Thursday, October 31, 2013

Leggett Celebrates Opening of County’s Emergency Maintenance and Transit Operations Center

A “Smart Growth Initiative” Project; Names Facility for David F. Bone, Planner and Original Architect of Ride On and Announces 40 New Ride On Buses 

 Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett celebrated the opening of the new David F. Bone Equipment Maintenance and Transit Operations Center (EMTOC) in Rockville, another of his Smart Growth Initiative (SGI) projects that is revitalizing an old industrial area by creating an urban village near the Shady Grove Metro Station.

The David F. Bone EMTOC is a collection of 12 buildings serving the Department of Transportation’s divisions of Transit Services and Highway Services and the Department of General Services’ Division of Fleet Management. The overall project is designed to achieve a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification by incorporating innovative features, including reclaiming water for bus washing and toilet flushing, four acres of green roofs and solar panels.

Leggett also announced that the Department of General Services Division of Fleet Management Services has added 40 new, clean diesel buses to the Ride On fleet. This is the largest number of buses purchased at one time since 2009. With this most recent acquisition, more than 75 percent of the Ride On fleet is comprised of clean diesel, hybrid electric-diesel or compressed natural gas buses.

EMTOC is named for the late David F. Bone, Ride On’s senior planner from its creation in 1973 until 2000. He was the chief architect of Ride On’s service philosophy, route design and structure, creating the concept of Ride On as a neighborhood feeder system to Metrorail and Metrobus. Bone was involved in every aspect of Ride On, including attending all public hearings, participating in union negotiations, developing strategic plans and creating transit centers, such as those at Lakeforest and Montgomery malls and the Germantown Transit Center. Bone died in 2009.

More information is available on the County’s website.

Bikeshare Begins in Montgomery County

On September 27, Montgomery County celebrated the opening of the first 14 of 51 Bikeshare stations that are being installed in Bethesda, Friendship Heights, Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Rockville, Shady Grove and the Life Sciences Center area. The County’s Bikeshare program is part of the regional Capital Bikeshare network, which includes the District of Columbia, Arlington and Alexandria.

Bike sharing provides short-term bicycle rentals at self-service docking stations. Bikes may be picked up at one location and returned to another, creating a system that allows for one-way trips.

Membership options include $75 for a year, $25 for a month or $7 for one day. Yearly and monthly memberships may be purchased online or by phone, while three-day and one-day memberships may be purchased with a credit card at any Bikeshare station. The County’s program offers special assistance to low-income users, making it particularly appealing to those who hold multiple jobs or participate in job training programs.

More information is available on the County’s website.

Volunteer Cyclist Promoted Capital Bikeshare by Riding to all Montgomery County Stations

Earlier this month, volunteer MoCo Epic bike rider Mark Mervine used Bikeshare bikes to ride station-to-station to the first 14 of the County’s newly installed Capital Bikeshare locations. Mervine was promoting the launch of the program in Montgomery County and encouraged residents to try this option for commuting and other transportation needs. In the next few weeks, a total of 51 bikeshare stations will be installed in Montgomery County.

The MoCo Epic is a two-day mountain bike festival that was held in the County. Among the sponsors were Capital Bikeshare/Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection and Montgomery Parks.

Open Bikeshare stations are shown on Captial Bikeshare’s website as is more information about bikeshare and how to join.

Ride On Modifies Selected Bus Schedules

On October 20, Montgomery County’s Ride On bus system made schedule modifications to 25 bus routes. Many of the changes involved only minor time adjustments so bus schedules more closely match actual travel times in traffic.

A complete listing of the affected routes is available on the County’s website. For Ride On schedule information, visit the Division of Transit’s website.

County Prepares for Winter Storm Season

On October 30, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Division of Highway Services (DHS), conducted an all-day exercise to test the preparedness of the County’s snow plans and fleet. Snow plow operators ran snow routes on the nearly 5,000 lane miles of County-maintained roads as staff handled a simulated eight-inch snow storm.

