Thursday, January 24, 2013

Leggett Announces Amended Six-Year Capital Construction Budget; Continued Budget Constraints Focus Funding on Critical Capital Needs While Delaying Some Projects

On January 15, County Executive Ike Leggett announced his recommended Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Capital Budget and proposed amendments to the FY 13-18 Capital Improvements Program (CIP). This CIP recognizes the vital need to control future debt and focuses on funding critical safety-related capital needs or projects that will boost the County’s recovering economy and spur job growth. In order to fund these critical needs, the recommendations delay some planned projects.

Leggett’s CIP amendments will provide for transportation projects, including unforeseen bridge repair projects, storm drain culvert replacements and the replacement of some unreliable Ride On buses. To spur economic development and job growth, Leggett is recommending continuing to implement Phase I of the Transit Task Force’s recommendation for a bus rapid transit system.

Under a 1996 County Charter amendment, a new CIP is developed in even-numbered calendar years. In alternate years, like 2013, the Executive may recommend amendments to the existing six-year CIP.

Following are the transportation-related highlights of the proposed FY 2014 CIP amendments:
  • Elmhirst Parkway Bridge: $1,965,000 to replace this structurally deficient bridge. Federal aid will fund $1,048,000 of the project costs. 
  • Bridge Renovation: An additional $2 million in GO bonds for unforeseen emergency projects, including Cattail Lane culvert replacement; Jerusalem Road culvert replacement; Stoneybrook Drive bridge slope repair to end erosion affecting CSX tracks; Germantown Road culvert lining; Fernmont Lane culvert replacement; and the Agricultural Farm entrance road culvert renovation. 
  • Storm Drain Culvert Replacement: $6.3 million in GO bonds to replace failed storm drain pipes and culverts. 
  • Ride On Bus Fleet: Replace remaining Champion buses, which have had fire safety problems, using increased short-term financing in FY13 and FY14. All the Champion buses were taken out of service in July 2012. 
  • Silver Spring Transit Center: $7.5 million GO bond supplemental to cover site improvement, utilities and construction costs required to prevent further opening delays. The County intends to seek reimbursement for project delay costs to the maximum extent allowed under the law. 
  • Rapid Transit System: An additional $7.6 million in GO bond funding for concept planning for Maryland State Route 355, U.S. Route 29 and Randolph Road, the critical next step in developing the County’s future generation transit operations. 
  • Six-year GO bond funding for Montgomery County projects has been reduced by $20.32 million through a six-month delay of the Bethesda Metro Station South and Capital Crescent Trail projects. Due to the current lack of state construction funding for these projects, this reduction is not likely to cause a delay in the project. 
  • The Colesville Depot and Metropolitan Branch Trail projects were delayed in the early years of the CIP. 
Leggett transmitted his CIP recommendations to the County Council for their approval. More details about the CIP are available in the press release and the entire CIP is available online.

County Executive Hosts Public Forums on the FY14 Operating Budget

County Executive Ike Leggett is holding a series of budget forums to seek input from the public about their priorities for the 2014 fiscal year operating budget. Three more forums are planned. All begin at 7 p.m.
  • Monday, January 28, Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Service Center, 4805 Edgemoor La., Bethesda 
  • Tuesday, January 29, Silver Spring Civic Building, 1 Veterans Pl., Silver Spring 
  • Monday, February 4, Eastern Montgomery County Regional Services Center, 3300 Briggs Chaney Rd., Silver Spring. 
The County Executive will announce his recommended fiscal year 2014 operating budget on March 15. The County Council approves the operating budget at the end of May.

Ride On Route Changes Made In January

On Sunday, January 13, changes were made to Ride On bus routes to add service to new population centers and improve efficiencies. Daily service was added to Park Potomac, a new residential and commercial area off Seven Locks and Montrose roads and I-270. The route 98 bus expanded service to several areas, including the Cinnamon Woods neighborhood during peak periods, the Germantown Community Center during midday and the Maryland SoccerPlex on weekends. Service was added to a new area at Watkins Mill Road and MD 355 in Germantown and service within Olney was restructured.

