Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Chevy Chase) this week is calling on the county’s Department of Transportation to make its plans for a new White Flint road network friendlier to pedestrians and cyclists.
After a meeting last week on the county’s 35 percent design plans for the Western Workaround, Berliner on Tuesday sent Department of Transportation Director Art Holmes a letter, according to Friends of White Flint.
In the letter, Berliner points out the section of Old Georgetown Road between Executive Boulevard and Rockville Pike as an area where he says the county’s designs are inconsistent with the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.
Regrettably, MCDOT’s 35% design drawings include no bike lanes and only a 13 foot shared use path/sidewalk as opposed to a sidewalk and a shared use path. The combined facility would not be wide enough to allow for the desired café seating in front of the adjacent properties, customers exiting and entering retail establishments, and safe access for pedestrians and bicyclists. These functions simply cannot coexist in a 13 foot span directly adjacent to retail structures. The shared use path should be ten feet wide according to ASHTA standards.
Adding to these concerns is the fact that this segment of Old Georgetown Road is also supposed to accommodate the Recreation Loop called for in the approved Sector Plan (p. 59). In the current design you shared at the meeting on Monday, there is no Recreation Loop. If it will not be possible to accommodate this element, important to many – if not all – residents involved in the WF Sector Plan process, then I am interested in hearing what options are being considered as an alternative route
It’s expected to pit environmentalists against some of the very lawmakers who pushed for the five-cent fee for all plastic and paper bags that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.
Now, County Councilmembers Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Chevy Chase), Nancy Floreen (D-At large) and Craig Rice (D-Upcounty) want to limit the tax to grocery stores and other retailers (such as Target) where food makes up more than 2 percent of gross sales by dollar value. The bill would also repeal the tax on plastic food take-out bags.
Berliner, Floreen and Rice said it’s not reasonable to expect people to bring reuseable bags to Home Depot, Nordstrom’s or boutique shops in a mall. Montgomery collected more than double the amount of revenue analysts expected from the bag tax in 2012.
“I have always been concerned that if you overreach in trying to achieve a noble end, you turn a law of good intentions into a law that breeds resentment. The shift in consciousness that you achieve is not one that promotes protecting the environment, but rather one that diminishes support for doing so,” Berliner said in April. “We can not afford to squander good will on marginal outcomes. There is no doubt in my mind that government will need to play a strong role – and in many cases a leading role — if we are to continue making strides toward protecting our planet. I want to save our political chits for the tough fights ahead – and when we get there, I want to have earned the community’s trust that we will not squander their progressive capital.”
In a March Council Committee hearing, Berliner questioned how effective the tax has been at changing people’s shopping behaviors. He also asked why the county wouldn’t outright ban plastic bags, as has been done in some jurisdictions, if plastic bags are such a problem.
Bob Hoyt, director of Montgomery’s Department of Environmental Protection, vigorously defended the tax in that hearing and said repealing parts of it now could hurt the progress being made around county streams and creeks, where clean-up groups have reported significantly fewer plastic bags.
What’s your take? As always, feel free to leave comments if one of the below options doesn’t quite convey your opinion.
Flickr photo by Mr. T in DC
The Planning Board has agreed to extend the commenting period on the department’s controversial Bus Rapid Transit Master Plan after a number of Chevy Chase West residents against the proposal claimed they only recently learned about it.
Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier agreed to extend the commenting period until June 7. It was originally supposed to end today (Thursday) before the Planning Board would begin worksessions leading up to a vote.
Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Chevy Chase) spoke Wednesday with interim Planning Director Rose Krasnow about the concerns from residents of the Chevy Chase West neighborhood. They say they haven’t heard enough about a proposal to dedicate two curb lanes of Wisconsin Avenue exclusively to buses between Bradley Boulevard and the District line.
Many at a meeting on Tuesday with Larry Cole, the Planning Department’s lead planner of the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, signed a petition to move back the public commenting deadline so they could register their complaints and concerns.
In response to one resident’s claim that the Planning Department did a poor job of letting the public know about the Bus Rapid Transit plan, Cole rattled off a long list of places around the county in which he’s done presentations and spoken with residents. Two of those took place in Bethesda in the last few months, in April at the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board and in March at the Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee.
