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The Council Connection — transportation and parks budgets

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

The Council’s meeting this week was productive. We took up a number of substantial items, including changes to the County’s stormwater program and legislation that makes it easier for seniors who have lived in their homes for 40 years to get a property tax credit. You can view the Council’s full agenda here. More information about the senior property tax credit is here.

Now, I’d like to continue our exploration of this year’s budget, reviewing transportation and parks.

Budget Update: Transportation
Transportation funding was a high priority for the Council in this year’s budget. The Council funded the Department of Transportation’s budget at more than $217 million. This includes funding for items like road maintenance, leaf collection, Ride On and the parking lot districts. Despite the challenging fiscal climate, the Council was able to make the following important additions to the County’s transportation budget:

  • New pilot bus service on Route 52 between Glenmont Metro Station and Rockville. This new service will use microbuses to broaden the service area.
  • New bus service between several points in Clarksburg and the Germantown MARC station starting in January 2019
  • $100,000 to restore signal timing optimization to help keep traffic moving
  • Creation of a Vision Zero Coordinator position within the County Executive’s Office
  • Addition of $2 million for residential resurfacing in FY20
  • New funding to design and build pedestrian underpasses at the White Flint and Forest Glen Metro Stations
  • $2.8 million in additional funding to accelerate bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects in the Wheaton, Veirs Mill, Takoma-Langley, Long Branch and Piney Branch Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Areas (BiPPA)

Budget Update: Parks
The Council funded $153.6 million for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC). Included in this amount is more than $107 million to maintain the County’s park system, which includes 419 parks and more than 36,800 acres of land. The Council added $200,000 to create urban parks through placemaking and $343,995 to provide service for new and expanded parks across the County. Some of the high priorities have been trails, including natural surface trails, and athletic fields.

  • Added $2 million for Parks to increase their stream protection efforts
  • Increased funding by $750K to support the renovation of school ballfields
  • $1.5 million in funding to support Vision Zero improvements Trail – Road intersections
  • Kept the Hillandale Local Park renovation on schedule to be completed in FY22

Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President

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The Council Connection — wireless connectivity infrastructure, transportation CIP, and more

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

County Executive Leggett submitted his FY19 budget proposal to the County Council last Thursday. I appreciate the great work that the Executive and his staff have done to get us to this point in the budget process. The County Executive’s budget, which you can explore using the County’s Open Budget tools, provides a solid foundation for the Council to begin its work to determine the final budget. Keep tabs on the Council’s progress by visiting our budget webpage.

In addition to the FY19 budget, the Council has a full agenda for the week ahead. Three bills dealing with environmental issues will be introduced, and the Council will take final action on economic development legislation. The Council continues its work on the Capital Budget with tentative approval of projects in public safety, technology, and transportation. The Council will also conclude its work on the 10 Year Water and Sewer Plan. The plan (in concert with County’s master plans) determines where and how sewer or septic systems decisions are made. Read the staff memo here.

On Tuesday night, we have a public hearing about a proposal from the County Executive to amend the zoning code to allow for new telecommunications equipment. Specifically, new antennas that companies like Verizon and AT&T (to name just a few) want to install for the next generation of connectivity are smaller and intended to be placed on utility poles, streetlights, and similar locations, but the zoning code does not allow for them. There are many challenging issues involved.

Committees will take up many substantial issues, from affordable housing legislation and Montgomery College capital funding to the Purple Line. Read the full committee agenda here.

Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President

RECENT ACTIONS

  • The Council met with more than 200 people at the Council’s Town Hall at the White Oak Recreation Center on March 14. We discussed a wide range of issues including economic development, the opportunity gap, protections for our immigrant communities, libraries, crime and litter. A portion of the meeting can be viewed here.
  • The Council tentatively approved capital projects affecting WSSC, Public Safety, and Recreation

How do I…

…get involved with the Council’s work on the FY19 budget.

Final Council action on the FY19 budget is currently scheduled for May 24, but we need your help in the meantime. We want to know what services are most important to you and how we can make local government more responsive to your needs. Here are a couple ways to make your voice heard during the budget process:

Below is the County’s budget timeline.

January 15
County Executive submits proposed Capital Improvements Program (CIP) and capital budget to the Council.

February
Early February – Capital Improvements Program (CIP) public hearings are scheduled.
For the FY19-24 CIP, Council public hearings were held on February 6 and 7.

March 15
County Executive submits proposed operating budget to the Council.

April
Early April – Operating budget public hearings are scheduled.
For the FY19 budget these public hearings are scheduled for April 10, 11 and 12.
Committee meetings begin to review operating budget.

May
Council operating budget meetings begin.
For the FY19 budget these meetings are tentatively scheduled for May 7-17.
Final vote on the operating budget is tentatively scheduled for May 24.

June 1
Council must take final action on the budget no later than June 1.

July 1
New fiscal year begins.

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A Protected Bike Lane Loop for Bethesda

Provided the Council supports the funding, new protected bike lanes will soon be coming to downtown Bethesda. The County has unveiled a new plan to build a “low stress” bike loop in the downtown, running to the west on Woodmont Ave, to the south on Montgomery Lane/Montgomery Avenue, to the east on Pearl St./Maryland Ave, and to the north on Cheltenham Drive.

The loop will help provide safer connections to Metro, Capital Bikeshare, the interim Georgetown Branch Trail and future Capital Crescent Trail, the Bethesda Trolley Trail, nearby neighborhoods, local businesses, and many activity centers in Bethesda.

Construction could begin as early as Spring 2019.

Protected Bike Lane Loop in Bethesda

The loop is essentially an advance and initial implementation of the plan outlined by the Council in our new vision for Downtown Bethesda. Thanks to projects such as the Silver Spring and White Flint protected bike lane networks, the County has a growing expertise in building this infrastructure and now has the know-how to move quickly from concept to implementation.

The bigger vision we have is to make our roads safe for bicyclists of all ages and all skill levels. We know that more people will choose to ride their bike for trips to work, shopping, recreation, and transit if we provide “low stress” connections to their destinations. Indeed, this message was amplified by the public through hundreds of letters to the Council and their participation at community meetings, public hearings, and our Great Montgomery Bike Summits.

The closing of the Georgetown Branch Trail for Purple Line construction, however, brought great urgency to improving the safety for bicyclists in an around Bethesda. I heard from a number of residents including Anna Irwin,Tom and Barbora Bridle, Andrew Forsyth, and others, about the urgency of acting to improve biking in Bethesda, along with some specific requests to build protected bike lanes on Woodmont Ave among other streets. In response I organized a community meeting on November 1, 2017 where, joined in sponsorship by Councilmember Berliner, we discussed bicycling in and around Bethesda. With over 100 community members in attendance, MCDOT, MNCPPC, and WABA gave presentations and led a discussion on how to improve bicycling in the downtown. MCDOT presented a concept for a Bethesda loop built upon the master plan recommendations and their work on the interim route for the Georgetown Branch Trail. The concept was well-received by the community and bicycle advocate groups.

I followed up the meeting by writing a letter (pdf) with Councilmember Berliner to the County Executive requesting that he include funding for the loop in his recommended Capital Budget. The community followed up by raising a powerful voice. A new group, the Bethesda Bike Now Coalition, organized along with WABA to push for the infrastructure. They even did an awesome video that went viral. See below.

The County Executive agreed with us and included $3 million in new funding for the loop in Bethesda. While we must press on to keep the funding in the budget here at the Council, this is a great step forward, and I salute the County Executive for moving so quickly.

The residents, employees, and visitors of Bethesda will be well-served by building this bicycle loop, and we are all are eager to see tangible benefits from the master plan process.

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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.