Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Council Chairman Requests McDOT To Study Transit-Alternative to M83


MONTGOMERY COUNTY COUNCIL
ROCKVILLE, MARYLAND

ROGER BERLINER CHAIRMAN
COUNCILMEMBER 
DISTRICT 1

May 12, 2014


Mr. Isiah Leggett
County Executive
101 Monroe Street, 2nd Floor
Rockville, MD 20850

Dear County Executive Leggett,

​As Chair of the Montgomery County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee, I am writing to request that under your direction, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation study the development of a transit-based alternative to the Mid-County Highway Extended, otherwise known as M83.

The focus of the initial Clarksburg Master Plan was to develop a transit-oriented community.  To that extent, the study, when undertaken by the Department of Transportation, should examine alternatives that would utilize existing roadways, comprehensive traffic moving strategies, such as signal timing and intersection improvements, and various combinations of transit options. 

            One such transit option that I request be included in the study should be a Bus Rapid Transit line running from Clarksburg to Bethesda, which would utilize the cross-section of Alternative 5.  This alternative called for a widened MD-355. This would mean not having bus service lanes, but instead a median corridor in which buses would travel. This approach is similar to Rockville Pike South approach where the Department of Transportation had originally planned bus service lanes, but altered their plans to median corridors.

            Other alternatives for consideration include express bus service along I-270 to the MARC and Shady Grove Metro, and all day, two-way service on at least the inner portion of the Brunswick Line. This approach would be concurrent with MARC’s Growth and Investment plan.

This study must also address and answer important questions about how transit alternatives would be impacted following the completion of the Clarksburg Town Center and what effects this may have on the estimated number of daily trips. It is also extremely important that this study take into account and model the Corridor Cities Transitway and its impact on Clarksburg’s development.

Thank you again for your attention to this matter. I look forward to your response to this issue.

                                                    Sincerely,

                                                     Roger Berliner
                                                     Chairman
                                                     Transportation, Infrastructure
                                                     Energy & Environment Committee


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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Majority of MoCo Council Say: Transit Options Instead of M-83




“I do believe our council has adapted a transit-first mentality,” said Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda on Tuesday. “When you look at the cost of M-83 [the extension], it is so significant compared to other priorities.”A majority of the present nine-member County Council appears to support construction of a transit system to connect Clarksburg to down county jobs and shopping instead of spending more than $350 million on an extension north of the Midcounty Highway.
The county is picking up the total cost of extending a highway from Gaithersburg to Clarksburg. As of right now there is no additional planning money and no construction money in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, pending responses from the environmental agencies.
There is also associated environmental damage with proposed route, which some critics say can’t be entirely mitigated.
If built as proposed the M-83 would be a 5.7-mile highway from Montgomery Village Avenue to Ridge Road east of Interstate 270. Though the final design and route has not been set, it’s been described as a four-lane road.
Some Clarksburg residents take the opposite view, saying they moved to the suburban area expecting the highway to be extended north.
“Our quality of life and our mobility is greatly reduced if that road doesn’t get built,” said Doug Reimel, who moved from Rockville to the east end of Clarksburg Village near Md. 27 about a year ago.
“The roads around here are already gridlocked— Md. 355 out of Clarksburg, 27 is very bad, and I-270 is typically jammed,” said Reimel, who also cited commuter traffic coming south from Carroll County.
Brian Donohue of Clarksburg is a member of the appointed Upcounty Citizens Advisory Board, which meets regularly in Germantown about issues affecting the north end of the county.
“We’re like an island by ourselves,” said Donohue, who drives to work in Rockville. “We want to be connected to everybody else.”
A majority of the Upcounty board voted seven in favor of M-83, with two against and two abstaining at a meeting on April 28 with not all members present.
Advocates on both sides of the issue are making the debate over the M-83 extension an election issue as council members and County Executive Isiah Leggett head into the Democratic and Republican primaries on June 24.
However, it will be the winners of those elections who will vote whether to move forward toward building M-83, probably late this year or early next following review of the county Department of Transportation’s preferred highway route by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of the Environment.
“We’ll know if the state agencies have approved the preferred alternative toward the end of this year or early 2015,” said Edgar Gonzales, deputy director for department of transportation, during an April 21 session of the Councils’ Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment committee headed by Berliner.
At that meeting, Berliner said he wanted assurance from the county’s Department of Transportation that it has looked at every transit option conceivable, including additional bus lanes on Interstate 270, not just the various routes suggested for the M-83 extension.
“Over the time that’s gone on, hopefully there’s been an evolution in our thinking,” said Berliner, who questioned whether a highway, first put into the master plan in 1960, still makes sense.
Council Vice President George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) of Takoma Park agreed.
“I am opposed to the construction of M-83 as we simply cannot afford it,” wrote Leventhal in an email to The Gazette. “At a projected cost of at least $350 million, M-83 would be three times more expensive than the most expensive transportation project in the County’s current six-year capital budget for transportation.”
He and Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg, who is running for county executive, said proposals for the Corridor Cities Transitway, a bus rapid transit system along Frederick Road, upgraded intersections and reversible lanes on I-270 are better options.
Also supportive of transit are council member Hans Riemer of Takoma Park, who wrote in a letter to constituents that he supports a bus rapid transit route along Md. 355 between Clarksburg and Gaithersburg, expanded bus service to the bus rapid transit system and intersection upgrades.
“I have not supported M-83 for both environmental and cost reasons,” wrote at-large member Marc Elrich of Takoma Park in an email to The Gazette on Tuesday. “I believe we should complete the CCT to Clarksburg town center and complete the proposed BRT line up 355, and then we should look at what road enhancements we need.”
At-large Council member Nancy Floreen of Garrett Park said Tuesday that the issue has suddenly become politicized because the primaries are coming up.
The county-based Transit Alternatives to Mid-County Highway Extended Coalition, which opposes construction of M-83, has recently talked with most council members about their positions.
Reimel, meanwhile, said he and his neighbors in Clarksburg Village are also keeping opinions about M-83 in mind as the primary approaches.
“This is a planning exercise that we’re in the middle of and it’s being turned into a political exercise, which it shouldn’t,” Floreen said. “We’ll be listening to the facts and listening to the community [at a future hearing], and we’re not at that point yet.”