There was also a Planning Board public hearing on the Plan on May 16.
In those meetings and again on Tuesday, Cole has repeatedly attempted to explain that the Master Plan process will not address some of the specific intersection-by-intersection concerns residents have.
Marie West, a Chevy Chase West resident who said the exclusive Bus Rapid Transit lanes would threaten the safety of schoolchildren, helped organize the meeting on Tuesday at the Concord Hill School.
At the meeting, Cole and Berliner chief of staff Cindy Gibson explained the process is far from over.
The Planning Board is expected to deliberate before sending its final version to the County Council sometime this summer. Gibson said she expects a County Council public hearing on BRT in September before a number of Committee worksessions and a full Council vote.
The Plan essentially sets the stage for the development of a BRT system.
It contains no timeline for starting the project, which at 79 miles and with 10 corridors across Montgomery County could fall in the $5 billion range. It would be up to the county executive and the staff of the county’s Department of Transportation to engineer the actual corridors, confer with the Planning Department on designs and construction and then budget the necessary capital funding. The County Council would have to approve those recommendations.
County Councilmember Roger Berliner told a Citizens Advisory Board on Monday that he sees recent changes in Bethesda’s parking fee structure as a move toward the demand pricing that cities are using to reduce circling and double parking in busier areas.
The County Council approved the County Department of Transportation’s recommendation for the new parking fee structure in the FY14 operating budget. The new system will make on-street meter parking $2 an hour, parking lot spaces $1.25 an hour and parking garage spaces 80 cents an hour starting July 1.
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. Parking garage spaces have been found to be the least desireable, depending on the location and time of day, with empty spaces common in some Bethesda county garages (11 and 35 for instance).
On the other side of the coin, finding a spot in Garage 40 during happy hour on Cordell Avenue or in Garage 35 as residents in Battery Lane apartment buildings return from work can be more difficult. The Lot 31 closure has also put the squeeze on Garage 57, where the bulk of Bethesda Row shop, restaurant and movie-goers park.
“We are inching towards what is called demand pricing,” Berliner told the Western Montgomery Citizens Advisory Board, “higher pricing for parking that is most in demand. So what is most in demand is street parking next to our shops.”
In San Francisco, which many point to as a pioneer of demand pricing, meter pricing can range from between 25 cents an hour to a maximum of $6 an hour, all depending on the amount of cars parked in a particular stretch. The city uses sensors to gauge how many parking meters are being used and will raise the rates on busy streets to try to ensure at least one space is open.
The goal is to reduce circling and double parking that leads to traffic. Montgomery County’s goal is to get more drivers parking in its garages instead of its street-metered spaces.
CORRECTION: Councilmember Roger Berliner is not a member of the Energy Future Coalition, as we erroneously reported. We apologize for the error.
Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda) today filed a formal pleading with the state’s Public Service Commission to implement a utility pilot program that would include power micro-grids and adjustable rates based on how a utility company performs.
Berliner, an energy lawyer, has been exploring a pilot program called Utility 2.0. He watched the work of the Energy Future Coalition, tasked by Governor Martin O’Malley’s Grid Resiliency Task Force with providing recommendations for implementing the program by last month.
The report is included in Berliner’s filing with the PSC, which has total control of regulating utility companies in the state.
Berliner has frequently challenged Pepco on its reliability performance and last year held a Council Committee session on the pilot. He argued it will lead to a more efficient, sustainable and reliable electric system that could include local micro-grids powered by solar means, biogas and gas fired cogeneration.
The recommendations for the pilot also include performance-based ratemaking, which would “align the financial returns of utilities with how it performs on key metrics.” The Energy Future Coalition also recommended utility-provided cost vouchers in exchange for customers allowing the utility to manage the charging of their electric vehicles.
From Berliner’s statement today:
But the institutional challenges are real. As EFC observed, while the technology exists to support a revolution in utility service, our regulatory model is a vestige of century-old thinking and our utilities are inherently conservative and not innovators. It is the job of our state regulators who have 100 percent control over our utilities to ensure that we fully grasp the benefits of a transformed utility system. I urge them to accept this challenge and move Montgomery County and Maryland forward.
