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Council Vice President Riemer Introduces Bill to Increase Affordable Housing at Council Meeting on Tue., Nov. 14

ROCKVILLE, Md., November 14, 2017—Montgomery County Council Vice President Hans Riemer introduced Bill 38-17, Housing – Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs) – Requirement to Build, during the Council’s legislative session at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, November 14. Bill 38-17 would increase affordable housing in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) High School Service Areas that have low poverty rates. Councilmember Sidney Katz is a cosponsor.

Bill 38-17 would increase the minimum percentage of moderately priced housing units (MPDUs) that are required to be built in new residential developments from 12.5 to 15 percent in a MCPS High School Service Area with an eligibility rate for free and reduced meals (FARMS) of 15 percent or less. The Planning Board would make the determination about the number of affordable homes required at the time an applicant submits a preliminary plan of subdivision.

“Over the years, the County’s affordable housing requirements for new development have been recognized as among the best in the nation. By requiring affordable housing be built with every new development, we ensure that affordable housing is available throughout the County. However, we haven’t been able to keep pace with the need,” said Council Vice President Riemer. “This bill will result in more affordable housing in the communities where having it makes the biggest impact and where the market can best absorb it. We need more housing options for working families, young people who want to establish roots in our community, and seniors who are living on fixed incomes.”

The Council enacted the County’s moderately priced dwelling unit law in 1973 with the objective of providing a full range of housing choices for all incomes, ages and household sizes. The MPDU law was designed to meet an important need for low and moderate-income housing, and ensure that moderately priced housing was dispersed throughout the County.

In 2010, a Century Foundation study called “Housing Policy is School Policy” examined academic outcomes among low income students in Montgomery County who had been moved from traditional public housing and placed in MPDU’s in low poverty areas. The study found that by the end of elementary school, the lower income students who lived in higher income communities as a result of the MPDU program “far outperformed” their peers in lower income communities. Read the full study here: https://tcf.org/assets/downloads/tcf-Schwartz.pdf

Students can qualify for Montgomery County Public Schools Free and Reduced Price Meals program based on household size and income, as well as eligibility for Food Supplement Program or Temporary Cash Assistance benefits. Individual student’s eligibility status is held strictly confidential, but MCPS reports an aggregate rate of FARMs eligibility annually for each school. More information about the FARMs program is available here.

The staff report on Bill 38-17 can be viewed here.

For more information or questions, please contact Ken Silverman in the Office of Council Vice President Riemer, at 240-777-7830.

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Montgomery County becomes first in the State to have green pavement markings on State highways

ROCKVILLE, Md., November 9, 2017 — Residents passing through downtown Silver Spring may notice green markings on the pavement inside the intersections. These markings represent a new type of bicycle infrastructure and a first in the State of Maryland.

As part of the “Silver Spring Circle’s” Spring Street protected bicycle lane project, Montgomery County is now first in the state to have support for a protected bike lane on a State highway, through the installation of high visibility green paint through the intersection crossings at Georgia Ave (MD 97) and Wayne Avenue (MD 594A). MCDOT will complete the markings at the Spring St. / Colesville Ave. (MD 29) intersection once the State Highway Administration (SHA) completes planned repaving in 2018.

The announcement follows a letter (pdf) sent in May 2016 to SHA requesting the change by Council Vice President Hans Riemer, Council President Roger Berliner, and Councilmember Tom Hucker, as well as the District 20 State Delegation, Senator Jamie Raskin and Delegates Sheila Hixson and David Moon.

Council Vice President Riemer lauded the work: “These safety markings symbolize big steps forward for bike infrastructure in Montgomery County. Green pavement markings substantially increase the visibility of bicyclists and make motorists and bicyclists more predictable to one another. While the County has been installing green pavement markings on County roads for several years, there is great value in installing these in intersections with state highways, where the conflicts are particularly acute. I am proud that Montgomery County continues to lead the state in safe bicycling infrastructure, and I look forward to seeing more examples of these throughout the County.”

