Posts Tagged ‘Montgomery County’
Last week, we learned from a Montgomery County Department of Transportation presentation to the county’s Transportation & Environment Committee that progress on the Metropolitan Branch Trail in the county had stalled due to the unwillingness of the nonprofit owner of the historic Silver Spring train station to agree to submit the trail plans for historical review with the Maryland Historic Trust.
We received word today that the landowner, Montgomery Preservation Inc., has changed its mind and will allow the plans to be reviewed by the Trust. While this is certainly not the last hurdle to overcome, it is a significant one. We appreciate the efforts of all those involved in getting this far.
Thanks to MCDOT, the T&E Committee, and Councilmember Ervin for pushing forward on the Met Branch Trail.
Of course, now it is even more important to ensure that funding for the trail is not delayed.
Yesterday, representatives of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation provided the County Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee with an update on its work on the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Work on the MBT been stalled for some time due to disputes over its crossing at Georgia Avenue and proposed routing that would have the trail pass by the historic Silver Spring train station. The train station is controlled by the nonprofit Montgomery Preservation Inc.
Despite protestations on its website that MPI is not stalling the project, MCDOT’s update yesterday showed that MPI is in fact preventing the project’s moving forward. Delays are attributable to MPI’s unwillingness to accommodate the master plan trail alignment, which led Montgomery County’s county executive to propose delaying the funding of the project for a year.
Fortunately, all three members of the T&E Committee—Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen, and Hans Riemer—as well as Councilmember Valerie Ervin, who is not on T&E Committee but represents the District that houses the MBT and the train station, expressed strong support for the trail as well as frustration at MPI’s unwillingness to support proposed solutions.
Specifically, because the train station is historically designated, changes must be approved by the Maryland Historic Trust. However, only MPI—due to its control of the station–can make that submission and initiate the review. According to MCDOT, it refuses to do.
As a result, the county is being blocked from building a trail that will serve hundreds of thousands of regional residents, is included in the County master plan, and was previously supported by MPI.
During the hearing, councilmembers expressed frustration with the situation and asked the county attorney to review the situation. They hope that agreements with the county that have, over the years, given MPI control of the property and funding will provide a way to move forward.
This impasse is unfortunate, but we appreciate the strong showing of support from the T&E Committee and Councilmember Ervin. We firmly believe that the county should assert its rights and authority over the project and the process and continue to move forward with its design, which respects both the community’s need and demand for the trail and the historic significance of the train station.
MCDOT’s Edgar Gonzalez stated that the delays stemmed from past action and that within two months the county should be prepared to move forward, with or without Montgomery Preservation Inc. Therefore, this year’s delay in funding for the trail is unjustified.
For all the complexity of MPI’s involvement and the historic land use issues surrounding the Silver Spring train station, the County’s representatives are in agreement that it is time to move forward with the Met Branch Trail. MCDOT says it will have a way to do so within two months. Montgomery County should budget accordingly by restoring funding for the trail in this year’s budget.
Tonight, Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner will host a “conversation” for residents of the county’s District 1. If you live in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Potomac, Kensington, or Poolesville, you’re encouraged to attend and discuss issues that matter to you.
If you’d like to personally thank Councilmember Berliner for his support of a Montgomery County bikesharing system and commitment to better bicycling, we suggest you stop by. This forum is also a good opportunity to ask for continued improvements for area cyclists.
The meeting will start at 7:30 p.m. at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda.
Last week we announced WABA’s new Business Membership program, and mentioned the first five businesses to get involved. Today, let us give you a more in-depth look at what the businesses that have joined up with us have to offer.
VeloCity Bicycle Cooperative is a non-profit, volunteer-run, do-it-yourself bicycle workshop in Alexandria. It offers trainings, rides, and events to empower and educate area bicyclists through building, maintaining, and embracing the fun of riding a bike. VeloCity actively sought us out for a business membership and quickly became our first member.
Bike and Roll is a bike rental, repair, and touring company with locations in D.C. and Alexandria. It provides hourly and full-day bike rentals, guided bike tours, and bicycle repair and maintenance. A long time supporter of WABA, Bike and Roll has frequently donated its bikes for use at WABA events and classes.
