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FoWF Advocacy

Friends of White Flint is the only independent organization that represents the entire range of stakeholders impacted by the redevelopment of White Flint. When we create a position, we tap into the residents, businesses and landowners in and around our area in order to build consensus. Our advocacy often occurs in person and over the telephone but, last week, we had the opportunity to send letters on three topics at issue within county government.  The first is regarding the renovations being contemplated for Nebel Street, the second is asking for Hoya Street to be completed and the last is advocating for additional funds in the Parks Department budget for urban park elements.

Check out the text below :

To MCDOT regarding the redesign of Nebel Street (and see the update at the bottom):

We are very grateful that traffic engineer Kyle Liang took the time to share MCDOT’s plans for Nebel Street with the White Flint Downtown Advisory Board last month.  Friends of White Flint was present at the meeting and would like to share some thoughts and recommendations based on the concepts provided.  Friends of White Flint is a community advocacy group which represents the entire range of stakeholder groups impacted by the redevelopment of the White Flint Sector.  Our members include not only hundreds of individual residents but also most of the condominium and civic associations in and abutting the sector, businesses, and property owners/developers.

Nebel Street is a unique and well-traveled border of the White Flint sector and, though it is mostly industrial at present, it is projected for growth in the near future.  We are grateful for MCDOT’s attention to the road, and the fiscally-prudent strategy to assess how best we can be using the existing pavement.  We agree that re-striping the road and incorporating bicycle infrastructure are excellent improvements.  There are three major concerns, however, which we’d like to share.

While we appreciate the dedicated bicycle lane, and are willing to trade that facility’s optimum width for the streamlining of the project, we are concerned with its abrupt end before Randolph Road.  Bicycle trips will not end mid-block and it is unfair and unsafe to terminate a bike lane suddenly, depositing bicycles in the lane with unsuspecting drivers.  We do, however, understand that the pavement narrows at this point, impacting the options.  If a solution which continues the bike lane until the intersection is impossible, then we ask for every effort to be made in ensuring the safe transition of bikes into traffic.  Specifically, we ask that MCDOT install highly visible signage at the curbs and sharrows in the lane.  The suggestion that paint in the travel lane, in the form of a sharrow, is economically prohibitive is unacceptable.

Second, we ask that MCDOT take a more comprehensive look at the intersection of Marinelli Road and Nebel Street.  The subject of lengthy discourse over two WFDAC meetings, this intersection poses a significant visibility risk for drivers turning left onto Nebel from Marinelli.  A curve, a hill and parked cars make it very difficult to see and we ask that additional traffic calming measures be considered, just as they were at the intersection with Old Georgetown Road.  While a three-way stop has been discussed most widely, our members have also asked that you consider roundabouts at both the interesection with Marinelli and Old Georgetown.  We offer this suggestion with the understanding that it might broach farther into the realm of a capital improvement but ask that you explore all options to improve safety at these intersections.

Finally, we ask that you take a look at improving conditions at the intersection of Nebel Street and Nicholson Lane.  This intersection is presently treacherous for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.  A hedge at the southeast corner obstructs visibility for all travelers.  Also, the travel lanes on Nebel approaching the intersection are not clearly marked.  Drivers often mistake which lanes are for turning and which are for through-traffic.  And, large tractor trailers are often parked on the west side of Nebel Street, approaching Nicholson Lane obstructing visibility and stretching into travel lanes. There must be better solutions, for the sake of both visibility and safety.

We understand that these improvements to Nebel Street are still in the conceptual phase but we applaud your forethought in tackling them.  It’s our hope that a portion of the traffic calming budget will be used toward these needed changes and that they could be installed this year.  But, in the interest of using our county funds most effectively, we hope that our comments will be considered so that the improvements will be comprehensive and long-lasting.

** Update on Nebel Street – we learned from Dee Metz, the county’s White Flint Implementation Coordinator that MCDOT is now planning a 3-way stop at the intersection with Nebel Street.

To the County Council on completing Hoya Street as part of their Capital Improvements Projects Budget:

Friends of White Flint is ecstatic about the proposed acceleration of funding to complete Hoya Street in the White Flint sector and we ask that you and your colleagues maintain it within the budget.  Friends of White Flint is a community advocacy group which represents the entire range of stakeholder groups impacted by the redevelopment of the White Flint Sector.  Our members include not only hundreds of individual residents but also most of the condominium and civic associations in and abutting the sector, businesses, and property owners/developers.

