The 4th Annual Save The Trail 5K is set for Saturday, May 25, even as the Maryland Transit Administration nears its final plan for the 16-mile Purple Line light rail that would be built on it.
The event, from the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, is meant to celebrate the Trail and “let our officials know that dwindling greenspace is invaluable and is not habitat for trains.”
The right-of-way for the Trail, former site of the Georgetown Branch rail line of the B & O Railroad, belongs to the state of Maryland. The MTA plans to build a completed companion trail next to it, but the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail argue it won’t be the same.
“We want it preserved as the 20 acre wooded park that many have enjoyed for over 20 years,” according to a press release on the 5K.
Those who pre-register will be guaranteed a free race shirt. Registration the morning of the race begins at 7:30 a.m. The race begins at 9 a.m. The course will start and finish in Elm Street Park in the Town of Chevy Chase.
The top three women, men and runners 14 and under will receive prizes. Events include music, face-painting, sign-making and prizes.
To register or for more information, visit the event website.
Photo via Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail
The recently raised possibility of razing a downtown Bethesda building has given new life to the idea of an underground Capital Crescent Trail crossing of Wisconsin Avenue, but Montgomery County Planners will have to work fast.
The Maryland Transit Administration must know of any changes at the Apex Building, under which the agency plans to build its Bethesda Purple Line station, by the end of the year, project manager Mike Madden said. With new state transportation funding from the recently passed gas tax, MTA officials want to nail down matching federal funding next year and open the system in 2020.
At a Purple Line open house on Tuesday at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Madden said the MTA would like to know more about the fate of the Apex Building in the next couple months.
“That could change the station. But there would be requirements in terms of us knowing by a certain time if that building was going to be demolished,” Madden said. “If that does happen, then the station, the Trail could possibly go under that building. There could be some changes, but it all depends on timing on whether they decide to tear that building down.”
The MTA and Montgomery County previously determined that rebuilding the Trail under the building and next to the light rail station would be too costly.
The existing plan for the station, which MTA projects will be the busiest in the 16-mile system by 2040 with 15,000 daily boardings, also includes a fan tower that some have worried will be an eyesore near the high-end retail development of Bethesda Row.
In April, the County Council’s Planning Committee recommended the Apex Building Minor Master Plan Amendment be moved up in the Planning Department’s work plan as part of its FY14 budget. Interim Planning Department director Rose Krasnow said the decision to raze the building could mean huge public benefit with a Bethesda Purple Line station that includes an underground Trail crossing.
Council staff Glenn Orlin said razing the building would allow for $5 or $6 million in savings at the county’s Bethesda Metro South Entrance project, according to a conservative estimate from the state.
But the Planning Department’s study of the idea will have to be done in the shortest time frame ever for a Master Plan of such consequence, Krasnow said. Planners must also figure out the actual intentions of the owner of the Apex Building, listed in real estate records as Potomac-based Vanguard Realty Group.
The open house on Tuesday, the fourth of five along the light rail’s route, included satellite photos of the entire $2.2 billion system’s alignment, all the way from New Carrollton to Bethesda. The MTA’s noise consultant also presented a comparison of how the light rail will sound compared to other types of trains and vehicles, similar to the presentation MTA made in February to Town of Chevy Chase residents.
19-Year-Old Chevy Chase Man Charged With Making Pipe Bombs — A Montgomery County grand jury indicted Kyle Druckemiller with two counts of manufacturing and possessing a destructive device on Thursday after investigators say the father of Druckemiller’s girlfriend discovered two pipe bombs in his duffle bag on April 12. Investigators say he learned to make the bombs on YouTube and that one of the bombs exploded when he went to South Carolina to buy fireworks to manufacture them. [NBC4]
County Council Committee Recommends Fulfilling Schools’ Budget Request — The Council’s Education Committee on Thursday recommending using surplus money to fulfill MCPS’ request for a $10 million budget bump in FY14. By using surplus funding, the county is not on the hook for the $10 million next year under the state’s maintenance of effort law. Superintendent Josh Starr’s request for $10 million more than required by the law initially worried some on the Council. [Washington Post]
$10 Million Home Includes Indoor Tennis Court — This six-bedroom, 125,000-square-foot house on Hillmead Road includes a gym, pool, fountains and a room outfitted with a tennis court surface. [Curbed DC]
Purple Line Update Set For Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School — The Maryland Transit Administration’s Purple Line project team will be on hand on May 14 at B-CC High School to give an update on where the light rail project stands and take questions and suggestions before submitting preliminary engineering plans to the feds late this summer. The MTA must have the entire Purple Line plan ready to present to the Federal Transit Administration by late winter or early spring of 2014 in order to get the matching federal funding it seeks for the $2.2 billion system. Expect staff and engineers to discuss a new proposal that would put a Capital Crescent Trail tunnel under a rebuilt Apex Building. The meeting starts at 5 p.m. [MTA]
Bethesda Row Cinema Reopens Today, Check Out The Photos — From yesterday evening, check out photos from the remodeled Bethesda Row Cinema, which after a month of renovations will reopen to the public today. [Bethesda Now]
Flickr photo by ehpien
The Council’s Transportation & Environment Committee this morning ran through a number of changes proposed by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) for parking rates in his recommended budget. The Committee also took a stand against Leggett’s recommended six-month delay of the Bethesda Metro South Entrance project.