JOIN TAME Coalition as we work with citizens, organizations and government to build Transit Alternatives to Mid-County Highway Extended.



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Candidates Forum Tonight! Come Support our Councilmembers Opposing M-83

This forum is a great opportunity to show support to those County Council members who are opposed to building M-83, and to talk with other Council members who haven't yet joined our movement. Your presence will be so appreciated.  In this past month, much is happening through many council members to eliminate M-83 from the Master Plan of Highways and Transitways, and to work on solutions to replace M-83 with multiple, viable and available transportation systems.  

The majority of the County Council Members are on record as opposing building M-83:
Marc Elrich, At-Large
George Leventhal, At-Large
Hans Riemer, At-Large
Roger Berliner, Dist. 1
Phil Andrews, Dist. 3
Picture 
Candidate Forum Sponsored by: 
Clarksburg Civic Assn & Greater Goshen Civic Assn

County Council Candidate Forum


Wednesday May 7, 7PM
Cedarbrook Community Church
23700 Stringtown Road
Clarksburg


All At-Large and District 2 candidates for the Montgomery County Council have been invited.

District 2 includes the Clarksburg, Germantown, Goshen, Damascus and Montgomery Village areas.

The forum will start with 1 1/2 hours of moderated questions and timed answers from all candidates.

The questions will be selected from those submitted by attendees.  All questions should be written and succinct so that they can be reaonably answered in 2 or 3 minutes.  Candidates have been asked to stay after the formal question period for informal discussion.

Directions: Take Brink Road to Route 355 and continue on to Stringtown Road.  Turn right and continue through the stop sign at Snowden Farm Parkway.  Turn left at the first drive after the stop sign. The church is set back from the northwest corner of Stringtown Road and Snowden Farm Parkway.

Join TAME Coalition as we work with citizens, organizations and government to build Transit Alternatives to Mid-County Highway Extended.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Sprawl-inducing M-83 Highway Gets Thumbs Down from Montgomery County Executive

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/22691/sprawl-inducing-m-83-highway-gets-thumbs-down-from-montgomery-county-executive/   

by    •   April 30, 2014
Last Thursday, Montgomery County transportation director Art Holmes told the County Council that County Executive Ike Leggett does not favor building the M-83 "Mid-County Highway Extended" highway project.