Ecoprint is an environmentally responsible printing company in Silver Spring that uses a 100 percent carbon-neutral printing processes—Ecoprint was “eco” before it was cool. The company has printed WABA’s newsletter and direct mailings for many years and has helped us raise awareness of bicycling issues in an environmentally friendly manner.
KGP Design Studios, LLC is a design firm providing architecture, urban design, and transit planning services. It has been a leader in the livable cities movement, designing premier bicycle facilities including the Union Station Bicycle Transit Center (which is operated by Bike and Roll).
The Motley Fool is a multimedia financial-services company that provides financial solutions for all kinds of investors. Committed to cultivating bicycling as a viable transportation option for its staff, The Motley Fool brought in WABA for an employee-based bike commuter seminar in 2011.
Do you live in Friendship Heights or Bethesda, near Wisconsin Avenue?
The Maryland State Highway Administration has proposed a six-foot-wide sidewalk along the east side of Wisconsin Ave., which connects the north end of Friendship Heights with the south end of Bethesda. This sidewalk would stretch .7 miles alongside a six-lane road with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour. 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 Little Falls Watershed Association is actively organizing to oppose this sidewalk, which could cost $1.5 million. There will be an informational meeting on Jan. 28 at 7:30 to discuss the project. Maryland state engineers will present the latest plans for the sidewalk, and members of Montgomery County Council have been invited to attend.
Please attend this informational meeting to support building a safe route for pedestrians and bicyclists. It is on Jan. 28 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Somerset Town Hall, 4510 Cumberland Ave., Chevy Chase, Md.
We’ll update you here on any needs for subsequent action.
Last week, County Executive Ike Leggett sent to the Montgomery County Council a request for appropriation of county funds that, along with state funding and private-sector support, will fund the expansion of bikesharing into the County.
WABA fully supports the implementation and expeditious growth of bikesharing in Montgomery County. Several outlets have recently suggested that WABA and local advocates called for a series of improvements prior to starting up bikesharing in Montgomery County. We do believe that there are significant infrastructure improvements needed in the county to maximize the opportunities presented by bikeshare, and to make bikesharing safe and appealing to a broader audience of potential cyclists. But those improvements are not a precondition to the expansion of bikesharing in the county. The lack of such infrastructure certainly does not prevent many from bicycling in Montgomery County today.
WABA supports bikesharing because it is a great way of getting more people to travel by bike. And we support improvements to infrastructure because they make bicyclists safer, and get more people to travel by bike. Bikesharing and infrastructure improvements are mutually supportive, so we hope the implementation of bikeshare and improvements to infrastructure combine to accelerate Montgomery County’s growth as a bike-friendly county.
For reference, read WABA’s most recent memorandum to Councilmember Nancy Floreen detailing infrastructure needs to support bikesharing.
This past weekend WSSC discovered a problem with one of their sewer manholes and was forced to set up a temporary sewage pump-a-round that crosses over the surface of the Capital Crescent Trail. The crossing is located several hundred feet south of mile marker 5.5. The 4-inch line is covered with a plywood ramp and several traffic drums are in place to alert the public. The ramp should not be a problem for pedestrians. However, cyclists should reduce speed and use caution when crossing the plywood ramp.
WSSC is working out the details for the manhole repair and hopes to be finished in a week or so. Other options for the location of the pump-a-round pipe were considered. However, given the forecast for another storm coming up the coast on Wednesday. Placement of the bypass line through the adjacent stream culvert did not seem to be a viable option.
Last week, WABA met with representatives of Montgomery Preservation Inc. (MPI), the County Executive, Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), and the offices of Councilmembers Riemer and Ervin to work to resolve the impasse on the trail alignment as it crosses Georgia Avenue and passes the historic B&O Train Station that serves as a headquarters and event space for MPI. At this meeting, MCDOT officials stated that the agency, the County Executive, and the County Council were committed to the Master Plan Trail Alignment and to a grade separated crossing of Georgia Avenue, and that design work is beginning.
Thanks to the hundreds of WABA members and supporters who wrote to County leaders to prompt this movement, and special thank to Councilmember Ervin for attending last week’s meeting and remaining personally involved in this important trail project in her District.
