Inclusion | Opportunity | Innovation

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

The Council Connection — WMATA chief to brief Council

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

The Council in in regular session on Tuesday, and we have a full agenda.

WMATA chief to brief the Council
During Tuesday’s session, the Council will hear from Paul Wiedefeld, General Manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Mr. Wiedefeld is expected to discuss how WMATA plans to use the new annual infusion of $500 million to its capital budget, which was recently agreed to by Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Beyond the remaining rehabilitation work necessary to fully restore reliable service, some of the candidate projects for these funds include the Forest Glen Station underpass, a new stairway at Shady Grove, a northern entrance and underpass at White Flint Metro and eliminating the Red Line turn backs at Silver Spring, among others.

In addition, the Council sent a letter to the WMATA Board of Directors requesting that it continue the Riders’ Advisory Council. The Council is a group of riders and residents from the DC-metro area that suggest service improvements and provides feedback on proposed changes. You can read more about it here.

Council to vote on wireless infrastructure zoning changes
Following a lengthy and productive worksession two weeks ago, Council is set to vote on a zoning change that guides the deployment of wireless infrastructure in our residential areas. With setback, size, and design requirements, the general concept is to allow a streamlined path for wireless infrastructure on existing utility poles and tall light posts, but to require greater scrutiny for the replacement of neighborhood light fixtures in areas without utility poles. The zoning changes allow for the deployment of this critical infrastructure in a way that is a sensitive to resident concerns.

Before making a decision on Tuesday, the Council will consider the zoning committee’s recommendations, a variety of amendments by Councilmembers, community feedback, and Council staff’s analysis. Read the staff report for more information.

Montgomery County receives Triple-A Bond Rating for 2018
Montgomery County has maintained its Triple-A bond rating for 2018 from all three Wall Street bond-rating agencies. Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s all affirmed the “AAA” rating – the highest achievable for a municipal government. According to Moody’s, the Montgomery County’s tax base “will experience additional growth because of economic expansion and diversification” while affirming that “going forward, Moody’s will continue to monitor the county’s ability to main financial flexibility and reserve levels that are compliant with its 10 percent fund balance target.”

The Triple-A bond rating enables Montgomery County to sell long-term bonds at the most favorable rates, saving County taxpayers millions of dollars over the life of the bonds. The rating also serves as a benchmark for numerous other financial transactions, ensuring lower costs across the board.

Pressing the State on pedestrian safety
In light of the recent spate of needless and tragic pedestrian deaths on State highways in the County, the Council has called on Gov. Larry Hogan to take immediate steps to address pedestrian safety along the Rt. 97/Georgia Ave corridor and other high danger areas. The Council has requested that the State review the speed limits along Georgia Ave as well as install a number of short-term initiatives to immediately improve pedestrian safety. State officials will brief the Council on November 13, 2018 on their plans.

Autumn has arrived and so have the leaves
Ready for fall leaf cleanup? The County’s Vacuum Leaf Collection Program will begin on Monday, November 5, 2018. The Neighborhood Leaf Collection signs will be posted in your community during the week of October 22, 2018. View the schedule for your neighborhood!

Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President

The Council Connection — full Council budget worksessions

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

The Council is entering the homestretch for this year’s budget.

This week and next, the Council will be meeting nearly every day to make preliminary budget decisions on every aspect of County government, from police, housing, transportation, and schools to fire and rescue, recreation, and parks. A straw vote on the final budget will take place on Thursday, May 17 with formal approval one week later. You can check out the Council’s budget agendas and follow the Council’s progress by watching live and on demand. Despite the generally positive economic environment, tax revenues have been very volatile and below expectations.

The Council’s budget will reflect difficult trade-offs as we try to resolve competing community priorities. As of now, the Council has recommended more than $20 million for additions. The amount that the Council can actually fund, however, will be substantially less.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the Council will also hold applicant interviews for positions on the Montgomery County Planning Board and the Board of Investment Trustees. The five-member Planning Board advises the Council on land use, transportation, zoning, and development approval issues. The Board of Investment Trustees oversees the County employee retirement plans.

Also on Thursday, the Council will travel to WSSC headquarters in Laurel, MD to meet with the Prince George’s County Council to discuss bi-county budgets. Both Counties work collaboratively to determine the budgets for bi-county agencies, which include WSSC and the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC).

After a busy few weeks reviewing and making recommendations on the budget, committees have a light week as the full Council turns its attention to the budget.

Cordially,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President

RECENT ACTIONS

  • The Council held a public hearing on a special appropriation to provide legal assistance for low-income County residents without violent criminal convictions who have been detained and face deportation proceedings.
  • The Council reviewed a number of key budget items, including schools, emergency management and homeland security, the Office of Human Rights, the Sheriff’s Office, and the State’s Attorney’s Office.
  • The Council presented proclamations recognizing the week of April 29-May 5 as National Small Business Week, May 5 as Tree House Tour de Cookie Day, and the month of May as Building Safety Month.

How do I…

…learn more about the County’s Vision Zero initiative?

The County has committed itself to reducing traffic related fatalities and serious injuries to zero by 2030, joining many other jurisdictions across the Country. Vision Zero is a policy framework that places higher priority on human safety than mobility and recognizes that transportation-related deaths are not inevitable, but preventable. As such, the transportation system (the infrastructure itself, enforcement, law, and education efforts) must be wholistically designed to maximize safety on the roadways.

The County recently published its 2 year action plan for Vision Zero, which sets forth the vision and makes numerous recommendations. You can read it here. The County Executive’s recommended budget reflects the importance of this initiative by programming more than $118 million in the upcoming fiscal year. See where those funds are programmed here.

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.