Presently, Hoya Street ends abruptly just north of Old Georgetown Road.  In fact, when a driver begins their southbound journey from Rockville Pike, it actually appears that Hoya is a throughstreet that connects with the improving White Flint street grid.  It’s not until a driver is right upon it that they realize their mistake and need to turn around.  An improved street grid is crucial to a successfully redeveloped White Flint, and for addressing the ever-worsening traffic running through it.  A connected Hoya Street is at the heart of this.  Please get this project back on track by funding it as recommended by the T&E committee.

Thank you for considering this issue as you address the budget.

And, to augment the funding of the Parks’ department to allow them flexibility when addressing urban parks (like those planned for Wall Park and the White Flint Civic Green).  It’s our hope that the department will use some of these extra funds to make easy and relatively inexpensive improvements to Wall Park now, so we can increase our enjoyment of the space while we wait for the full improvement.  This is from our letter to the County Council on this budgetary item:

Green space is crucially important to the success of White Flint and we need the county to do its part to ensure our parks reach their potential. Therefore, we urge that the county fund Urban Parks Elements independently of other existing park needs so that these important areas can receive the attention they require.  It is our hope that some of this funding will be used toward improving Wall Park so that, even before its full transformation is complete, it can become an area of respite for residents of our growing White Flint area.

Advocacy is crucial to the success of the White Flint Sector!  Join us!

County Council looks at White Flint projects

As the Montgomery County Council makes its way through the proposed Capital Improvement Programs budget, two White Flint-related projects have recently been discussed.

First, as reported in The Gazette, the White Flint fire station project is a “go.”  The 5-bay station slated for Randolph Road, near the new Chapman Avenue Extended, will include about 200 units of affordable housing for seniors. As approved, land acquisition will begin in 2015 with planning and design the following year.  The full project is expected to cost about $27.8M and the station will replace the existing facility on Rollins Avenue.  Read more here.

Second, the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment (T&E) Committee met on Monday to discuss White Flint road projects.  Committee Chair Roger Berliner, along with Councilmembers Nancy Floreen and Hans Riemer, concurred with the County Executive’s funding request for the Western Workaround(!), White Flint East and White Flint West – all of which work to enhance our street grid and make for a more pleasant traveling experience regardless of your transportation mode.

The exciting surprise was that the committee also recommended that money be found to complete Hoya Street.  Situated to the west of Mid-Pike Plaza/Pike & Rose and expected to run from Montrose Road to Old Georgetown Road, a shard of the street has been sitting unfinished for years.  Councilmember Berliner shared this news with excitement at our event on Monday evening.  This is an important spoke in the wheel of White Flint and we hope the full Council will get behind the completion of this project.

Friends of White Flint’s CIP Testimony

Last night, FoWF Board Member Chad Salganik presented testimony before the County Council on the Capital Improvement Programs Budget.  If you haven’t chimed in yet, it’s not too late — email your support of White Flint projects to County.Council@montgomerycountymd.gov.

 

Testimony of Friends of White Flint

February 5, 2014

Public Hearing on Montgomery County Capital Improvements Program Budget

Good evening, Councilmembers.  My name is Chad Salganik and I am presenting this testimony on behalf of Friends of White Flint, a community non-profit organization that has been working on the White Flint Sector Plan since 2007.  I live in one of the neighborhoods of the Randolph Civic Association, which abuts the White Flint Sector, and I am a resident representative on the Friends’ Board of Directors.

Friends of White Flint promotes a sustainable, walkable and engaging White Flint.  Our membership includes hundreds of community members consisting of individual residents, civic and condominium associations, businesses and property owners. As we enter our seventh year, we continue our trend of bringing the entire range of stakeholders together in an effort to find common ground and community support for the ongoing implementation of the White Flint Sector Plan.

The White Flint area is undergoing a historic transformation.  Private landowners are moving forward in implementing the County’s vision of an urban center of residences and businesses where people walk to work, shops and transit.  It is crucial that public infrastructure stays on pace as this redevelopment occurs.  We are grateful that the County Executive has included White Flint-related projects in his recommended CIP and respectfully request that you pass this portion of the budget as proposed. 

