Let’s break a bottle of champagne over Chapman Avenue!

We’re always blathering on about projects that are starting or will be starting.  Here’s a change — a project that’s done! The Chapman Avenue Extension is completed! The $3.3 million new road extends Chapman Avenue from Randolph Road to Old Georgetown Road. The road includes five-foot sidewalks on both sides of the street and a signed/shared bikeway on Chapman Avenue. As the White Flint area redevelops into a more walkable/bikeable community, Chapman Avenue provides another critical north-south link that is expected to help relieve traffic congestion on MD 355.

Don’t know where Chapman Avenue is? On the Randolph Road end, the street begins at Montrose Crossing by Pablo’s Garden Center. Maple Avenue was reconstructed and extended to Chapman Avenue.

chapman-3

“We have envisioned a Smart Growth future for the White Flint area that creates a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly community – one with a street grid that provides easy access to residential, retail and commercial properties,” said County Executive Isiah Leggett. “The Chapman Avenue extension is an important element in that plan to enhance safety, relieve congestion and provide better access.”

The road was built with future amenities in mind, such as non-standard lighting, shared use walk and bikeways and other accommodations to support a live, work, play community. Utilities were moved underground and conduit installed to accommodate White Flint street lighting that will match later development of the streetscape. Shade trees were installed as part of the landscape treatment. Traffic signals and crosswalk improvements were made at the intersection of Chapman Avenue and Randolph Road. Pocket parking lanes are available for vehicles. The project also includes stormwater management features.

Chapman-Avenue-Streetscape Champman-Avenue-Turn

 

First Portion of Chapman Avenue Extended is paved!

As reported in Bethesda Magazine, Chapman Avenue is partially paved and could be completed by spring 2016!

MCDOT this week finished paving phase one Chapman Avenue Extended. Crews are now doing grading and drainage work on phase two.

The $3.2 million, two-lane road will run north and south and connect Randolph Road with Old Georgetown Road through an area of light industrial and residential buildings east of Rockville Pike. The entire project cost $21 million, which includes money for buying land that will one day be home to a new county fire station.

The Bethesda Magazine article said Chapman Avenue was “designed to have six to eight feet of grass and tree buffer between the street and five-foot-wide sidewalks. The speed limit will be 30 miles per hour. The northern terminus of the road at Randolph Road will have a traffic signal. Drivers will be able to cross Randolph Road to head into the Montrose Crossing Shopping Center.

Last year, MCDOT officials projected the road would see an average of 450 vehicles per day. MCDOT spokesperson Esther Bowring said Wednesday that new projections for the road show it will see 10,000 vehicles a day.

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The paved first section of the new Chapman Avenue in North Bethesda VIA MONTGOMERY COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Downtown Advisory Committee has Busy Meeting

Tuesday’s White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee Meeting had been much-anticipated as the question of the naming/branding/borders of the future urban district has heated up.  So, it surprised some that the issue didn’t arise until the last few minutes of the gathering.  Below are the meeting highlights:

Western WorkaroundCounty Implementation Coordinator Dee Metz reported that construction of the western workaround will be broken into two phases.  The first will include the relocation of Executive Boulevard, the addition of the east/west Market Street and the adjustments to the area around the conference center.  Design is 90% done on this phase.  The second phase will address the intersections of Old Georgetown Road.  As will be the bottleneck in many upcoming projects, the challenge is with the utilities.  It will take the various utility companies a year to relocate their wires, lines and pipes after design is complete.

Chapman Avenue:  Ms. Metz also said that, to connect Chapman Avenue through to Randolph Road, utilities will begin their nine-month relocation process in the fall.  Road construction will begin next summer with a projected open date for the new stretch of road in summer of 2016.

Woodglen Drive and Nebel Street: We’ve been reporting for months on the county’s planned improvements to pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure on these roads.  Dee Metz said that we will hear more about the plan for Woodglen at the August meeting of the White Flint Implementation Committee.  As for Nebel, the county is looking into installing “cycle tracks” for this stretch.  These allow for bicycles to travel in both directions on one side of the road, separated from traffic.  They’ve not been built in Montgomery County before but are common around the country.

Downtown Advisory Committee Goals for this Year: Newly-minted committee chair Cliff Cohen listed his priorities for the Downtown Advisory Committee in this second year of its existence.  Among other things, he hopes to: (1) accelerate the maintenance and beautification of Rockville Pike (they’re working to navigate issues with the state), (2) consider hiring a streetscape consultant to move forward with the vision of Rockille Pike as a boulevard, (3) pursue one zip code for the sector, (4) establish a destination website and hire an intern to assist with its maintenance, (4) assess the types of public safety and human service needs that the future urban district will confront, and (5) move forward on establishing an urban district by, first, commissioning a report on the subject by the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight.