The Committee agreed to support the Department of Transportation’s recommended change of how drivers pay parking rates in the Bethesda Parking Lot District.
The new system would make on-street meter parking $2 an hour, parking lot spaces $1.25 an hour and parking garage spaces 80 cents an hour. Existing rates are $1.25 an hour for any parking space up to four hours and 80 cents an hour for any long-term parking in excess of four hours.
Council staff transportation expert Glenn Orlin said the new system would mean most people would pay more, some would pay less and every-day commuters and residents who buy monthly passes would feel little effect. Those rates won’t change.
Also included in the FY14 Transportation budget is a permanent expansion of last year’s four-month “smart-meter” pilot program. About $280,000 would be dedicated for the replacement of existing on-street parking meters with Single Space Smart Meters, which allow drivers to use their credit and debit cards at the machines and see parking rates, hours and time limits on an illuminated display.
Also in the budget is the installation of about 90 parking meters along the south side of Cedar Lane between Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike. The meters, which would border NIH, were in last year’s budget but DOT did not follow through because of the opposition it faced from residents on Chevy Chase Drive once parking meter installation began there.
The man challenging two Town of Chevy Chase Council incumbents didn’t hold back at a candidate’s forum on Thursday, saying he doesn’t think the Council has done enough to stop the Purple Line or stem surrounding development.
John Bickerman, a professional mediator, said the Town’s current leadership has been ineffective at influencing development at nearby Chevy Chase Lake and in downtown Bethesda. He said he would take a more agressive approach, perhaps by hiring a political consultant to lobby against the Purple Line.
Mayor Pat Burda and treasurer Linna Barnes are seeking reelection on May 7.
“If you want to get it done, you have to organize. You have to tell them, if you don’t support us, we’re going to find a way to defeat you,” Bickerman said, referring to developers and county and state officials in favor of the Purple Line.
“I’ll take a bet with you right now,” Bickerman told Burda.
“You don’t have the [County Council] votes on Chevy Chase Lake,” Bickerman said. “You’re not going to win this issue and it’s because you haven’t been effective.”
Facing an end-of-the-year deadline, it looks like Montgomery County planners will get to develop an all-encompassing underground Capital Crescent Trail and Purple Line station proposal for downtown Bethesda.
The County Council’s Planning Committee recommended the Apex Building Minor Master Plan Amendment be moved up in the Planning Department’s work plan as part of its discussion of the Department’s FY14 budget.
County Planners argued moving the proposal up would provide enormous public benefit — an at least 12-foot-wide underground crossing for the Capital Crescent Trail that to this point was thought to be too costly and a cheaper Bethesda Metro South Station Entrance project.
The Plan would require the owners of the Apex Building (7272 Wisconsin Ave.) which currently houses the Regal Cinemas, offices and a restaurant, to raze their property and allow the county and Maryland Transit Administration officials to begin construction by as early as January 2017.
The MTA must have the entire Purple Line plan ready to present to the Federal Transit Administration by late winter or early spring of 2014 in order to get the federal funding it seeks for the $2.15 billion light rail. The final Apex Building Plan would need to come back to the full County Council for final approval in December.
Some issues remain for planning staff, not the least of which is the shortest timeframe ever for a Master Plan of this consequence, interim Planning Department Director Rose Krasnow said.
