A Verizon spokesperson said the utility work and lane closures that clogged up downtown Bethesda for the last week are over.
Verizon Maryland spokesperson Sandra Arnette said crews had to replace 800 feet of water-damaged cable on Wisconsin Avenue between East-West Highway and Montgomery Avenue. That caused the closure of two lanes of northbound Wisconsin in one of Bethesda’s busiest intersections.
Police received numerous calls about back-ups on northbound Wisconsin Avenue, which during last night’s evening rush hour stretched south to Bradley Lane.
Arnette said a crew finished the cable replacement on Monday and the last lane closure re-opened on Monday night.
One reader wondered why the work took so long.
“It is absolutely grid-locked Bethesda all weekend and was still going on this morning. Why can’t they fix a cable in one day, like they do in the rest of the world? They have cost Bethesda drivers thousands of wasted hours and lots of lost revenues for business,” the reader wrote.
Photos via TrafficLand.com
Today is the first day of a 15-day enforcement program police hope will make a difference in pedestrian safety near Bethesda Elementary School.
An officer watched the pedestrian-heavy intersection of Edgemoor Lane and Arlington Road this morning from the parking lot of the Bethesda Library as kids walked to school and others walked to the Metro station.
Police are looking for drivers who fail to stop and yield before turning right on red. The intersection has attracted scrutiny since a February incident in which a baby in a stroller was dragged a few feet from the crosswalk by a car turning from Edgemoor Lane. The baby was uninjured and the driver was issued a citation.
Police will also focus on the area of Democracy Boulevard between Old Georgetown Road and Bells Mill Road, where pedestrians often cross to get to Walter Johnson High School and the county’s Davis Library.
Meanwhile, it appears one of the pedestrian crossing signs at Wisconsin Avenue and Stanford Street was mowed down by a car over the weekend.
Drivers rarely yield at the crosswalk that leads to the U.S. Post Office, even though signs indicate they must if a pedestrian is crossing. A Bethesda Urban Partnership crew picked up most of the flattened sign this morning, leaving a stump of metal in the sidewalk.
Interior designer Sussan Haghighat and her husband opened the Ultimate Home Design Center on Sunday (7942 Wisconsin Ave.), a one-stop shop for building and design services they hope will appeal to upscale Bethesda homeowners.
The store takes over the old space of the long vacant Arut Oriental Rugs space, in a section of town where more business are moving out than moving in.
Haghighat said the duo wanted to offer a range of products, including kitchen cabinets, counter tops, flooring, bath, antique furniture and hopefully some local art, to accomodate a variety of needs for those renovating or rebuilding homes.
Since County Planners last presented their idea for a Bus Rapid Transit system on Wisconsin Avenue, 12 residents of the Chevy Chase West neighborhood sent letters opposing the project.
This, despite pleas from some of those residents just last month for a more convenient and reliable way between the downtown areas of Friendship Heights and Bethesda. A BRT Transitway on 355/Wisconsin Avenue would conceivably provide that connection.
But members of the neighborhood along what is known as Wisconsin Avenue’s “Green Mile” raised concerns that the system would be a duplicate of Metro’s Red Line and that bus-only lanes would make it difficult to access and get out of neighborhoods.
Larry Cole, lead planner of the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, said the curb bus lane part of the first phase of the Plan would actually make it easier to get out of the neighborhood and that the BRT would serve a different set of riders than Metro and that WMATA buses don’t provide enough routes in the area. WMATA has said a 355/Wisconsin Avenue BRT route would work as a complementary system.
“If you’re only going a short distance on Metro, there is some investment to make in going down into the station and going through the fare gates,” Cole said, “as opposed to just catching a bus that’s right there.”
Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier said she was pleased with language and graphics that Staff added to the Draft since its first review more than two weeks ago. At that meeting, Carrier sent Staff back to the drawing board to come up with language that would better explain why the County should take a lane of regular traffic away on 355 for a bus-only lane.
“You have really turned this into something that I’m happy to support,” Carrier said. “It’s balanced enough that I feel comfortable with it.”
Cole said in the two weeks since the last meeting on the Plan, Staff received 113 letters in support of the BRT and of dedicating a Rockville Pike lane in each direction exclusively to BRT use. Those letters were prompted by transit advocate the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
The Board approved the Draft Plan, but it’s only the first step. Next is the Planning Board Public Hearing, in which residents on all sides will be invited to testify.
The developer of a luxury Westin Hotel planned for the Bethesda Court Hotel and next-door retail building will go back to the Planning Board on Thursday, April 4 with a revised plan that Planning Staff says addresses concerns from neighboring property owners.