The PSC held a public hearing last week about Pepco’s request for a rate hike to help pay for infrastructure repairs. Many said funding for those repairs should come from the company’s profits, not from a proposed $60.8 million a year revenue bump that would cost the average residential customer $7.13 more each month.
About 200 union supporters protested outside the Montgomery County Democratic Party Spring Ball on Saturday, according to The Gazette, upset over the county’s decision to remove police effects bargaining rights.
The Spring Ball, held at the Bethesda North Conference Center, serves as a major fundraiser for the party. The protest also included a boycott that drew support from some big political names: U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler, State Sen. Brian Frosh, Del. Bill Frick, County Executive candidate Doug Duncan and others.
The AFL-CIO Metro Council organized the protest. Union leaders said the boycott centered on the county’s decision to revoke effects bargaining rights from its police union, but was also a criticism of the party for what they say is a move away from Democratic values.
The county police union wanted to remain the only police union in the state with bargaining rights over administrative issues such as the use of email, equipment turn-in, rules for raids and video systems in police cars. That touched off a spirited campaign both from the county and the union in support and in opposition of Question B before last year’s referendum.
County officials said the repeal of effects bargaining was necessary as the process hindered MCPD Chief Thomas Manger’s ability to make needed and swift administrative moves, thus hurting public safety.
Many of them, including County Councilmember Roger Belriner (D-Bethesda), wrote letters in support of the Central Committee and in opposition to the union protest. From Berliner’s letter, published on Maryland Juice:
Unfortunately, there are some who apparently think there is no room for disagreement within our party and out of blind ideology or fear of retribution, are choosing to boycott tonight’s event and punish our party in the process. I find this to be troubling to say the least. One of the things that makes Montgomery County so special is that we are one of the most well-educated communities in the country. We are a thinking, discerning community and wherever that is true, you will find thoughtful disagreement even amongst the most ideologically aligned individuals. And that is something we should embrace, not shun or punish.
The moment we become the party of blind obedience – to any one constituency or stakeholder group – is the day we lose our integrity as a party. As in most things in life, good, thoughtful people can disagree. But at the end of the day, our precinct officials overwhelmingly supported the legislative actions of a unanimous Council and the electorate weighed in similarly. Let us move on.
The Gazette reported the boycott meant 340 attendees at the Spring Ball instead of an expected 400 and a $10,000 to $15,000 loss in fundraising for the party.
Flickr photo via Stephen D. Melkisethian
Some of the most affordable rental housing in Bethesda is on the way out and Montgomery County Councilmembers can’t seem to agree on how to create more.
On Hampden Lane, 12 rental units that run from $1,150 to $2,405 a month will be replaced by The Lauren, which has announced its pending arrival with signs on the property that proclaim the luxury condo will be offering “Residences from the several millions.”
On Battery Lane, four garden-style apartment buildings have been approved for new zoning which would allow property owner Glen Aldon to raze the buildings and build three new, likely more expensive ones on the land.
On Tuesday, Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda) moved to table a bill that would have given tax breaks to developers who offer at least 25 percent affordable housing units in their projects. The county requirement is 12.5 percent.
That caused the sponsor of the bill, Councilmember Nancy Floreen, to question the Council’s commitment to affordable housing. Floreen introduced the bill in 2011.
“This is the sort of thing that makes me very angry,” Floreen said. “I’m sitting here with eight other colleagues, who time and time again, in every other context that involves not making a decision say they’re all for affordable housing. But when it comes time to actually do something we can come up with reasons. Everyone is very smart. Everyone wants to think some more.
“This has been before us for a year-and-a-half, so to suggest that we’re rushing to judgement is breathtaking,” Floreen said. “I just got to say, ‘Fine, be who you are,’ but I think it’s outrageous that my colleagues will not take any action on this.”
County Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) says he’s worried a bag tax that many see as overbearing could breed resentment toward the 5-cent fee’s intended goal of reducing plastic bag use.
