Residents of the Chevy Chase West neighborhood and nearby communities along Wisconsin Avenue’s “Green Mile” argue a dedicated lane going each way for the bus system would endanger kids walking to school and make it harder for them to get into and out of their neighborhoods.
At the Planning Board’s public hearing last week on its Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, five residents of Chevy Chase or Somerset said the buses, which some referred to as “high speed,” shouldn’t go south of the Bethesda Metro station. The South MD 355 Transitway is planned to connect the Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue corridor with the Friendship Heights Metro station.
“High speed transit buses result in deaths and expensive legal claims,” said Chevy Chase West resident Marie Park. Park said the system would also increase pedestrian accidents caused by regular vehicles.
“I’m not saying that all buses are bad, but this plan is bad because you’ve totally disregarded the concentration of schools on Wisconsin Avenue,” Park said.
She mentioned Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Somerset Elementary School and private schools such as the Concord Hill School, an early-education school for kids age 3 through third grade at 6050 Wisconsin Ave. The meeting with Cole will be held there at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28.
Residents said they also want more crosswalks and regular bus service before any BRT system is built.
“Any MD 355 BRT first phase should go only to the Bethesda Metro stop as its southernmost point,” said Chevy Chase West resident Elaine Akst. “An extension should be dependent on an extension of WMATA bus lines between D.C. and Maryland.”
Cole chimed in at that point during the hearing, explaining that a curb lane dedicated to buses could actually make turning on to Wisconsin Avenue easier because drivers would be able to take advantage of large gaps in BRT bus traffic.
“Stop it at the Bethesda Metro,” Chevy Chase West resident Elizabeth Ewing testified later. “Don’t interfere with what is working very well between that Metro stop and Friendship Heights.”
Icy Conditions Mar Morning Commute — Icy roads, especially on bridges, might have caused an accident on the Rockville Pike overpass of Montrose Parkway, temporarily closing down three lanes of southbound Rockville Pike. Police also reported dangerous conditions on the Fernwood Road overpass of the Beltway and the Democracy Boulevard overpass of I-270.
Snow Set Records Yesterday — The rare spring snowstorm that hit the area set a few records for daily maximum snowfall and the roughly three inches of snow was the largest March 25 snowfall since 1990. [TerpWeather]
Maryland House Approves Medical Marijuana — The House of Delegates voted to support medical marijuana under limited circumstances. The bill will be sent to the State Senate, which voted to decriminalize possession small amounts of marijuana. [Washington Post]
Flickr photo by ehpien
Downed Tree Causes Backup On Connecticut Avenue — A downed tree on southbound Connecticut Avenue near the intersection with East-West Highway in Chevy Chase is causing a significant traffic backup this morning. At 8 a.m., only the far left lane was getting by. [Photo from TrafficLand.com]
MCPS Superintendent Holding “Student Town Hall” at Walter Johnson — Superintendent Joshua Starr will head to Walter Johnson High School this morning for a conversation with students that will run from 10:55 a.m. to 11:35 a.m. [MyMCMedia]
Yoga Summer Camp Sign-ups — extendYoga (12106 Wilkins Ave., North Bethesda) will hold a yoga summer camp for children age 5-8 this summer. Sign ups are now. The week-long camp includes instructional yoga classes, crafts and teambuilding exercises. [extendYoga]
Bethesda Church, Synagogue Hold Forum On Gun Violence — The Saint Mark Presbyterian church and the Beth El synagogue held a forum on gun violence last week that included police, school and mental health officials. [The Gazette]
Report Says MoCo Business Incentives Provided $1.2 Billion Return — A county report says business incentives provided to private companies by the government since 1996 has meant a $1.24 billion return in private investment, $38 million in annual net economic benefit and 26,775 jobs. The county has given out about 250 grants in that time, investing about $40 million in businesses. [Washington Examiner]
Developers, Politicians Cut Ribbon On First Class A Office Building Since 2001 — From yesterday afternoon, the ribbon cutting for the 7550 Wisconsin Ave. office building, the renovated former NIH building near the Bethesda Metro station. [BethesdaNow]
Photo via TrafficLand.com
Crash Involving School Bus Temporarily Shuts Down East-West Highway — A crash at East-West Highway and Connecticut Avenue temporarily shut down westbound lanes of East-West Highway around 7 a.m. The crash involved a school bus and SUV. The westbound lanes were reopened. [Washington Post]
County Councilman Wants More Done For Homeless During Point-In-Time Counts — County Councilman George Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park wants the county to offer more to the homeless when volunteers and nonprofit employees go out for annual surveys. [The Gazette]
Stats Improve, But Advocates Say Pedestrian Problems Persist — Six pedestrians died in Montgomery County in 2012, down from 19 in 2008. Still, advocates say those numbers mask the pedestrian safety issues that remain. [WTOP]
A major water main break at Connecticut Avenue and Franklin Street has all southbound lanes of Connecticut Avenue closed this afternoon.
