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Jul 9 15

Planning Department Releases Working Draft of Westbard Sector Plan

by Bridget Schwiesow

Westbard Working Draft cover

Recommendations include creating better connections to the Capital Crescent Trail, restoring the Willett Branch stream and encouraging revitalization of older retail areas

SILVER SPRING, MD –The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, has completed the Working Draft of the Westbard Sector Plan for presentation to the Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday, July 16.

The Board’s public hearing about the Westbard Sector Plan is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, September 24, pending its approval of the Working Draft at the July 16 meeting. The community will be invited to comment on the Westbard Sector Plan recommendations at the September 24 public hearing held at the Planning Department headquarters (8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD).

View the Westbard Sector Plan Working Draft.

The new Sector Plan builds on the assess of Westbard by offering ways to improve its retail and light industrial areas, housing choices and open spaces over the next 20 years. Recommendations in the Plan focus on:

-Encouraging more housing choices and revitalizing older retail areas.
-Emphasizing low-scale development at five to seven stories.
-Preserving local light industrial uses.
-Restoring the Willett Branch stream as a public amenity.
-Creating better access to the Capital Crescent Trail.
-Establishing new gathering spaces and parks.
-Enhancing walkability with sidewalks shaded by street trees.

Since the PlanWestbard charrette, a weeklong brainstorming session held in November 2014, planners have been revising the Sector Plan to address community concerns. Refinements include revisions to heights for new buildings, more open spaces and bike paths, and placemaking strategies, including signage and public art, related to Westbard’s rich history.

Learn more about the development of the Westbard Sector Plan.

After the Board’s public hearing in September, the plan will be revised through work sessions with the Planning Board before the final draft of the Westbard Sector Plan is presented to the County Council for approval. Council action is anticipated in spring 2016.

Apr 23 15

Bicycle Master Plan Previewed on April 20 at Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus

by Bridget Schwiesow

Bike Collage

Initial planning effort focuses on the area surrounding the future Corridor Cities Transitway.

Silver Spring, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), hosted a community meeting on Monday, April 20 from 7-9 p.m. at the Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus to kick off an update to the Bicycle Master Plan, particularly as it relates to the planned Corridor Cities Transitway, a 15-mile bus rapid transit line extending from Shady Grove to Clarksburg.

At the meeting, County planners explained that they will be focusing on the areas surrounding the future Corridor Cities Transitway over the next few months to ensure the latest thinking in bicycle planning is reflected in the many projects now underway in the area. The goal is to develop a regional bikeway network plan for the Great Seneca Science Corridor area to maximize the coordination, connectivity and effectiveness among the various transportation modes.

The Master Plan will recommend ways of providing access by bike to Phase 1 of the Corridor Cities Transitway, extending from the Shady Grove Metrorail Station to Metropolitan Grove. This planning work will be coordinated with the Life Science Center Loop and future development applications reviewed by the Montgomery County Planning Board.

The Life Sciences Center Loop is being proposed as a shared-use path, following recommendations in the Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan. A critical piece of the non-auto transportation and recreation infrastructure, the LSC Loop connects the districts and destinations within the Life Sciences Center to each other and to the surrounding communities. A design is being created for the LSC Loop that will elevate the facility from a simple asphalt path to a distinctive placemaking feature that encourages non-auto commuting and healthy exercise, and helps provide connections to the Corridor Cities Transitway stations within the LSC.

At the April 20 meeting, planners discussed the methods being used to develop and evaluate different types of bikeways being considered for the Bicycle Master Plan. Part of this effort involves gaining a better understanding of cyclists’ needs by studying the stresses imposed on cyclists by motorized traffic on road segments, intersection approaches and intersections. To do this, planners are using an analytic tool set forth in a 2012 report from San Jose State University’s Mineta Transportation Institute that analyzes the causes of these stresses, including higher volume and higher speed traffic, frequent parking turnover and bicyclists’ experiences in crossing major roads at intersections.

An initial analysis of the Life Sciences Center Area found that for cyclists who can tolerate high stress, the entire road network, minus the interstates, is available to them. The bicycling network for low and very low stress-tolerating groups, however, is more limited and disjointed, and includes residential streets and higher volumes streets with separated bikeways. These low stress-tolerating groups account for about 60 percent of the County’s population and would be unlikely to bicycle to many of the planned CCT stations without a network of separated bikeways, so planners are looking into ways of creating such a system.

Starting July 1, 2015, the comprehensive update to the Bikeways Master Plan will be launched for the entire County. The planning process will provide ample opportunities for the community to get involved and offer feedback. Check out the Bicycle Planning web page to learn more.

