New Rockville Pike Plan Approved

The City of Rockville just unanimously passed (after years and years of discussion) a new plan for Rockville Pike. Friends of White Flint testified against their original proposal to widen Route 355 to 252′.

You can read the full plan here but below is some text from their executive summary.

The core recommendation of this plan is to redesign and reconstruct Rockville Pike as a multi-way boulevard.  Features of the primary roadway are listed below:

• Approximately 52 feet of right-of-way width for a two–directional Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)2 line in the center of the Pike with medians on either side for BRT stations and automobile left turn lanes, which widens the overall curbto-curb crossing distance of the primary roadway by about 36 feet.

• Medians provide refuge for pedestrians crossing the Pike. The 52 feet could be used as a wide median or for additional automobile lanes if the BRT line is not built, or until it is built.

• Three automobile travel lanes in each direction.

• The outer curb lane is wider (12 feet) than the other two (11-foot) lanes to accommodate local buses.

• Local buses travel in the central roadway (per Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation preference, but consideration may be given to providing the local service in the access roads).

• This infrastructure can all be built within the existing 120-foot State right-of-way.

Bethesda Beat wrote an excellent piece on this plan. They noted that he plan “allows exceptions for property owners opposed to a controversial access road concept and doesn’t include specific building height limits included in earlier versions of the plan.” These exceptions to the access road concept are for Champion Projects that would be located along the south section of the pike, contain at least five contiguous acres, provide more than the required minimum 15 percent of public space and also meet other conditions.

 

Big News! Thank you, SHA and MCDOT, for Making the Pike Safer For Pedestrians

As you might know, Friends of White Flint and the Coalition for Smarter Growth have been working since December to persuade SHA and MCDOT of the necessity of changing the walk signals at Marinelli and Route 355 to make them automatic. We met with SHA and MCDOT three times and even counted the many pedestrians crossing Rockville Pike. Studies have shown that automatic walk signals greatly improve pedestrian safety … and they get us closer to fulfilling our quest to create a walkable community.

We were delighted to receive the following email from SHA  yesterday.

SHA has approved pedestrian recall for the intersection of MD 355 (Rockville Pike) at Marinelli Road. We do not recommend pedestrian recall be implemented at the intersection of MD 355 and MD 187 (Old Georgetown Road) at this time. We will however continue to pursue our design project at this intersection. By copy of this email, I am asking MCDOT to initiate the pedestrian timing change at MD 355 at Marinelli Road.

 

The new signals are already in place and operational. That’s some quick action, MCDOT!

As for the intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike, SHA and MCDOT have expressed their sincere desire to improve the intersection, including looking at eliminating the hot rights at the intersection.  (A hot right enables traffic to turn right without stopping with a mini-median between the right turn lane and the rest of the lanes.) It’s a complex intersection, and we will continue to work with SHA and MCDOT to improve walkability at Routes 187 and 355.

Stay tuned for additional initiatives from Friends of White Flint and Coalition for Smarter Growth to improve pedestrian safety on Rockville Pike.

Testifying Against Widening Route 355 at the City of Rockville

Last night Sigurd Neubauer, Friends of White Flint board member, testified at the City of Rockville Hearing on the possible widening of Route 355 to 252 feet.  His testimony, and a couple of lovely photos that show he’s working to pass the advocacy torch on to the next generation, are below.

 

Councilmembers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Sigurd Neubauer and I represent Friends of White Flint, a nonprofit organization with 1,350  supporters whose only mission is to ensure that the promise of the White Flint Sector Plan is fulfilled. I am on the board of Friends as a representative of the business community as My wife, Dr. Hannah Yecheskel, is  the owner & founder of All Eyes on Rockville, – and don’t you just love that name?! All Eyes on Rockville is a full-service optometry practice located on  Rockville Pike and right across from the ongoing construction of the phase two of Pike and Rose.

These are indeed exciting times for the Pike District, its surrounding communities and local businesses.

As you know, the Pike District/White Flint area is transforming into a walkable, transit-friendly, live-work-play community. As you also know, boundaries are artificial, and to residents, shoppers, and office workers, there is no boundary between the area of Route 355 in the Pike District and the portion that falls under City of Rockville jurisdiction.  They view it as one continuous community. Everyone who has an interest in creating a vibrant community that fosters growth and livability must act in concert. We must work together to ensure that the Pike becomes a road that unites the east and west sides of Route 355 and unites the areas north and south of Montrose Road. None of us wants the Pike to become a vast plain of asphalt that separates rather than connects.