The break occurred around 11 a.m., breaking through asphalt and causing a significant pool of water on the three southbound lanes of Connecticut.
Police just reopened the northbound lanes. A WSSC crew was on the scene.
At Long Last, Bethesda Metro Elevator Reopens — The delayed elevator rehabilitation project passed state inspection and reopened yesterday. Next up: The replacement of the station’s three 212-foot escalators, a more intensive project expected to begin sometime in 2014. [Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row]
Southbound Wisconsin Avenue Lanes Remain Closed — Two of three southbound lanes on Wisconsin Avenue south of Bradley Boulevard remain closed this morning as WSSC crews continue work on a water main break from last night.
Montgomery County Courthouse Hosts First Same-Sex Marriages — Five couples were among the first same-sex marriages in Montgomery County yesterday when they were married in the county courthouse. [The Gazette]
Flickr photo by eddie.welker
UPDATE, 7:45 a.m.: WSSC crews are still working on the water main break, which has left two of three southbound lanes of Wisconsin Avenue closed near the intersection with Dorset Avenue.
ORIGINAL: A water main break has shut down all lanes of southbound Wisconsin Avenue at Bradley Boulevard tonight.
The break was reported to WSSC at 5:37 p.m. Residents were told water service should be back later tonight.
Police were diverting southbound traffic to Bradley Boulevard and onto Connecticut Avenue and there was congestion into downtown Bethesda.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center yesterday, one year after dedicating the facility that absorbed the Walter Reed Army Hospital from its previous location in Silver Spring.
In a speech, Panetta thanked doctors and nurses for coming together to care for the many wounded veterans on campus, according to the Defense Department.
“I want to thank you for your leadership, because what you have here is a world-class center for healing, for compassion, and for empowerment,” Panetta said.
Nearly 4,000 employees have moved to the Naval Hospital Bethesda base after 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) mandated Walter Reed merge onto the Wisconsin Avenue campus. The original estimate was 2,500, a discrepancy nearby residents and some local officials say has contributed to a major traffic mess.
“When you move Walter Reed, you don’t necessarily get that corresponding benefit that you’d normally get if you’re bringing in 1,200 jobs from somewhere else, say from New Jersey,” County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said in an October interview. “That means those people are going to move, buy a house and now become new taxpayers. Walter Reed, because it was only a few miles away, you don’t get people moving from other places. You get the traffic, but you don’t get all the corresponding other things that come with that.”
Recent expansion plans on both the Walter Reed campus and at the neighboring National Institutes of Health have again put neighbors on notice. Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) estimates 270 additional workers on the Walter Reed campus. NIH’s master plan calls for as many as 3,000 more employees over 20 years.
That means the No. 1 and No. 2 largest employers in Montgomery County, which sit across six lanes of traffic coming and going from downtown Bethesda, will only grow.
To assuage local fears and to make crossing Wisconsin Avenue from the Medical Center Metro station easier for Walter Reed patients and workers, the state’s Congressional delegation this year dedicated a rare BRAC project outside the base walls.
Senators Barbara Mikulski (D) and Ben Cardin (D), as well as Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) touted federal funding for a Wisconsin Avenue Metro tunnel that would making crossing the street safer and ease traffic issues.
“We believe in the mission of these two agencies and we thank our local community for your patience during this difficult time,” Mikulski said at a September press event. “But at the end of the day, we’re gonna have more jobs, better healthcare, honor our promises to our veterans but also our promises to our country of the great innovation that goes on here.”