There is still much work to be done to ensure that the trail is well-designed to serve the expected usage, as this trail will be a major point of access to the Silver Spring Transit Center as well as a key commuter and recreation route. MPI remains committed to ensuring that the historic character of the train station is maintained and enhanced. WABA remains committed to ensuring that the trail is a safe, functional trail for riders of all ages and abilities. These commitments are not incompatible.
With the question of alignment resolved, our work is now to ensure that the work progresses expeditiously toward a Metropolitan Branch Trail that will meet deliver on its promise as a transportation and recreational amenity and be an asset to the entire community.
Both MPI and WABA sent letters to MCDOT Deputy Director Gonzalez providing feedback on Friday’s meeting. They are shared below.
In the last post, Greg Billing explained the steps Arlington and DC have made in recent days to bring green lanes to these jurisdictions. At the same time, Montgomery County legislators have been doing their part to ensure that the County works to become more bike-friendly as well.
Because much of this work has been done behind the scenes, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank two members of Montgomery County’s Transportation and Environment Committee–Council President Roger Berliner and Councilmember Nancy Floreen–for their recent steps in support of bicycle facility improvements.
We have met with both councilmembers to discuss their approaches to better integrating bicycling into Montgomery Count’s transportation priorities, and both have responded in support of these efforts.
The first letter below is Council President Berliner’s letter in support of the Capital Crescent Trail. The second is Councilmember Floreen’s letter specifying preference for buffered bike lanes and suggesting numerous opportunities for biking improvements downcounty in advance of bikeshare.
It was a great day, and in the two years since WABA has returned regularly to the trail for organized rides, Bike Ambassador outreach events, safety patrols, and all sorts of activities. A lot has happened on the trail, both positive and negative.
But one thing hasn’t happened in those two years: Extension of the trail.
There have been beautification projects and races, bike rides and community events. But not another inch of asphalt has been laid to move the trail toward completing its connection between Silver Spring and Union Station.
Both the District and Montgomery County need to be held accountable for this delay. Certainly, there are challenging segments that will take more time and effort than others. But there are also less challenging ones, and those haven’t progressed either. There have been numerous funding and operational battles going on in the background to ensure that the trail continues, from getting police in the District to protect trail users to saving funding for the trail in the Montgomery County budget. And by and large, trail supporters have won those battles. But we must judge based on results. The District and Montgomery County have failed to make reasonable progress in the construction of this trail. Beyond the section that opened in June 2010, we still ride the same “interim” route as years ago.
It is time to renew our focus on the trail and to push local leaders to demand more than conversations in the conference rooms of DDOT and MCDOT. We want to see the trail grow and provide that long-awaited connection from Silver Spring to Union Station.
In the District, no one has provided a solid reason why work cannot begin immediately on the northern segment of the trail from Riggs Rd. to the Montgomery County line. Everyone understands that the center segment, with various issues to be resolved around Ft. Totten and the connector spur to the Anacostia Tributary Trail System, includes a number of land usage and management challenges that the various parties (DDOT, NPS, WMATA) need to resolve. But we find no such issues on the northern segment. It needs to be done. Idleness is unacceptable.
It is no more acceptable in Montgomery County, where WABA fought to have funding for the trail restored to the budget after it was removed from County Executive Ike Leggett’s original proposal. The restoration of funding has come with no commensurate sense of urgency to put it to use, however. Despite the existence of funding and the inclusion of the trail in approved master plans, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) has not even begun the design of the critical crossing of Georgia Avenue, much less initiated any form of construction. Instead, they continue to tiptoe around and negotiate with owners of the historic Silver Spring B&O Train Station, who do not want bicyclists able to travel along the master planned route, which includes an area the group currently rents as event space.
Four months after a meeting facilitated by representatives of the County Executive, we have seen no further action.
In the District and in Montgomery County, we need to renew our push for the completion of the Metropolitan Branch Trail. To do that, we need to once again bolster our support and grow our coalition of individuals, groups, and businesses who believe in the importance of our trails in general, and this trail in particular.
To add your voice to the effort by contacting your local officials in support of the trail:
- CLICK HERE to contact Montgomery County leaders.
- CLICK HERE to contact District of Columbia leaders.