Details about the route changes are available on the County’s website. Or, check Ride On’s website for schedules and more information.

Leggett Helps Launch New K9 Bus Service on New Hampshire Avenue

County Executive Ike Leggett recently joined local officials to mark the launch of new MetroExtra bus service along New Hampshire Avenue. The new route, called the “K9,” adds limited-stop service that will help relieve crowding along New Hampshire Avenue from Northwest Park to the Fort Totten Station. This route has the third highest bus ridership in Maryland.

MetroExtra K9 buses operate every 15-20 minutes in each direction during morning and evening rush hours. K9 buses serve about half the stops as the local K6 buses, providing a faster trip for many customers. There are no schedule changes to the K6 service, but the addition of the MetroExtra buses should help reduce crowding on K6 buses.

For schedule and route information, visit Metro’s website.

Portion of Metropolitan Branch Trail Opened in Silver Spring;

Will Enhance Accessibility Around Transit Center

A portion of the Metropolitan Branch Trail at the Silver Spring Metro Station has been opened to enhance accessibility around the new Transit Center which is under construction. The trail reestablishes pedestrian connections from the northbound MARC train platform.

The recently opened portion of the trail extends from the south end of the MARC train platform to the transit plaza in front of the Metro Station.

During February, weather permitting, the trail will be extended to Ripley Street.

More information about the Transit Center project is available on the County’s website.

New Parking Rates Take Effect in Silver Spring and North Bethesda

The Montgomery County Council has approved a parking rate increase for Silver Spring and North Bethesda parking lots, garages and meters as part of the fiscal year 2013 budget approved last May.

The following new parking rates took effect January 1:
  • Short term parking rates for the first four hours increased from 75 cents an hour to $1 an hour. 
  • Long term parking rates for more than four hours increased from 60 cents an hour to 65 cents an hour. 
  • The monthly parking convenience sticker increased from $113 to $123. 
For additional information on parking rates and options in North Bethesda, Silver Spring or the other County parking lot districts, visit the Division of Parking Management’s website or call 311.

Bethesda Avenue-Woodmont Avenue Project Update

Work continues on the public-private partnership project located on the former parking lot (Lot 31) at the corner of Bethesda and Woodmont avenues in Bethesda:

Construction blasting resumed the week of January 14. Blasting will occur about twice a day between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Before an impending blast, a horn is sounded about 15 minutes and again five minutes prior to the blast, and then immediately after the blast.

For more information on parking options in Bethesda, visit the Division of Parking Management’s website.

Purple Line Information Available Online

Public meetings about the proposed Purple Line are being held regularly in neighborhoods in the County. With nine of the proposed 21 Purple Line stations located in the Silver Spring area, now is the time to stay informed.

The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) is studying the feasibility of a new east-west, high capacity transit line, dubbed the “Purple Line,” that would connect communities in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties; provide additional transportation capacity in the congested corridor between New Carrollton and Bethesda; provide faster, more reliable connections between existing Metro, MARC and Amtrak stations; and support economic development in both counties.

For the most current information, check MTA’s website.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities Recently Completed or Under Construction

Dale Drive Sidewalk

Construction has begun on a 1,900-foot-long sidewalk and new curbs and gutters along the north side of Dale Drive between Mansfield Road and Hartford Avenue in Silver Spring. Other project elements include the installation of retaining walls; installation or relocation of water and sewer mains and service connections; partial removal/installation of stairways and driveways; and upgrades to the storm drain system. A Stormceptor® stormwater treatment system will be installed to remove pollutants from stormwater runoff.

Construction is expected to take about 15 months. More information about the project is available on the County’s website.