For more information about the Bicycle Master Plan, contact:

David Anspacher
Functional Planning and Policy Division
Montgomery County Planning Department
tel. 301-495-2191

Learn more about Bicycle Planning in Montgomery County.

Apr 13 15

Bicycle Master Plan Preview Kicks Off With April 20 Meeting at JHU Montgomery County Campus

by Bridget Schwiesow

Community invited to learn about the upcoming Bicycle Master Plan beginning with a special focus on the Corridor Cities Transitway station areas.

Silver Spring, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is hosting a community meeting on Monday, April 20 from 7-9 p.m. at the Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus (9601 Medical Center Drive, Rockville, MD 20850; Academic and Research Building, Room 106-110) to kick off the update to the Bicycle Master Plan as it relates to the planned Corridor Cities Transitway.

At the April 20 meeting, planners will present their approach to the plan, milestones of the process and provide opportunities to give feedback and engage in person and online. RSVPs are encouraged but not required.

RSVP today for the April 20 meeting.

Planners will work from April 2015 until July 1, 2015 on developing a high-quality bicycle network that facilitates access to the planned Corridor Cities Transitway stations from the surrounding communities and ensures coordination and compatibility with the Life Science Center Loop, an off-road trail currently under design by the Planning Department. The goal is to develop a regional bicycle network plan for the Greater Seneca Science Corridor area to maximize the effectiveness of transportation systems currently being planned, and to coordinate these efforts with the City of Rockville and City of Gaithersburg.

Review a map of the Montgomery County Bicycle Master Plan CCT Phase 1 Corridor special focus area.

Starting July 1, 2015, the comprehensive update to the Bikeways Master Plan will be launched to consider the County’s complete bicycle networks and recommendations for access and mobility. The planning process will provide ample opportunities for the community to get involved and offer feedback. Check out the Bicycle Planning web page to learn more.

What is the Bicycle Master Plan all about? Why do we need to revise it?
The goal is to develop a high quality, low stress bicycling network in Montgomery County. The Bicycle Master Plan, first created in 1978, has been subsequently revised in area master plans with the last comprehensive update to the Bicycle Master Plan completed in 2005.

The newest changes to the Plan will focus on the Greater Seneca Science Corridor because development is poised to happen soon in that area. By planning for a high quality bike network now, a higher quality of life will be an option for the Montgomery County community. The Bicycle Master Plan aims to make bicycling a viable option for everyone in the County.

What is the Corridor Cities Transitway? How does it relate to bicycling?
The Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) is a 15-mile bus rapid transit (BRT) line operating from the COMSAT facility near Clarksburg to the Shady Grove Metrorail Station. The first phase of the project is 9 miles from Metropolitan Grove to Shady Grove, and is currently proceeding with engineering and environmental analysis. The second phase would extend from Metropolitan Grove to the COMSAT facility, and will be developed as land uses mature and additional transportation funding becomes available.

The CCT project will provide transit service to communities such as King Farm, Crown Farm and Kentlands; and institutional hubs, including the Life Sciences Center and Universities at Shady Grove. The transitway will connect to the District of Columbia and other regional destinations by way of the MARC Brunswick Line at Metropolitan Grove and the Metrorail Red Line at Shady Grove. A high quality bike network can get more people to the transitway stations, allowing for greater mobility. 

What is the duration of the planning process?
The update to the Bicycle Master Plan is scheduled to be completed by September 2017. Review the full schedule for this plan:

March 31, 2015

Council Review of Work Program
July 1, 2015 Start Work
September 2015 Planning Board Approves Scope of Work
March 2016 Methodology Report to Planning Board
November 2016 Staff Draft
February 2017 Planning Board Work Sessions
April 2017 Planning Board Draft
September 2017 Council Approval

What will be the final product?
A Bicycle Master Plan will be the final product that will look at the network of bikeways and locations for bicycle storage. It will serve as a guide to facility planning studies and the development approval process.

How can I get involved?
Attend meetings, talk to staff, send us your comments. Contact:

David Anspacher
Functional Planning and Policy Division

Learn more about Bicycle Planning in Montgomery County.

Oct 23 09

State Transportation Officials Affirm Planners’ Recommendation for Corridor Cities Transitway Route

by Valerie Berton

SILVER SPRING, MD – A key recommendation for the Gaithersburg West Master Plan that would re-route the proposed Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) was strengthened Thursday when state transit officials endorsed the proposal. The plan is under consideration by the Montgomery County Council.