The City’s proposal to widen Route 355 to 252 feet is dramatically different than the plan for Route 355 south of Montrose Road where it will be 181 feet wide.  The bottleneck that will be created as people walk, drive, and bike south from downtown Rockville to the Pike District will be one that will quickly assume legendary stature as lanes shift and disappear. A traffic and safety problem of that magnitude will greatly diminish the communities and businesses north of Montrose as well as those in the Pike District.

These factors may also negatively impact our business. Therefore, “we want walkable streets and easy access to transit” is the cry heard from businesses and residents. Widening Route 355 to 252 feet will dramatically impede not only the appearance of walkability but also the actual ability to walk across and along Rockville Pike. It is logical to assume that if there is sufficient room to include broad sidewalks, bike paths, bus rapid transit lanes, and car lanes on a 181-foot-wide Route 355 as it passes through the Pike District, there is sufficient room for all of those essential components north of Montrose Road.

The Friends of White Flint very much hopes that the City of Rockville will choose walkability, consistency, and stability and not widen Route 355 to 252 feet.  Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

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Rockville Pike’s Neighborhood Plan from the City of Rockville

Yeah, the City of Rockville is north of the White Flint area, but we’re joined in spirit and by Route 355 which is why I want to share the City’s recently-released plan for Route 355.  Here are some highlights (since I assume most of you don’t have time to read the 140 page report.) Essentially, the City of Rockville wants to transform a two-mile section of Route 355 into a 252-foot wide boulevard, with 12 car lanes, BRT, and bikeways.

This post contains only facts and figures; Friends of White Flint’s opinion will come later. To that end, what do you think of this plan? Please add your comments to this post.

Regional projections indicate that there will be approximately 11,460 residents and 13,000 jobs in the Plan Area by 2040, compared to about 3,500 residents and 9,000 jobs in 2014.

The Plan Area contains approximately 382 acres, on both sides of and including a 1.98-mile portion of Rockville Pike. It is bounded on the north by Richard Montgomery Drive and on the south by the City’s corporate limits, near Bou Avenue. Boundaries on the western side include Wootton Parkway, the Woodmont Country Club and East Jefferson Street. The eastern boundary is the Metrorail right-of-way.

The Rockville’s Pike public process led to the identification of a set of corridor planning principles that have guided the formulation of this plan. They are:1) Livable, desirable environment enhanced by thoughtful urban design, 2) multimodal transportation, and 3) economic vitality.

Principal land use policies of this plan include the following: 1. Seek to ensure a comfortable and functional relationship between public infrastructure and the private built environment, 2. Require buildings to be adjacent to sidewalks, 3. Regulate building height by location, 4. Create smaller blocks, 5. Provide wide and pleasant sidewalks, 6. Enhance the pedestrian environment overall and especially at strategic intersections and on strategic streets, 7. Ensure a mix of uses, 8. Ensure adequacy of public facilities 9. Encourage enduring, human-scale architecture that has visual interest, 10. Provide parks, 11. Require the creation of public use space through redevelopment, 12. Promote development which, at a minimum, does not degrade existing environmental conditions, and 13. Strategically locate and right-size parking.

RockvillePikePlan3

The key purpose of the main lanes of the proposed multi-way boulevard is to carry faster-moving and non-local auto traffic, as well as local buses. Features of the primary roadway are listed below:

Approximately 52 feet of right-of-way width for a two–directional Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in the center of the Pike with medians on either side for BRT stations and automobile left turn lanes, which widens the overall curbto-curb crossing distance of the primary roadway by about 36 feet. Medians provide refuge for pedestrians crossing the Pike. The 52 feet could be used as a wide median or for additional automobile lanes if the BRT line is not built, or until it is built.

Three automobile travel lanes in each direction.

The outer curb lane is wider (12 feet) than the other two (11-foot) lanes to accommodate local buses.

Local buses travel in the central roadway (per Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation preference, but consideration may be given to providing the local service in the access roads).

This infrastructure can all be built within the existing 120-foot State right-of-way.

The principal transportation policies are as follows: 1. Re-design and reconstruct Rockville Pike as a multi-way boulevard, 2. Expand the street network, 3. Adhere to the City’s Complete Streets Policy, 4. Optimize access to and use of public transit.

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The key transportation element in the South Pike, on the east side, is extending Chapman Avenue north to one block beyond Congressional Lane and creating a grid connecting Rockville Pike and Chapman Avenue.

A north-south street is recommended west of the Pike, between the existing Jefferson Street and the Pike, which would continue through the Middle Pike to Edmonston Drive. Other streets would add connections between the east and west sides of the Pike and create smaller blocks. Congressional Lane is shown connecting Rockville Pike and Chapman Avenue extended, and a new street is proposed between Congressional Lane and Halpine Road.

