Monday, December 29, 2014

MCDOT Acting Director Al Roshdieh Discusses His Goals for the Department

On Monday, December 22 on his first day as MCDOT Acting Director, Al Roshdieh met with senior staff and the editor of Go Montgomery! to talk about his goals for the Department.

Go Montgomery Editor: First of all, I’d like to congratulate you on your selection as the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) Acting Director. Your appointment comes at a challenging and exciting time for Montgomery County as we strive to strengthen our economy. In his inaugural address, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett announced a six point economic plan that will better position Montgomery County for the future. How do you see MCDOT playing a role in supporting Mr. Leggett’s vision?

Roshdieh: Montgomery County is a vibrant and innovative community that has embraced smart growth principles as the path to an even brighter economic future. To achieve this vision and further unlock the County’s economic potential, we must continue to transform our transportation infrastructure to be even more transit-oriented, bikable and walkable.

Go Montgomery Editor: Why do you think focusing on transportation alternatives is the way forward?

Roshdieh: When you look at the trends in car ownership, driving habits, bike commuting and transit ridership nationwide, it is clear that our country has undergone a significant shift away from a traditional model of single occupancy vehicles commuting from the suburbs to a central city. The Washington D.C. region reflects this shift and the communities that have most strongly embraced this change are the ones that are thriving. Our neighboring jurisdictions are proving that reliable, convenient transit supported by an extensive bikeway network and safe pedestrian access is the best way to convince people to get out of their cars. That is why I plan to focus on a comprehensive approach to mobility that promotes sustainable alternatives.

Go Montgomery Editor: How will MCDOT implement this new vision?

Roshdieh: I plan to take a hard look at all of MCDOT’s policies and procedures to ensure that they are consistent with our emphasis on smart growth principles. This approach is not just about focusing on Ride On or bikesharing or more sidewalks. It’s about taking a holistic view of all of MCDOT’s efforts and asking the question: How do we create the type of community that truly enhances our quality of life and how can our transportation system contribute?

Go Montgomery Editor: Not all of Montgomery County is urban. How will your approach affect those who still rely on their cars?

Roshdieh: One of the wonderful things about Montgomery County is that it is urban, suburban and rural. Each of these areas has something unique to offer residents and each area has its own transportation needs. However, what they all have in common is increasing traffic congestion. We cannot solve traffic tie ups by continuing to build more and more roads. Even in the less densely populated areas of the County, providing more alternative transportation options, like the Rapid Transit System, and providing better and more frequent links to existing transit will provide greater opportunities to reduce vehicle traffic. Getting more cars off the road benefits those who have fewer or no alternatives to driving.

Go Montgomery Editor: What about our roads and bridges?

Roshdieh: Our road and bridge network is no less important because we are also expanding our alternatives. Our County’s continued investment in this transportation infrastructure is vital to our economic health. I will continue to rehabilitate, renew and maintain our roads and bridges to enhance the livability of our communities and ensure the public’s safety.
As far as constructing new roads, I do believe that our road network is essentially built out. With the exception of a few needed roads, our focus will be on ‘spot’ and ‘intersection’ improvements that can increase the capacity of our existing roadways and make them more efficient at moving traffic.

Go Montgomery Editor: What do you think is the public perception of MCDOT?

Roshdieh: Just as Mr. Leggett wants to usher in and foster a ‘culture of yes’ when it comes to doing business in Montgomery County, I want to also foster a ‘culture of yes’ in MCDOT. Does that mean we will always be able to meet the needs of everyone? That is not always possible.  But, I do believe that in our role as public servants we are compelled to find innovative solutions for our residents and businesses that meet engineering standards while addressing the broader goals of our County. I look forward to working with our entire community and those at the regional, state and federal levels to meet the challenges of realizing our smart growth vision.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Follow MCDOT on Social Media

Get the latest information you need to get around the County, use transit or learn about projects in your neighborhood by following the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) on social media. 

