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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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People Want and Need To Walk. Let’s Make It Safe.

The last several months have been very busy as the Council navigates complex issues surrounding pedestrian safety in our neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, we have had an increase of pedestrian crashes. For example, on Georgia Avenue, there have been three pedestrians deaths and a major accident where a driver hit and injured four high school students who were waiting for their school bus to arrive. I recently wrote about these issues and what we can do to address our state highway challenges.

To bring the State Highway Administration (SHA) and the County’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) together to implement solutions, the Council recently wrote Governor Larry Hogan.

SHA administrator Greg Slater responded quickly and met with us. Together, we were able to outline several steps that we could take to address pedestrian collisions, including reducing speed limits, reducing the width of travel lanes to 10 feet and installing flashing beacons in dimly lit intersections. SHA also plans to improve the crosswalks at several intersections along Georgia Avenue, including the intersection with Heathfield Road and the intersection with May Street, which are both in Aspen Hill.

Government is taking overdue action in part because our residents are stepping up their advocacy. For example, a new coalition of civic associations, businesses and individuals called No More Dead Pedestrians has formed to advocate for continued implementation of Vision Zero principles, targeting state highways in Wheaton, Glenmont and Aspen Hill. Bethesda Bike Now is advocating for safe bike/ped infrastructure in Bethesda. The Coalition to Fix 198 is calling on SHA to fix much needed improvements in the Burtonsville area. The Dale Drive Safety Coalition is advocating for safe measures along a frequently used cut through road. And the Friends of Forest Glen and Montgomery Hills are advocating for a Georgia Ave makeover with an emphasis on bike, pedestrian safety and smart growth in the area. Some of the leaders from these groups are also involved with the County’s Pedestrian, Bicycle, Traffic Safety Advisory Committee.

With your help and with coordination with state and local governments, we will work together towards making walking safer for everyone.

#NoMoreDeadPeds

#FixGeorgiaAve

#VisionZero

#Fix198

#DaleDriveSafety

#FriendsofFGMH

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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

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Riemer Town Hall on Dec 12

Dear Supporter,

Please join me on December 12, for a town hall Solutions Forum in Rockville. The event will take place at Richard Montgomery High School in the cafeteria, at 7:00 pm.

I am nearing the end of my first year on the County Council! Friends and community members regularly ask me if the job is everything I had expected. The answer is, it is even better than I hoped. I get to spend every day figuring out how to make my community a better place to live.

On Monday, December 12, I’d like to spend some time discussing community needs with you at my first town-hall style event. I’m calling it a “Solutions Forum” because I want the focus to be on solving problems.

Councilmember Riemer’s Solutions Forum

Monday, December 12 at 7:00 PM

Richard Montgomery High School Cafeteria

250 Richard Montgomery Drive

Rockville, MD 20852

That evening, I will discuss some of my agenda items for the coming year as well as review milestones from 2011. I will present some early information about our budget and fiscal situation and talk about how we work to balance priorities at the County Council.

I will look to hear from residents about our priorities: education, economic development, transportation, parks, libraries, social services, neighborhood conditions, youth engagement, senior living, county government effectiveness and responsiveness, sector plans… any issue that is on your mind. Town Halls are a great way for me to get your input and for you to get your questions answered. You can help with Council decision-making by coming out to voice your views about issues happening in your neighborhood. This is the way to have an effective government.

Please forward this message to any individuals or groups that might be interested, of course everyone is encouraged to attend. Send an email if you’re planning on joining us.

Thank you!


Yours Sincerely,
Hans Riemer
Council Member At-Large