wide and doesn’t reflect the pedestrian-friendly nature outlined in the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, according to a local activist.

But a county official said no decisions on the design have been made and a “70 percent” design referred to by the activist this week isn’t even complete.

Lindsay Hoffman, executive director of the Friends of White Flint group, claimed MCDOT is sabotaging the new road network planned for west of Rockville Pike in a lengthy critique published Tuesday on the group’s website. She referred to 70 percent road designs she said were unveiled last week that don’t decrease the amount of lanes on the road from six to four, as recommended by the Sector Plan.

The Friends of White Flint, a nonprofit made up of residents, developers and business owners, says its mission is to see the White Flint Sector Plan carried out as prescribed. The group joined the Coalition for Smarter Growth on Wednesday in a call for residents to email County Executive Isiah Leggett’s office and urge MCDOT to reconsider its Old Georgetown Road design.

Ramona Bell-Pearson, an assistant chief administrative officer who’s been working on White Flint issues, said she’s not sure where Hoffman got that information from.

“DOT is in the process of working with design engineers to get to a 70 percent design but that has not been finalized,” Bell-Pearson said. “We don’t even have a date to when it will be finalized.”

The issue of Old Georgetown Road has been bubbling since June 2013, when MCDOT officials first presented a 35 percent design of the road between Executive Boulevard and Rockville Pike that was wider and had a higher speed limit than many had hoped for.

A week later, Councilmember Roger Berliner sent a letter to MCDOT echoing many of those same concerns.

The design Hoffman claimed was unveiled last week by MCDOT includes keeping the existing three thru lanes and a turn lane for much of the length of Old Georgetown Road between Grand Park Avenue (the new road at the entrance of the Pike & Rose project) and Towne Road (what is now known as Hoya Street).

Hoffman wrote that essentially means an eight-lane road when the Sector Plan recommended four:

In defense of their design, MCDOT argues that this is a four-lane road.  According to them, the design technically contains only two travel lanes in each direction; the additional lanes, which extend nearly the entire length of the roadway, are “merely turning lanes.”

This obfuscation may hold water for traffic engineers, but for anyone unlucky enough to bike or walk along the road, that distinction provides little comfort. Under the MCDOT proposal, a pedestrian must traverse eight lanes of traffic to get across Old Georgetown Road. For cyclists, the lack of dedicated lanes means they must take their chances staying safe among four lanes of traffic.

In reality, the effect of this design will be even more wide-reaching. By prioritizing driving over everything else, MCDOT will fulfill its own skewed vision for mobility in the county: fewer people will walk, bike or take transit.  Even if we want to, we just won’t feel safe. Instead, we’ll choose to drive for every single trip, adding to congestion and undermining the entire premise of the White Flint Sector Plan redevelopment.

Dee Metz, the county’s White Flint coordinator, said the design for Old Georgetown Road is complicated by the fact that it’s a State Highway route. She said the State Highway Administration made it clear two years ago to Federal Realty, developer of the Pike & Rose project on the north side of the road, that the four-lane redesign wouldn’t come right away.

“The state really controls any decisions on Old Georgetown Road, and they made it clear back when The Preliminary Plan for Pike & Rose was approved in 2012, through a condition of approval, that they required six lanes to remain on Old Georgetown Road until Rockville Pike was reconstructed,” Metz wrote in an email.


by Aaron Kraut — September 22, 2014 at 9:10 am 170 2 Comments

The Bethesda Metro station bus bay

On the occasion of Car Free Day, a group of the Purple Line’s most vocal supporters hoped to show the proposed light rail would make east-to-west commutes easier.

Action Committee for Transit member Sareana Kimia live-tweeted her commute from her home near the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station to her 9 a.m. class at the University of Maryland-College Park campus.

From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, Kimia will join Councilmember George Leventhal in a “Twitter chat” about the Purple Line co-sponsored by the Montgomery County Young Democrats (hashtag: #GoPurpleGoCarfree).

Kimia’s commute started with Ride On bus route 5 at 7:15 a.m. at Rockville Pike and Strathmore Avenue. Her next bus was the UMD Shuttle from the Silver Spring Metro station.

ACT was trying to make the point that the Purple Line — the 16-mile light rail that would run from Bethesda to New Carrollton with stops in Silver Spring and College Park — would make car-free commutes faster and easier for thousands of local commuters.

Kimia tweeted that despite the 7:15 a.m. start time, she was still on the UMD Shuttle bus at 9 a.m. ACT said a Metro Red Line ride from Grosvenor to Bethesda, then transfer to the Purple Line would’ve taken 55 minutes.

The live-tweeting got some participation from District 18 Del. Al Carr, who asked Kimia why she didn’t take the Metro Red Line to Bethesda, then transfer to the Metro J4 bus, which runs on a similar east-west route the Purple Line would. Kimia said the county’s $11 a month youth subsidy doesn’t apply to Metro buses or trains.

by Aaron Kraut — September 16, 2014 at 12:05 pm 237 0

The 2-hour parking limit on Friendship Boulevard isn't enforced, but could be if parking meters are added

Curbside parking meters may be coming to three roads in the Friendship Heights section of Chevy Chase.

Ken Hartman, Montgomery County government’s point person in Bethesda, outlined a preliminary plan for the meters along Wisconsin Avenue, Friendship Boulevard and Willard Avenue during a monthly advisory board meeting on Monday.

Hartman and a representative of the property owner that asked for the meters gave a long list of reasons for the proposal — including pedestrian safety, boosting the finances of the local Transportation Management District and preventing the type of robberies that have happened in the area’s ultra-pricey shopping areas.