We have had the opportunity to speak with scores of residents in a variety of settings including community meetings and our table at the local farmers market.  A few projects have generated a great deal of excitement:  the redesigned Wall Park with a new Recreation Center and an upgraded Shriver Aquatic Center. The potential impact these projects could have on our community is profound and we are grateful to see them funded in this budget. These amenities are necessary in a district with projected increases in population.

These projects hinge on funding in the CIP for White Flint-related road projects.  Improvements to our street grid, in the form of the Eastern and Western Workarounds, is necessary to improve the quality of life for existing and future residents and visitors of our area.

In addition, Wall Park, Shriver Aquatic Center and our new recreation center can only be built after the Western Workaround is in progress.  This is because the improvement to our street grid squares off blocks in a more logical manner.  One of these blocks will include a parking garage to accommodate visitors to the Wall Park complex, so that the existing surface parking can be replaced with flexible, active green space, as well as an enlarged aquatic and recreation center.

Each of these projects is intertwined and, while we know there are many competing priorities in the budget, we hope that the success of White Flint remains one of them. Thank you for your consideration.

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FoWF Testifies in Favor of Proposed Urban Road Code Amendments

Last night, Friends of White Flint Board Member Howard Feldman testified before the County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) Committee in support of the Urban Road Code Amendments proposed by Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer, who both sit on the committee. Thanks to the input of many of our members, our testimony supported the global concepts of Complete Streets and valuing all users, without purporting to be the experts on exact measurements for appropriate lane widths, etc.

We were pleased to join a wide range of advocates including the Commission on People with Disabilities, Sierra Club, Action Committee for Transit, White Flint Partnership, Montgomery County Young Democrats, Washington Area Bicycle Association, Lerner Enterprises, Coalition for Smarter Growth and Federal Realty, as well as individual citizens, in supporting the legislation.  Many who testified also offered suggestions for improvement.

Even Arthur Holmes, Director of Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation, testified that his agency endorses the goals of reducing speeds, improving pedestrian mobility and implementing the Complete Streets model.  He did, though, share many of the concerns we have also discussed – specifically the mobility of emergency and commercial vehicles and whether a blanket approach is the right one.

We thought Evan Goldman of Federal Realty, also a member of the Friends of White Flint Board of Directors, put it well when describing the places we most like to visit.  People choose walkable, vibrant cities for their travel, so we need to create that place here.  Offering roads that invite pedestrians is smart policy for residents and businesses alike.

Emailed testimony is still accepted for another week, or so.  Please email your support of the Bill to County.Council@montgomerycountymd.gov and copy Councilmember Berliner at Councilmember.Berliner@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Below is the testimony from Friends of White Flint on Bill 33-13:



Testimony of Friends of White Flint

January 23, 2014

Public Hearing on Bill 33-13, Streets and Roads – Urban Road Code Standards and Pedestrian Safety Improvements

 

Good evening, Councilmembers.  My name is Howard Feldman and I am presenting this testimony on behalf of Friends of White Flint, a community non-profit organization that has been working on the White Flint Sector Plan since 2007.  I own a small business within the White Flint Sector and am a business representative on the Friends’ Board of Directors.

Friends of White Flint promotes a sustainable, walkable and engaging White Flint.  Our membership includes hundreds of community members including residents, civic and condominium associations, businesses and property owners and we seek consensus to achieve positive solutions.  As we enter our seventh year, we continue our trend of holding hundreds of public meetings and speaking with thousands of residents to find common ground and community support for the Plan in place today.

The vision of our award-winning White Flint Sector Plan is to “establish policies for transforming an auto-oriented suburban development pattern into an urban center of residences and businesses where people walk to work, shops and transit.”  The plan goes on to say that, “… the pedestrian experience in most of White Flint is barely tolerable.”  Today, the Council is presented with an option to improve that pedestrian experience.

The term “Complete Streets” has been ubiquitous in our work.  This is a concept that calls for our roads and streets to value all users, not just the ones driving cars.  After all, it’s not the car that needs to get to work.  It’s the person.  Giving people more safe options to get around is a primary goal of the White Flint Sector Plan and we believe this legislation moves our county in the right direction.