Presentations:  The committee heard two robust presentations that offered framework and background as the committee begins deeper work on the economic development and creation of the urban district.  First was Holly Sears Sullivan, president of Montgomery Business Development Corporation.   She focused on the impressive data capabilities of MBDC and on the opportunities the Downtown Advisory Committee might leverage from them.  Second, Jeff Burton of Bethesda Urban Partnership spoke about the functions and structures of BUP.  I’ll save most of my notes for a deeper blog post on the subject but, suffice it to say that BUP provides service and support to the 250 acres of downtown Bethesda with a budget of about $4M a year.  The existing White Flint Sector is 430 acres and won’t have access to the same funding streams (mainly parking fees) enjoyed by Bethesda.  This, I think, will be our next big hurdle.

Naming/Branding: This is why you read this blog post anyway, right?  Let’s start at the beginning.  The County created the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee with the following purpose:

The Committee advises County departments on public services in the White Flint Sector Plan Area; and coordinates community activities that promote and advance business interests, and a sense of place, community, maintenance and walkability within the Area. The Committee will also advise and make recommendations to the County Executive and County Council on the feasibility and timing of the establishment of the Urban District in White Flint no later than September 2017.

So, because this committee’s mission is to work within the Sector Plan Area, chair Cohen does not plan to entertain discussion of border adjustments at this time.  Similarly, he acknowledged that outside groups are working on naming the district and invited them to present their ideas when ready.  But, the committee will proceed with its council-driven mission in the meantime.

On that note, we’re pleased to share that the community’s input will be more robustly sought at an upcoming public charette.  You might remember charettes from the sector planning process.  They’re public meetings designed to solve a problem.  This one will focus on the naming/branding of the district.  It will be facilitated by neutral professionals who will begin with a bit of education on how branding works.  From there, all potential names will be on the table.  The goal will be to emerge from this session with 5 – 10 names that everyone can live with.  Those will then be taken for deeper market research.  We hope to hold the charette in the next month and a half, and it should be scheduled within the next week.  Stay tuned to this blog and our weekly emails for more details – we hope to see you there!

Chapman Avenue, Extended

The enhancement of the street grid throughout White Flint is going to both improve connectivity and act to diffuse traffic that presently has fewer travel options.  We’ve written extensively about the planned Western Workaround, which will straighten Executive Boulevard on the west side of Rockville Pike and add new Market Street.  But, yesterday, the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee heard an update on a road project scheduled for the east side of the Pike that will extend Chapman Avenue.

Bruce Johnston, the Chief of MCDOT’s transportation engineering division, presented the plans for this big project that has been important to many who live in and around the area.  As you can see from the map below, the extension of Chapman Avenue will stretch from Old Georgetown Road to Randolph Road, with a couple of sharp turns in between.  It will run, essentially, parallel to Nebel Street and Rockville Pike, providing alternate routes for both and breaking up a huge chunk of land that previously offered no thru-routes.

 

Chapman-2 From website of Montgomery County Office of Management and Budget

Here are the technical bits on the project:  The total right-of-way for this new road is 70 feet.  Forty of those feet will be the road itself, with 12ft travel lanes and 8ft parking lanes on each side.  There will be 6 – 8 feet of grass and tree buffer between the road and the 5-foot sidewalks.  To improve pedestrian appeal, the road will be well-lit by 12-foot tall poles, topped with attractive glass globes.  Although the existing southern portion of Chapman has brick sidewalks, Johnston notes that these will be concrete.   Bikes will travel in the traffic lanes and the road is designed with a speed limit of 30 MPH.  The projected average daily traffic on this stretch is 450 vehicles per day and the northern terminus of the project, at Chapman and Randolph Road, will be a signalized full intersection leading into Montrose Crossing Shopping Center.

As you can see from the image below (which I took from Google Maps before adding the blue line – Bruce Johnston has a much lovelier and technically accurate version that I will share when I obtain), there was a significant amount of property along this route that the County had to acquire to proceed.  That process is nearly complete and it’s expected that demolition of the necessary buildings will begin this summer.  The next step will be to begin moving utilities, including stormwater management, underground.  From there, the road project itself will be put out for bids, hopefully late this fall or early next winter.

chapman -3 From Google Maps, enhanced by the author

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, then you know that there is legislation pending in Montgomery County that will amend our urban road code to, among other things, narrow travel lanes to 10 feet in width.  This would, obviously, derail this project which contemplates 12-foot lanes.  We’ve learned, though, that this bill is in a holding pattern while a multi-disciplinary working group convenes to determine the best way to proceed.  As we’ve highlighted, concerns exist about the “blanket approach” of the bill, especially as it comes to lane widths and turning radii.  The philosophy that has been guiding Complete Streets models in other cities, like Boston, has been to really custom design the roads for the anticipated users.  In any event, the 12-foot travel lanes are not expected to be a problem as designed here.  In fact, they’re considered necessary with such sharp turns in the road design.

A related project is the mixed-use White Flint fire station planned for, essentially, the property south of Randolph Road between Chapman Extended and Rockville Pike.  The fire station will be joined on the property by affordable housing for seniors and offices for the entity that will manage White Flint’s downtown urban district.  Property acquisition for this is still in process but the hope is that the whole project will be complete by 2020.

Both the buildout of Chapman Extended and the White Flint fire station are projects proposed for funding in the County’s Capital Improvements Budget.  Think they’re important?  Check out all of the White Flint-related projects that are up for funding, and find instructions on how to weigh in and let the county know your thoughts by clicking here.