April Advocacy Roundup

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VIRGINIA

VA Dooring Bill Signed into Law

Brief Explanation: SB 117 requires drivers to wait for a reasonable opportunity to open vehicle doors on the side adjacent to moving traffic. A violation constitutes a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $50. Getting “doored” is an all too common cause of crashes between bikes and cars, often resulting in severe injury to the bicyclist.

Current Status: Thanks to the efforts of hundreds of Virginia residents, advocates, and legislators, SB 117, the “dooring” bill, passed both the Virginia House and Senate. On April 1, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed the bill into law.

Funding for Complete Streets in Alexandria

Brief Explanation: Alexandria’s Complete Streets program is key to the city’s strategic objectives — protecting the safety of residents, building a multi-modal transportation network, enhancing the health of citizens, and supporting the wellbeing of our youth and children.  Last year, the program delivered nearly $1.5 M in safety fixes for intersections, schools and neighborhood streets. But if the city’s proposed budget is enacted as-is, funding for the Complete Streets program will be reduced to about 1/3 of it’s current budget in FY17. This will have direct negative impacts to the safety and well-being of Alexandria residents and visitors.

Current Status: After years of neglect, the city is to be commended for more than doubling the Street Reconstruction (Paving) budget, from $2.6M in FY14 to $5.6M in FY16 and proposed for $5.3M in FY17. But by not providing commensurate funds for Complete Streets, the city is prioritizing the convenience of motorists over the safety of people who walk and bike. WABA members and supporters have weighed in on this issue and we will have more updates after we see the final budget.

Update Arlington’s Bike Plan

Brief Explanation: Arlington’s bike plan is obsolete. It was written in 2007, when sharrows were the most exciting development in bike infrastructure.  It predates protected bike lanes, Capital Bikeshare and Vision Zero. Implementation of many of the projects called for in the plan have faced significant citizen opposition, because the plan lacked the robust, inclusive public process that is needed to generate consensus and support.

Current Status: Earlier this month, hundreds of Arlington residents sent in comments asking that the County update the Transportation Master Plan’s Bicycle element in the coming fiscal year. While specific funding was not identified in the 2017 budget, the County Board did make updating the plan a clear priority for staff in the coming year. We will continue pushing for robust public engagement as staff approach the planning process.


MARYLAND

A New Campaign for Montgomery County: Create the Silver Spring Circle

Brief Explanation: With the dense mix of transit, offices, entertainment, shops and homes, Silver Spring should be a paradise for walking and biking. But it’s not. Due to high speed traffic and a lack of dedicated space for bikes on the busy streets in downtown Silver Spring, most residents don’t feel safe biking in the road.  The Silver Spring Circle would trade excess road space for protected bike lanes, creating a connected, low-stress bike network in downtown Silver Spring.

Actions to Take: Come to the Campaign kickoff May 14th. Sign the petition to create the Silver Spring Circle.


Washington D.C.

Greg Kenyan McDuffie Tamara

Contributory Negligence

Brief Explanation: Contributory Negligence is an antiquated legal doctrine that limits bicyclists access to justice and compensation after a crash with a motor vehicle. The District of Columbia is a national outlier, as it is one of only five states that still use contributory negligence to allocate fault. The vast majority of states have updated their negligence standard to a fairer system.

Current Status: On April 21st, the Judiciary Committee voted 3-0 to move the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act out of committee and recommended it for consideration by the full D.C. Council. The bill will now be considered by the full DC Council when it meets as the Committee of the Whole sometime before summer recess. It needs seven votes to pass the Council, and the Mayor’s signature to become law.

Action to Take: Sign up to receive action alerts about opportunities for further public comment and testimony as they arise. We’ll need everyone’s involvement to get this across the finish line.

L St and Safe Accommodations

Brief Explanation: The L Street protected bike lane is a key part of the city’s transportation infrastructure. Following its completion in 2013, bike ridership on L Street exploded, increasing 65 percent within the lane’s first year of installation. The 1500 block section is a particularly important piece of the network because it intersects with the protected bike lanes on 15th Street and M Street.

Current Status: A permit issued to Carr Properties for the old Washington Post building site construction completely eliminates the protected bike lane and the sidewalk on the north side of the street, while leaving two vehicle lanes open. For more than two years, the publicly accessible portions of L Street will consist of a 13 foot motor vehicle lane (with sharrows) an 11 foot motor vehicle lane (formerly used for parking) and the southern sidewalk.