This is not only a social and economic issue; it’s also a public health issue.  The American Public Health Association has addressed the Complete Streets movement after determining that 11.4% of all transportation-related fatalities in 2009 were pedestrians struck and killed by motor vehicles. They determined that less than 1% of pedestrians ages 72 and older are able to walk at the speeds required to cross most intersections safely. Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death among children ages 3 to 14 and, in 19% of these fatalities, the children involved were pedestrians.

These road code amendments are necessary to improve the pedestrian experience in our county’s urban areas.  Doing things like narrowing travel lanes and limiting speeds will naturally slow  traffic.  Implementing changes in curb radii and adding pedestrian refuges will allow walkers to cross the street more comfortably.  These are important changes to roads that have valued only cars for too long.

We understand that these proposals are not without controversy but, rather than viewing these concerns as barriers, why not view them as opportunities for creative solutions?   Urban areas around the world have made the changes contemplated by this legislation and instead of scrapping the potential for progress, these jurisdictions have found ways to make them work.    If we’re designing our urban areas for the future, we need to be bold and brave and willing to tackle these challenges without throwing up our hands at the first wrinkle.

Car has long been king in our county’s urban areas.  But, just as we are introducing a new mix of uses in these places, we must prepare for a new mix of users.  That means giving people options to safely walk around.

We applaud Councilmembers Berliner and Riemer for their foresight in proposing these amendments and ask that the rest of the Council support this vision of investing in our future.  In order for White Flint to reach its potential, it must have the most forward-thinking infrastructure possible and this is an important step.

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The little things can make a big difference

Bus stop sign with small bench. Source: Urban Indy.

Bus stop sign with small bench. Source: Urban Indy.

 

There’s no doubt that we are thinking big in White Flint. However, as Indianapolis-based blog Urban Indy recently pointed out, sometimes it’s easy to forget that the little things make a big difference in the way people experience a place. As we reported previously, the Downtown Advisory Committee has begun thinking about these very issues, from street trees to sidewalk materials to what the trash cans will look like. These pictures are some little improvements that have gone a long way in Indianapolis.

Benches from a demolished minor league baseball stadium are now being used as bus benches. Source: Urban Indy.

Benches from a demolished minor league baseball stadium are now being used as bus benches. Source: Urban Indy.

Bike repair station. Source: Urban Indy.

Bike repair station. Source: Urban Indy.

 

 

As Urban Indy notes, these smaller improvements can add up quickly. They can also do a lot for community building: projects like these come at a smaller cost than large-scale endeavors and therefore their progress can be more reliable, and they can be a great way for neighborhood groups and citizens to get involved and make a big difference. As we maintain a vigilant eye on White Flint’s streets, parking, schools, and other amenities, we should also be thinking about what smaller improvements could make a big impact in our community. Feel free to share your ideas with us!

Five ways to design for safer streets

Earlier this month, NYC’s Department of Transportation released a major report, “Making Safer Streets” which outlines the various ways the department has re-imagined and redesigned their streets. The results include:

  • 30% decline in fatalities since 2001
  • 29% decline in people killed or severely injured since 2001
  • 1,000 NYC lives have been saved by the decrease in traffic fatalities since 2001—including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, drivers, and passengers

The overarching aspect of safer streets is “[creating] the opportunity for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists to move through the street network simply and easily, minimizing the unexpected, the confusing, and the potential for surprises.” More specifically, here are the five basic principles highlighted in the report:

  1. Make the street easy to use by accommodating desire lines and minimizing the complexity of driving, walking, and biking, thus reducing crash risk by providing a direct, simple way to move through the street network.
  2. Create safety in numbers, which makes vulnerable street users such as pedestrians and cyclists more visible. The same design principle, applied to arterial streets when traffic is light, reduces the opportunity for excessive speeds.
  3. Make the invisible visible by putting users where they can see each other.
  4. Choose quality over quantity so that roadway and intersection geometries serve the first three design principles.
  5. Look beyond the (immediate) problem by expanding the focus area if solutions at a particular location can’t be addressed in isolation.

