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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

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Daily journal, 10-04-11

Today’s council session featured a lengthy debate and then a
preliminary vote on the new proposed commercial-residential zones for
the areas in our communities with commercially-zoned property.

I’m pleased with the outcome. The proposal that I supported moves the
county more aggressively in the direction that I pledged to support
during my election campaign: a shift towards
environmentally-sustainable growth, development that is centered more
around public transportation and that allows us to add jobs and
housing without adding as many new cars to the roads; development that
builds more vibrant, people-oriented, walkable communities in our
urban areas while preserving our suburban and rural neighborhoods and
way of life.

Yes there are still many issues that we have to continue working on,
particularly how to promote more affordable housing production in the
county. We will return to those issues.

Over the past few months, I have heard many concerns from residents
about the new proposal. Some are legitimate and represent the kind of
difficult choices to balance the public interest that have to be made:
for example, some residents want all restaurants on commercial
property that is adjacent to residential property to go through an
expensive “site plan” process. These residents are worried about the
worst case scenarios (biker bars? chicken joints??). The problem is
that placing such a large barrier to new restaurants opening on this
kind of commercial property county-wide would have to result in fewer
restaurants, most or nearly all of which are desired by the community.
This means fewer opportunities for local entrepreneurs, and probably
a higher likelihood of chain restaurants since they would have more
capital to spend on planning expenses; not to mention less desirable
places to live across the board.

Other concerns that I heard were not founded. Many residents seemed
to think that we were rezoning residential property to commercial,
which of course was not true, or that we were replacing guidelines in
master plans with a one-size-fits-all zone, also not true.

The master plan process will continue to be where the community
gathers to form a vision for future development, which the planning
department will use to negotiate with developers as projects proceed.

The exciting and interesting thing about the new zoning proposal is
that it will vastly expand the number of projects that must have
negotiated public benefits. The community will get a lot more
amenities as a result, and residents will have a much stronger voice
in shaping the future of land-use and development in this county.

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Daily journal, 09-27-11

A zone is not a master plan! That is my take-away from today’s
lengthy but invigorating discussion of the CR zone rewrite. We are
working on a new family of zones for our commercial-zoned property.
The zone will not replace residential with commercial zoning or
supersede master plan recommendations about heights with zone-defined
heights.

What the zone will do is require many if not most property owners to
negotiate with the planning department over public benefits when they
want to do new construction. Master plans guide the public benefits.
Today many property owners do not have to negotiate at all. This new
approach will make it easier to build good commercial projects with
more public benefits and resident participation near public
transportation.