Two days later, DHS held its Snow Summit at the new Gaithersburg Depot, home to the largest salt barn on the east coast. Officials from all County agencies with snow removal responsibilities gather at the annual event to assess their readiness for winter storms and discuss new initiatives.

This year, DHS is introducing a new Road Weather Information System consisting of four pavement monitoring stations that will be strategically placed in areas of the County that experience different microclimates. The stations will monitor pavement temperature, humidity, dew point, ambient temperature and “grip factor.” When environmental conditions are conducive to producing black ice, ice or slippery conditions, the stations will send automatic notifications to DHS so it can take proactive measures to treat the pavement.

Check the County’s website for more information and frequently asked questions about snow removal operations.

Update on Road Maintenance Projects

Several new road maintenance projects by the Division of Highway Services (DHS) are beginning in local subdivisions.

Paving projects, in which crews resurface local streets with hot mix asphalt, include:
  • Diamondback Drive, Gaithersburg, between Sam Eig Highway and Muddy Branch Road, will be resurfaced beginning on or about the week of November 1. The project should be completed within about five weeks, weather permitting. Work hours are between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Work began at the end of October to repave Stedwick Road, between Watkins Mill Road and Montgomery Village Avenue in Gaithersburg. The project should take about five weeks to complete, weather permitting. Work hours are between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Work began in mid-October to repave Hidden Glen Lane off Turkey Food Road in North Potomac. The project should be completed in about four weeks, weather permitting. Work hours are between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Permanent patching projects, in which crews make structural, permanent patches to the road, is a cost effective interim solution to maintaining roadway structural integrity. DHS began patching the Derwood Station neighborhood in Derwood in mid-October. The project should be completed by mid-November, weather permitting. Work hours are between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Crews make concrete curb, gutter and sidewalk repairs to replace defective sections of curbs or sidewalks; ensure structural integrity and proper drainage; and remove tripping hazards. Under this operation, residents can take advantage of discounts for concrete work under the driveway apron and lead walk repair program. Upcoming projects include:
  • Kingswell/Glenmont Forest, Wheaton, is about 65 percent complete. The remainder of the project will be completed in the spring.
  • Tuckerman Lane, between Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda, was recently completed.
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.

Leggett and Local Officials Celebrated Walk to School Day at Kensington Parkwood Elementary School

On October 8, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett celebrated International Walk to School Day at Kensington Parkwood Elementary School, where they have begun a “School Pool” program. School Pool is a free, interactive, safe and secure matching service for parents of children who attend the same school and want to share the responsibility of transporting students using a “walking school bus”, a bike train or even a traditional carpool.

Following the walk, AAA Mid-Atlantic sponsored two assemblies for kindergarten, first and second grades featuring the robot Otto the Auto -- who teaches children safe walking tips.

Walk to School Day events focus on the need for safer routes for walking and bicycling and emphasize increasing physical activity among children, pedestrian safety, traffic congestion, concern for the environment and building connections between families, schools and the broader community.

Sponsors of this year’s event at Kensington Parkwood Elementary School were Safe Kids Montgomery County, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Foundation for Safety and Education, Federal Express, Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, Montgomery County Police, Maryland Safe Routes Network, the Maryland State Highway Administration, Safe Routes to School National Partnership and Clif Kid.

Local Officials Launch Fall Street Smart Campaign with Moving Tribute to the 400 Pedestrians Struck in Region Last Year

On October 22, regional officials gathered at Upper Senate Park in Washington, D.C. to kick off the fall Street Smart campaign. Joining them was special guest Gwendolyn Ward. She shared the story of her 15-year-old daughter, Christina Morris-Ward, who was struck by a car and killed on Halloween one year ago while crossing the street in Germantown on her way to school in the dark.

The Roaring Bengal Marching Band from James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring played a dirge in recognition of the 72 pedestrians and cyclists killed in the region last year. At the same time, a bell tolled in recognition of each pedestrian killed in 2012. With each ring, a single band member ceased playing his or her instrument and left the instrument on the ground. The song ended with a lone trumpeter playing amid a sea of abandoned instruments.

