Monday, October 8, 2012

Montgomery County Receives Grant for BRAC-Related Transportation Improvements

Due to changes at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda resulting from the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC), personnel at the facility is expected to increase by almost one-third -- to10,200 -- and the visitor load to double to one million a year.  To improve transportation access, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently announced that Montgomery County has received a $40 million grant from the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment. The grant will fund improvements to facilitate a safer and easier commute for patients, service members and civilian employees of WRNMMC, as well as the Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bethesda campus.
The funding will be used to:
  • Design and construct a pedestrian and bicycle passageway under Maryland Route 355 (Rockville Pike), connecting the WRNMMC and NSA on one side of the road to the Medical Center Metrorail Station and transit center on the other side. 
  • Fully fund three, high-speed elevators to connect the WRNMMC and NSA at street level to the Metrorail mezzanine level located 120 feet below ground.
  • Make improvements at the main entrance to the NSA campus to facilitate traffic flow.
The grant will supplement over $28 million in previously received Defense Department funding to relieve traffic congestion.  Montgomery County will complete the project in coordination with the Maryland State Highway Administration, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the National Institutes of Health, the Federal Highway Administration’s DelMar Division and the Command at NSA Bethesda.
More information about BRAC is available on the County’s website at

Construction Alert in Bethesda: BRAC-Related Improvements Underway Through Early November

To accommodate increased traffic resulting from the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC), the Navy has been working to improve traffic flow in and out of its five gates on Rockville Pike and Jones Bridge Road that serve the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.  The Navy has completed work at both gates on Rockville Pike and at two of three gates on Jones Bridge Road.  Construction at the last gate, the Gunnell Road/Navy Exchange Gate, is underway.

The upgrades will help address traffic congestion and coordinate with projects underway to improve pedestrian and vehicle access at the Medical Center Metro Station and at intersections on Rockville Pike, Jones Bridge Road, Cedar Lane, Connecticut Avenue, and Old Georgetown Road.

The gate construction near the corner of Rockville Pike will affect traffic on westbound Jones Bridge Road.  Drivers should expect single lane closures.  Pedestrians will be affected by the temporary closure of a portion of the sidewalk on the north side of Jones Bridge Road.

For more information about BRAC’s impact in Montgomery County, visit the County’s BRAC website.

Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Walter Reed Campus Available

The U.S. Department of the Navy has released a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on its proposed facilities development and university expansion at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. The document may be reviewed on-site at County libraries.  To review the document at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, call 240-777-8210. 
The Department of the Navy encourages public comment and participation in the review process. It will hold a public hearing at the Pooks Hill Marriott, 5151 Pooks Hill Road, Bethesda on October 11 from 5 to 9 p.m. Written comments should be postmarked no later than October 29 to or Joseph Macri, NSA Bethesda Public Affairs Office, 890-1 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20889.

Ride On Schedule Changes Began September 9

Time and service changes on 13 Ride On bus routes began September 9.  Improvements were made to the following routes:

  • Route 10 – Ride On and Metrobus worked together to provide a coordinated schedule along Randolph Road between New Hampshire Avenue and Parklawn Drive, Monday through Saturday.  Together, Ride On Route 10 and Metrobus C8 will provide trips about every 15 minutes.  Although the C8 does not operate on Sundays, the Ride On Route 10 operates every 30 minutes on Sundays.
  • Route 21 - One trip was added in the morning
  • Route 22 – The schedule was adjusted to ensure better coordination with MARC train arrivals and departures
  • Route 25 - The time between buses was cut to 15 minutes to eliminate overcrowding
  • Route 37 – The morning schedule from Potomac towards the Grosvenor station was changed to include an extra trip
  • Route 45 – More service is now available between downtown Rockville and Twinbrook
  • Changes also have been made on some routes so schedules more accurately reflect the actual travel times.

Weekday routes affected: 10, 14, 18, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 37, 45, 47 and 58.
Saturday routes affected: 10, 14, 18, 20, 26, 41, 45, and 47
Sunday routes affected: 10, 18, 20, 26, 41, and 47

For more Ride On information, including schedules, visit the Division of Transit Services’ website or call 311 (TTY, call 301-251-4850), Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (new extended hours).