Action to Take: Report suspected violations of the Safe Accommodations Act to District Department of Transportation (DDOT) staff at the Public Space Regulation Administration. They will ask for information on the location, entity occupying public space (e.g. Pepco, Ft. Myer, etc.), and a brief description of what you encountered.  Photos of the location are especially helpful.

15th Street Bike Lane Connections at the White House

Ramparoo! New Paint and ramps make it easier to bike through Lafayette Park on segment of the 15th Street protected bike lane.

Brief Explanation: Thanks to some hard work by D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, and a bit of prodding by WABA, navigating past the White House on the 15th Street bikeway just got a little easier. DDOT, in collaboration with the National Park Service (which oversees the property) and the Secret Service (which is in charge of security for the area), installed new paint and curb ramps at the intersection of H St NW and Madison Pl NW.


TRAILS

The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail—Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Segment

Brief Explanation: Construction of the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Segment  is in full swing, and expected to be completed by this fall. This 4-mile segment fills a gap from Benning Road to Bladensburg Waterfront  completing an almost 70-mile network of bicycle and pedestrian trails on the Anacostia River and its tributaries.  It includes boardwalk sections that meander around trees and wetlands in the Aquatic Gardens and other National Park lands.

As it passes through the Mayfair and Parkside communities, the trail travels on widened sidewalks and protected bike lanes, linking these neighborhoods to more than 40 miles of trail, numerous schools, businesses, libraries, museums, shopping centers and transit stations. 

Parkview bike lane 1

Current Status: The protected bike lane is one of the first to be developed in Ward 7, and it is nearly completed.  Extensive public outreach was done during the years of planning from 2004 to 2014. Unfortunately, some neighbors of the project have complained about the loss of the parking in front of their townhouses and are asking the city to remove the protected bike lane on Hayes St.  

Action to take: Residents of Ward 7 who want more safe places to walk and bike in their neighborhoods should contact their government officials at DDOT and the City Council to speak up in favor this and future projects.

Purple Line and the Capital Crescent Trail

Brief Explanation: WABA has been working for more than two decades on making the vision of a seamless trail from Georgetown to Silver Spring a reality. The Purple Line will make substantial improvements to a portion of that route, transforming the Georgetown Branch Trail segment into a safe, viable transportation and recreation connection between two of the county’s hubs of activity (Bethesda and Silver Spring).

Current Status: Maryland’s Board of Public Works approved a contract for a team of companies to build, operate and maintain the Purple Line, a 16-mile transit line that will link the Red, Green, and Orange lines in the Maryland suburbs. We will continue to track progress on the development of the trail, and will keep you informed along the way.

Met Branch Trail

Brief Explanation: When completed, the MBT will be a 8-mile multi use trail from Union Station in the District to Silver Spring, MD. The finished segment we have today is the result of more than 25 years of  steadfast effort from committed residents, advocates, and planners through a lengthy public process. But we aren’t there quite yet.

Current Status: There are two segments that MCDOT is currently engaged in. From the Maryland line to the Silver Spring Transit Center, the designs look good, with one exception: the B&O train station just off of Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. Montgomery Preservation Inc (MPI), the nonprofit that controls this site, has spent years resisting proposed solutions, rejecting compromise design alternatives, and declining the County’s attempts to compensate them for the space the trail requires.

Action to Take:  Sign up to receive updates and action alerts from WABA about the Met Branch Trail.

Rock Creek Park Trail

Brief Explanation:  The Rock Creek Park Trail is in deplorable condition. Since 2014 when 2,500 WABA members and supporters signed a petition demanding action to rehabilitate the trial, a lot of work has been done. Over the next three years, the trail and beach drive will be completely reconstructed and improved.

Current Status: The funding is allocated, the engineering designs are complete and construction contracts are issued. We anticipate construction starting any day now. Beach Drive will be fully rebuilt and repaved over the next two years. It will be a long construction project but the road will a last another 50 years. 

Stay tuned for a more comprehensive update on this trail in coming weeks.

