Inclusion | Opportunity | Innovation

Council Update — budget for school construction, infrastructure

Dear Resident,

The Council is in regular session this Tuesday, and you can view our agenda here.

Among our topics is a discussion about revenue projections for the capital budget, where we handle school construction and other important infrastructure priorities.

The County Executive’s recommended capital budget projects a dramatic slowdown of development (mostly from a projected decline in new housing), causing a loss of nearly $100 million to our budget over six years from taxes paid by developers.

In turn, the Executive’s budget recommends delaying projects that are important priorities such as a modernization at Seneca Valley High School, pedestrian and bike infrastructure in Wheaton and Silver Spring, and new entrances to the Metro stations at White Flint and Forest Glen.

For me, this highlights the complicated issue of how tax revenue from new development funds infrastructure. We often hear claims that we should “pause development until infrastructure catches up.” The Executive’s recommended budget shows how it is not that simple.

The projected slowdown of housing growth results in a massive reduction of tax revenues, even with our developer impact tax rates that are among the highest anywhere. With a much lower baseline of anticipated housing growth, not only will the housing crunch worsen (a huge issue in and of itself) but immediate infrastructure needs cannot be met.

The Council will take up the revenue question on Tuesday morning.

Following are some other highlights of the Council’s week:

Planning and economic development committee
Last Fall the Council passed a zoning change that I authored that enables farmers in the Agricultural Reserve to establish breweries or wineries under certain conditions; my new proposal extends that framework to other rural zones. Two entrepreneurs have sought the change as they intend to open a brewery on their family’s farm in Olney.

On a related note, the Committee will discuss the issue of “small scale manufacturing.” The goal is to identify the status and potential of this sector in Montgomery County. Examples in the County include African clothing and textiles, laser-cut branding products, food, jewelry, 3D printing, and more. You can read more about it in the report that I commissioned last year by a consultancy based in the County, Recast City.

Neighborhood street safety – 15 mph
For several years now I have been working with my colleagues in the state legislature (special shout out to Delegate David Moon) to advance an important change in the law that would allow the County to set a neighborhood speed limit of 15 mph. State law generally prohibits speeds lower than 25 mph on the County’s small neighborhood streets. Here is more about that issue from the Bethesda Beat.

Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission follow up
Last Tuesday the Council unanimously voted on a resolution to establish a commission to secure our County’s memorial from the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to honor the three known lynchings that took place in the County. The Office of Human Rights will soon be identifying residents to join the commission. If you’re interested in getting involved, please reach out to my office, and we will help you get involved.

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about one of the three known lynchings to have taken place in the County, join me this Sunday, February 10 at 4:00 pm at the Old Town Hall in Poolesville when local historian Anthony Cohen, will be speaking about the long-overlooked story of the January 1880 lynching in Poolesville of George Peck, a local laborer accused of assaulting a young white girl, will be examined along with details of his arrest, abduction and murder at the hands of a mob.

How do I…?
…sign up for a public hearing.

In-person public hearings are one way to express your views to the Council. Simply navigate to the County Council Public Hearing website, find the public hearing you are looking for, and click “Sign Up.” A new window will pop up (make sure your browser allows pop ups), and you will be asked to fill in some basic details.

Upon completing the form, your request will be registered. Council Staff will then reach out to everyone who is invited to testify. The Council does its best to make sure everyone has an opportunity to share their views with the Council and that the Council hears from all perspectives. There are hearings when we have more requests than time will allow, but for the most part we are able to accommodate everyone who signs up by the deadline.

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Councilmember, At-large

Council Suggests Strategies to Improve Pedestrian Safety Along State Highways in Letter to Maryland State Highway Administration

ROCKVILLE, Md., Dec. 3, 2018— Council President Hans Riemer sent a letter on Nov. 30 to Greg Slater, administrator for the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), to suggest a number of strategies that should be pursued to improve pedestrian safety on state roads. The letter follows up on the Nov. 13 Council meeting with SHA, the Montgomery County Police Department, the Department of Transportation and others. The following is the text from the letter, which is also attached:

On November 13 the County Council had a wide-ranging conversation with you regarding both general and specific strategies for improving traffic and pedestrian safety along State highways in Montgomery County. I want to summarize for you the general strategies we wish the State Highway Administration to pursue going forward:

  • Reduce the lane widths to 10 feet in all our urban areas (11 feet if adjacent to a parking lane or a curb), consistent with the direction in the County’s Road Construction Code. This is the standard that has been applied to County roads since the Council updated the Road Code in 2014. It was developed after significant engineering review by our Planning Board and Department of Transportation staffs; the 10-foot-width standard was deemed sufficient to accommodate trucks and buses. The state roads in urban areas should adhere to the same standard. The County has formally adopted about 25 urban areas where this standard applies (see the attached map).
  • Set the speed limit on all state roads in urban areas to 25 mph unless a different target speed is specified in a local master plan. This, too, was a provision in the 2014 Road Code update. Target speeds in our suburban areas are not specified in law, but many of our most recent master plans do set them, and they are often lower than the current posted speed limits. As we noted in our earlier letter, the speed limit on Georgia Avenue (MD 97) in Aspen Hill should be reduced from the current 45 mph posting.
  • Audit the location and access to both transit bus and school bus stops on state highways to identify where stops and crosswalks should be relocated or installed, and where improved lighting is needed.
  • Identify where the next set of full pedestrian signals and HAWK signals will be implemented, and to develop the warrants for these types of signals.
  • Incorporate officially designated Safe Routes to Schools in the prioritization for pedestrian safety improvements.
  • Reconfigure state roadways where we have identified bikeways—especially protected bike lanes in the Bicycle Master Plan we adopted on November 27.
  • Reduce the time to analyze proposed pedestrian safety improvements as well as the time to install them once a decision is made to implement them.

The above initiatives should apply to all state highways; we would like to also proceed as we have discussed to work through a set of changes for Georgia Avenue specifically.

As promised at the November 13 worksession, I am attaching a set of individual locations along State highways of immediate concern to Councilmembers. I request that your staff evaluate each of them and report back with an action plan.

We look forward to a continuing partnership with SHA in achieving the Vision Zero goal in the foreseeable future. These steps will hasten us on that path.

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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.

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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