Portion of Woodmont Avenue Closed During Construction of New Project

In early September, Woodmont Avenue between Bethesda and Miller avenues in Bethesda closed for 20 months for construction of a public-private partnership project.  When completed, the project will more than triple the number of public parking spaces available on the former surface parking lot located at the intersection of Woodmont and Bethesda avenues (the lot across from the Barnes and Noble bookstore).  The adjacent Capital Crescent Trail will remain open during construction.

To assist parkers, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation has enhanced other parking options in the area.  At the Bethesda-Elm Parking Garage (Garage 57), which has more than 900 parking spaces and is located between Bethesda Avenue and Elm Street, staff has converted 103 long-term spaces to four-hour spaces.  In addition, a new messaging system at the garage’s entrance shows drivers how many parking spaces are available.

Drivers who need to park for longer periods of time are encouraged to use other garages in Bethesda.  Long-term parking spaces are available at the Woodmont Corner Garage (Garage 11) at Woodmont and Old Georgetown Road and the Auburn-Del Ray Garage (Garage 36), as well as at privately operated parking facilities.

The free Bethesda Circulator shuttle bus provides service to many of the parking facilities in Bethesda.  The hours of operation of the Circulator have been expanded and the frequency of service has been increased.

The new building is scheduled to be completed in fall 2013.  Additional information on the construction project is available at the Bethesda Urban Partnership’s website.  For more information on parking in Montgomery County’s public lots and garages, visit the Division of Parking Management’s website.

Update on MCDOT Road Maintenance Projects

Several new road maintenance projects by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) Division of Highway Services are beginning in local subdivisions.
Crews are conducting permanent patching, a cost-effective, interim solution that maintains roadway structural integrity, for the following:
  • Plyers Mill Road (Wheaton), between Georgia Avenue and the Town of Kensington, is underway.
  • Fallsreach subdivision (Potomac) began in early September.
The following pavement preservation projects, where crews conduct full-depth patching of deteriorated pavement, seal cracks and apply a micro resurfacing material, are underway:
  • Fox Hills West subdivision (Potomac)
  • Laytonsville Knolls subdivision (Laytonsville)
Two concrete curb, gutter and sidewalk repair projects are underway in the Oakview and Devonshire estates communities.  Crews are replacing defective sections of curbs or sidewalks to ensure structural integrity and proper drainage. Residents in the areas may take advantage of discounts for repairs to their driveway aprons and entryway sidewalks. 
Paving projects, in which crews resurface the local streets with hot mix asphalt include:
  • Apple Ridge Road (Gaithersburg/Montgomery Village) began in mid-September.
  • Kemptown Church Road (near Mt. Airy) began in mid-September.
For more information on resurfacing projects throughout the County, visit the Division of Highway Services’ website or call 311 (TTY, call 301-251-4850), Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (new extended hours).

Police and MCDOT Work Together to Calm Traffic and Reduce Collisions

Speeding and unsafe driving practices on residential streets continue to concern County residents and  the government agencies charged with ensuring traffic safety. Excessive speeds jeopardize both the safety and “liveability” of neighborhoods. The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) and the Department of Police have cooperated to implemented a comprehensive residential speed control program that enlists the help of community residents to solve speeding problems and improve the residential environment. The program includes the three components necessary to successfully reduce speeding: education, engineering and enforcement.

MCDOT has completed construction on several road projects that contain traffic calming elements, including:
  • Franklin Avenue between Colesville Road and Flower Avenue in Silver Spring.  This project, coordinated with the scheduled resurfacing of Franklin Avenue, includes pedestrian refuge islands, bump-outs, new pavement markings and new crosswalks.   
  • The Wisteria Drive / Waring Station Road project consisted of a series of bump-outs, pedestrian refuge islands, crosswalks and bus stop improvements. 
  • Jones Bridge Road pedestrian improvements extending from the North Chevy Chase Elementary School to Jones Mill Road.  
  • Cedar Lane/Summit Avenue, between Beach Drive and Knowles Avenue, included pedestrian refuge islands, bump-outs and new crosswalks.
  • Spartan Road, between Georgia Avenue and MD 108, included pedestrian refuge islands, bump-outs and new crosswalks.
For information on MCDOT traffic calming measures, visit the Division of Traffic Engineering and Operations’ website.  For information on safe walking, visit MCDOT’s pedestrian safety website.