The most important transportation element for the Middle Pike is the extension of East Jefferson Street from where it currently ends, just north of Congressional Lane, northward to Wootton Parkway.

There are no recommendations for added street grid on the east side of the Middle Pike because of the narrowness of this portion of the Plan Area.

The primary street addition in the North Pike is a two-lane extension of Fleet Street to connect Wootton Parkway and Mt. Vernon Place.

The plan also recommends limiting new residential buildings to seven floors and new commercial or office buildings to 10 floors, a far cry from the 300-foot maximum building heights allowed by the county’s 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, which applies to a section of Rockville Pike just south of the city border.

Bethesda Beat wrote a great piece on this plan which you can read here.

 

 

Want to decrease pedestrian injuries?

Road Diet

Duh, who doesn’t want to decrease pedestrian injuries? On average, 100 pedestrians are killed and 3,000 injured every year in Montgomery County. If only there was a way to decrease those tragic numbers …

Well, what do you know? There is.  We just need to put some of our main streets on a road diet.

A road diet, which is sometimes called a lane reduction, is a technique whereby the number of travel lanes and/or effective width of the road is reduced.  There are many options for putting a road on a diet. Lane widths can be reduced, sidewalks can be added or expanded, cycle lanes can be added or expanded, and/or medians built.

According to the US Federal Highway Administration, ‘road diets may reduce vehicle speeds and vehicle interactions during lane changes, which potentially could reduce the number and severity of vehicle-to-vehicle crashes. Pedestrians may benefit because they have fewer lanes of traffic to cross, and because motor vehicles are likely to be moving more slowly.’

In Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, the Fourth Avenue road diet has yielded impressive street safety dividends, including a 61 percent drop in pedestrian injuries. Total crashes dropped 20 percent, and crashes with injuries were reduced by 16 percent.  In Los Angeles, a York Boulevard road diet experienced a 23% reduction in collisions and a 27% decrease in injuries per mile per year.

Imagine the increase in safety for drivers, walkers, and bicyclists when we put Rockville Pike on a road diet. Something to look forward to, don’t you think?

 

Unfortunate news

Yes, we’re sad to report there are white flakes and cold rain drifting down from grey skies on the first day of spring, but we’re even sadder to report that on Monday night the Rockville Mayor and Council voted 3-2 in favor of widening Rockville Pike to 252 feet.  They took this action even though there was very strong opposition by the community. We join many others who are disappointed in this outcome because it contradicts the vision in the White Flint Sector Plan for a pedestrian friendly and walkable community. Not to mention we are not looking forward to what will no doubt become a renown traffic back-up on the Pike around Montrose Road as all those lanes merge and fade away as Route 355 reaches the Pike District.  If you want to read all the details, click here.

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Board Member Howard Feldman was ready for his close-up

It’s Monday, it’s grey, and I had to wear my winter coat … in mid-March! … when I walked my dog this morning, so I’m a bit out of sorts. That means today’s blog post is short, sweet, and even entertaining. Watch Friends of White Flint board member Howard Feldman speak about the City of Rockville proposal to widen Route 355 on WJLA-TV last Thursday evening. Watch here.

Friends of White Flint’s Testimony on the Proposed Widening of Route 355

Last night, Friends of White Flint testified before the City of Rockville Mayor and Council about their proposal to widen Route 355 to 252 feet. We oppose this widening for many reasons, but primarily because it will create what will no doubt become a legendary bottleneck at Montrose Road and it discourages smart growth, green space and walkability.

You can read our testimony below.  (If you’d like to share your own thoughts about this with the City of Rockville, they are accepting comments through Friday, March 13 by clicking here.)

TESTIMONY TO THE CITY OF ROCKVILLE ON THE PLAN TO WIDEN ROUTE 355

Mayor and Councilmembers, my name is Amy Ginsburg, and I represent Friends of White Flint, a nonprofit organization with 1,100 supporters whose mission is to ensure that the promise of the White Flint Sector Plan is fulfilled.

As you know, the Pike District/White Flint area is transforming into a walkable, transit-friendly, live-work-play community. As you also know, boundaries are artificial, and to residents, shoppers, and office workers, there is no boundary between the area of Route 355 in the Pike District and the portion that falls under City of Rockville jurisdiction. They view it as one continuous community. Everyone who has an interest in creating a vibrant community that fosters growth and livability must act in concert. We must work together to ensure that the Pike becomes a road that unites the east and west sides of Route 355 and unites the areas north and south of Montrose Road. None of us wants the Pike to become a vast plain of asphalt that separates rather than connects.