Brown Confident On Purple Line’s Future After Meeting With Feds — Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown on Monday said he was confident the Purple Line would open by 2020 after a meeting with federal transportation officials in D.C. The $2 billion-plus light rail projeccts is on a list of projects up for matching federal funding. [WTOP]
Trial of Bethesda, Wheaton carjacker and robber starts — The trial of Kevin Darnell Ray, who prosecutors say robbed a Bethesda home and sexually assaulted a maid in the home, started yesterday. If convicted, he could receive several life sentences. [The Gazette]
Ride On Food Drive Starts April 28 — Ride On is looking to help the Manna Food Center in Gaithersburg with its annual food drive, set for April 28-May 4. All donations of canned or nonperishable food will be valued at the regular fare rate of $1.80 and pay for the fare. Those who do not ride the bus can donate by giving cans to bus drivers at stops or donating directly to Manna. [Montgomery County]
BUP Announces Winners of Literary Festival Writing Contests — The Bethesda Urban Partnership posted the winners of its essay, short story and poetry contests on its website for the Bethesda Literary Festival, scheduled for this weekend. [Bethesda Urban Partnership]
Flickr photo by jaymallinphotos
Cookies By Design President Says Company Closed Bethesda Franchise — The president of recently shuttered Cookies By Design (4913 Cordell Ave.) said the Texas-based company revoked its franchise agreement and ordered it closed after a WUSA9 report on its mice infestation. [WUSA9]
Bethesda Elementary Parents Seeking Pedestrian Safety Changes Start Facebook Page — The group seeking No Turn On Red signs and speed cameras to protect pedestrians on Arlington Road started a “Share The Road Bethesda: page on Facebook after starting an online petition earlier this week. [Share the Road Bethesda via Facebook]
Police Say Carjacking Suspect Was High On Crystal Meth — Glenn Vincent Rhodes, 34, of an unconfirmed address attempted to carjack another vehicle after a police pursuit that took him and a passenger from the White Oak section of Silver Spring to the Loehmann’s Plaza Shopping Center in North Bethesda on Wednesday night. [Montgomery County Police]
MTA Wants Private Sector Help (And Funding) For Purple Line — The state’s transit agency recently issued a Request For Information to private companies to help build and pay for the roughly $2.1 billion light rail that would connect Bethesda to Chevy Chase, Silver Spring and College Park, among others, before terminating in New Carrollton. [Washington Post]
Flikcr photo by Nomadic Insight
The owner of the building that sits on top of where a future Bethesda Purple Line Station would connect with the Metro’s Red Line is not a part of a recent proposal to raze the building and accomodate an underground Capital Crescent Trail.
On Friday, owners of a nearby building submitted a Minor Master Plan Amendment to the Planning Department that suggests the four-story Apex Building (7272 Wisconsin Ave.) could be torn down to allow the county and Maryland Transportation Administration to build a Purple Line station at a cheaper cost and with an underground CCT crossing of Wisconsin Avenue.
In exchange, that property and others extending east along Montgomery Avenue would be granted rights for more intense development. A property owner in a proposal is not required to be a part of a Minor Master Plan Amendment application.
The application, which was part of a County Council debate on Tuesday, was submitted by Meadow Lo Corporation, which owns a building east of Wisconsin Avenue within the study area in its application.
Rob Eisinger, of the Promark real estate management company for Meadow Lo, said the properties east of Wisconsin were included in the Minor Master Plan because they would be directly impacted by the Purple Line, especially the hiker/biker trail that would run along the light rail and might be elevated next to certain properties.
Property owners near the Apex Building in downtown Bethesda are offering a way to accomodate a Purple Line Station that connects with the Metro’s Red Line and keeps the Capital Crescent Trail path underground, but two County Councilmembers are questioning the process.
On Friday, owners of a nearby building submitted a Minor Master Plan Amendment that suggests the nonprofit that owns the four-story Apex could raze it and allow the county and Maryland Transportation Administration to build a comprehensive Purple Line station that would solve the CCT dilemma.
The building, at 7272 Wisconsin Avenue, contains the Regal Bethesda movie theater, offices and a restaurant. It also sits atop a location that could be home to a Purple Line station that could access the Metro platform below and accomodate an underground CCT crossing of busy Wisconsin Avenue.
In return, property owners in the Plan would want zoning revised so they could redevelop. A building similar to the Clark Construction Building at Bethesda’s Metro Center is suggested for the Apex site.
“First and most importantly, the absolute cost of construction of the Capital Crescent trail in conjunction with the Purple Line improvements will be reduced dramatically — in the order of $40 million dollars,” read the application from the Gaithersburg-based Meadow Lo Corporation, which owns a separate building near the CCT and Pearl Street. “Zoning for the Apex Building property must be intense enough to incentivize the current owner, or its successor, to abandon the existing structure and allow its demolition in order that the optimum combination of METRO and companion public facilities can be constructed.”