Greentree Road Sidewalk

Begun in the fall, a new sidewalk on the north side of Greentree Road, between Old Georgetown Road and Fernwood Road in Bethesda, will be completed in the fall of 2013. The project includes a 64,000-foot sidewalk, new curbs and gutters, residential sidewalk ramps, and an extension of the existing storm drain system.

MacArthur Boulevard Bikeway Improvement – Segment 2

Construction of bikeway improvements along 13,800 feet of MacArthur Boulevard, from I-495 to Oberlin Avenue, will begin in late February. The project should be completed in the fall of 2014.

Montrose Trail

Construction of a hiker-biker trail along Montrose Road, between Tildenwood Drive and Old Farm Creek, was completed in the fall. The new trail portion connects to the hiker-biker trail alongside the Montrose Parkway West project.

Shady Grove Metro Access Bike Path

A new bikepath is under construction along the east side of the WMATA Metro Access Road from Shady Grove Road to the existing bikeway at Crabbs Branch Way.  Included in the project are a bikeway ramp from the new path and a signalized at-grade pedestrian/bikeway crossing on the WMATA Metro Access.  Construction began in  spring 2012 and is expected to be completed this spring.

For more information on road, sidewalk, bikeway, or storm drainage projects throughout the County, visit the Division of Transportation Engineering’s website or call 240-777-7223.

Culvert on Jerusalem Road Repaired

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s Division of Highway Services recently completed a project to repair the culvert on Jerusalem Road at Dry Seneca Creek, between Cissel Manor Drive and Elgin Road.  The road was closed for eight weeks for project activities, including stream diversion, excavation, installation of new box culverts, replacement of drainage pipes and construction of a new section of roadway.

For more information on road maintenance projects, 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.

Pedestrian Safety Volunteers are Helping Keep Wheaton Area Residents Safe

A group of community volunteers are making a real difference in the Wheaton area as they help to spread the word about pedestrian safety.  The community members represent neighborhood civic associations including Connecticut Avenue Estates, Montclair Manor and Rock Creek Palisades, as well as the Hispanic/Latino community.

With help from the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, the Montgomery County Police Department and Fire and Rescue Service, in coordination with the Maryland Highway Safety Office, community volunteers have been participating in outreach efforts such as fairs, festivals and community meetings and helping to distribute reusable bags containing pedestrian safety information.  .

A YouTube video highlights some of their activities over the last few months. If you would like to volunteer, contact Joana Conklin.

Leggett and County Council Announce New Open Government Efforts

County Executive Ike Leggett announced a major advance in the County’s open government efforts that will significantly improve government transparency, accessibility and efficiency. He joined County Councilmember Hans Riemer, who initiated the open government legislation (Bill 23-12), to support the County’s efforts into the future.

The announcement included the unveiling of a new open data website that will provide constituents with convenient access to a growing variety of information; a new social media platform to encourage public participation on key County issues; and, new mobile versions of the County’s award-winning web portal, MC311 website, and Storm Operations website.

The new openMontgomery website includes four distinct portals:

  • accessMontgomery provides convenient links to existing digital services related to accountability, accessibility and transparency, such as MC311 as well as CountyStat performance tracking. It also includes direct links to internal audits, spending disclosures, contracts, open solicitations, budgets, and free WiFi locations in the County;
  • dataMontgomery provides direct access to data that includes employee salaries, cable inspections and complaints, residential and commercial building permits, hospitals, schools, fire stations, post offices, real property taxes and MC311 requests.
  • engageMontgomery is the new social media platform that serves as an informal online Town Hall Meeting or a place where people can share ideas on ways to improve the community. Users who sign up for an account are encouraged to offer their own ideas and to support the ideas that they like best from others.
  • mobileMontgomery offers a listing of the County’s mobile sites such as MC311 and Transportation’s Storm Operations with directions on how to bookmark them, as well as apps such as Library BookMyne, Crime Reports, and RideOn Real Time that can be used anytime and anywhere.
 For more information, see the County’s website.