That’s why Berliner is joining Councilmembers Craig Rice (D-Upcounty) and Nancy Floreen (D-At large) in introducing a measure that would limit the bag tax to food stores, just more than a year after he was one of the leading proponents for the fee.
“I have always been concerned that if you overreach in trying to achieve a noble end, you turn a law of good intentions into a law that breeds resentment. The shift in consciousness that you achieve is not one that promotes protecting the environment, but rather one that diminishes support for doing so,” Berliner said in a press release on Tuesday. “We can not afford to squander good will on marginal outcomes. There is no doubt in my mind that government will need to play a strong role – and in many cases a leading role — if we are to continue making strides toward protecting our planet. I want to save our political chits for the tough fights ahead – and when we get there, I want to have earned the community’s trust that we will not squander their progressive capital.”
Berliner, who said he has struggled with the issue, said he doesn’t think bringing reuseable bags into retail or hardware stores is natural behavior. In 2012, the bag tax netted Montgomery County more than twice the revenue it expected.
The county’s Department of Environmental Protection is expected to fight the proposed change to the law, which Director Bob Hoyt called one of the most successful county programs he has seen. Berliner also said focusing the fee on food stores will increase the likelihood the state legislature passes a statewide bill.
Berliner also discussed another environmentally-themed bill he’ll introduce today, one that would help fund commercial property owners who qualify to make clean energy improvements.
Three Montgomery County councilmembers on Tuesday are expected to introduce a bill that would limit the bag tax to grocery stores and other food stores.
The move would run counter to the recommendation of the county’s Department of Environmental Protection, which in a lively Council Committee meeting in March argued to maintain the bag tax at all stores that offer plastic or paper bags.
The councilmembers behind the proposed change, Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac), Craig Rice (D-Upcounty) and Nancy Floreen (D-At large), have questioned whether a shopper at a Nordstrom’s or Home Depot should be expected to carry a reuseable bag into those stores for non-food products.
The bag tax, a 5-cent fee imposed with each plastic or paper bag, was instituted in January 2012 as a way to change shopping behaviors and cut into the amount of plastic bag litter in streams.
Director of Environmental Protection Bob Hoyt said in March that stream clean-up groups have told him they’ve seen a 25 percent decrease in the number of bags they found over the past year and Safeway managers have said they’ve seen a 50 to 60 percent reduction in plastic bag usage at their stores.
The county collected more than double the amount of revenue they expected from the bag tax in its first year, which has caused councilmembers such as Berliner to question how effective it’s been. Rice pointed out the burden many retail business owners told him they were having with charging the fee and protecting their goods from shoplifting via the reuseable bags.
Rice even said reuseable bags lead to racial profiling. Rice, who is black, said he has been asked if he was shoplifting while using a reuseable bag.
The bill would limit the 5-cent fee to carryout bags used at food stores, defined as a store where food consists of more than 2 percent of gross sales by dollar value. It would continue to cover bags used for non-food items purchased at food stores. The bill would also repeal the tax on plastic food take-out bags.
In the March Committee meeting, Councilmember Hans Riemer (D-At large) said he thought the bag tax should still apply to Target, a department store that offers a large grocery section.
Expect the county and environmental groups to oppose the bill.
“There’s no difference in a plastic bag in a stream that came from a grocery store versus one from a Home Depot,” Hoyt said in the March Committee meeting. “And now to say a year later, a year later, that nobody will ever walk into a Home Depot with their own carry-out bags, I don’t understand that.”
A public hearing is scheduled for June 18 at 7:30 p.m.
Flickr photo by Mr. T in DC
The hotel owner that wants to convert the vacant Yacht Club of Bethesda space into a self-storage facility geared toward Woodmont Triangle residents got the support of a county advisory committee during its meeting today.
Jeff Randall, vice president of asset management for the firm that owns the DoubleTree Bethesda, wants to make the space (8111 Woodmont Ave.) a 24-7, keycard-accessible self-storage facility of about 55 units that would cater to existing and future apartment residents of Woodmont Triangle who have limited space.