Photo from Google Maps.
This could be an important signal that the outdated project, which would take hundreds of millions of dollars from transit projects and incentivize more sprawl development in the northern tier of Montgomery, is falling out of favor with more and more county leaders.
At an April 23 meeting of the Transportation and Environment Committee, Holmes said:
I want to make sure that there's no misunderstanding. ... The County Executive is not in favor of going forward with M-83 into construction. He's put nothing in his CIP for design or engineering or construction, and the staff is not in favor of that. What we were talking about and which might have given people some indication was the [environmental] study and what the study is about. The study is not a recommendation for construction.
M-83 appeared to be moving forward earlier this year when Leggett first released hisproposed capital budget in January. That budget funded facility planning for the M-83 highway.
The controversial highway has been under environmental review for the past 11 years because of the potential impacts on wetlands and stream valleys.

Alternative routes being studied for Midcounty Highway. Image from MCDOT.
After significant community protest, Leggett said in March that M-83 wouldn't receive future planning funding. Now, it appears he has decided to take an even more decisive stance on the project.
A consensus is beginning to emerge amongst county leaders to focus on viable, high quality transit alternatives serving Clarksburg before building more highways. With Frederick County continuing to grow to the north, many recognize that new roads will only fill up with traffic in a matter of time, and that the investment of $350 million (at minimum) of county funds would hardly bring any benefit.

Eugene EmX BRT. Photo used with permission from Lane Transit District.
Instead, supporting Clarksburg's original vision as a walkable, transit-oriented community could do much more to improve the quality of life for upcounty residents. Based on comparable speeds from other BRT systems, a trip on BRT on MD-355 from Clarksburg to the Shady Grove Metro would take about 25 minutes, which is similar to the driving time.
Completing the town square combined with an array of transit investments could provide residents real alternatives to sitting in traffic to reach the grocery store, Metro, or work.
Until now, the county's Department of Transportation has resisted developing and modeling a robust transit alternative to M-83, but that could change with the transportation director's recent comments. Given the enormous fiscal and environmental cost of M-83 to the county, it would be in all residents' best interest to examine all possible transit alternatives first.
Kelly Blynn is the Campaign Manager for the Coalition for Smarter Growth's Next Generation of Transit Campaign. A former international campaigner at the climate change organization 350.org, she believes in thinking globally while acting locally, and she is now working hard to organize with communities for sustainable and equitable transportation in the Washington, DC region.  

Join TAME Coalition
as we work with citizens, organizations and government to built Transit Alternatives to Mid-County Highway Extended.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Joining TAME: Roger Berliner, Council Member District 1


Roger Berliner (District 1) becomes the fifth Montgomery County Council Member to publicly join TAME Coalition in our mission to support a fundamental change in transportation planning by advocating for mass transit development instead of building M83.

 Roger taking part in the debate hosted by the Bethesda Civic Coalition, the Edgemoor Citizens Association, and the Downtown Bethesda Condominium Association.
Roger Berliner, Council Member District 1
As Chairman of Montgomery County's Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment (T&E) Committee, Roger directed the following statement to staff members of MoCo's Dept of Transportation:


It's been part of my own goal, with respect to our county's approach to transportation, to move into a "transit-first orientation". This [Mid-County Highway Extended (M-83)] is a project that would consume a lot of dollars, in a world in which we don't have a lot of dollars. 
From my perspective, what we [council staff and Roger] have been discussing, but not yet finalized, is some assurance that we have looked at every transit option in this corridor, prior to our getting a recommendation [from MCDOT] with respect to this project. 

Join Tame Coalition as we work with citizens, organizations and government to build Transit Alternatives to Mid-County Highway Extended. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Thank You for County Executive’s removal of M-83 Highway from the Capital Improvement Projects




April 7, 2014
To: County Executive Isaiah Leggett and Montgomery County Councilmembers

Dear County Executive Leggett and Councilmembers,

The TAME Coalition sends its genuine gratitude for the adjustments Mr. Leggett has made to the CIP FY15-20 budget requesting removal of M-83 from Facility Planning.[1] The TAME Coalition supporters (43 organizations and 8 elected officials) were pleased to read the March 17th memo to Council President Craig Rice stating, "Funding for facility planning for the MidCounty Highway (M-83) has not been included in the FY 15-20 CIP."

