Saturday, March 30, 2013

Leggett Announces FY14 Recommended Operating Budget

Leggett Announces FY14 Recommended Operating Budget
On March 15, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett announced his recommended $4.8 billion operating budget for fiscal year (FY) 2014 that begins July 1. The budget strategically restores some of the most critical and important services cut over the past six years as the County faced unprecedented budget challenges. The recommended enhancements balance the backlog of resident needs with the County’s new economic reality.

Leggett’s budget recommendation includes continued and enhanced funding for pedestrian safety. Great progress has been made over the last five years in reducing pedestrian collisions by 45 percent in targeted locations; reducing the number of collisions resulting in severe injuries; and significantly reducing collisions within a quarter-mile of schools under the “Safe Routes to Schools” program. The budget continues funding for pedestrian safety and adds funds for education efforts to target locations and individuals at higher risk of being involved in collisions.

Proposed funding for the Department of Transportation will fully implement the first phase of the County’s bikesharing program, providing a vital transportation resource to residents and visitors by making safe bicycle transportation available in some of the County’s most traveled corridors.

View the entire budget proposal online.

New MCDOT Engineering Improvements Enhance Pedestrian Safety

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation continues to invest in engineering improvements to enhance pedestrian safety – particularly in areas where data shows a higher number of pedestrian collisions. Recent improvements are:
  • In Takoma Park, on Piney Branch Road between Flower Avenue and the County line, where new street lights, wider sidewalks and new pedestrian signals were installed. Also being constructed is a new crosswalk with pedestrian-activated warning lights. 
  • In Wheaton, at Reedie Drive between Veirs Mill Road and Georgia Avenue, measures to improve safety included refurbished crosswalks, new pedestrian refuge islands and clearer lane markings. 
  • In Wheaton, on Randolph Road at Veirs Mill Road, new sidewalks and streetscaping were installed. 
  • In Downtown Silver Spring, on Georgia Avenue, the Department of Housing and Community Affairs is finishing streetscape improvements in Fenton Village. 
  • In Rockville and Bethesda, new pedestrian signals were installed on segments of Maryland Route 355. 
These investments are part of County Executive Leggett’s Pedestrian Safety Initiative.

Pedestrians Urged to Walk Safe, Drivers Asked to Look Out for Pedestrians

Time Change, Warmer Weather Brings Spate of Pedestrian Collisions

Montgomery County averages more than 400 pedestrian collisions a year. Each one is tragic, and this fact has once again been highlighted by a number of collisions so far this year, some of which resulted in pedestrian fatalities. With the time change to Daylight Savings Time this month, early morning pedestrians are traveling before the sun comes up. County officials urge pedestrians and drivers to be especially aware of each other, particularly during darkness and in bad weather when visibility is limited.

Drivers are urged to obey the law, watch out for pedestrians and:
  • Be aware of pedestrians and be prepared to stop. 
  • Don’t drive aggressively. 
  • Don’t drive distractedly – put away electronic devices while driving. 
  • Slow down and obey the posted speed limits. 
  • Be patient, especially when young children, seniors or persons with disabilities are present. 
Pedestrians are urged to do their part because even doing everything right – crossing with a walk signal and in the crosswalk – is not enough to guarantee safety. In a collision between a pedestrian and a vehicle, the pedestrian always loses. Pedestrians should:
  • Remain vigilant when crossing the street, because it’s a “danger zone.” 
  • Cross the street at signals, marked crosswalks and intersections. 
  • Don’t step off the curb without looking left, right and then left again. 
  • Be alert for drivers who aren’t paying attention. 
  • Don’t count on drivers to see you or react in time. 
  • Get off the cell phone so you’re not distracted. 
  • Don’t talk to friends while crossing – stay focused on crossing safely. 
  • When crossing, pay attention and keep looking around for cars. 
  • Stay visible after dark and in bad weather. 
  • Use pedestrian pushbuttons – they give more walk time to pedestrians. 
More pedestrian safety information is available on the County’s website.