Randall said he thought of the concept when trying to store all of his family’s stuff into his apartment in the Palisades building. Randall also said it’s unlikely another bar, restaurant or nightclub concept in the space would be as successful as the Yacht Club, which famously catered to the over-30 and over-40 crowd with owner Tommy “The Matchmaker” Curtis.
With the help of his attorneys at Lerch, Early and Brewer and Councilmember Roger Berliner’s staff, Randall devised a Zoning Text Amendment that would allow a self-storage facility in a retail space of downtown Bethesda.
The DoubleTree facility has a loading dock on-site, a distinguishing factor Randall said would likely prevent other properties from building their own self-storage businesses in basements or first floor spaces. That provision is included in the ZTA, which Randall said Berliner will probably propose at County Council.
Most members of the Woodmont Triangle Action Group, the advisory committee that issues letters of support or on Woodmont Triangle development proposals, said the self-storage concept geared at downtown Bethesda residents was a good one.
Some concerns remained about ensuring the self-storage cages were secure and utilized exclusively by Bethesda residents. Some said they would also like to see more public art in some of the space’s windows than Randall seemed comfortable with. Randall did say the facility would include new planters and lighting for the sidewalk and likely a new facade and entrance.
Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) announced the date and 9:30 a.m. start time for the session today on his Twitter account.
Last week, after the 60-inch transmission main broke and sent water shooting about 30-feet into the air at the intersection of Chevy Chase Lake Drive and Connecticut Avenue, Berliner said WSSC general manager Jerry N. Johnson agreed to appear before his Transportation & Environment Committee to answer questions about the what caused the break and if it could have been prevented.
Berliner said he would ask Johnson why a fiber optic cable monitoring system failed to warn WSSC in enough time before the break. In the time since Berliner’s announcement, reports surfaced that a Chevy Chase resident saw and reported water spouting from the road about seven hours before the break, which occurred on Monday at about 7:45 p.m. A WSSC crew determined the water came from a leaky valve and that repair on it could be put off until the next morning.
WSSC has said it will take weeks before a forensic investigation determines the cause of the break.
The break caused significant damage to Chevy Chase Lake Drive and the creek bed just west of the intersection. Both sides of Connecticut Avenue were closed into last Tuesday morning and all three lanes of northbound Connecticut Avenue weren’t re-opened until late last week.
WSSC also imposed mandatory water restrictions in its entire Montgomery and Prince George’s service area to ensure enough water for fire fighters and hospitals.
Berliner said he will ask why a nearby 96-inch water main remains out of service. He claimed mandatory water restrictions were necessary because of the combination of the closure and the Chevy Chase water main break.
Montgomery County Councilmembers on Thursday questioned if the county’s one-year-old 5-cent fee for plastic and paper bags should cover non-grocery store retailers such as Home Depot, Target or fast food restaurants.
Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) and Crag Rice (D-Upcounty) said they have heard numerous complaints from people unhappy about or unwilling to use re-useable bags in department stores such as Nordstrom. Rice said retailers and grocers often are suspicious of customers who use re-useable bags as shoplifters.
Rice said he once was suspected of shoplifting with a re-useable bag at a local grocery store and the tax leads to racial profiling.
Bob Hoyt, director of Montgomery’s Department of Environmental Protection, vigorously defended the tax as is, telling councilmembers he has received much positive feedback and the program is one of the most successful he has ever seen.
“There’s no difference in a plastic bag in a stream that came from a grocery store versus one from a Home Depot,” Hoyt said. “And now to say a year later, a year later, that nobody will ever walk into a Home Depot with their own carry-out bags, I don’t understand that.”
The fee was instituted on Jan. 1, 2012 to encourage people toward re-useable bags and away from plastic and paper bag use. Hoyt said stream clean-up groups have told him they’ve seen a 25 percent decrease in the number of bags they found in streams over the past year and Safeway managers have said they’ve seen a 50 to 60 percent reduction in plastic bag usage at their stores.
But after the county collected more than double the amount of revenue they expected from the bag tax in 2012, Berliner and others are questioning how effective the tax has been at changing people’s shopping behaviors. He also asked why the county wouldn’t outright ban plastic bags, as has been done in some jurisdictions, if it thought plastic bags were such a problem.