Flickr photo by Secretary of Defense
Last Day to Vote For Best Trawick Prize Winner — The Bethesda contemporary art competition is celebrating 10 years with a “people’s choice” award to name the best ever Trawick winner. The vote closes today. [Bethesda Magazine]
Walter Johnson Mom Starts ‘Start School Later’ Petition — Mandi Mader, mom of a student at Walter Johnson High School, has collected more than 3,500 signatures of people who want to move the start time of Montgomery County High Schools to 8:15 a.m. or later. [Potomac Patch]
Rockville Pike Lane Closures — The State Highway Administration will close the right and middle lanes of southbound Rockville Pike near Tuckerman Lane from 9 p.m. today to 2 p.m. tomorrow for paving operations, according to a Montgomery County official.
Bethesda Row Arts Festival Tomorrow — Organizers say they don’t expect this weekend’s Metro station closure will affect attendance of the event developer Federal Realty says has attracted more than 300,000 to Bethesda Row since it began in 1997. [Bethesda Row Arts]
Flickr photo by Jen Sedell
This is part one of an interview with Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, who spoke to Bethesda Now about traffic, White Flint development, the Second District police station and a number of other issues in Bethesda and the county. Parts of this interview have been edited for clarity. Read part two of the discussion here, which covered police bargaining rights, attracting younger residents to the county and challenges in transportation funding.
Bethesda Now: What are the most prominent Bethesda-related issues you are seeing right now?
Leggett: The level of congestion and traffic, the increased development that we’re experiencing at NIH, Walter Reed in particular. With the attendant employees parking and the potential intrusion into neighborhoods, those are probably the most prominent things that we will hear and have heard over the last year or so. And with the recent announcement of NIH, as you know, to bring in an additional 3,000 employees, expansion at Walter Reed, at the Uniformed Military Service medical facility there, and with the continued emphasis on parking, reliance on the automobile, I think that’s the number one issue that we’ve had. That has generally been tied to traffic and the amount of parking spaces.
Bethesda Now: It seems to be sort of a balancing act between having those prestigious federal agencies here but putting up with the traffic and impacts on residents they bring.
Leggett: We do want them here and we have in many ways encouraged it. Now, the Walter Reed [expansion] is not something that we necessarily encouraged but we accommodated that. What you have to keep in mind is the following: That often times when you seek economic development there is a trade-off, some balance between accepting a higher level of parking congestion, traffic in exchange that you’re going to receive greater economic input as the result of the employment base, jobs, the additional tax revenues that come with that. And therefore you’re able to look long term, yes you’ve got this level of congestion, but here are some of the positive benefits that come with that.
A two-car collision in front of the Bethesda Police Station caused traffic problems on eastbound Montgomery Lane and northbound Wisconsin Avenue this morning.
Nobody appeared to be hurt in the incident, which involved a pick-up truck and sedan, just east of the intersection of Montgomery Lane and Wisconsin Avenue a little after 10 a.m. Police called for a tow for one of the vehicles.
Only the far right lane of Montgomery Lane was open for traffic immediately following the accident, which temporarily caused a backup to Woodmont Avenue.
Fewer than a dozen residents came to a Thursday afternoon public hearing on expansion plans for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, prompting some to question why Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) chose to schedule the meeting at that time.
The first of two public hearings was part of Walter Reed’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) process.
NSAB must get resident feedback on issues with the proposed expansion, which are mostly related to traffic and parking, before getting federal approval to build a medical facility, research facility and 500-space underground parking garage on the campus.
A second public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 11, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday’s hearing, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., attracted more NSAB officials and contractors who worked on the study than residents.
“I’m aware you’re having another meeting at a different time another day, but that’s not enough,” said resident Andres Buonanno in recorded testimony.
Earlier, Buonanno said he didn’t think traffic estimates in the study that showed minimal effects from expansion were accurate.
“Why don’t you really make this a public meeting. The danger that you have is you lose credibility,” Buonannon said. “I do feel you have a lack of credibility.”
The four residents who testified all spoke about traffic issues, some loosely related to Walter Reed.
Joe Macri, spokesman for NSAB, said it’s typical in public hearing processes to have a daytime session to capture those who might be available during the day and an evening session for those who work during the day.