D.C.-based developer The Bernstein Companies modified the design on the south side of the two-building development (7740 Wisconsin Ave.) that will include 466,000 square feet of office, retail and hotel space now with an additional 19 rooms for a total of 222. The changes include reallocating 2,885 square feet of office space to restaurant/retail and hotel use.
The hotel as proposed would be include 12 floors with a lobby entrance on Woodmont Avenue in the south building on the property. The north building, separated by a 36-foot wide pedestrian pass-through connecting Wisconsin and Woodmont Avenues, would be an 11-floor office building with a lobby entry and ground-floor retail opening up to Wisconsin Avenue.
Planning Staff said it met with the owners of the Bethesda Place office buildings and apartment complex south of the property and they are OK with the new plan’s design and compatibility.
The development includes razing and building on what is now the Smoothie King-led collection of shops at 7720 Wisconsin Ave.
The Bernstein Companies is proposing 576 underground parking spaces for hotel guests and shoppers.
The Woodmont to Wisconsin Avenue pedestrian cut-thru is similar to one proposed by Chevy Chase-based developer JBG a few blocks north, at its 17-story, 475-unit apartment planned for 7900 Wisconsin Ave.
Renderings via Montgomery County Planning Department
A utility pole explosion on Sunday afternoon left some residents and businesses near Wisconsin Avenue and Battery Lane without power.
Witnesses reported hearing two explosions almost 30 seconds apart near the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Battery Lane, where small flames could be seen coming from a transformer on a pole.
Pepco’s outage map reported 714 customers without power at 5:05 p.m. in Woodmont Triangle and east of Wisconsin Avenue into the neighborhoods backing up to Columbia Country Club. It is unknown if the transformer explosion at Battery Lane is the sole cause of the outage.
The outage map shows two estimated restoration times for the outage, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Montgomery County Police say the incident happened at 7:47 a.m., just 25 minutes after a Watkins Mill High School student was struck in a crosswalk in Montgomery Village and about an hour before a mother with two elementary school-aged children was struck while crossing the driveway access point of a parking lot in Gaithersburg.
All the incidents remain under investigation, Police said. All pedestrians were transported to local emergency rooms with non-life threatening injuries.
The Wisconsin Avenue incident follows a Feb. 27 pedestrian collision in which a car turning onto Arlington Road hit a baby stroller, according to Bethesda Patch. The baby was uninjured.
In a press release today about the incidents, Police included a list of driver and pedestrian safety tips for avoiding similar collisions:
- Look for pedestrians before you enter or exit a driveway. This is when you cross the sidewalk where pedestrians walk. Since they are on the sidewalk, they might be less alert than when crossing streets.
- Look all around your vehicle, all the time. Keep your eyes moving.
- With the spring coming, be on the look out for increased pedestrian traffic, increased bicycle traffic, and an increase in children playing at parks, in school yards, and in residential areas. Look for pedestrians stepping out from between parked cars. Where there are a lot of parked cars, there will likely be pedestrians
- Stay alert while crossing roadways. Refrain from phone use, texting, and wearing ear buds.
- Be seen. Wear clothing with bright visible colors or even reflective cloth. If your clothing is dark, it is more difficult to be seen in any adverse light conditions.
- Be proactive by watching traffic when crossing. Always cross at a controlled intersection. At the signal, cross only when the “walk” signal is displayed.
- Before crossing, first look left, then right, then left again to check for any traffic.
- Parents are the most important models of proper pedestrian behavior for children.
Remember, be an engaged pedestrian. It may save your life.
Residents of Friendship Heights and nearby neighborhoods want an alternative to the Metro for getting into downtown Bethesda, which is why some are hoping for a Friendship Heights to Bethesda shuttle.
In a sub-committee meeting of the Western Montgomery Citizens Advisory Board on Monday, what seemed more plausible was an adjustment to existing Ride On or WMATA bus routes.
Phil McLaughlin, manager of operations planning for Ride On, said the only existing route that directly connects Friendship Heights and Bethesda is Route 34, which runs from Friendship Heights north on Wisconsin Avenue to Bethesda, then east to Wheaton and north all the way to Aspen Hill.
That route provides about a 15-minute trip from Friendship Heights to Bethesda, but only about every 30 minutes.
A representative from the Chevy Chase West Neighborhood Association said that wasn’t often enough. Residents in Chevy Chase West are also pushing for crosswalks across Wisconsin Avenue to access stops for northbound bus routes on the east side of the road, where State Highway officials hope to soon build a sidewalk.