“I feel like we want to have a tax where we actually can induce changes. And I totally get it in grocery stores and I think our public totally gets it in grocery stores. It might aggravate them, but they can get used to using a re-useable bag when they go shopping for groceries,” Berliner said. “To go into a Home Depot with a re-useable bag is not something that is on most people’s consciousness and I don’t think ever will be. And my concern is that it breeds resentment because it really is not connected to what somebody would change their behavior for.”
There is no legislation to change the bag tax on the table and no decisions were made in Thursday’s lively discussion of the issue at the Transportation & Environment Committee meeting.
“The story that I hear is extremely troubling,” said Rice, who said fear of shoplifters who use re-useable bags has led to increased preventative costs at some local retailers. “For this to happen to me, it’s definitely happening to other people. And it’s an impact and a cost that I don’t think that we saw before but I can tell you it’s real. And especially as a black man, unfortunately in times like this some things haven’t changed. And so all we’re doing is further giving the ability for things like this to happen.”
Hoyt said the county included retailers in the tax based on a recommendation from Washington, D.C., which in 2010 instituted a bag tax for food service licensees only. D.C. officials said the tax caused confusion for retailers such as CVS and Target, which regularly sell food and small items in plastic bags.
“We drew the line we did based on the District of Columbia’s drawing of the line, which didn’t work,” Hoyt said.
“Mr. Hoyt,” Rice responded, “with all due respect, we drew the line. We’re the ones that decided what the bill was and now what we’re telling you, let me finish, is that we now need to re-draw the line.”
Mandatory water restrictions are still in effect for WSSC’s 1.8 million customers in Montgomery and Prince George’s County after a five-foot pipe burst on Monday night in Chevy Chase.
But unless a neighbor sees and reports a violator blatantly using too much water, it’s unlikely any fines will be levied, according to WSSC spokeswoman Kira Calm Lewis. No customers have been cited in violation of the restrictions after Monday’s incident.
“We’re not out playing the gotcha game,” Lewis said. “We’re trusting people mostly to be on the honor system as far as abiding by the restriction. We’re asking them to be more thoughtful of their use of water and to not use any water that they don’t really need to over the next couple of days.”
The main transmission line burst Monday night, sending water shooting 30 feet into the air, causing downed trees and power lines and damaging Chevy Chase Lake Drive. WSSC officials say the right and middle lanes of northbound Connecticut Avenue are still closed and will likely be closed through today’s afternoon rush hour.
The agency is already facing scrutiny over the incident. County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) announced yesterday he will schedule a hearing in which he’ll ask why a fiber optic monitoring system in the pipe did not warn of the break and why a nearby 96-inch water main has been out of transmission since November.
Berliner said it was the combination of the out-of-service line and the break that made WSSC impose the mandatory water restrictions, which encourage people to limit flushing toilets, put off washing clothes, limit the use of dishwashers, take shorter showers and turn off faucets after washing hands and while brushing teeth. There is a maximum $500 fine associated with the restrictions.
WSSC asks for the cut in water usage to ensure emergency services, such as firefighters and hospital workers, have enough pressurized water.
Lewis said while WSSC has patrol officers, meter readers and members of its customer care team who will investigate situations in the course of their daily activity, it’s not out looking for violators.
The last time Lewis could recall penalties under the restrictions was in July 2010, when a 96-inch water main was put out of service at Tuckerman Lane and Gainsborough Drive in Potomac.
After a few days, WSSC was short of its goal for 30 percent less water usage. In the first three days after the restrictions were put in place, WSSC police issued 233 warnings and two citations. Lewis said many of those warnings came from neighbors who saw their neighbors watering lawns or topping off swimming pools.
Repairs to the Chevy Chase water main break could take several days to finish, according to a Wednesday press release from WSSC. Workers are removing a 20-foot section of the pipe and replacing it with a new section today.
Lewis said the sooner WSSC can reach a comfortable level of water usage, the sooner it can lift the restrictions.