Here’s some handy links:

·         Department-wide news on Twitter:  MCDOT@MCDOTNow
·         Ride On and Transit news on Twitter:  Ride On Bus@RideOnMCT and Facebook: RideOnMCT
·         Parking news on Twitter: MCDOT Parking@MCDOT_Parking and Facebook: MCDOT  Park
·         Highway Services news on Twitter: MC Highway Services@ MontCo_Highways,
 MoCoHighwayServices and YouTube


Al Roshdieh Named Acting MCDOT Director

Chief Administrative Officer Timothy Firestine announced that Al Roshdieh will be the Acting Director of the Montgomery County Department ofTransportation (MCDOT) following the retirement of Arthur Holmes, Jr. on December 19. 

Roshdieh brings a wealth of experience in developing County policy and expertise in transportation and public works to the department. He has served Montgomery County for 25 years, currently as Deputy Director of MCDOT, and formerly as the Deputy Director of the Department of Public Works and Transportation, Chief of the Division of Operations and Chief of the Division of Facilities and Services. He is a proven leader, having directed the implementation of many County initiatives, including the County Executive’s Pedestrian Safety Initiative, implementation of the Countywide Capitol Bikeshare program and development of the Bus Rapid Transit program. Roshdieh has enhanced economic development and increased the County’s tax base by successfully negotiating numerous public/private partnerships and mixed-use developments in the Wheaton, Bethesda and Silver Spring areas.

Al Roshdieh will assume his new position on Monday, December 22.

Highway Services Starts YouTube Channel

The Division of HighwayServices (DHS) has started its own YouTube channel to give residents a fuller picture of the wide range of services it provides. There are two videos posted so far. The first shows the complete cycle of how leaves raked to the curb for collection end up on hardware store shelves as mulch. The other video highlights DHS’ preparations for the winter storm season, including mobilization for a “mock” snow day to test staff and equipment readiness.

Catch future video postings by following MCDOT on Twitter.

Leggett and Public Safety Chiefs Offer Critical Holiday Safety Tips

From left to right: Fire Chief Steve Lohr, Councilmember Sidney Katz, County Executive Ike Leggett, Montgomery County Commission on People with Disabilities members Trish Gallalee and Dr. Seth Morgan and Police Chief Tom Manger

Earlier this month, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett joined Police Chief Tom Manger and Fire Chief Steve Lohr at the Congressional Plaza shopping center in Rockville to encourage community members to make safety a priority this holiday season. Residents were urged to be cautious while walking and driving in parking lots, where last year about 25 percent of pedestrian collisions occurred. They were also reminded not to park in handicapped parking spaces and to follow basic crime prevention tips to ensure their safety.  Read more

New Protected Bike Lane (Cycle Track) Installed on Woodglen Drive Between Edson Lane and Nicholson Lane

The Division of Transportation Engineering (DTE) has completed the first protected bike lane, also referred to as a “cycle track,” in Montgomery County. This on-road, bike lane is about 1,500 feet long and is located adjacent to the curb on the west side of Woodglen Drive between Edson Lane and Nicholson Lane. It provides an important connection between the Bethesda Trolley Trail to the south and Rockville destinations to the north. Eventually, the lane will link directly to the White Flint Metro Station, which is located one block to the north.

This project was a collaborative effort with the State of Maryland. The Maryland Department of Transportation awarded the County a Bikeways Grant that matched 50 percent of the project’s cost.

The two-way, eight-foot-wide cycle track protects bicyclists from both through traffic and parked vehicle door openings because it is located between the curb and a two-to-three foot buffer bordered by flexible posts. Next to the buffer are the parking lane and three travel lanes of traffic.

Several divisions in the Montgomery County Department of Transportation were involved in the project. The Division of Highway Services resurfaced Woodglen Drive and DTE installed new, on-road, wayfinding signs, crosswalks and green pavement markings at driveway entrances. A bike box with bicycle detectors was also installed by the Division of Traffic Engineering and Operations at Nicholson Lane and Woodglen Drive. A bike box is a colored area at a signalized intersection that allows bicyclists to pull in front of traffic stopped at a red traffic signal. The boxes increase safety by reducing car/bike conflicts, increasing cyclist visibility and providing bicyclists with a head start when a traffic signal turns green.