White Flint may not be New York, but it certainly has its share of dangerous traffic. Safer streets are a must in order to realize the vision of a sustainable and walkable community! Check out StreetsBlog’s post on the report for another perspective.

Councilmember Berliner on Rapid Transit

Roger Berliner is the County Councilmember for District 1, which includes all of White Flint.  He has spoken out before in support of Rapid Transit, and his latest piece includes a great amount of detailed information on the plan.  As often happens with innovative and wide-reaching plan, rumors are rampant. So, Berliner’s piece in the Potomac Almanac bullets out a variety of points worth considering.

For example, Berliner highlights that the key to alleviating our historic and growing traffic problem is to change our thinking.  No longer can a successful road be one that moves the most cars the fastest – it must be a road the moves the most people the fastest.  That’s who these roads and communities are built for anyway – people!  In his full piece, Councilmember Berliner also addresses the concept of lane repurposing, which we believe to be key to the success of rapid transit.  Without dedicated lanes, these transit vehicles are sitting in traffic with the rest of us and not providing the reliable option needed to make an impact.

Read the whole thing here and let us know what you think.  Having trouble envisioning what Rapid Transit will look like?  The Coalition for Smarter Growth has produced a 4-minute video that will help – find it here: http://www.nextgentransit.org/materials/a-rapid-transit-solution/

Advocate for a Great White Flint

Looking for Ways to Get Involved and Ensure White Flint Reaches its Potential?

Then, we have two great opportunities for you – and you don’t even need to leave the keyboard.

First, having a post office located in the White Flint sector is not only an important amenity, it’s also key to building our identity.  The US Postal Service presently holds a lease at White Flint Mall that’s set to expire in less than a year and they have begun a public vetting process for choosing their new site.  Community input is critical to ensuring that we keep this important service nearby.  So, by August 9th, please send an email to Richard Hancock at Richard.A.Hancock@usps.gov.  Let him know that you want to keep a post office in the White Flint Sector in Montgomery County, MD!

Second, Friends of White Flint is dedicated to ensuring that the promises made during the White Flint planning process are kept during the implementation and build-out. We hold property owners and developers to these expectations and we hold our public entities to them, as well.  At this point, infrastructure is key and the funding for these projects – like the roads that will diffuse traffic from Rockville Pike and the beautiful green spaces – has not been designated.

At this time of year, the County Executive is creating his Capital Improvement Projects budget and we need him to know that White Flint projects cannot be delayed any longer.  The projects added to this budget are placed in a six-year cycle, so we need to get them on the list NOW.  So, please email Ike Leggett at ocemail@montgomerycountymd.gov, and include the County Council at county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov, to tell them that infrastructure must keep up with development.  Ask them to fund the Western WorkaroundWall Park, the Civic Green and the new Eastern Workaround (where Executive Boulevard will cross over Rockville Pike, just north of White Flint Mall).

You can also tell Mr. Leggett yourself.  He’s hosting a public budget forum on Tuesday July 30th from 7pm-8pm at the Bethesda/Chevy-Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane in Bethesda).

If we don’t ask for these things, we may not get them.  Your engagement is key!  Thank you for taking the time!

Vivre en Ville Visits White Flint

Vivre en Ville (“Living in the City”), a Montreal- and Quebec City-based nonprofit New Urbanism organization, visited White Flint in June as part of its international research into sustainable urban development. Dan Hoffman led a tour of White Flint for their Strategies Collectivites Viables team.

Christian Savard, Vivre en Ville’s Executive Director, later wrote a letter of thanks to Dan Hoffman, expressing “gratitude for having taken the time to lead our group on an informative walking tour of White Flint., which was key to the success of our study tour.”

By Barnaby Zall

Latest Draft of White Flint Sector Plan

The Planning Board has released the latest draft of the White Flint Sector Plan for review prior to the beginning of public hearings (first hearing is January 12, 2009, in Silver Spring). The draft is available in two formats — the Planning Board’s proprietary viewer, and in Adobe .pdf format (requires freely-available Adobe Reader):

 Click Here for Planning Board viewer

Click Here for .pdf download

Earlier versions of the Sector Plan are still available on the White Flint Planning page:

www.whiteflintplanning.org 

Barnaby Zall