Another option for Friendship Heights residents traveling to Bethesda is Ride On Route 29, though that route runs through residential neighborhoods along Massachusetts Avenue, Whittier Boulevard and Wilson Lane before winding into downtown Bethesda.
Participants in the meeting spoke about the significant population of seniors in Friendship Heights who want more convenient and reliable access to Bethesda’s restaurants, shopping areas and medical buildings.
The sub-committee will probably pen a short advisory letter to the County Council’s Transportation & Environment Committee, which is scheduled to hear from WMATA on its bus priority corridors plan on Monday morning.
Members of the Friendship Heights, North Bethesda and downtown Bethesda Transportation Management Districts also presented their priorities and challenges in getting more workers in those areas out of cars.
David Dabney, executive director of the Bethesda Urban Partnership, said changing commuters’ negative attitudes toward buses, Metro and bicycling is difficult with aging infrastructure. The sub-committee also discussed safety issues many feel will come to the forefront when Capital Bikeshare is introduced in Bethesda later this year.
A Planning Board briefing on Bethesda Purple Line issues scheduled for Thursday includes some updates on how an Elm Street light rail station would affect the Capital Crescent Trail.
The Maryland Transit Administration told Montgomery County last fall that it might be able to fit a five- to seven-foot sidewalk in the existing Capital Crescent Trail tunnel along the Purple Line after all. It originally said the light rail would take up too much room and the County Council agreed it would be too costly to create enough space for a new Trail.
But in the briefing on Thursday, Planning Staff is expected to tell the Board that a future tunnel crossing for the Trail under busy Wisconsin Avenue is not completely out of the question. The revision of the Bethesda Central Business District Sector Plan could afford the county an opportunity to build a new one:
The Planning Department’s work program includes an update to the Bethesda CBD Sector Plan starting in April 2014 and Planning staff has asked MTA to determine whether a new tunnel crossing for the trail beneath the Apex Building, Wisconsin Avenue, and the Air Rights Building is feasible, and if so, to identify the location and spatial requirements of the tunnel so that it can be considered as part of the Sector Plan update.
That could be welcome news for Trail supporters and cyclists, who worry the post-Purple Line trail alignment across Wisconsin Avenue could put users at risk.
Meanwhile, plans for creating the street-level pedestrian and bicycle crossing of Wisconsin Avenue continue. Planning staff reports the design process is underway and the Montgomery County Department of Transportation should have Phase I of the planning done by late this summer.
The County Council requested designers consider prohibiting eastbound drivers on Bethesda Lane from turning left onto Wisconsin Avenue, where cyclists and other Trail users would most likely feed onto the road. But businesses and the Town of Chevy Chase opposed that:
Council requested that the project team consider a protected signal phase for pedestrian and bicycle crossing of MD 355, and consideration of a left turn prohibition for eastbound Bethesda Avenue at MD 355. Businesses and the Town of Chevy Chase oppose the turn prohibition. MCDOT has developed a potential signal phasing concept that provides for a protected portion for the trail crossing within the signal cycle, while maintaining the left turn movement.
Flickr photo by thisisbossi
On Feb. 14 at 7 p.m., the hotel will have “mix,taste and mingle” Single Appreciation Night Events (S.A.N.E.) in its Share Wine Lounge & Small Plate Bistro.
For $25, restaurant staff will show participants how to mix drinks and filet a fresh salmon dish before offering tastings and time to socialize.
Call 301-664-7343 to place a reservation. For those already coupled up, DoubleTree is offering a menu of special $30 Valentine’s Day entrees.
The developer of a proposed 17-story, 475-unit apartment at 7900 Wisconsin Ave. wil go before the Montgomery County Planning Board for approval on Feb. 14.
In the presentation from Chevy Chase-based developer JBG are renderings, shown but not released to the public during two public meetings in December, of what the potential high-rise could look like.
It will include a yet-to-be-named grocery chain and marketplace on the ground floor, accented by a walk-thru and gathering place under a “bridge” in the middle of the structure.
Planning Staff has recommended the Board approve JBG’s project plan and preliminary plan at next week’s hearing.
JBG was originally going to develop both the 7900 site and the properties just to the north into a project that included the new 2nd District Police Station. But that joint plan with Montgomery County fell through after JBG did not acquire all of the properties that run up against Cordell Avenue.
The building as proposed will include 22,000 square feet of ground floor retail. It would run about 275 feet along Wisconsin Avenue with the “bridge” or arch in the middle for pedestrian access similar to the Bethesda Lane pedestrian and retail area at Bethesda Row.
The average unit size would be somewhere around 785 square feet. Parking garage access for residents would be on the Woodmont Avenue side of the building.