In an October 22 letter, Donald Halligan, director of the Maryland Transit Administration’s Office of Planning and Capital Programming, cited an up to 40 percent increase in ridership associated with the revised transit route in approving the realignment recommendation. That increase would make the CCT project more cost-effective, the agency letter said.

Halligan urged the County Council to speedily approve the draft Gaithersburg West plan proposed by the Planning Board so the transit agency could seek federal approval for the mass transit project.

The CCT, conceived in the 1970s as a 14-mile-long light rail or bus rapid transit route connecting the Shady Grove Metrorail Station to Clarksburg, has been the lynchpin for the Gaithersburg West Master Plan. The plan focuses on invigorating the county’s Life Sciences Center by creating a more desirable community where people can live, work and enjoy many services.

Planners envision that the CCT, which they recommend run as bus rapid transit, would help create a more walkable community in a Life Sciences Center now dominated by cars. The CCT would serve as a means to cluster houses, jobs, and retail to support activity centers and lessen reliance on automobiles.

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Jun 26 09

Planners Recommend Bus Rapid Transit for Proposed Corridor Cities Transit Project; Planning Board Schedules Public Hearing July 6

by Valerie Berton

SILVER SPRING – Montgomery County planners have recommended bus rapid transit, a system designed to move transit vehicles past traffic congestion on dedicated lanes, for the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT), a planned public transportation project linking Shady Grove with Clarksburg.

Following recommendations rolled out in the draft Gaithersburg West Master Plan, planners have endorsed a route for the CCT that follows a long established alignment from the Shady Grove Metro Station through Gaithersburg, Middlebrook and Germantown on its way to Clarksburg. However, planners recommend a change to the previously planned route through the Life Sciences Center near Gaithersburg.

Responding to a Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) report, planners also addressed a proposed expansion of I-270 as another strategy to improve mobility in the heavily traveled corridor. The expansion could include preferential lanes for high occupancy vehicles and drivers willing to pay a toll. Both projects would try to alleviate chronic traffic concerns in the I-270 Corridor, the economic engine of Montgomery County.

Planners made their recommendations based on MDOT’s Alternatives Analysis/Environmental Assessment report. Their recommendations go to the Planning Board, which has scheduled a July 6 public hearing to allow residents and others to have their say.

The board’s recommendation will be considered by the County Council’s transportation committee on July 13. Once the Council has collected input, it will send the county’s collective position on the two transportation projects back to the state.

The CCT has long been proposed along I-270, and the Planning Board has featured the CCT as an integral part of master plans for Gaithersburg West and Germantown. The transit route would support a growing number of workers and proposed new residences in those areas. In the state report, transportation planners evaluated premium bus, light rail and bus rapid transit. By choosing bus rapid transit, county planners have endorsed an alternative that is estimated to cost around $450 million. The CCT is expected to carry up to 27,000 people daily by 2030.

Planners say bus rapid transit would link activity centers in the corridor, maximize connections to other transit routes such as Metro, and increase opportunities for funding and construction phasing that would allow it to be built quickly.

As part of their proposal, planners recommend adding a busway segment through the Life Sciences Center that creates a loop serving Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, the Universities at Shady Grove, the emerging Johns Hopkins University campus, a redeveloped county Public Safety Training Academy site and other businesses. That new route, which would support proposed residential development, existing and planned heath sciences and hospital facilities, and biomedical research initiatives, has been the subject of much discussion as the Planning Board prepares to finalize its draft of the Gaithersburg West Master Plan next month.

The state report combines the CCT with I-270 highway improvements.  Planners recommend that the CCT go first to emphasize the most affordable, green solution by combining transit and mixed use development to support a community less dependent on auto travel.

Planners reviewed the highway alternatives presented by the state and recommended a combination of express toll lanes and high-occupancy vehicle lanes. Express toll lanes provide a speedy and reliable option by charging a toll that varies depending on the time and day of use. The I-270 improvements, extending well into Frederick County, may cost up to $3.9 billion and could displace up to 260 homes, although transportation officials believe that number can be reduced significantly by minimizing the width of roadway shoulders and constructing retaining walls.

Adding a combination of high-occupancy lanes and tolls also would encourage people to commute longer distances by bus or rail and use the highway for carpooling to transit stations, planners say.

Planners also recommended that the County Council establish a working group to pursue potential funding for the CCT in addition to existing public transportation like Metro and Ride On.

Learn more about the CCT. Sign up to testify at the July 6 hearing; scroll to July 6 at the “date” prompt. Submit written testimony.

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