Washington Baltimore and Annapolis Trail

Brief Explanation: The Washington Baltimore & Annapolis trail (WB&A) is a paved multi-use trail that runs from Maryland Route 450 in Prince George’s County to the Patuxent River at the border of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties. Efforts are underway to extend the WB&A trail north-eastward over the Patuxent River and toward the Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Current Status: WABA released a report that provides a preliminary analysis of extending the current WB&A trail in the opposite direction: southwestward to connect with the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail (ART) at the Washington, DC border. Extending the WB&A trail to the ART at the Maryland/Washington DC border would provide analogous trail connectivity for a large area of central Prince George’s County serving residents and visitors.


Meet Advocates in Your Neighborhood

Vasa 2016

All across the region great people are working to fix our streets to make biking safe and popular. They meet each month to share ideas and work together for better places and more reason to bike. Whether you’re looking for a fun group, a new cause, or a wonky policy discussion, our Action Committees have it covered.

Click here to see what we’re doing in your community and join us for the next meeting.

We’re fine tuning the way this monthly(ish) update works, so if you have thoughts on how to make this information more useful, send a note to communications@waba.org.

No Tunnel for the Capital Crescent Trail at Wisconsin Ave

The Bethesda tunnel. Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

Plans have fallen through for a Capital Crescent Trail tunnel underneath Wisconsin Ave in downtown Bethesda. Montgomery County attempted to facilitate a redevelopment of the Apex Building that would have allowed a large and more efficient Purple Line light rail station and trail tunnel. In a closed session several weeks ago the County Council, at the recommendation of County Executive Ike Leggett, decided not to move forward with this attempt.

WABA is disappointed that the county has abandoned these plans. The Capital Crescent Trail is one of the most travelled multi-use trails in the county, and the Purple Line transit project is a once-in-a-lifetime investment in better trail infrastructure. Redevelopment of the Apex Building would have allowed for the best possible station and trail.

The construction of the Purple Line will connect the Capital Crescent Trail to Silver Spring and will upgrade all trail crossings along the corrdidor, which is why WABA supported the project. The loss of a grade-separated crossing where one already exists is a significant compromise and loss. Wisconsin Avenue is the busiest road in downtown Bethesda. More than 1.3 million people use the trail annually. An at-grade crossing of this road is not an acceptable long term solution.

Repeat, there will be no trail tunnel.

A redevelopment of the Apex Building would have allowed the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) to design a larger, more efficient Bethesda Purple Line station with better multimodal facilities. A new building above the station would be considerably taller and denser. The plans also included a bicycle and pedestrian tunnel underneath Wisconsin Ave for the Capital Crescent Trail.

With this latest news, the MTA will go forward with the original plan for the project: when construction begins in late 2015, the existing trail tunnel will be closed and the light rail station will be built in that space. The completed station will include a very narrow pedestrian (and walking bicycle) entrance from Woodmont Ave. The Capital Crescent Trail will follow a surface route described below.

Now what happens to the Trail?

Plans for the Purple Line have always included the construction of an additional “surface route” for the Capital Crescent Trail through downtown Bethesda. You can think of the surface as the “business route” and the tunnel as the “express route”. The Montgomery County Dept. of Transportation is developing the plans for the surface route right now. The Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail (CCCT) and WABA have been involved for over a year with a stakeholders group advising MCDOT on their plans. With the tunnel now off the table, the surface route will carry all of the traffic on the Capital Crescent Trail.

The stakes are now much higher for the design and execution of this surface route. Councilmember Roger Berliner has tasked MCDOT to build a “gold standard” trail experience for the at-grade crossing of Wisconsin Avenue. MCDOT is hoping to have draft plans to present to the public later this fall, finish designs and begin construction by next summer. This sounds like an aggressive timeline because it is one—the surface route must be completed before construction starts on the Purple Line, as the tunnel will be closed. We will post notice about a public meeting here when the information becomes available.

What next for the trail?

WABA has been working for more than two decades on the Capital Crescent Trail. The trail is a well loved community resource which provides an important recreation, fitness and transportation benefit to visitors and residents of all ages. The vision has always been a seamless trail from Georgetown to Silver Spring. While the Purple Line will complete a major gap in the trail, it leaves behind a new one.

We are disappointed by this loss of an tunnel option and hope that County officials exhausted all options before making this decision. We expect a safe, grade-separated crossing of the trail at Wisconsin Avenue to be the long-term solution.