This month, regional safety officials came together to remind drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to pay extra attention to one another on area roadways, particularly as the change back to standard time is linked to an increase in crashes. The annual Street Smart public education campaign is encouraging area residents to be more alert. Last year, in November and December there were more than 400 crashes involving pedestrians in the Washington metro region.

Street Smart safety tips and more information about the campaign are available online.

Seasonal Time Change Heralds Most Dangerous Time of the Year for Drivers and Pedestrians

The months of October, November and December are the scariest time of the year for pedestrians in Montgomery County, because pedestrian collisions typically spike by nearly 40 percent during these months. With the end of daylight saving time on November 3, fewer daylight hours only contribute to the problem. According to federal safety officials, 70 percent of pedestrian fatalities happen during the night time hours.

In 2007, Leggett introduced an aggressive pedestrian safety initiative that is investing millions of dollars in safety improvements that are making a difference. The County is also partnering with the Maryland State Highway Administration to address collisions on State roads (roads in the County that are numbered), which are the busiest corridors in the County.

Drivers are urged to help improve pedestrian safety and keep in mind the following:
  • Pedestrians can be nearly invisible in the dark and in bad weather.
  • Pedestrians may be unpredictable. Be aware and be prepared to stop.
  • Slow down and obey the posted speed limits.
  • Don’t drive distractedly – when in the car, focus only on driving.
  • Be patient, especially when young children, seniors or persons with disabilities are present.
Pedestrians are urged to do their part by practicing the following safety tips:
  • Cross the street at signals, marked crosswalks and intersections. Don’t step off the curb without looking left, right and then left again.
  • Remain vigilant when crossing the street.
  • Be alert for drivers who aren’t paying attention. Doing everything right – crossing with a walk signal and in the crosswalk – is not enough to guarantee safety.
  • Don’t count on drivers to see you or react in time.
  • Get off the cell phone and stop texting – don’t walk when distracted.
  • Stay visible after dark and in bad weather by wearing reflective items.
More safety information is available on the County’s website.

New Traffic Laws Become Effective October 1; No Hand-Held Cell Phone Use, Seat Belts for All passengers

 Residents are reminded that two new State traffic laws went into effect on October 1.

First, a fully licensed driver is not permitted to use a handheld cell phone while driving. Police are enforcing this ban as a primary traffic offense, meaning that officers can ticket drivers solely for violating this law. It is not against the law to attach and use a hands-free device such as a Bluetooth. But, officers encourage drivers to refrain from using a cell phone while driving so they can concentrate fully on their driving responsibilities. Texting while driving is already a primary offense. The penalty for the first violation of this law is $83, the second violation penalty is $140 and the fine for the third and subsequent offenses is $160.

The other new law requires that every vehicle occupant use either a seat belt or child safety restraint. Anyone over the age of 16 riding in either the front or the back seat will be required to use a seat belt. Residents are also reminded that the number of passengers in a vehicle cannot exceed the number of seat belts in that vehicle, and no more than one person can be buckled in a single seat belt.

Bethesda Metro Escalators to be Replaced

In November, the Bethesda Metro escalators between the street-level entrance on Old Georgetown Road and Wisconsin Avenue and the bus bay level will be replaced. The long escalators between the bus-bay level and the mezzanine will be replaced in the Spring of 2014.

Bethesda Avenue-Woodmont Avenue Project Update

Work continues at the former site of the County’s parking lot at the corner of Bethesda and Woodmont avenues in Bethesda. The west side of the site continues to progress at a faster pace than the east side. At the east end of the site, framing and concrete pouring of the final foundation footers is nearly complete. A small model of the project, set up on the northwest corner of the site near the construction trailers, can be viewed from Bethesda Avenue.

