Friday, May 31, 2013

Advisory Board supports greater coordination of road projects

The following is text of a letter from the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board in support of Council Bill 2-13: Streets and Roads - Reconstruction - Coordination.

Dear Council President Navarro and Council:
The Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board (WMCCAB) would like to take the opportunity to express our support for Councilman Leventhal’s proposed Bill 2-13 aimed at improving coordination of road reconstruction projects.  While we commend the efforts of the County Department of Transportation (DOT) and Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) in coordinating project schedules to save time and money, we see great value in taking this level of coordination further.   We respectfully offer the following comments and suggested changes to the bill language. 
In particular, we suggest adding the County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to the list of agencies DOT must send the 5 year project schedule (Section 1(b) of the proposed legislation).  Given DEP’s central role in stormwater management, knowledge of upcoming projects would allow DEP to identify opportunities to implement road improvements that allow for stormwater infiltration.  Cities and counties are increasingly putting such green infrastructure in place, particularly when it can also be used to enhance pedestrian and cyclist safety.  Upcoming road projects create the most cost effective opportunities to implement such dual benefit road improvements. 
Creating a mechanism to incorporate residential street resurfacing projects that fall below the threshold for incorporation into the Capital Improvements Program would also be helpful.  It would seem like a missed opportunity to not include such projects.  For example, on residential streets serving as key cut through routes for cyclists accessing the County’s trail network, resurfacing projects are an ideal time to add “shared lane” markings and other low cost safety enhancement techniques.
It is our understanding that the legislation would encourage or require DOT to put in place a database to facilitate this coordination.  We support this and efforts by Council staff to identify open source Geographic Information System software or another low cost alternative that would create a shared database to facilitate project coordination. 
We commend the efforts of County departments already working to coordinate road projects, but believe that more can be done to formalize and deepen the level of coordination.  This bill would help the County ensure we are get the most out of every public and private dollar spent on road related infrastructure.  While the systems put in place to facilitate such coordination should themselves be cost effective, opportunities to put new systems in place seem to be available. 
Thank you for this opportunity to provide our input as the Council considers this bill. 
Marc Korman, Chair

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Preparing for Bikeshare in Bethesda

Following a contractual agreement between Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) and Alta Bicycle Share, that was signed April 24, Bethesda-Chevy Chase residents can look forward to the popular Capital Bikeshare program joining their community.

On May 15, the Regional Services Center and Bethesda Urban Partnership teamed up with County Bikeshare Coordinator Anne Root, and Paul DeMaio of MetroBike to scout possible Bikeshare Station sites in Bethesda (by bike!). Discussed locations range from the Medical Center Metro Station campus to Bethesda Avenue.

For the Downcounty bikeshare program, according to the Capital Bikeshare website, "MCDOT received a $1,008,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Transportation. The County also received $252,000 in private sector funding commitments to meet the requirement for local matching funds." The objective of the Downcounty system is multifaceted. It is expected to expand the reach of Metrorail and other transit; provide low-cost transportation options in the most urbanized and congested portion of Montgomery County; help get people out of their cars for short trips; and produce environmental and health benefits while enhancing economic activity.

This exciting news comes with across the board support from residents, county officials and anyone who may choose to visit the region. Current plans to begin installation of the docking stations are aimed for the end of summer or beginning of fall of 2013.

Scouting out sites for Bikeshare stations

New Bethesda Post Office update

Locals gathered at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center on May 15 as a representative from the United States Postal Service spoke about current efforts to find a new post office venue in Bethesda.

This decision comes one year after the USPS closed down two post offices in downtown Bethesda to save money. Additionally, along with the location at 6900 Wisconsin Ave., this would bring a second post office to Bethesda. So why does the USPS feel this is a necessary move?

Throughout the forum, USPS real estate expert Richard Hancock stressed that this is purely an "economic decision" and that the USPS sees potential for profit with the resources it is prepared to invest.

Many attendees voiced their dissatisfaction with the current postal office citing the lack of parking as a main cause of frustration.

When asked about the specific parameters of the new location Hancock provided few certainties. "What is certain is that it would be a retail-only space, approximately 2,000-square-feet, with parking and P.O. boxes", said Hancock.  Hancock ensured that the process of searching for a property has already begun and that the USPS was holding this meeting to reach out to community members for suggestions on sites and overall input.

Following the meeting Hancock informed us that the search for a new Post office is limited to the 20816 zip code, which includes the Westbard commercial area.

If residents are interested in assisting the USPS, Hancock outlined the ensuing process as follows: the USPS would take public comments through the end of June, including specific suggestions as to where the new post office should be located. After that 45-day period, the USPS, with the help of real estate broker CBRE, would draft a list of viable options and send it back to the community and allow for another 30-day comment period. Finally, a site will be chosen, and after yet another 30 days for comments, a five-year lease will be signed.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May Classes on Aging

Our partner Live and Learn Bethesda is offering several classes on aging this May at the Bethesda Chevy Chase Regional Services Center:

Protecting Yourself from Elder Financial Abuse (Class 219)

This presentation and workshop will introduce participants to the specifics of Elder Financial Abuse---How it can happen and how to prepare to prevent it. Participants will be given specific recommendations, information and tools to protect their assets from scams, predators and other financial abusers. One in five adults over the age of 65 have been victims of financial scams. The national amount stolen from older adults is between 2-4 billion dollars annually. Older adults can and should plan to protect their assets from these abuses. Lunch & Learn (Both Provided)

Presenter: Barbara Mulitz, Elder Care Attorney

Date: Wednesday, May 15 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM

Cost: $12

Unlocking Social Security Mysteries Workshop (Class 269)

During this workshop you will learn things that you might not know about Social Security and how it could help you make better informed decisions. For most middle income couples, Social Security in fact makes up 20% - 50% of their retirement income-often upwards of $500,000 in lifetime benefits. With so much at stake, when and how to elect Social Security may be the most important decision middle income couples make in retirement. Join us to learn how to unlock the potentials of Social Security. The author's book will be available to purchase at half price ($8.50). Lunch & Learn (Both Provided)

Presenter: Alexander Parris, Financial Advisor, Author

Date: Wednesday, May 22, 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM

Cost: $12

Aging in Place and in the Community - How to be an Effective Caregiver (Class 215)

One in seven people in the United States is providing some kind of care and support for a family member. This workshop will provide strategies to be an effective caregiver at all stages of the process, from planning ahead, locating resources and support, self-care for the caregiver, and handling changing roles and relationships. Lunch will be provided.

Presenters: Bill Amt, Iona Clinical Social Worker; Sharon O'Connor, Iona's Wellness and Arts Center Director

Date: Thursday, May 30, 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM

Cost: $12

Aging in Place and in the Community - Retirement and Beyond (Class 216)

This practical workshop is designed for retirees (or those planning their retirement) who are eager to remain active, engaged and connected. Learn how to make rewarding choices that reflect your skills, abilities, interests and curiosities.

Presenters: Lylie Fisher, Iona's Director of Community Engagement; Capital City Nurses

Date: Thursday, May 30, 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM

Cost: $10

You can view the Live & Learn Bethesda catalog and register online at contact Live & Learn by email at or by calling 301-740-6150.