Tell Montgomery County you want a safe trail crossing

Don’t Let MCDoT Eliminate Part of the Capital Crescent Trail


Updated 4:15pm.
We received the following email from Bruce Johnston at MCDOT informing us that the agency has suspended its request to MTA:

Good afternoon Shane,

As directed by Director Holmes, MCDOT staff has contacted MTA to suspend the previous orders to MTA to make changes to the Capital Crescent Trail configuration at Jones Mill Road.

Subsequent to the aforementioned order, additional engineering information has been provided to our staff, which is currently being reviewed by MCDOT engineers.

After our evaluation is complete, and before any further decision is made, the results of our evaluation will be vetted with the Capital Crescent Trail stakeholders, including the bicycling community.

Be assured that Washington Area Bicyclist Association will be involved.

I hope this information is helpful.

Bruce Johnston

 

Thank you to everyone who contacted the County Executive, T&E Committee, and MCDOT about this matter. And thank you to Bruce, Director Holmes, and MCDOT for reconsidering this decision.  We look forward to continuing to push for a safe, well-designed Capital Crescent Trail with grade separated crossings, as promised.


 

Original action alert below

After years of public input and agreement on the design for the future Capital Crescent trail, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) just moved unilaterally to eliminate the long-promised grade-separated crossing of busy Jones Mill Rd.

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The grade separation makes the trail safer, and safety is vital to ensuring this heavily travelled trail remains a viable transportation option. Through thousands of hours of meetings on the future of the Capital Crescent Trail, County officials have promised safe crossings of major roadways that don’t leave bicyclists competing with cars or pressing “Walk” buttons and waiting for minutes.

But the County’s own transportation officials just sent a letter to the Maryland Transit Agency (MTA), requesting that the separation be removed from the request for proposals (RFP). Despite years of working together on this project, MCDOT did not notify the public. They did not hold a meeting. They did not mention this at a Council hearing. They did not send a note to representatives of the bicycling community. It is unclear whether they even communicated their intentions to the County Executive.

Frankly, they tried to sneak this past without any of us noticing.

We noticed. We noticed that at the first opportunity to save money by sacrificing trail safety, they attempted to do so in a manner that evades public scrutiny and reneges on years of promises.

We need you to take action today to tell the County Executive that we will not stand for such a downgrade to our prized trail, or for such misleading actions from our local transportation officials.

Our hope is that the County Executive’s office was as misled as we were, and that they will immediately, clearly, and unambiguously tell MTA that the County is NOT seeking an amendment to the Purple Line RFP to eliminate the grade-separated crossing at Jones Mill Road.

With years of work still ahead to complete the trail as promised, we cannot stand for a precedent of closed-door decisions that remove, or compromise, long-promised trail improvements.

For an in-depth engineering perspective on why a grade separated crossing is both doable and the best option. check out this post at Silver Spring Trails

For WABA’s position on the Purple Line project, have a look at this post.

Montgomery Co. Transportation Forum on May 29th

As Montgomery County continues to grow, what are the county’s best approaches to transportation and development for a more sustainable and equitable future? Join Coalition for Smarter Growth, WABA and WAMU reporter Martin DiCaro to learn what the candidates for County Council think about these critical and interconnected issues. Candidates will be prepared to discuss a range of transportation issues and answer questions about funding prioritizes, building better transit, increasing bicycling through protected bike lanes, and making the streets safer for pedestrians.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY TRANSPORTATION FORUM
Montgomery County Council Candidates Share Their Views
Thursday, May 29th, 7:00-9:00pm | Silver Spring Civic Building (Metro: Silver Spring)
RSVP here on Facebook

All candidates for County Council seats are invited to participate, creating a terrific opportunity for the public to hear directly from a number of the candidates.  This is strictly an educational event since some of the co-sponsors are 501(c)(3) non-profits and cannot and do not endorse candidates.

The forum is co-sponsored by Coalition for Smarter Growth, Purple Line Now, Action Committee for Transit, Montgomery County Sierra Club, Montgomery Countryside Alliance, Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and the TAME Coalition.

Speak Up By Oct. 21 to Support an Improved Capital Crescent Trail

Capital Crescent Trail

We sent an action-alert email to our supporters in Maryland this morning encouraging them to submit for comment to the Maryland Transit Association their support for improvements to the Capital Crescent Trail as part of the Purple Line project. We’re reposting it here for our blog’s readers who may also support a better, paved, grade-separated crossing between Bethesda and Silver Spring.