“The more compliance we get, the sooner we’ll be able to lift the restrictions,” Lewis said. “Honestly, if everyone cuts down on their usage, it makes this easier.”
Photo via WSSC
County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) this morning released a letter to WSSC general manager Jerry N. Johnson asking about the status of the 54-inch water main break in Chevy Chase that left downed trees, snarled Connecticut Avenue traffic and mandatory water restrictions in place for Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.
The break happened at Chevy Chase Lake Drive and Connecticut Avenue.
WSSC said in a press release this morning that no customers were without water.
Southbound Connecticut Avenue reopened at 7 a.m. this morning, but northbound Connecticut Avenue remains closed between East-West Highway and Jones Bridge Road and traffic remains difficult through the area.
The road closure has led to the closure of the Chevy Chase Library and access to the 8401 Connecticut Avenue office building remains closed off.
WSSC said the pipe that broke began operation around 1980.
Dear Mr. Johnson:
I am writing with regard to the 54 inch water main break that occurred last night (March 18) which has snarled rush hour traffic, led to mandatory water restrictions in Montgomery County, and led to some power outages in the vicinity of the break. I know WSSC is doing everything it can to perform emergency repairs and get the water main back on-line.
Please let me know how many (if any) customers in the area are currently without water (and if so, if WSSC is delivering water to those households), if any vulnerable populations are without water or power at this time, whether there were any injuries resulting from the break, and whether any additional interagency cooperation is needed (with the County, Pepco, or others).
I am also interested in what the status of this section of PCCP pipe is with regard to WSSC’s ongoing large diameter main inspection/repair/acoustic fiber optic monitoring work. It is my understanding that all large diameter pipes (48 inches or greater) will have gone through at least one round of inspections/maintenance/AFO monitoring by the end of FY13. Both the Montgomery and Prince George’s Councils have supported all of WSSC’s funding requests for its large diameter pipe work and it would be of great concern if this segment of pipe had been inspected recently and been found to not need any repairs or if acoustic fiber optic monitoring had been installed but is ultimately ineffective in providing an early warning of an impending break.
Please keep the Council informed as to your progress repairing the main, as well as any information you collect regarding the cause of the break.
Photo via WSSC
Our piece last week on the Tree Canopy Conservation bill before the County Council got strong reaction from one member of the building industry.
Robert Kaufman, director of government affairs for the Maryland-National Capital Building Industry, said the proposal wouldn’t actually protect tree canopy and would act as an unfair tax against property owners who disturb ground underneath a tree, even if that tree remains.
Many builders, including some who help Bethesda homeowners add additions or build bigger homes on infill lots, are against the proposal. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) has pushed the bill with the main selling point that new development patterns — supersized homes on infill lots in older neighborhoods — require new tree legislation.
Kaufman said builders do support “setting reasonable canopy goals for home sites and allowing builders to meet these goals by saving or planting trees on-site.”
He pointed to similar measures from the government of Athens-Clarke County, Ga., as an example of a tree bill builders would support.
“We can agree that canopy is a reasonable quality of life issue and that we can find a way to replace or add canopy when we make improvements,” Kaufman wrote in an email. “If you look at the Athens/Clarke County tree bill in Georgia, they set reasonable canopy goals and publish a chart that lists the types of trees to plant and how many trees to plant in order to meet the long term canopy goals on each lot. Since we know that homebuyers like trees, builders are supportive of the idea that we can save or plant trees ON-SITE to meet reasonable goals. While making improvements, we also remove dangerous, unsightly and invasive trees and replace them with healthy, young trees appropriate for urban living.”
County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) chairs the Transportation & Environment Committee charged with working on the bill. In the last worksession on the issue on Feb. 25, Berliner asked Montgomery County Department of Environment staff to provide detailed comparisons to the tree legislation in Clarke County and neighboring Fairfax County.
Meanwhile, conservationists are promoting a petition in support of both the Tree Canopy Protection bill and a companion piece of legislation that would give the county control of regulating tree removal in right-of-ways. The petition has almost 950 supporters.
The Committee’s third worksession on the bill is scheduled for April 1.