Cynthia Cotte Griffiths on Everyone Is Responsible for Street Safety

Pedestrian and cyclist safety is going in the wrong direction. Maryland is one of 25 states to experience year-over-year increases in accidents and pedestrian deaths increased 25% in the last year.

Montgomery County and Rockville both adopted Vision Zero initiatives and Maryland followed last year. However, the devil is in the details. This means that even though all of our jurisdictions have agreed to work toward zero driver, pedestrian, and cyclist deaths, the actual action items and implementation will take more time and effort to complete than realized.

Montgomery County adopted a Vision Zero traffic safety initiative in February 2016 to eliminate pedestrian fatalities by 2030. A two-year action plan was implemented in November 2017 and half of the 41 items outlined are behind schedule or haven’t started, and a separate 10-year action plan hasn’t been touched.

Meanwhile, Rockville city staff have been working with the Rockville Traffic and Transportation Commission and other interested bodies to formulate the city’s action plan that is basically modeled after the County’s plan. Rockville was built as a suburb with car-oriented major thoroughfares designed to move traffic. As our city has grown to include more walkable neighborhoods, we must redesign to actually make the streets safe for walking and biking. This is called creating “complete streets.”

This decorative fence in the median keeps pedestrians from jay-walking on busy Park Road.

Vision Zero primarily makes sure our streets are engineered to be safe so that even if you make a mistake while driving, walking, or biking, you don’t die from that mistake. An example is the black fence on Park Road by the Rockville Metro station that prevents people from jay-walking across the street. Vehicles making left turns are the most deadly. An action as simple as adding rubber bumps along center lines forces vehicles to slow down because they have to make a sharper left turn. Installing flashing yellow lights when vehicles are permitted to make a left turn on green has also proved effective.

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Action Committee for Transit endorses Team Rockville

Montgomery County’s Advocates for Better Transportation

Team Rockville cares about expanding transit options, reducing traffic, and protecting neighborhoods from harmful development so we’re pleased our hard work in this area has been recognized by the Action Committee for Transit with this endorsement:

The Action Committee for Transit endorses the Team Rockville slate for Rockville City Council. Team Rockville is committed to stopping the destructive plan to widen I-270, to making lively, walkable mixed-use neighborhoods flourish around the city’s Metro stations, and to increasing the supply of affordable housing for Rockville tenants.

The two current council members on the slate have shown their commitment to a better Rockville. Town center resident Virginia Onley, the slate’s mayoral candidate, has worked hard to make downtown Rockville thrive. Mark Pierzchala initiated the citizen movement against the I-270 widening. They are joined by three first-time candidates: James Hendrick, who has a particularly far-seeing urbanist vision, Cynthia Cotte Griffiths, and David Myles.

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Mark Pierzchala on the Impact of I-270 Widening on Rockville

Detail of Rockville from the interactive map of the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study.

Gov. Hogan’s plans to add lanes to I-270 are now two years old and as controversial as ever, in part because residents still don’t know what to expect. I have fought against this plan from the start, and if it continues to go forward, I will work tirelessly to minimize the impact.

Options have narrowed, and the state seems to prefer those with two managed (toll) lanes in each direction because of the revenue they would provide. With these, the interstate would expand from 12 to 16 lanes through Rockville.

Under current plans, it’s unclear whether—and how many—backyards would shrink. Whatever happens, our City will see disruption for some number of years.

Some or all of the bridges over the highway may have to be rebuilt. The Gude Drive overpass will be used to provide ramps for the managed lanes. This will cause changes in traffic patterns for Woodley Gardens, King Farm, College Gardens, West End, Rockshire, Fallsmead, and nearby neighborhoods. Streets likely affected: Nelson Street, College Parkway, Gude Drive, Wootton Parkway, Watts Branch Parkway, Research Boulevard, and Piccard Drive to name just some of them. Gude Drive’s bridge is slated to have perpendicular ramps to the toll lanes. The Wootton Parkway bridge was also mentioned in one of the meetings, though the use of this bridge does not appear as likely.

Phase 1 of the state’s plans goes from just south of I-370 down to the Beltway. So far, plans do not address (1) the area north of I-370, (2) the Beltway, or (3) the American Legion Bridge.

At present, Phase II covers I-270 north of I-370. Frederick and Gaithersburg are so-called “participating agencies” for Phase II. But Rockville is not a participating agency for Phase I. Why not? We should be.

Continue reading “Mark Pierzchala on the Impact of I-270 Widening on Rockville”

Washington Post posts Op-Ed by Mark Pierzchala

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In partnership with Prince George’s County, Montgomery County recently convinced the  Transportation Planning Board at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments to consider a more complete and environmentally sensitive approach to the State’s plans for easing congestion on I-270 and I-495. The new alternative to be studied includes managed lanes, reversible lanes, active traffic management techniques, spot improvements, expansion of park & ride facilities, and dedicates some toll revenues to already planned transit projects.

But as Team Rockville member Mark Pierzchala points out, this won’t be sufficient in his recent Washington Post op-ed.  As he notes, “There is too much sprawl in the region for transit alone to solve the commuting crisis…The mess is decades in the making.”  As an alternative to the endless cycle of growth and sprawl encouraged by bigger and faster highways, he suggests a better use of land through transit-oriented development.

This year, Rockville finally embraced a transit-oriented development near the Twinbrook Metro called Twinbrook Quarter. But it was a rough fight, and the project nearly failed on the issue of school crowding, even though it will pay for more school capacity than students it will generate. I don’t blame parents for being angry about schools bursting at the seams. They’re paying high property tax rates, and their children deserve better. But their children are going to grow up, and they should be able to live and work in Rockville as young adults if they so choose.

Think this is too radical for Rockville?  Actually, transit-oriented development has been around for at least twenty years and the DC region has several examples that serve as  national models. Indeed, Rockville is actually falling behind in this kind of land use planning, even though it’s an ideal solution to the region’s housing and transportation problems.

Thankfully, as our Councilmember, Mark is thinking ahead and as a part of Team Rockville, he brings with him a group of thoughtful, experienced, and diverse residents to address community issues today to create an even better future for our children and grandchildren. Mark served two terms as Councilmember from 2009 to 2013 then returned in 2015. On the Council, he has reduced spending while growing Rockville’s tax base. His experiences on the Council, as a small-business owner, as president of the College Gardens Civic Association, and his stint as chair of the Town Center Action Team, as well as his biking and walking tours of all City streets give him a unique perspective on the needs of residents and businesses.

To read the entire op-ed, see “The Interstate 270 Mess Was Decades in the Making” by Mark Pierzchala in the July 5 edition of the Washington Post.