Next Monday, Oct. 21, is the deadline for the public to comment on the Maryland Transit Administration’s Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Purple Line.

As you likely already know, the future of the Capital Crescent Trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring is directly tied to the Purple Line, with Montgomery County committed to completing, paving, and providing grade-separated crossings of major roadways as part of the overall project.

Send your comment in support of the Capital Crescent Trail.

Public input matters on this project, and opponents of the trail completion have mobilized their supporters to flood the record with comments against the Purple Line—as well as against improvements to the trail that will make is a safe, viable transportation and recreation connection between two of the county’s hubs of activity for people of all ages and abilities.

WABA strongly supports the long-awaited completion of the Capital Crescent Trail. As long as the interim trail remains unpaved, with at grade-crossings and no connection into downtown Silver Spring, this section of the trail will continue to be underused and undervalued. We see how critical the portion of the CCT from Bethesda to Georgetown is because it is well-paved with grade separated crossings and connects two population hubs.

We have the opportunity for another such gem that will connect Bethesda to Silver Spring, but you need to speak up in support. Those who oppose improvements to the trail on the basis of preventing broader development downcounty through the Purple Line could very well prevent the creation of a great amenity for the region.

Please CLICK HERE to provide your comment in support of a completed, paved, grade-separated trail to the Maryland Transit Administration.

Image via Flickr user eddie.welker

A New Option for Capital Crescent Trail Tunnel in Bethesda

As the Washington Post reported recently, Montgomery County planners are working on a plan to redevelop the Apex Building in downtown Bethesda to better accommodate the Purple line’s western terminus. As currently planned, the Bethesda station for the Purple line will be tightly squeezed into the space under the Apex Building. This will force the Capital Crescent Trail out of the tunnel. In early 2012, the Montgomery County Council voted against spending over $50 million to keep the trail in the tunnel due to the high costs of the project and potential of damage to the buildings above during construction.

However, if the county is successful in encouraging the building’s owners to demolish and rebuild the Apex Building, another option would exist. A newly designed Apex Building would allow Purple line planners to build a larger and more efficient station platform, tracks, and connection to Metro’s Red line station. There would also be space for a new Capital Crescent tunnel.

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation has been working over the past year to plan and design a surface route for the Capital Crescent Trail that includes an at-grade crossing at Wisconsin Avenue. Additionally, Council President Roger Berlinger has tasked MCDOT with building a “gold standard” trail experience for the crossing of Wisconsin Avenue. This new opportunity is an exciting development to provide a grade separated crossing for the trail across the busy state highway.

To prepare for the final design and construction of the Purple line, county planners are working fast to prepare a plan for the redevelopment of the Apex Building. Purple Line planners are hoping to finish the final design in 2014, begin construction in 2015, and open for revenue service in 2020. The county planning department will host three public open houses in September to explain its plans and answer questions.

Please consider attending one of the public open houses and expressing your support for a Capital Crescent Trail tunnel through Bethesda. The official meeting announcement from the planning department is below:

The Planning Department will hold Open House Previews of Staff Recommendations for the Bethesda Purple Line Station Plan, at the Bethesda Regional Services Center, located at 4805 Edgemoor Lane near the intersection of Woodmont Avenue and Old Georgetown Road. Enter on the plaza level above Chipotle. Each session will include the same information.

The sessions will be held:

* Tuesday, September 3, 2013, 6-9pm
* Saturday, September 7, 2013, 10am-2pm
* Monday, September 9, 2013, 6-9pm.

Please drop in any time during the Open House to learn more about this limited plan and share your thoughts, questions, and comments with the Planning Department team. Staff will prepare a handout summarizing the recommendations for the Open House sessions and will post it online when it is available.

For more information, questions, or to join the mailing list:
Project email:    bethesdapurpleline@montgomeryplanning.org
Website:              www.montgomeryplanning.org/bethesda_purple_line
Twitter:                @bethesdaPL, #bethesdapurpleline
Facebook:           Bethesda Purple Line Station Plan
Phone:                 301.495.2115, Elza Hisel-McCoy, Lead Planner

Image via Washington Post