On Tuesday, a Department of Transportation spokesperson said specific locations, hours and rates are still under consideration, though Hartman said the meters would operate much like the ones in downtown Bethesda.

DOT spokesperson Esther Bowring said the department isn’t yet sure if meters will be installed or how many would be put in. There is no timeline for installation yet and Hartman is looking for comments regarding the proposal.

Hartman said the current plan is to put meters on the west side of Friendship Boulevard, between Western Avenue and Willard Avenue, on the south side of Willard Avenue, between Friendship Boulevard and North Park Avenue and on both sides of Wisconsin Avenue between Somerset Terrace and Wisconsin Circle.

The Friendship Boulevard and Willard Avenue meters would allow up to four hours of parking. The Wisconsin Avenue meters would allow for up to two hours of parking. The meters would run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, except nobody would be allowed to park at the Wisconsin Avenue meters during rush hour periods.

The meters would cost $2 per hour, the same as in downtown Bethesda.

The Chevy Chase Land Company, which owns most of the retail property on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue in Friendship Heights, asked for the county to consider parking meters on the street in a letter last year.

Miti Figueredo, vice president of public affairs at the Land Company, said on Monday the idea sprouted from conversations with security guards after the April 2013 smash-and-grab at the Cartier store (5471 Wisconsin Ave.).

Proposed locations of curbside parking meters in Friendship Heights, via Google MapsAccording to Figueredo, the security guards (many who operate in stores as off-duty police officers) said one reason the stores are a target was because thieves can easily pull up to the curb, steal items and drive off.

“It makes it really easy for people to just block that travel lane and run directly into the store,” Figueredo said. “We started thinking about it more broadly, and thought about how meters might also improve pedestrian safety. One of the easiest and most low-cost things you can do to improve pedestrian safety is to lower the speed of traffic on Wisconsin Avenue.”

Figueredo also said the Land Company is interested in the idea because curbside parking meters typically mean more customer turnover in those parking spots.

Hartman said the installation of meters could encourage Montgomery County to fund enforcement. There are currently no streetside meters in Friendship Heights. Despite a number of curbside parking zones with two-hour limits, those limits aren’t enforced.

“Putting meters along these roads would essentially be a reason for them to contract with enforcement folks,” Hartman said. “Technically, if somebody’s lucky enough they can park all day in Friendship Heights for free.”

It would also mean some revenue for the Friendship Heights Transportation Management District, a group that encourages the use of transit and alternative commuting options. It’s not yet clear how much revenue would be generated.

Among the issues Hartman identified with the proposal were the frequent medical drop-offs on the southbound side of Wisconsin Avenue. It’s common for drivers to drop off and pick up elderly clients of a medical office on Wisconsin Avenue. By law, those drivers are allowed to park in front of the building for up to 15 minutes with their flashers on.

Hartman said the county is looking at carving out sufficient space so those drop-offs can continue.

Map via Google Maps

by Aaron Kraut — September 8, 2014 at 10:00 am 515 0

Photo via TrafficLand.comA pedestrian was struck by a vehicle on northbound Old Georgetown Road near Walter Johnson High School on Monday.

MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer tweeted that fire and rescue personnel responded to the scene just after 9:45 a.m.

All three northbound through lanes of Old Georgetown Road at Rock Spring Drive were closed for the MCFRS response.

Photo via TrafficLand.com

by Aaron Kraut — September 3, 2014 at 12:20 pm 0

Newly repaved Connecticut Avenue at East West Highway, via TrafficLand.comThe emergency repaving job along Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase will continue overnight into Thursday morning.

According to Chevy Chase Village, State Highway contractors will resume repaving Chevy Chase Circle and side street intersections along Connecticut Avenue at about 8 p.m. Wednesday.

This time, the work won’t extend into the morning rush hour. Instead, it’s set to run to 5 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, weather permitting.

A week ago, State Highway Administration officials said crews milled off the top two inches of asphalt and found the road base pavement “to be in an advanced state of deterioration.” That meant the crews had to pour a stronger mix of asphalt in a shorter time period, leading to lane closures in the middle of some morning and afternoon rush hour periods.

The work that resumes tonight will be a lot less disruptive, but high noise levels and rolling lane closures are still expected.

Photo via TrafficLand.com

by Aaron Kraut — September 3, 2014 at 10:00 am 0

Cedar Lane culvert construction, via J.D. Mack

(Update at 4:35 p.m.) Cedar Lane at Rockville Pike reopened almost a month ago, but the construction continues at the heavily traveled intersection.

Because of it, Ride On’s Route 34 from Friendship Heights to Aspen Hill (with stops in Bethesda and Wheaton), will detour onto Jones Bridge Road until further notice.

The Route 34 from Bethesda and Chevy Chase typically runs along Cedar Lane before turning onto southbound Rockville Pike. But ongoing construction of lane improvements and a culvert for a stream that runs below the road mean cramped lanes and tight spaces.

The route will also use Beach Drive to get to and from Connecticut Avenue. The Route 34 trip toward Bethesda and Friendship Heights will maintain its Cedar Lane route.

Call MC311 with any questions.

Photo via J.D. Mack

by Aaron Kraut — August 29, 2014 at 12:55 pm 0

Photo via TrafficLand.comAll lanes of southbound I-270 between Old Georgetown Road and the Capital Beltway were closed at about 12:40 p.m. on Friday because of an accident.

According to the Metropolitan Area Transportation Operations Coordination Program, all lanes were reopened just before 1 p.m.

The accident caused a backup of almost two miles. Montgomery County Emergency Management has advised Alert Montgomery subscribers to find an alternate route.

Photo via TrafficLand.com


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