Advocates push for a bike lane on Old Georgetown Road from 495 to Executive Blvd.

Right now, it’s especially important that people can get to their destinations safely. Although a growing body of research points to public transit not playing a role in COVID-19 transmission, it can be expected that ridership will be slow to return to pre-pandemic levels, whether due to unfounded fear or increased telecommuting.

WMATA officials say bringing more trains back online, opening stations, and instituting new cleaning regimes may mean that the system won’t be fully operational until sometime in 2021. Likewise, MCDOT has said that it will take a minimum of two months to get Ride-On bus system back up to regular, full-run status, in part because they are prioritizing the health and safety of the drivers.

Rather than an explosion in personal vehicle use, advocates are calling on Maryland’s State Highway Administration (SHA) to implement 19 miles of shared streets to promote greater connectivity of bicyclists and pedestrians, and make it safer for those who do not want to drive or do not have access to a car to make through Montgomery County.

One of those those streets is Old Georgetown Road/MD-187 from I-495 to Executive Blvd (2.6 mi)

Do you think Friends of White Flint ought to add its voice to the chorus of advocates? Do we want a bike lane from the beltway to Executive Boulevard on Old Georgetown Road?

Fear of Public Transit Got Ahead of the Evidence

Many have blamed subways and buses for coronavirus outbreaks, but a growing body of research suggests otherwise.

From The Atlantic

recent study in Paris found that none of 150 identified coronavirus infection clusters from early May to early June originated on the city’s transit systems. A similar study in Austria found that not one of 355 case clusters in April and May was traceable to riding transit. Though these systems, like their American counterparts, were carrying fewer riders at a lower density than before the pandemic, the results suggest a far less sinister role for transit than the MIT report described.

If transit itself were a global super-spreader, then a large outbreak would have been expected in dense Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million people dependent on a public transportation system that, before the pandemic, was carrying 12.9 million people a day. Ridership there, according to the Post, fell considerably less than in other transit systems around the world. Yet Hong Kong has recorded only about 1,100 COVID-19 cases, one-tenth the number in Kansas, which has fewer than half as many people. Replicating Hong Kong’s success may involve safety measures, such as mask wearing, that are not yet ingrained in the U.S., but the evidence only underscores that the coronavirus can spread outside of transit and dense urban environments—which are not inherently harmful.

Hard-hit cities such as Milan that have reopened their transit systems have not seen subsequent infection spikes. Japan, which has some of the world’s busiest rail networks, had very few infections at all—only about 17,000, less than 1 percent of that of the U.S.—and no reported upticks in Tokyo since Japan began reopening its economy. Officials traced a post-peak outbreak in Seoul, South Korea, not to transit but to a lack of social distancing at the city’s reopened nightclubs.

Something that Japanese and many other Asian cities have in common is a long-standing culture of wearing face coverings in public. Scientists have not yet determined precisely how effective masks are at reducing virus transmission—and how safe transit would be if everyone wore them—but even imperfect face coverings appear to confer benefits when most people wear them. Buses and trains where masked riders silently browse their phones may prove less risky than other settings where patrons are talking loudly and singing.

It’s difficult for nuances like these to break through when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells American employers to encourage employees to avoid transit and to drive alone to work in offices, if possible. This message, which bewildered transit agencies scrambling to recover, fails to recognize the transportation realities of millions of Americans for whom owning and maintaining a car is simply unaffordable and impractical.

Read the entire article here.

Tomorrow — Executive Blvd. Closes

If you want to take one last sentimental drive on Executive Boulevard from Marinelli Road to Old Georgetown Road, today is your last chance to do so. Executive Boulevard closes tomorrow to construct the western workaround.

The western workaround will align Towne Road, Old Georgetown Road, and Executive Blvd. in a traditional four-sided intersection, improving the road grid.

This time it’s real …

The permanent closure of Executive Blvd. has been scheduled for July 8 at 10 am. And this time MCDOT is going to stick to this date. Heck, message boards are in place to alert the public of the change in traffic patterns, and they are also in the process of installing the detour signage.

Executive Blvd. is closing to continue the construction of the Western Workaround.

Grosvenor Metro Reopening Sunday, June 28!

The following stations will reopen on Sunday, June 28. (Three stations on the Orange and Silver lines will reopen with shuttle bus service due to the ongoing platform reconstruction work at East Falls Church.)

  • Federal Center SW
  • Federal Triangle
  • Mt Vernon Sq
  • Judiciary Sq
  • Archives
  • Smithsonian
  • Eisenhower Ave
  • Virginia Sq
  • Van Dorn St
  • Clarendon
  • Cleveland Park
  • Grosvenor-Strathmore
  • Cheverly
  • College Park
  • Morgan Blvd
  • East Falls Church*
  • Greensboro*
  • McLean*

Western Workaround Construction Update

Below is the MCDOT notification on construction activities anticipated to begin June 15, 2020. The most important news is that Executive Boulevard will be closing around June 29. Yes, this is the third (or fourth?) date given for the closure, but we’re told that this one is going to stick. The second most important news is that nighttime work has been suspended.

The utility infrastructure relocation and construction which began in August 2018 has resumed.  Corman Kokosing Construction Company started construction on Phase 1B infrastructure and utility improvements on June 8, 2020.  For the next three weeks, the Contractor will focus on storm drain improvements by installing new manhole and reinforced concrete pipe.  This initial activity is taking place just west of the Executive Boulevard and Marinelli Road intersection.