A few residents, including Buonannon, complained the public hearings weren’t promoted enough and that there were many more residents who were frustrated with ongoing traffic problems brought on by Walter Reed’s move to the base last year.
NSAB advertised the public hearings through the Bethesda Chevy Chase Regional Services Center and NSAB Capt. Fritz Kass gave a citizens advisory board the EIS presentation at a meeting in September.
Exercise Hekla, named after one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes, will test the medical center’s ability to set up portable medical facilities in the aftermath of a radiological attack or incident.
Alperson said there might be a noticeable increase in the number of emergency response vehicles outside the WRNMMC fence line.
After the drill, which will involve 70 staffers as mock disaster victims, there will be staff tours of the facility’s 25-bed rapid response shelter, a portable decontamination shelter.
The disaster scenario is slated to begin this morning, with a disturbance at the Uniformed Services University gate on Jones Bridge Road. It will then move to a ball field and test the ability of emergency responders to deal with an explosion resulting in multiple casualties.
Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) will react as first responders. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue personnel will also take part in the drill.
Flickr pool photo by AmyMarieMoore
Bethesda Activist Says Road Closures Were Poorly Thought Out — Ben Ross, of the Action Committee for Transit, writes the Woodmont Avenue road closure is dangerous for bicyclists and pedestrians and could have been managed better to prevent traffic from backing up on Bethesda Avenue. [Greater Greater Washington]
Zagat, Google Offers to Give Away Restaurant Deals — Zagat, the popular dining guide, and Google Offers will have a tent at Saturday’s Taste of Bethesda to promote exclusive “Taste of Bethesda offers.” [Zagat]
U.S. National Lacrosse Team to Play Bethesda Scrimmage — The U.S. national men’s lacrosse team will be at the Landon School for an intra-squad scrimmage at 3 p.m. on Sunday, ahead of tryouts next summer for the 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships in Colorado. [Baltimore Sun]
Bold Bite Introduces Hot Dog Cart — Bold Bite (4901 Fairmont Ave.) now has a mobile hot dog cart serving Chicago and New York style dogs to lunchtime customers near Bethesda Row. [Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row]
Flickr photo by Steve Unlikely!
Maryland Senators Ben Cardin (D) and Barbara Mikulski (D) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) came to Bethesda on Monday to cut Montgomery County a $40 million check.
The state’s Congressional delegation was out in full force to tout federal funding it helped secure for the Wisconsin Avenue pedestrian tunnel crossing project at the Medical Center Metro station.
The project, to be designed, constructed and managed by Montgomery County, will connect the National Institutes of Health with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center via a shallow tunnel and bank of high-speed elevators down to the Metro platform.
It’s entirely funded by Federal grants and is scheduled to be completed by 2016. The $40 million portion of funding came from the U.S. Office of Economic Adjustment, the Department of Defense’s main grant manager of BRAC-related projects.
“We were successful in achieving something that actually a lot of other states weren’t able to achieve, and that is to have the Department of Defense help us mitigate the very, very real local impacts on traffic congestion of a BRAC decision,” Van Hollen said.
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority General Manager Rich Sarles said use of the Medical Center Metro station has increased by eight percent in the last two years, after Walter Reed moved onto the Naval Medical Center campus.
The crossing is meant to ease traffic and provide a safer pedestrian crossing for staff at WRNMMC.
Holmes said about 3,000 people crossed at the intersection before BRAC added Walter Reed to the base. Studies estimated about 7,000 people would have used the crossing by 2020 if not for the underground alternative.
“It couldn’t be clearer at Bethesda, the problem that you have,” Cardin said. “I appreciate the fact that this gathering was called late morning on a Monday. You should’ve called it 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. Then you understand the problem that you have here. You understand the need.
Cardin also touted the project as “precedent-setting,” what he called the first ever example of Federal funding for a BRAC-related project beyond on-base improvements.
“We believe in the mission of these two agencies and we thank our local community for your patience during this difficult time,” Mikulski said. “But at the end of the day, we’re gonna have more jobs, better healthcare, honor our promises to our veterans but also our promises to our country of the great innovation that goes on here.”