No Parking at Meters on Tuckerman Lane Near Strathmore for Four Days in November

From November 19 to 22, no public parking will be allowed at the parking meters along Tuckerman Lane near the Grosvenor/Strathmore Metrorail station. During this time, the meter spaces will be reserved for school buses when 10,000 Montgomery County Public School second graders attend Strathmore for a series of free concerts by the National Philharmonic. This is the ninth year these concerts have been held. To accommodate all the students, seven daytime performances are scheduled.

New Teen Drivers with Teen Passengers at Higher Risk for Fatal Crashes

The Washington Post recently reported that a Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) study found that new, 15-to-17-year-old drivers are almost eight times as likely to get into a fatal accident when they are carrying two or more teen passengers. The report author, Russell Henk, suspects that texting during driving may be a contributing factor in the collisions. The report states that new drivers may be more distracted by other teens in the vehicle.

The full Washington Post article is available online.

Metro Opens New Parking Garage at Twinbrook Metro Station

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) opened a new 426-space parking garage at the Twinbrook Metrorail Station on October 7. The new Metro West Garage was constructed by JBG as part of a joint development project and provides replacement parking for an existing surface parking lot that will be used for retail, residential and offices.

Existing traffic patterns and parking rates ($4.75 on weekdays, free on weekends) will not change. The new Metro West Garage will be accessible from Chapman Avenue, which is adjacent to the station.

Construction has begun on the second phase of the project, which includes 206 apartments (15 percent affordable) and 33,000 square feet of retail shops.

See Metro’s website for more details.

Teens Continue to be at Risk Crossing Streets While Texting

High school students can't put their phones down, even when crossing a dangerous street. A new study quantifies just how often kids walk while distracted by technology. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, one in five high school students and one in eight middle school students cross the street while doing something with a digital device.

Pedestrian injuries among teenagers, in particular, have been on the rise, increasing 25% in the last five years in the 16-19 year-old age group. Crossing streets while staring at a screen is one suggested reason. Listening to music and texting were the top distractions. Thirty-nine percent of the students who were crossing the street while distracted were typing on a cell phone and another 39 percent were listening to headphones. Girls were a little more likely to walk distractedly than boys, but just barely.

(Source:, August 29, 2013 as cited in the NETS eNewsletter, September, 2013. To see the full article, go to the WNYC website.)

MCDOT to Construct Dual Bikeway on Woodglen Drive

MCDOT is installing a dual bikeway along a portion of Woodglen Drive that includes:
  • An eight-foot, off-road, shared use bikepath on the west side of Woodglen Drive between Edson and Nicholson lanes in North Bethesda;
  • An on-road, six-foot-wide bike lane on the east side of Woodglen Drive (in the northbound travel lane); and
  • An on-road shared lane, or “sharrow” on the west side of Woodglen Drive (in the southbound travel lane).
Sharrows are pavement markings that alert motorists to the presence of bicyclists and encourage safer passing practices.

The Woodglen dual bikeway will provide an important link to the Bethesda Trolley Trail and access to Metro stations, as well as retail and neighborhood activity centers in the Rockville and North Bethesda areas.

In Maryland, bicycles are classified as vehicles and are permitted on any road where the speed limit is posted at 50 mph or below. The on-road bicycle lanes will require the removal of six metered parking spaces along Woodglen Drive. Travel lanes will be narrowed for the sharrow. To enhance safety, discourage speeding and alert motorists to those using the path, curb extenders will be built at the intersection of Executive Boulevard and Woodglen Drive.

For more information on bicycle infrastructure projects, visit MCDOT's bikeways website.

Distracted Driving Causing More Pedestrian and Cyclist Collisions

According to, total traffic deaths have declined nationwide in recent years, but the same has not held true for the most vulnerable people on the streets -- cyclists and pedestrians. In 2011, 130 more pedestrians were killed in traffic than the year before, a three percent increase, while 54 more people lost their lives while biking, an increase of eight percent. The same year, overall traffic deaths declined two percent.

A new study published in Public Health Reports, the journal of the U.S. Public Health Service and the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, reveals that distracted driving — particularly driving while texting — partially explains the rising death toll.