MCDOT Leads Middle School Students in “It’s Academic” Style Game about Pedestrian Safety

To promote pedestrian safety, Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) Safe Routes to Schools Coordinator Nadji Kirby led an “It’s Academic” style game for 120 middle school students attending the Montgomery County Public Schools Junior Councils’ General Assembly on February 27. The game was developed to appeal to the middle school age group, help them stay safe and understand the potential consequences of poor pedestrian choices. On a scale of one to five, with five being the highest, 86 percent of participating students rated the game at five and 12 percent rated it at four.

The game topics covered pedestrian safety facts and the do’s and don’ts of pedestrian safety. Students were divided into groups and had 30 seconds to come up with the correct answer. The game generated a lot of discussion among the students once the correct answer and the reasoning behind it were revealed. The groups with the most correct answers won blinking safety lights as a prize. Each student also received a reflective zipper pull and the game questions and answers. It is hoped that the students will continue discussing pedestrian safety at home and at their respective schools.

For more information about the game or for those who want to sponsor the game at their school, contact Nadji Kirby.

Forest Glen Road/Linden Lane at CSX Railroad Crossing to Close Temporarily for Reconstruction of Roadway

Forest Glen Road/Linden Lane at the CSX railroad crossing in Silver Spring will close temporarily on April 1 while the roadway is reconstructed by CSX. Signs will advise drivers of the closure and detours. The road will be closed for 30 to 45 days, depending on the weather.

Montgomery County requested the repairs because of the very poor condition of the roadway. The reconstruction is too extensive to be completed without closing the road.

Funding for the project comes from State and Federal monies designated for railroad grade crossing safety. During the reconstruction, Montgomery County will complete the sidewalk on the south side of the road to provide a separate path for pedestrians and cyclists so they no longer need to walk or ride in travel lanes.

MCDOT Paving Project to Begin in Early April

Beginning about April 8, MCDOT will begin repairs and repaving on Mink Hollow Road, from Maryland Route 108 to the Howard County line near Brookeville. The project will take about four weeks, depending on the weather.

Call-n-Ride Program to Begin Using Swipe Card Instead of Coupons

Beginning April 1, Montgomery County’s Call-n-Ride (CNR) program will be phasing out bulky coupons and instead will provide participants with a user-friendly, automated swipe card. Participants will be able to add value to the card with a check, money order or through the internet with a credit card. The introduction of the swipe card does not change a client’s eligibility to purchase taxicab transportation nor the amount they must pay.

The CNR Transportation Program is subsidized by the County and Maryland to supplement transportation needs for eligible low-income seniors (67 years and older) and people with disabilities (18 years and older). Participants may use this program for local medical and/or personal appointments within Montgomery County. Assistance with alternative taxicab service is provided on a sliding fee scale based on household income.

Program clients will receive the Call-n-Ride swipe cards in the mail before April 1. For card and account information, contact the Call-n-Ride Customer Service office at 1-800-980-6564. For program eligibility questions, contact the County’s MC311 Call Center at 311 or 240-777-0311, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Or, visit MC311 online. More information about the Call-n-Ride program and other transportation options for seniors and persons with disabilities is available on the County’s website.

County Executive Issues Statement about the Silver Spring Transit Center

“On March 19, Montgomery County released the long-anticipated report from our independent consultant, KCE Structural Engineers, P.C., concerning the Silver Spring Transit Center (SSTC). Unfortunately, the news is not good. KCE and its team, which includes Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. and Walter P. Moore and Associates, Inc., found serious problems with the design, construction, concrete strength, concrete testing accuracy, adherence to fire codes, and many other issues that indicate the SSTC, as it is currently constructed, is severely compromised.

“According to the thorough report, the facility contains significant and serious design and construction defects, including excessive cracking, missing post-tensioning cables, inadequate reinforcing steel, and concrete of insufficient strength and thickness. These deficiencies not only compromise the structural integrity of the facility but could also begin to impact the Transit Center’s durability far earlier than expected, thus shortening its useful life. At worst, if no changes are made, some of the facility’s elements may not withstand the loads they are intended to support – thereby putting the many users of the center at potential risk.