Over the next month, Verizon crews will continue with their cable/wire splicing and other telecom work along Towne Road.  Verizon linemen will continue to install overhead cable in that project area.  Verizon should complete the overhead work on Towne Road by early July, weather permitting.  In addition, look for Verizon crews working in other parts of the White Flint West project area including on Banneker Avenue, Executive Boulevard., and Old Georgetown Road.  Anchor Construction, a Corman-Kokosing subcontractor, returns to Towne Road on June 18, 2020 to install PEPCO electrical conduits.  Anchor crews will work on the road’s west side; they should complete this phase by the end of July, 2020.

Two of Corman Kokosing’s crews continue with Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) sewer and water line upgrades. Nighttime construction operations have been suspended.  The WSSC construction activities instead are proceeding during the daytime hours of 6:00 am to 2:00 pm in the northbound and southbound lanes of Old Georgetown Road north and south of Executive Boulevard.  This work will continue with daytime multiple lane closures to facilitate excavation, pipe and structure placement, and backfilling.  Periodically, one of Corman Kokosing’s general construction crews will complete hot mix asphalt (HMA) paving to replace the roadway steel plates that cover trench work.  This work for WSSC should wrap up by the middle of July 2020.

Corman-Kokosing’s general construction crew continues with the remaining center median demolition for future lane closures and Maintenance of Traffic (MOT).  Once the last Old Georgetown Road center median is removed, Corman-Kokosing will place an HMA surface course to return ride ability.  The Contractor should complete demolition and paving by the end of June, 2020.
 
Please take note that Executive Boulevard between the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center entrance and Old Georgetown Road will permanently close on or about June 29, 2020.  Before any closure, variable message sign (VMS) boards will be placed and detour plans will be posted—VMS boards will be in place at least 14 days before any closure.  Look for more information regarding the road closure and detour plans.

Parking is still not permitted on either side of Towne Road, or in the Cul‐de‐Sac; especially with the uptick in construction activities. Violators will be subject to citations; violators impeding the construction will be towed. 

In these active work zones, be sure to look for the orange warning signs, cones and arrow panels, and flaggers! Please pay attention to any temporary road closure(s), look for steel roadway plates, expect probable driving delays, and look for possible pedestrian detours as the multiple contractors conduct these ongoing field operations. White Flint West Project News will update all construction activities.  

A public draft of the Complete Streets Design Guide is now available for review.

Montgomery County is developing a new approach to designing county roads using a concept called Complete Streets, roadways that are designed and operated to provide safe, accessible, and healthy travel for all users of the roadway system, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists. On a Complete Street, it is intuitive and safe to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to school. Click to read the newly released Complete Streets Design Guide.

  1. Safety – maximize safety for all (pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicles),
  2. Sustainability – enhance ecological functions and economic appeal of a streetscape, and
  3. Vitality – create streets that are great, dynamic places.

Schedule

In July, a formal public hearing will be provided by the Montgomery County Planning Board with additional opportunity for public comment. Planning Board work sessions will follow in September, with transmission to the County Council for their review anticipated in January 2021.

Contacts

For more information, you are encouraged to contact either of the two co-Project Managers listed below:
Montgomery Planning – Steve Aldrich (301) 495-4528 Email
Montgomery County DOT – Andrew Bossi (240) 777-7200  Email

New bike lanes coming to Old Georgetown Road

While this area is not part of White Flint, it’s pretty close and it’s such a great idea to have separated bike lanes on Old Georgetown Road that we decided to include it in today’s blog. (We only wish the bike lane was extended to cover ALL of Old Georgetown Road.)

From WTOP

A section of Maryland Route 187 in Montgomery County will have a bicycle lane added this year.

The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration is beginning construction this week on the dedicated bike lane and narrower travel lanes on a 1-mile stretch of Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda, between Cedar Lane and the Capital Beltway.

The 5-foot-wide lane will be built with an added 2-foot-wide safety buffer between it and the travel lanes.

The construction of the bike lane will take place as part of an existing resurfacing project already underway. Intermittent lane closures will continue to take place along Old Georgetown Road weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and overnight Sunday through Thursday from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Work is expected to be completed in the fall.

The dedicated bike lane was approved after two teen bicyclists were struck by cars along the stretch of Old Georgetown Road in two separate incidents in 2019.

Jacob Cassell, 17, of Bethesda, was hit by a car on July 31 and suffered life-threatening injuries after falling from the sidewalk onto the roadway while biking at Beech Avenue. Cassell died in a hospital the next morning.

Following Cassell’s death, At-Large Montgomery County Council Member Hans Riemer made a plea for improved safety options along the stretch of roadway.

On Nov. 8, a 13-year-old girl was struck by a car while riding through a crosswalk near the on-ramp to the Beltway from Old Georgetown Road.

Here’s a map of where the construction will take place.

Vision Zero Update — Improvements Coming to the Pike District

This morning, the County gave an update to the North Bethesda Transportation Management District on Vision Zero. We’re happy to share some of the best parts of the presentation here, and you can get the entire presentation here. Visit Montgomery County’s Vision Zero Website for more info.

We’re delighted that there are some plans to make the area around the White Flint metro station and the intersection of Old Georgetown and Rockville Pike safer for pedestrians.