A JBG official at the December presentations said he doesn’t think the apartment will allow for more than a 0.7 parking space per unit ratio because of the property’s proximity to Metro.
Images/renderings via Montgomery County Planning Department
An environmental group and cycling organization are at odds over the project, which would mean the removal of 53 trees along a three-quarter-mile stretch of the east side of Wisconsin Avenue between Grafton Street and Bradley Lane. The tree removal would allow for an eight-foot shared-use sidewalk.
The Little Falls Watershed Alliance says County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) will attend tonight’s meeting (7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 4511 Cumberland Ave.). The group is against the proposed $1.5 million sidewalk because it says the removal of the 53 trees will hurt the already fragile watershed.
Berliner has urged the SHA to take measures to protect the trees, which would not be replaced on the same strip because the curb is not big enough according to SHA regulations. The LFWA has proposed an alternative plan for new bus pads and a smaller section of sidewalk.
Now, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association is urging area cyclists to rally in support of the sidewalk, which would be federally funded:
While too narrow to be considered a shared-use path, the sidewalk would provide a safe place for pedestrians to access the three bus stops on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue. In addition, bicyclists who do not feel comfortable riding on the road could carefully use the sidewalk. With Capital Bikeshare expanding in both Washington, D.C. and Bethesda, a safe place to ride along Wisconsin Ave. is especially important.
The sidewalk would connect Friendship Heights and Bethesda, two major pedestrian areas. In September, the SHA announced it would be removing five large, decaying elm trees along the Green Mile.
Photo via State Highway Administration
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.
Chevy Chase-based JBG Cos. wants to build a 17-story, 475-unit apartment at 7900 Wisconsin Ave., on the south end of a property that was to include the new 2nd District Police Station.
That deal, part of a public-private land swap between JBG and Montgomery County, fell through after JBG didn’t acquire all of the property between Wisconsin and Woodmont Avenues up to Cordell Avenue because of financial reasons.
But JBG plans to go ahead with slightly modified plans for the property it owns, which includes the Columbia Bank office building that houses the Fitness First gym, Parvizian Fine Rugs building and an auto detailer on Woodmont Avenue.
The county parking meter lot (Lot 43) is not part of the project and will remain.
JBG’s Frank Craighill presented plans for the building to the Woodmont Triangle Action Group on Friday morning. The developer submitted its plans to the Planning Department on Thursday. Publicly available renderings won’t be available until Tuesday’s public meeting at 7 p.m. in Room D of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane).
The building as proposed will include 22,000 square feet of ground floor retail. Craighill said JBG is negotiating with a grocery store chain to take about 20,000 square feet of that space.
Craighill presented a building that would run about 275 feet along Wisconsin Avenue with a “bridge” or arch in the middle for pedestrian access similar to the Bethesda Lane pedestrian and retail area at Bethesda Row.
The average unit size would be somewhere around 785 square feet, though Craighill told the group he expects the 475-unit number to decrease through the planning process. Parking garage access for residents would be on the Woodmont Avenue side of the building.
Craighill said he doesn’t expect JBG will allow for more than a 0.7 parking space per unit ratio.
“We feel that for the demographic we’re kind of targeting and would be attracted to this area, parking is really not a necessary amenity,” Craighill said.
The Bethesda Metro station is less than half a mile from the site. JBG is also exploring creating space for a Capital Bikeshare station on the Woodmont Avenue side of the development. The projected groundbreaking for the project is January 2014.
The landmark auto repair shop that has been in Bethesda for 83 years will have at least another 18 months at its Wisconsin Avenue location, after owners worked out a deal with developer Washington Property Company.
Eastham’s Servicenter (7100 Wisconsin Ave.) will be without the Exxon gas station that was taken out by crews during the last few months. But owner George Zinkler said the auto repair portion of the facility should reopen on Thursday and remain open until Washington Property Company breaks ground on its 145-unit apartment project destined for the site.
The crew, including some mechanics who have worked at Eastham’s for more than 30 years, have already begun to schedule appointments.
Part of the process of reopening was removing the underground gas tanks and replacing car lifts and other auto shop equipment supplied by Exxon.
Zinkler said Eastham’s will intensify its search for another Bethesda location in the next 18 months.
“We’ve been here 83 years,” Zinkler said. “We’d like to celebrate our 100th here.”
Zinkler first worked at the shop under original owner and future father-in-law Robert Eastham about 60 years ago.
“It wasn’t easy but Washington Property Company was very cooperative,” Zinkler said. “We were able to come to an understanding. We’ll have everything first-class like we’ve had for years. We’re gonna be here.”