In the next few months, a ramp will be constructed at the northeast corner of Nicholson and Woodglen and another will be reconstructed at the southwest corner of Edson and Woodglen.

View a video of the restriping process.

Another Protected Bike Lane is in the Works in Bethesda

Protected bike lanes ( cycle tracks) are in the preliminary planning stage for Bethesda's Goldsboro Road between River Road and MacArthur Boulevard. A five-foot-wide sidewalk is planned along the same one-mile stretch on the north side of Goldsboro. There will be a landscaped buffer between the sidewalk and roadway. 

As the project progresses, the Division of Transportation Engineering will develop the details and present them to the public to solicit input. More information about the project is available online.

Paving Operations Concluding for the Season

With the onset of cold weather, the Division of Highway Services (DHS) is wrapping up its road resurfacing program for the season. It’s been a very productive spring, summer and fall as, throughout the County, DHS has paved, patched and rehabilitated more than 100 roads, road segments and subdivisions, repaired bridges, refurbished sidewalks and curbs, and repaired and replaced storm drains.

Some of the primary road paving projects using hot mix asphalt completed this season include portions of Peachtree, Quince Orchard, Shady Grove, Muncaster, Notley and Good Hope roads; Mid-County Highway and Wisteria Drive.

A few of the neighborhood street segments and communities that now have repaved or patched roads include Ganley, Chapel, Bready, Alexander, Peach Tree, Kings Valley and Sugarland roads; Silver Brook and Scott drives; Talley, Dunhorse and Fellowship lanes; Talley Court; and the neighborhoods of Kensington Heights, Briars Acres, Gunners View/Gunners Lake Village, Connecticut Avenue Estates, Wyngate, Goshen Estates, Avery Village, Kings Valley Manor, Wilderness Walk, Goshen Estates, Rock Creek Manor and Granby Woods.

More details about road, sidewalk, curb and gutter, bridge and storm drain projects are available on DHS’ website.

Division of Highway Services (DHS) Manages Tree Maintenance Program

DHS has on-staff arborists who help care for the thousands of trees that are located in the County’s right-of-way. DHS inspects, prunes, removes and, most importantly, plants trees to enhance the tree canopy and ensure that the trees we have are healthy and pose no safety hazards.

From January through November of this year, DHS inspected nearly 3,200 trees, pruned about 1,750 trees, removed 600 trees and 795 stumps, and planted nearly 1,000 trees.

Residents with questions about street trees in the right-of-way can call 311 or send a request for service online

Woodmont Avenue Pedestrian Safety Audit Conducted

Last week, MCDOT completed a pedestrian safety audit of Woodmont Avenue between Old Georgetown Road and Battery Lane. The audit was done over two days during morning hours, at mid-day and evening. The audit group walked Woodmont Avenue to assess conditions that could affect pedestrian safety, such as crosswalks, sidewalks and obstacles that prevent drivers from seeing pedestrians clearly. The next step will be preparation of a report detailing audit findings and recommendations about ways to improve safety.

More information about other pedestrian safety audits is available on the County’s website.

Don’t Drink and Drive: SoberRide Offers Free Ride Home During the Holidays

The Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) is again offering its Holiday SoberRide program. Free cab rides home (up to a $30 fare) will be offered from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. from December 12, through January 1. Riders are responsible for the portion of the fare that exceeds $30.

To receive a free ride home, call 1-800-200-8294 (TAXI).  AT&T customers may dial #WRAP from their wireless phones. Calls directly to taxi companies are not covered under the program. The program is available to those 21 years of age or older.

Since 1993, WRAP has provided more than 61,000 safe rides home to would-be impaired drivers during high-risk holidays, including the December/January holiday season, St. Patrick's Day, Independence Day and Halloween.

