Wednesday, February 29, 2012

BRAC intersection projects now underway

Traffic improvements are now under construction to improve the commute near the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.

The projects were developed by a partnership of Federal, State, and County officials working in close coordination with the BRAC Implementation Committee – a panel of local community stakeholders appointed by County Executive Ike Leggett in March 2007.

Under the leadership of chair John Carmen, the BRAC Implementation Committee advocated for a comprehensive package of improvements to bus service and carpooling, bike trails and pedestrian connections, and improvements to local intersections. The Committee’s work led to results. The Navy has implemented policies to encourage its personnel to choose transit and other ways to get to work, rather than driving single occupancy vehicles. The County recently completed construction of sidewalks and multi-use bicycle/pedestrian paths along Cedar Lane, Jones Bridge Road, Rockville Pike, and Battery Lane. Finally, with the leadership of Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, funding was secured for the remaining critical projects.

These construction projects include:

  • Montgomery County Department of Transportation construction of deep elevators to connect the military campus to the Medical Center Metro Station platform and a pedestrian tunnel to get bus and carpool commuters and pedestrians safely across Rockville Pike.
  • Maryland State Highway Administration improvements to traffic flow and pedestrian safety at four major intersections: Rockville Pike at Cedar Lane, Connecticut Avenue at Jones Bridge Road, Rockville Pike at Jones Bridge Road, and Old Georgetown Road at Cedar Lane.
Local residents and commuters to the area around Walter Reed, NIH and downtown Bethesda can follow the progress of the projects by visiting Commuters to the area should expect mid-day lane closures and plan accordingly.

Their original mandate completed, members of the BRAC Implementation Committee met on February 21 to explore a new role under the auspices of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board. The new Committee will continue to monitor the final design and construction of the transportation projects and help support the mission of Walter Reed to care four our wounded warriors. The Committee meeting is scheduled for April 17, 2012 at 7:30 pm at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Transforming White Flint

Intense redevelopment of White Flint is underway. New development is adding to a diverse mix of existing projects which include the Bethesda North Conference Center and Hotel, high-rise residential and office buildings, and existing diverse retail. Several new projects underway or recently completed include: North Bethesda Center with high-rise apartments, a Harris Teeter grocery, and a 14-story office building; and North Bethesda Market with new retail, restaurants, a Whole Foods grocery, and a 24-story apartment building - the tallest building in Montgomery County. The pace of redevelopment will accelerate over the next five years, further transforming White Flint.

Transforming White Flint into a vibrant new urban center will take great deal of effort and investment. Developers are investing millions in projects that will create new urban communities of homes, shops, and cafes. A new taxing district is funding strategic sections of the urban road network. Along with these substantial investments, White Flint will also need a coordinated and sustained branding and maintenance effort.

In Spring 2011, County Executive Ike Leggett established an ad hoc committee to bring together business, neighborhood, and government leaders to implement the Sector Plan recommendations for urban maintenance and promotions. Specific objectives of the Committee are to:
  • assist in planning for an urban services district
  • create a branding and marketing plan for White Flint
  • facilitate maintenance partnerships for existing and future streetscape
  • draft a plan for implementing urban services including funding options
  • initiate community-driven beautification projects
With support from the BCC Regional Services Center, the Committee is looking at a tiered implementation of an urban services district, with a long-term goal of creating a public-private corporation to manage services. (An example of such a corporation is the Bethesda Urban Partnership, which manages downtown Bethesda under contract with the BCC Regional Service Center.)  At this time White Flint lacks the funding mechanisms found in other County urban services districts (Bethesda, Silver Spring, Wheaton).  Bethesda is funded by a combination of an urban district tax and parking meter funds.  However, in White Flint there is little desire at this time for an additional urban tax and parking meter funds are very limited.