The City’s proposal to widen Route 355 to 252 feet is dramatically different than the plan for Route 355 south of Montrose Road where it will be 181 feet wide. The bottleneck that will be created as people walk, drive, and bike south from downtown Rockville to the Pike District will be one that will quickly assume legendary stature as lanes shift and disappear. A traffic and safety problem of that magnitude will greatly diminish our community.

“We want walkable streets and easy access to transit” is the cry heard from businesses and residents. Widening Route 355 to 252 feet will dramatically impede not only the appearance of walkability but also the actual ability to walk across and along Rockville Pike. If there is sufficient room to include broad sidewalks, bike paths, bus rapid transit lanes, and car lanes on a 181- foot-wide Route 355 as it passes through the Pike District, there should be sufficient room for all of those essential components north of Montrose Road.

The Friends of White Flint very much hopes that the City of Rockville will choose walkability, consistency, and stability and not widen Route 355 to 252 feet. Thank you very much for your time

 

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Reimagine Twinbrook and Rockville Pike Meeting Tonight

Picture Route 355 from about Montrose Road north to downtown Rockville. Now picture it a lot wider. Last week, the City of Rockville voted 4 to 1 in a straw poll to widen Route 355 in this two-mile stretch to 252 feet.  (That’s the width of an interstate highway, to put it in perspective.) Walkability and green space will be the losers if that’s what happens to Rockville Pike north of the Pike District.

So why do we care about Twinbrook and Rockville? As we all know, boundaries are artificial. The City’s stretch of Route 355 abuts the Pike District, and there’s a good chance that some of this section will one day feel like it is part of the Pike District to residents and visitors. How sad it would be to have the easy walkability ensured by the White Flint Sector Plan end abruptly as Route 355 dramatically widens.

The width of Route 355 in the Pike District is 161 feet plus ten feet on either side for sidewalks for a total of 181 feet. So pretend you’re driving south on the Pike from Rockville. You’re cruising along and then come to dead stop because as you approach the bridge over Montrose Parkway, you need to merge all those lanes into just three in each direction in what would one day be a notorious bottleneck. The 181 foot width in the Pike District is sufficient for car traffic, bike lanes, rapid transit, and sidewalks, so there’s no reason to believe it wouldn’t be enough in the City of Rockville portion.

A group called Reimagine Twinbrook and Rockville Pike is actively opposing widening the Pike to 252 feet,  They are meeting tonight, Monday, March 3 at Pizza CS, 1596 Rockville Pike, if you want to learn more. You can also visit their website, reimaginetwinbrook.com/ to gain a greater understanding of this issue.   We believe in transparency and fairness, so if you want to understand the City’s point of view, you can click here.

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2013 Montgomery County Transit Trends

The Montgomery County Planning Department recently completed their Mobility Assessment Report. This report focuses on the county’s ability to reach its mobility goals by examining county residents’ use of driving, walking, cycling and transit. The last report was completed in 2011 and planners have used an “INRIX travel-time tracking as a traffic monitoring resource over the past two years.”

Here are some of the trends that can be found in this report:

Vehicle Miles

In the county, the number of miles traveled by car has stayed the same for the past few years. Dan Reed, for Greater Greater Greater Washington, pointed out that “drivers traveled about 7.3 million miles on state roads in the county in 2012. It’s a slight decrease from 2011, but about the same as in 2002,” which is when the county had only about 900,000 residents. The county now has about 1.05 million residents.

Pedestrian and Bicyclists

The planners for the report counted the number of pedestrians at 171 locations across the county and bikers at 25 locations throughout the county.  They found that most walkers and bikers were in Silver Spring, Bethesda, Wheaton, and White Flint, the urban centers of the county. The county’s most congested pedestrian area is US 29/ MD 384/ MD 97 in Silver Spring.  This intersection is frequented by about 9,500 pedestrians a day.  The Bethesda Central Business Districts (CBD) has the most pedestrian activity during the peak hours, with Silver Spring and White Flint CBDs following.

Public Transit

The heaviest ridership for the Ride-On Bus service are on Routes 55 and 59, which run through Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Lake Forest, and Montgomery Village. The heaviest ridership for the Metrobus occurs on C2-C4 and J1- J2-J3. The planners also researched Metrorail ridership along the Red Line. The average weekday ridership is heaviest at the Silver Spring, Shady Grove, Bethesda, and Friendship Heights metro stations.

For more information, you can check out the entire report here.

With the new hopes of adding transit programs such as the Bus Rapid Transit and more walkable/bikeable streetscapes, the county will continue to cut back the amount of drivers and increase the amount of walkers and bikers.