County Cable Montgomery Offers Enhanced Traffic Coverage

Viewers of County Cable Montgomery’s rush hour traffic coverage should appreciate enhancements that will make it easier to more quickly review traffic conditions around the County.

Instead of viewing just one traffic camera at a time, viewers can see four cameras at once organized by category: interstates; major arterials west of and including MD 355; major arterials east of MD 355; and the remaining cameras.  Major traffic incidents will also be listed.

This improvement will make it possible to view every one of the County’s 200 traffic cameras every four minutes. 

The cameras are operated by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s Transportation Management Center.  Watch County Cable Montgomery on cable television (channel 6 for Comcast and RCN subscribers and channel 30 on Verizon) or on the County’s website at

Review MCDOT 2012 Annual Report and other Publications Online

Past accomplishments and future initiatives are among the topics found in the Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s (MCDOT) new 2012 Annual Report now available online.  The report also contains a special supplement on the County’s Pedestrian Safety Initiative.

Other useful MCDOT publications are also available online, including the Resident’s Guide to Services in English, Spanish, Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese and the MCDOT Meetings Guide that describes its advisory committee volunteer opportunities.

Chinese Delegation Visits Montgomery County to Learn from MCDOT

An 18-person delegation from the City of Zhengzhou in the province of Henan in central China recently visited Montgomery County to learn about the County’s planning procedures for building projects and the technology being developed to serve transit users.

Department of Transportation (MCDOT) staff explained how Master Plans are used to link transportation planning projects and land use planning.  They outlined the facility planning process that develops preliminary project plans to provide elected officials the information they need to decide whether to fund projects.  Staff explained the numerous opportunities for public comment throughout this process. 

The meeting concluded with a demonstration of Ride On’s new Real Time feature that uses geographic information and communication technology to provide next bus arrival information.  The visitors asked many questions and shared insights about their own bus rapid transit system -- a system currently being proposed for Montgomery County.  This is the fourth visit of a Chinese delegation hosted by MCDOT.

SmarTrip® Card Changes Began in September

Since September 1, Metro has offered a $3 rebate for new SmarTrip® card purchases when the card is registered online. Cards will still cost $5, but a $3 credit will be refunded to the card five days after its first use. SmarTrip® online registration also ensures that the user doesn’t lose money if the card is lost or stolen.  Registered users can add value to the card via the Web.

Also since September 1, SmartTrip® card users will need at least $1.20 on the card to enter the Metrorail system (35 cents for the senior/disabled SmarTrip® card).

To make it easier to purchase a SmarTrip® card, Metro has added vending machines in all Metrorail stations.

Another advantage of using the SmarTrip® card is the Metrorail Fast Pass, which provides seven days of unlimited Metrorail travel.  The pass is only available on SmarTrip® and can also be purchased online or at station vending machines. Paper Fast Pass cards will be accepted through December 31, 2012.

Metro Seeks Passengers for Advisory Council

Metro’s Riders’ Advisory Council is looking for Montgomery County volunteers to fill available positions. The 21-member group is comprised of Metro riders from throughout the area who advise Metro’s Board of Directors on issues affecting Metrorail, Metrobus and MetroAccess. Individuals on the council are chosen to represent a cross-section of Metro’s riders. Applications are available online and must be received by 5 p.m., Monday, October 8.

New Maryland Traffic Safety Laws Began October 1

Maryland has two new traffic safety laws that went into effect on October 1.
  • Children under the age of eight must be in a safety seat, regardless of weight, unless the child is 4 feet 9 inches or taller.
  • The law regarding who has the right-of-way when a traffic signal is not working has been clarified.  All drivers should stop at the light and then yield to other vehicles or pedestrians already in the intersection.  Failure to obey the law can result in a $90 fine and two points.  If a driver breaks the law and contributes to a crash, it will cost the driver $130 and three points. 
More information about new driver safety laws in Maryland is available on the Department of Motor Vehicles website.