Research has shown that pavement markings can have significant effects on safety. A 2008 Danish study in “Accident Analysis & Prevention” found that colored bike lanes in intersections resulted in a 10% reduction in accidents and 19% reduction in injuries. Some other benefits include discouraging illegal parking by cars, increasing motorist yielding behavior, and enhancing bicyclist comfort.

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Community Meeting on Bicycling in Bethesda – Nov. 1

ROCKVILLE, Md., October 25, 2017—Montgomery County Council Vice President Hans Riemer and Council President Roger Berliner, the County Planning Department, the County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) will host a community meeting on Wednesday, November 1 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. to discuss bicycling issues in and around Bethesda. The meeting will be held at the Jane E. Lawton Community Center, which is located at 4301 Willow Lane in Chevy Chase, MD 20815. RSVP Here »

County officials will update the community on alternate routes to the Georgetown Branch Trail and the latest plans for a low-stress bicycle infrastructure in and around Bethesda. Officials will be available to answer questions from the public.

The County Council recently adopted a bold new vision for Downtown Bethesda that includes many transformational changes to the area’s bicycle infrastructure. The plan supports the development of “low-stress bike networks” that are safer for bicyclists of all ages and skill levels as well as a new development mitigation policy that requires developer payments for all modes of transportation, including biking. In addition, the nearly complete Bicycle Master Plan will be making recommendations on bicycle infrastructure, routes, and parking in Bethesda.

The County also is working closely with stakeholders to identify alternate bicycle connections between Silver Spring and Bethesda in the wake of the closure of the Georgetown Branch Trail for the construction of the Purple Line. The County invites residents to learn more about these opportunities and challenges and to share their perspectives at the meeting.

“I am committed to creating the safest environment for cyclists of all ages and all skill levels,” said Council Vice President Riemer. “With the recent closure of the Capital Crescent Trail, this is an important time for a community discussion about the future of biking infrastructure in the affected areas. The changes recommended in the Bethesda Sector Plan, the Bicycle Master Plan, and the ongoing discussions about alternative routes to the Georgetown Branch Trail all are pushing the County in the right direction. But we need to get it right. That is why I am looking forward to hearing from the public, as the County considers ways to make bicycling a real option for more residents.”

Council President Berliner explained that, “When the Council passed the Downtown Bethesda Plan, we did so with the aim of creating a truly walkable and bikeable community – one that embraces a multimodal approach that encourages people to get out of their cars, reducing congestion and our carbon footprint. The closure of the Georgetown Branch Trail to allow for construction of the Purple Line and the completion of the Capital Crescent Trail has made it clear that we need the bike infrastructure recommended in the Downtown Bethesda Plan more than ever. I look forward to hearing from the County Department of Transportation, the County Planning Department, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and the community on November 1 as to how we can make our bicycle network the best it can be.”

To RSVP for this community meeting, visit:
http://councilmemberriemer.com/bethesda-bike-meeting

To read more about the Downtown Bethesda Plan, visit:
http://councilmemberriemer.com/2017/08/a-bold-new-vision-for-bethesda.html

To see the Bicycle Master Plan, visit:
http://montgomeryplanning.org/planning/functional-planning/bicycle-master-plan/

For futher information or questions, please contact Tommy Heyboer at the Office of Council Vice President Riemer, at 240-777-7948 or Tommy.Heyboer@montgomerycountymd.gov , or Aaron Kraut in the Office of Council President Berliner, at 240-777-7962 or Aaron.Kraut@montgomerycountymd.gov .

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Improving transportation for Upcounty

As the Council debates the resolution I introduced to make sure that future master plans don’t make traffic worse, here is some background information on what we can do to improve mobility.

The Resolution currently before the Council does not make any decisions about what transportation projects, including M83, will or will not be built. It expresses the will of the Council that future master plans should not factor in M83 on the master plan alignment when the transportation capacity of the master plan area is assessed. There is no consensus to build M83 on the master plan alignment, therefore it does not make sense to continue adding new development that requires M83 as a transportation solution.