Today, without a review of the Amendment by the Planning Board, interim Planning Department director Rose Krasnow recommended that the County Council move the project ahead of others in its work schedule because it will provide the most public good.
But two Councilmembers on the Council’s Planning Committee — Marc Elrich and George Leventhal — sounded off against the Minor Master Plan Amendment process in general, arguing it will allow individual property owners to bypass the typical Master Plan process and exert undue influence for new zoning on specific properties.
“I’m disturbed by this Minor Master Plan Amendment process as it has played out,” Leventhal said. “Instead of a process that has gone around the county and responded to broad policy suggestions, we’ve now opened ourselves up to the lobbying of specific landowners who want to be upzoned. …I think that will intensify.”
The Apex Building proposal would also include the existing 2nd District Police Station and extend as far east as the Sport & Health Club on Montgomery Avenue. Elrich questioned why nearby buildings, and not just the Apex Building, were involved in the Plan application.
Krasnow suggested starting Planning Staff work on it as soon as possible to be ready for the Purple Line, which would knock other Minor Master Plan Amendments off the schedule.
The Pooks Hill Plan was included as one of three suggested Plans to start soon, a move Elrich questioned.
“Pooks Hill is another spot zoning,” Elrich said. “You put a fig leaf of transit-oriented redevelopment around the project that’s over half-a-mile from each Metro station. It’s not a transit-oriented development, but that’s all this is about is rezoning it for Marriott or the specific landowner. I’d like this process if it was done in the spirit of planning, not in the process of people coming in and saying I want spot zoning.”
The Planning Committee must review the new schedule before it is approved. But if it is, Krasnow said the Apex Building and Pooks Hill Plans would come to the County Council for final approval in 2015.
Image via Montgomery County Planning Department
Harry Sanders, the “Father of the Purple Line” who died of cancer three years ago, will be honored on Thursday with a memorial in a Silver Spring park to be attended by transit activists, community leaders and some County Council members.
Sanders was known as one of the leading advocates of building the Purple Line, the proposed 16-mile light rail transit system that would run from Bethesda’s Elm Street to Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, College Park and other stops on its way to New Carrollton.
He helped found the Action Committee for Transit (ACT) and Purple Line NOW!, two organizations that have led the charge for Purple Line funding, which through years of planning has virtually full support from local policy makers.
In 1986, when Sanders co-founded ACT, his idea was for a trolley line that would connect Bethesda and Silver Spring. Today, that project has become an estimated $2.2 billion system from the Maryland Transit Administration. A vote is expected soon in the Maryland State Senate on a transportation bill that would be a critical funding source.
Tomorrow at 10 a.m. in Silver Spring’s Woodside Park, Sanders’ former neighbors, his family and the Montgomery Parks Foundation will dedicate a tree and plaque in his name.
The Woodside Purple Line Station would be named after Sanders when the Purple Line is constructed.
“I can’t wait for the day we finally break ground on the Purple Line,” County Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At large) said in a press release. “Although Harry lost his battle with cancer while we were all still waiting for that day to arrive, when it finally does, Harry’s spirit and his memory will live in all of us.”
“This wonderful tree and plaque were gifts from my father’s neighbors who valued his work to form connections within the community. That same impulse motivated his work for the Purple Line,” said Greg Sanders, son of Harry and Barbara Sanders and an officer of Purple Line NOW!. “Transit is not mere concrete and steel — it is connecting people with jobs, family and friends, and education. Harry loved trains, but he loved people even more. Connecting all our people is worth paying for.”
Photo via Purple Line NOW!
The vote passed 76-63 with some controversy, as GOP delegates argued House Speaker Michael Busch (D), who pledged his support for the bill with Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D), rushed the vote.
All House Republicans voted against the package and 23 of 24 Montgomery County delegates voted for it. The higher gas taxes that would result from the tax would mean drivers will face a roughly 4-cent increase per gallon in July and a 13- to 20-cent overall increase by July 2016.
The bill awaits approval from the State Senate.
Transit advocates and Montgomery County leaders targeted this year’s General Assembly, before the 2014 election cycle, to achieve a gas tax increase that would provide matching state funding for projects such as the Purple Line.
The state’s Purple Line project would run 16 miles from Bethesda to New Carrollton with stops in Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, College Park and other locations.