“The County became concerned about the overall construction of the SSTC after we and others observed varying thicknesses of concrete throughout the structure, significant cracking, and exposed post-tensioning cables. The County hired a world-renowned firm that assembled a team of independent engineers who discovered that the problems at the SSTC far exceeded what was originally identified. Due to the serious nature of the findings and the revelation of additional design and construction issues, the report has taken more time – so the County can be sure exactly what it is dealing with and what needs to be done to make the SSTC the durable, safe facility it is intended to be.

“There is some good news in the report. There are fixes that will make the SSTC safe and functional. However, these fixes will take time. No one wants the SSTC to open more than I do, but not at the expense of public safety or burdens to County taxpayers from future unanticipated costs.

“I pledge that the County will move forward aggressively to ensure that needed repairs are made to get the SSTC open as soon as possible. It is my intent to resolve the remediation and compliance issues on the SSTC while we move, separately, to address issues of fault and liability.

“The residents of Silver Spring and Silver Spring transit users deserve a facility that meets their needs. I intend to ensure that commuters have a functioning transit center, as promised. If required, I will pursue every legal and administrative remedy available to make sure that County interests – and County taxpayers – are protected throughout this process.”

The full consultant report – including all supporting documents – is available to the public online.

Department of Transportation Seeks Resident Involvement; New Brochure Details Opportunities for Public Input

A new brochure recently published by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), called “Community Outreach Meeting Guide 2013,” lists eight main resident advisory groups that advise the department and the dates and times they meet. The committees bring issues to the attention of MCDOT and advise staff of community concerns and priorities. The brochure also mentions a number of other civic groups that collaborate with the department as issues arise.

The advisory committees consist of residents, business representatives, civic and community leaders and County representatives. The group meetings are open to the public and residents are encouraged to apply for committee membership when openings are advertised. The brochure lists contact information for each committee.

Residents who wish to receive a copy of the brochure, advisory committee reports or email notifications of meetings may call 240-777-7155 or send an email to The brochure is also available online.

Public Invited to Forum on Proposed Ride On Route 38 Changes

The Division of Transit Services will hold a public forum on proposed changes to Ride On’s bus route 38. The meeting will be held Wednesday, April 17, starting at 6:30 pm and ending after the last speaker, at Highland Elementary School, 3100 Medway Street, Silver Spring.

Individuals and representatives of organizations who would like to speak at the public forum must make their request in writing, on or before April 15, to the Division of Transit Services, Ride On Public Forum, 101 Monroe Street, 5th Floor, Rockville, Maryland 20850. Provide your name, home address, telephone number, e-mail address and organization.

Public comment on the proposed changes will be accepted through 5 p.m. on April 24. For more information, visit Ride On’s website or call 311 (outside the county, dial 240-777-0311) (TTY, call 301-251-4850) Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Bike to Work Day Registration Open

On Friday May 17, Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association will co-sponsor the region’s annual Bike to Work Day. Join thousands of area commuters for a celebration of bicycling as a clean, fun and healthy way to get where you’re going in the morning.

Attend one of 70 pit stops throughout the Washington area or one of 13 in Montgomery County and receive a free tee shirt and refreshments and enter a raffle for a free bicycle and other prizes. More information about Bike to Work Day is available online.

Free Pedestrian Safety DVDs Available from MCDOT

Two pedestrian safety videos--one aimed at drivers and the other at walkers--are available from the Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s (MCDOT) Pedestrian Safety program.

“Drive Safe®!: Keeping Pedestrians Safe When You’re Behind the Wheel” is an instructional video designed to teach pedestrian safety concepts to new drivers.

“WalkSafe! (TM): Keeping Pedestrians Safe in the “Danger Zone” is an English-language instructional video designed to teach pedestrians how to stay safe. It is geared towards non-native English speakers and for use in ESOL classes, but is also appropriate for elementary and middle school students. The video comes with a teacher’s guide that includes instructional activities.

To order either of these videos, email MCDOT or call the Community Outreach office at 240-777-7155.