All calls must originate in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties in Maryland; the Cities of Rockville, Bowie, College Park, Gaithersburg, Greenbelt and Takoma Park in Maryland; the District of Columbia; Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William and Eastern Loudoun Counties in Virginia; and the Cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas and Manassas Park in Virginia.

Participating cab companies include:

·         Alexandria Yellow Cab (Alexandria)
·         Barwood, Inc. (Montgomery County)
·         Fairfax Yellow Cab (Fairfax County)
·         Loudoun Yellow Cab (Eastern Loudoun County)
·         Northern Virginia Checker (Prince William County)
·         Manassas Cab Company (Prince William County)
·         Red Top Cab Company (Arlington County)
·         Silver Cab of Prince George's County (Prince George's County)
·         Yellow Cab of District of Columbia (District of Columbia)
·         Yellow Cab of Prince William County (Prince William County)

Leggett to Hold Budget Forums in January

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett will hold five budget forums during January to seek input from residents about Fiscal Year 2016 Operating Budget priorities. One forum will be held in each of the five regional service center areas.  Read more.

Friday, December 5, 2014

First Round of Leaf Collection Completed

The Division of Highway Services began vacuum leaf collection in the downcounty on November 10. So far, they have collected more than 78,000 cubic yards of leaves.

The next round of leaf collection is expected to be completed by the end of December.

View the leaf collection schedule online to find out when leaves will be collected.

Leggett Sworn in for Third Term on December 1; Inaugural Speech Links Transportation Improvements to County’s Economic Health

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett was sworn in for his third term on Monday, December 1 at Richard Montgomery High School. Leggett announced a six-point economic plan to take advantage of the County’s already formidable strengths and better position it for the future.

One of Leggett’s recommendations is to create an independent transit authority for Montgomery County to move transit projects forward.

“The authority would focus attention and resources on our growing transit needs as we compete for jobs, talents and investments,” said Leggett. “A state-of-the art transit network is essential to unlocking our County’s economic potential and linking our economic centers of excellence throughout the County.”  

Read Leggett’s entire speech online.

MCDOT Director Arthur Holmes, Jr. Announces his Retirement after 12 Years of Service to Montgomery County

Arthur Holmes, Jr., director of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), has officially announced his retirement. His last day on the job will be December 19. In October, Holmes shared the news with County Executive Isiah Leggett.

“Art Holmes has provided tremendous leadership at a time of change and significant challenges,” said County Executive Ike Leggett.  “He has helped broaden transportation options for County commuters, deliver critical infrastructure, and support Smart Growth. We are doing more road maintenance, advancing more transit, and promoting more pedestrian safety. On behalf of a grateful County, I wish him all the best in retirement.”

During Holmes’ tenure, the County established a broader approach to transportation that placed greater emphasis on transit, biking and walking. He has been instrumental in implementing Leggett’s vision for developing new, transit-oriented, communities while ensuring that the County’s transportation infrastructure is maintained, repaired, rehabilitated and expanded.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Department,” said Holmes. “I look back on my 12 years with Montgomery County – two as Go Montgomery Director and 10 as Department of Public Works and Transportation and Department of Transportation Director – with great pride in the accomplishments of MCDOT. Together, we have ushered in a new era in transportation in Montgomery County – one that is focused on a comprehensive approach to mobility that encourages smart growth, transit-oriented development and alternative transportation, while enhancing and extending our critical road network, bridges and other infrastructure."

“What I am most proud of, however, is our MCDOT team. They exemplify the best of public service, and I truly appreciate all that they have done to improve the quality of life in Montgomery County for those who live, work and play here.”

Under Holmes, MCDOT has won dozens of national awards for its innovation, customer service and creativity. Read more about Holmes’ major achievements and background.

Leggett Congratulates Montgomery County Department of Transportation for its Role in Developing Bill 33-13 to Improve Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett congratulated the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) for playing an essential role in crafting Bill 33-13, Streets and Roads - Urban Road Standards and Pedestrian Safety Improvements passed on November 25 by the Montgomery County Council.