With these short-term challenges in mind, the Committee is currently focused on leveraging existing resources to meet two immediate priorities:
  1. Branding and Promotions – there is a need for a consolidated branding effort for White Flint and a portal for information - including news, existing retail; and development.
  2. Consistency of maintenance – there is a need for a plan to address maintenance and walkability in the core and unimproved “connector blocks”, particularly along Rockville Pike near Metro.
The Committee is advocating for pedestrian safety improvements along Rockville Pike near Metro and working with County DOT and State to improve sidewalk and road conditions. This summer the community will see the start of a State project to resurface Rockville Pike and improve ADA ramps at corners. The County will follow with work to repair sidewalks.

The Committee is exploring cost-effective measures to boost the appearance of White Flint in partnership with property owners. A plan for increased maintenance is being explored.

The Committee has endorsed the work of the White Flint property owners to create a unified brand for the new downtown. The White Flint Partnership has committed significant resources to the branding effort and has committed to consult with the Committee and general public during the process. The branding effort will lead to the creation of a downtown White Flint website.

The emergence of White Flint as a vibrant downtown will require considerable investment and coordination to ensure the area develops - not as a collection of islands of development - but as a walkable, attractive, and unified place. The steps taken by the Committee now are an essential component of realizing this vision.

anticipated urban center growth (MNCPPC, 2010)
Anticipated urban development in downtown areas (MNCPPC, Feb 2010)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Advisory Board meetings this month

The Western Montgomery Citizens Advisory Board has the following meetings in February:

Monday, February 13 
BCC Regional Services Center
4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda

7pm - Land Use and Transportation Committee
  • Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan Update
  • Residential drainage - icy conditions caused by sump pump outflow on public streets
  • Capital and operating budget discussion - including transportation
8pm - Quality of Life/Public Safety Committee
  • Capital and operating budget discussion - including libraries & recreation
Tuesday, February 21
Town of Glen Echo
6106 Harvard Avenue, Glen Echo, MD 20812

7pm - Full Board Meeting
  • Community Forum
  • Zoning issues related to a “Big Box” stores in Metro Station areas.
  • Status of Sangamore Road, Intelligence Community Campus
  • Testimony on the capital and operating budgets

Monday, February 6, 2012

Community leader training a hit!

More than 30 community leaders gathered on a snowy Saturday morning recently for the first session of our free two-part "Build a High Performing Community" workshop.  The January 21 workshop focused on real-world tools and techniques for running effective meetings and anticipating and managing conflict.

Participants enjoyed sharing their concerns, challenges and learning new approaches - not only from the “experts” from the Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County - but also from their peers across the County.  Whether from Takoma Park or Chevy Chase, from condo boards to senior groups, everyone who came out that morning shared common problems, brainstormed solutions and practiced tips and techniques in an environment designed to support the day-to-day reality faced by community leaders.

The second session is February 25, 10-11:30 am.  Participation is LIMITED to those who attended the first session, to maximize the effectiveness and goals set at the first meeting.  We anticipate repeating this training at another location soon as well as offering additional trainings for community leaders based upon what we have learned during this experience - so if you would like to be notified of upcoming trainings, please let us know by emailing

Based at the BCC Center, the Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County is a local not for profit organization that offers a range of services to the community.  Their volunteer-run services include free facilitation services to community groups, facilitation training for community leaders, one-on-one mentoring for community leaders who need short-term support, as well as extensive mediation services.  Don’t hesitate to utilize this resource to strengthen your community!


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Food trucks: love them? or hate them?

There is a quiet debate underway in the Bethesda community about the food truck phenomenon. Trucks selling various cuisine from seafood and sandwiches to cupcakes and frozen yogurt are becoming regular sights on Bethesda streets everyday of the week. Some combine lunch sales with food delivery services and communicate with groups of online followers via twitter and facebook to spread the word and take orders.

On one side of the debate, opponents of the trucks say they unfairly compete with brick and mortar restaurants and take up valuable street parking. Supporters, including Planning Director Rollin Stanley, say the trucks add to a sense of urban vibrancy, and serve a demand for quick eats by those who can't afford to spend an hour in a sit down restaurant.

Some local jurisdictions have attempted to set parameters on food trucks. The City of Gaithersburg requires food trucks to move every 30 minutes and not return to the same area for 2 hours. Washington, DC is also contemplating legilsation.

What are your thoughts on food trucks? Click here to answer our quick survey question.