Flickr photo by wenzday01
With progress on a transportation bill in Annapolis that could provide funding for the Purple Line, the debate over Montgomery County’s Bethesda Metro Station South Entrance might re-emerge this budget season.
On April 17, the County Council’s Transportation & Environment Committee will discuss County Executive Isiah Leggett’s proposed amendments to transportation projects, including a six-month delay of the South Entrance project that drew some criticism.
Leggett said his recommended six-month funding delay in the FY 2014 Capital Budget wouldn’t actually delay construction of the project as it is tied into building the Purple Line station. The estimated $80 million entrance would connect the Metro platform 120 feet underground with high speed elevators to the Purple Line station at Elm Street west of Wisconsin Avenue.
At the time the recommended delay was announced, the state portion of funding for the 16-mile, east-to-west light rail project was uncertain.
With a gas tax hike proposal going to a vote in the House of Delegates this week and with support from State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, some form of state transportation funding for the Purple Line looks likely to come out of the General Assembly by the time it’s scheduled to adjourn on April 8.
In a Committee hearing on Monday on the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan, which as proposed would use Purple Line funding as a trigger for a second stage of development, Council staff transportation expert Glenn Orlin said the Bethesda Metro South Entrance would come up in the Council’s budget review process.
Orlin pointed it out after Councilman George Leventhal (D-At large) asked for a Maryland Transit Administration briefing on the status of the Purple Line after the General Assembly if funding is passed.
“You’re going to have that discussion in just a couple of weeks because the executive recommended delaying the Bethesda Metro South Entrance project, so it’s tied to the schedule,” Orlin said.
Image via Maryland Transit Administration
The Montgomery County Council on Monday unanimously agreed to lend its support to the transportation funding proposal from Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and State House leaders.
The measure would lower the gas tax, then add a tax on gas at the wholesale level that could mean a price jump of 2 cents per gallon starting in July and a jump of another 7 cents starting next July. Montgomery leaders have long argued for a gas tax hike that would provide funding to match federal commitments to the Purple Line light rail.
County leaders also hope a replenished Transportation Trust Fund would help fund a Bus Rapid Transit system and the Corridor Cities Transitway.
The Transportation Infrastructure and Investment Act of 2013, which O’Malley introduced last week with House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, is projected to raise $3.4 billion in revenue for transportation projects over the next five years.
That would reportedly not be enough to simultaneously fund construction of the Purple Line and Red Line, a light rail project proposed for Baltimore.
That could cause the state to prioritize projects. On Montgomery County’s Engage Montgomery website, one recent prompt asks residents which of the county’s projects (the Purple Line, BRT or CCT) is most important and why.
So far, most commenters agree the east-to-west connection provided by the Purple Line, which would run 16 miles and connect Bethesda riders with Chevy Chase, Silver Spring and College Park, is most needed.
Transit and smart growth activists greeted leaders in Annapolis today with gravestones representing “the impending death” of transportation projects such as the Purple Line if the General Assembly does not come up with transportation funding in this legislative session.
Representatives from D.C.-based Coalition for Smarter Growth, which is spearheading the “Get Maryland Moving” campaign, Purple Line Now and others made the slushy trek to the State House to meet with about 20 legislators and put on the demonstration.
State Transportation officials say without a source for state transportation funding, matching federal dollars for the 16-mile Purple Line light rail that would connect Bethesda with Chevy Chase, Silver Spring and College Park, among other places, would be in jeopardy.
The Maryland Department of Transportation plans to halt design work on the $2.2 billion project if no funding is provided from the current General Assembly.
On Monday, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), House Speaker Michael Busch (D) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D) announced their plan for a new tax on gas wholesalers that is projected to mean a 2-cent hike in gas prices this July and another 7-cent hike next July. The plan is projected to bring in $3.4 billion over the next five years, which likely would not be able to fund for the Purple Line and the Red Line light rail project in Baltimore simultaneously.
“In spite of the weather, we couldn’t have chosen a better time to come to Annapolis. We’re thrilled to finally see unified action and leadership from Governor O’Malley, Speaker Busch, and President Miller, and will do all we can as residents to organize for a statewide solution that invests in real transportation solutions for all Marylanders”, said Robbyn Lewis, founder of the Red Line Now PAC, in a prepared statement.
According to polls, a clear majority of Marylanders are against any raise in gas prices. Republicans against the proposal have argued the transit projects the funds will help support do not benefit rural areas of the state.
Flickr photo by kelly.mavis