MCDOT successfully advocated for modifications to the bill proposed by the County Council, changing the initial “one-size fits all” approach to one that incorporated flexibility in creating a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly urban environment. MCDOT was concerned that the bill as originally written compromised the safety of walkers and bikers. Bill 33-13 accomplishes the goal of establishing adaptable guidelines for lane widths and road intersection curb radii that make safety for pedestrians and bicyclists the priority.

“The safety of pedestrians is paramount in urban design,” Leggett said. “Setting new standards for our walkable, bikeable urban centers is critical to realizing our vision for the future. That is why I am glad that, with MCDOT’s leadership, a bill was passed that will help us continue to create safe and smart business districts.”

Bill 33-13 specifies maximum dimensions for lane widths and curb radii on urban roads; further defines certain required pedestrian improvements; and generally amends the laws governing road design and construction.

“During my 10 years as Transportation director, MCDOT has embraced the vision of a walkable, bikeable community and has made tremendous strides in making this concept a reality,” said MCDOT Director Arthur Holmes Jr. “Complete street planning ensures that our urban cores are accessible and safe for everyone. To keep them that way, I’m so glad that we were able to convince the work group and the County Council that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to road design.”

In addition to the changes for urban roads detailed in Bill 33-13, MCDOT led the effort to further modify the County Code to ensure that more sidewalks will be built during road construction and development.

Holmes said, “There were too many loopholes in the existing County Code that allowed developers to avoid building sidewalks on residential streets. Now, sidewalks will be built in most situations.”

Road Weather Information System is Saving Tax Dollars While Improving Storm Response

The Division of Highway Services (DHS) is relying on information from its four Road Weather Information System (RWIS) stations to cut costs and improve efficiency in responding to winter storms. The stations are distributed around the County in areas with different microclimates: Burtonsville, Potomac, Clarksburg and Darnestown. The data collected allows DHS to be more proactive in responding to hazardous driving conditions.

With two storm activations already this winter season, the stations have been put to good use. They report pavement temperature, air temperature, dew point and “grip,” which indicates when roads transition from wet to icy. When conditions turn hazardous for drivers, the station automatically sends real time text messages to DHS depot staff who can immediately respond, allowing crews to target their efforts where it is needed.

County Launches Website to Encourage Neighbors to Help Neighbors During Snowstorms

Winter has come early this year and with the cold weather may come the need to get the snow shovels out sooner rather than later. That’s why Montgomery County has launched a website about neighbors helping neighbors – during snow storms as well as other storms and emergencies. Part of being a good neighbor is clearing the sidewalks so pedestrians can use them as well as checking on neighbors who may live alone and need assistance.

Under Montgomery County law, a property owner is responsible for removing snow and ice on sidewalks in the public right-of- way within 24 hours after the end of a snowstorm. A pathway should be available that is wide enough for safe pedestrian and wheelchair use. Property owners who are unable to clear their sidewalks can call 311 or go to the 311 website to obtain a list of contractors who are available to assist.

Everyone benefits when walkways are quickly cleared of snow – schoolchildren, seniors, transit users, shoppers and anyone who walks to nearby destinations.

Learn more about the campaign on the County’s website.

How to be Sure You are Prepared for Snow

When winter weather is expected, residents can receive timely severe weather and emergency notifications from Alert Montgomery, on Facebook or Twitter. The progress of plowing operations can be tracked online and Highway Services also updates the status of snow removal operations on Facebook and Twitter. 

Montgomery County Division of Highway Services (DHS) clears more than 5,000 lane miles of County roads. The State Highway Administration clears state roads – those that are numbered.

To aid snowplows in clearing roads, residents are urged, when possible, to park vehicles in driveways or off-road. During a snowstorm, crews work to keep main County roads and emergency routes clear to ensure all households are within a half-mile of a cleared road and are accessible in case of an emergency. Only once the snow stops, do crews begin plowing neighborhood roads.