The Montgomery County Department Of Transportation has produced several detailed studies of options for improving mobility Upcounty over the last decade. They can be viewed on the County’s website at:
http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/corridor/. I believe there is an option that will make significant improvements for the area and could also gain the consensus needed to go into construction.

The most recent study was the Midcounty Corridor Study Supplemental Report from February 2017. DOT studied how four possible alternatives would perform in 2040, using the same background assumptions about development and infrastructure.

  • “No Build” – No improvements on 355 or M83
  • “Scenario 1” – Widening 355 and adding service lanes, improving intersections throughout the area, and building Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on 355.
  • “Scenario 2” – Building a two-lane reversible parkway on the M-83 route and BRT on 355.
  • “Scenario 3” – Building a four-lane highway along the M-83 right-of-way, without any improvements to 355.

See the figure below that summarizes the results of that study. The study did not recommend one alternative, but found that each scenario improved conditions over the “No Build” scenario.

I believe that Scenario 1 – widening 355, improving intersections, and building BRT – should be our highest priority, in addition to I-270 and the Corridor Cities Transitway, for which we are seeking state funding. Compared with Scenario 3 (M83), Scenario 1 allows auto travel times at rush hour that are only 2 or 3 minutes more, while allowing 22% of commuters to take transit and producing 34 million fewer vehicle-miles per year. Only 8 intersections continue to fail under Scenario 1, compared with 9 intersections under Scenario 3 and 14 intersections under No Build.

Scenario 1, which I favor, includes a combination of road improvements from Alternatives 2 & 5 of the 2013 Environmental Effects Report. These expand auto capacity along Ridge Road, 355, and the existing Midcounty Highway by widening the route to a six-lane divided highway along the entire stretch (sections are already six lanes) and building service roads along 355 to minimize driveways and turning movements.

  • Ridge Road would be widened to a six-lane divided highway with a sidewalk and shared use path from future Snowden Farm Parkway to Brink Road under a separate developer-funded project. (From Brink Road to MD 355, Ridge Road is already six lanes.)
  • From Ridge Road to Middlebrook Road, MD 355 would be widened from a four-lane divided highway that contains auxiliary turning lanes at various locations to a six-lane divided highway with auxiliary turning lanes, service roads at select locations, and a sidewalk and shared use path.
  • From Middlebrook Road to Montgomery Village Avenue, MD 355 is already a six-lane divided highway. Service roads would be added at select locations.
  • Montgomery Village Avenue between MD 355 and Midcounty Highway is already a six-lane divided highway, but would be modified by replacing the existing eastern sidewalk with a shared use path.
  • Existing Midcounty Highway from Montgomery Village Avenue to Goshen Road would be widened from the existing four-lane divided highway to a six-lane divided highway with a sidewalk and shared use path.
  • Intersection improvements (such as additional turn lanes) at the following intersections:
    • Midcounty Highway /Montgomery Village Avenue
    • Midcounty Highway/Goshen Road
    • Midcounty Highway/Woodfield Road
    • Midcounty Highway/Washington Grove Road
    • Midcounty Highway/Miller Fall Road
    • Midcounty Highway/Shady Grove Road
    • MD 355/Shady Grove Road
    • MD 355/Montgomery Village Avenue
    • MD 355/Watkins Mill Road
    • MD 355/Professional Drive
    • MD 355/Gunners Branch Road
    • MD 355/Middlebrook Road
    • MD 355/Germantown Road
    • MD 355/Shakespeare Boulevard
    • Watkins Mill Road/Stedwick Road
    • MD 115/Shady Grove Road/Airpark Road
  • Finally, Scenario 1 includes Bus Rapid Transit on 355, attracting more than 1,600 new daily transit riders according to the study. You can read more about the proposed BRT line here.

Performance Measures (2040) from Feb. 2017 Midcounty Corridor Study Supplemental Report