We believe it would be unacceptable for the Council and Executive to program funds for additional study of M-83. MCDOT has not yet completed its environmental study, it is very uncertain whether M-83 will receive the necessary federal environmental approval given concerns raised by federal agencies, and the Council and Executive have not had an opportunity to weigh in on a preferred alternative. As of now, none of the six alternatives on the table represent the best transportation solution for Upcounty communities. Alternatives 4, 8, and 9 unacceptably harm existing neighborhoods and environmentally sensitive areas.  Alternatives 2 and 5 are more acceptable, but fail to include transit as a solution.  Given the current status and ongoing issues with the project, we urge the Council to confirm the CIP adjustment to remove M-83 from the facility planning packet.

The master planned M-83, long favored by MCDOT, would impact biologically important parkland; productive farmland, forests, wetlands, and stream valleys; present great impacts to existing neighborhoods; cost hundreds of millions of dollars of county funds; and offer seemingly little traffic relief. In particular, Dayspring Creek and Wildcat Branch are two of the county’s few high quality creeks and are two of several threatened by this highway project.

We are very encouraged by the $10 million included in this CIP in part for the study of Bus Rapid Transit on 355 from Bethesda to Clarksburg, and are hopeful that this transit line can present a viable, sustainable, and cost effective alternative for Upcounty commuters. We have been deeply concerned that a high quality transit alternative to M-83 has never been studied, and hope that a part of this important study will be to analyze Bus Rapid Transit on 355 as an alternative to provide a more sustainable, less destructive travel option for Clarksburg residents.

Sixty years after the conception of M83 highway and 10 years after the start of this current environmental review, we hope that Mr. Leggett’s action to not include M83 in the FY15-20CIP signals a commitment to working with the County Council this year to finally put this destructive highway plan to rest.  It is time to commit in its place to a sustainable, forward-thinking alternative that can better fulfill the promise of a transit-oriented Clarksburg and a sustainable Upcounty.

We look forward to working with the County Executive and County Council on the next steps for eliminating this destructive highway project, and embracing a viable, high quality transit alternative in its place.

Many thanks for your attention,

TAME Coalition Supporters 



[1] March 17th Memorandum, “Budget Adjustments: FY15-20 Recommended Capital Improvements Program”: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/OMB/Resources/Files/omb/pdfs/fy15/Budget_Adjustments_FY15-20_Rec_CIP_2.pdf

Join TAME Coalition as we work with organizations and government to bring Transit Atlernatives to Mid-County Highway Extended.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

ACT Supports Transit Alternative Study for Mid-County Highway Extended - No Joke!



1. We agree with the Planning Department Staff Report that MCDOT should do a thorough study of a transit option for M-83 Highway. The Montgomery County Council has now adopted a Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan. Putting BRT service on 355 and extending it all the way to Clarksburg is an option that must be studied in detail. (Note also that the 355 BRT corridor would have the second-highest daily ridership of the 10 proposed transit corridors and therefore is likely to be among the earliest implemented.)

2. Given tight budget resources, we should think carefully about allocating one-third of a billion dollars to a new highway, when those same funds might be invested in transit that makes use of existing roadways. Building new roads generates new traffic and begets sprawl development, which requires further investment in expensive infrastructure --- it is a vicious cycle. If instead we build the transit that is in our plans (e.g., BRT and the CCT), we'll give people the option to live with fewer cars, to use transit and to walk and bike within new Town Centers.

3. While Millennials and Boomers differ in many ways, on this topic we might view them as a "pair of bookends." Millennials want to live near transit (the percentage of young people with automobile licenses has plunged). As for aging Boomers, we're beginning to contemplate the day when we won't be driving anymore. So for both these generations, please give strong consideration to building more transit now. Roadways alone will never be able to support the area's travel needs — do we really want to excavate parkland to build a new highway, thereby attracting even more cars, from even farther out? 

Action Committee for Transit urges the County to vigorously pursue a robust transit alternative to M-83.

Join TAME Coalition as we work with organizations and government to bring Transit Atlernatives to Mid-County Highway Extended.