Residents should be aware that although emergency and main roads are generally cleared to bare pavement, the goal for neighborhood streets is to make them passable, which oftentimes means some snow will remain.

Residents are reminded that if a snow emergency is declared, no parking is permitted on signed “Snow Emergency Routes.” Vehicles parked on emergency routes will be ticketed and towed. During a Snow Emergency, vehicles on the road must have all-weather or snow tires, or chains. Taxicabs operating in Montgomery County during declared snow emergencies are allowed to charge $2.50 extra per trip.

 Here’s some tips to help residents prepare for a storm:

·       Emergency preparations should include having enough food, water, medication (if needed) and batteries to last two to three days. Make sure portable radios, smoke detectors and flashlights are working properly. Keep a fresh supply of extra batteries on hand, along with a basic first aid kit and a non-electric can opener.

·       Check with neighbors who may require special assistance to see if they need help in stocking up on supplies or medications, and call them during the storm.

·       Be sure your vehicle is ready to drive after the storm by filling the gas tank; checking tires to make sure they have an adequate tread and are fully inflated; checking oil, antifreeze and windshield washer fluid levels; and ensuring windshield wipers, lights, flashing hazard lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes and defroster are all working properly. Keep a windshield scraper and small broom in the car for ice and snow removal, and a small sack of sand or kitty litter to improve wheel traction.

·       Stay off the roads during the storm if at all possible to allow snow plows to do their work. If driving during the storm is unavoidable, put together a separate emergency supply kit for the trunk of the car that includes: flashlight with extra batteries, flares, blankets or sleeping bags, dry clothing, mittens, socks, and a wool cap, plastic bags, snacks and water, jumper cables, a first aid kit and necessary medications and a brightly colored cloth to tie to the vehicle antenna in case the vehicle becomes stranded.

Ride On Wins Transit System of Year Award

On December 3, the Transportation Association of Maryland (TAM) honored Montgomery County’s Ride On bus system with the 2014 Transit System of the Year Award for large bus systems. The award was presented at TAM’s annual conference.

TAM is a statewide organization representing every jurisdiction in the state of Maryland and has a membership of more than 80 organizations. It is dedicated to improving mobility for all of Maryland’s residents.  TAM members, according to its website, “include public, private, and non-profit organizations that provide community transportation services enabling residents to lead independent and productive lives, providing access to community services, improving air quality and reducing traffic congestion.”

Ride On’s Chief of Operations Dan Hibbert and Division Chief Carolyn Biggins display award.

Circulator Bus Phone App Available

The Bethesda Urban Partnership (BUP) recently launched a new, free phone app that shows the location of all the buses in the Bethesda Circulator system. Riders can use the app to identify when the next Circulator will arrive at their stop.

To download it, visit your smart phone or tablet's App store and search for “Bethesda Circulator.” For Android users, use “BUP” when prompted for an account code while downloading the app.

More information is available on BUP’s website.

Leggett Seeks Applicants for Rustic Roads Advisory Committee

County Executive Isiah Leggett is seeking applicants to fill three vacancies on the Rustic Roads Advisory Committee. Applicants in the following categories are needed:  one owner/operator of commercial farmland in the County earning 50 percent or more of their income from farming, one person who knows rural preservation techniques through practical experience and training, and one person who represents civic associations in areas located outside the Agricultural Reserve where rustic roads are located. All members must be Montgomery County residents.

The Rustic Roads Advisory Committee consists of seven voting members. Its duties include promoting public awareness of the Rustic Roads Program and reviewing and commenting on the classification of rustic roads, development proposals that affect rustic roads, and executive regulations and policies that may affect the Program.

Members serve three-year terms without compensation, but are eligible for reimbursement for travel and dependent care for meetings attended. The committee meets at least six times a year, usually the fourth Tuesday evening of each month at 6 p.m. in the Executive Office Building in Rockville.

For more information, contact Beth Gochrach, 240-777-2528.