Wednesday, November 20, 2013
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
ROCKVILLE, Md. —
The Silver Spring Transit Center, years behind schedule and about $15 million over budget, finally may be ready to open to the public next year after additional repair work, Montgomery County, Md. officials announced on Tuesday.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
By Matt Bush : WAMU
With Capital Bikeshare a month away from expanding into Maryland, county leaders are still trying to ready roads for an expected increase in bicyclists.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
ROCKVILLE, Md. —
First it was cracked concrete, now it's a fiscal rift hindering the future of the Silver Spring Transit Center in Maryland. Montgomery County Officials and Metro leadership appear no closer to solving key problems plaguing a facility already years behind schedule and millions over budget.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
By Matt Bush : WAMU
All this week Montgomery County officials are speaking with residents about the upcoming expansion of the D.C.'s bike share program into the county later this summer.
Monday, June 10, 2013
By Martin Austermuhle : WAMU
Capital Bikeshare has been a huge hit for commuters and cyclists in D.C., Arlington and Alexandria, but up until now, the Maryland suburbs have largely been left out of the popular bike-sharing program.
By this summer, that will change.
Thursday, May 02, 2013
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
WAMU-Rockville, Md. —
Montgomery County officials have no intention of letting D.C.'s Metro back out of the Silver Spring Transit Center -- even though the project is two years behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
Preliminary repair work is underway at Maryland' s Silver Spring Transit Center, but officials still can't say when it will actually open.
The construction and design teams have agreed for now to pay for the necessary repairs to fix the structural problems at the Silver Spring Transit Center that were detailed in a scathing county report.
David Dise, director of general services for Montgomery County, says some repair work is already underway but that the major remediation work won't take place until late summer.
"Foulger Pratt was directed on Friday to begin the replacement of the faulty pour strips on the mid-level of the transit center," Dise says. "Parsons Brinkerhoff, the engineer of record, is beginning the design of the other remediation work that has to be done, the columns, the beams, and the topping slabs on the two levels."
That's just the beginning. Those repairs will take months to complete, so Dise can't say when the facility, already two years behind schedule, will open.
"Much of that will depend upon the final remediation plan being developed by Parsons Brinkerhoff and the subsequent schedule developed by Foulger Pratt after they receive the design," Dise says.
So the county, as of now, will not have to pump any more money into finishing the facility.
"The contractors that have performed the work that is in error must bear the cost of its repair," Dise says.
So it appears the county and the contractors have reached a resolution that will avoid costly, time consuming litigation, at least for the time being. The contractors may fight the county in court after the work is done to recover their expenses.
Wednesday, April 03, 2013
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
Maryland's Montgomery County Council approved an additional $7 million to pay for construction work already completed at Silver Spring Transit Center, which is already two years behind schedule and about $80 million over budget.
The $7 million approved by county lawmakers has nothing to do with major design and construction problems detailed in a county report released two weeks ago.When it comes to who will pay to repair those problems, county officials say it will likely be determined in litigation with the project’s contractors.
“We will move expeditiously to make sure that we make the necessary repairs and that the taxpayers of Montgomery County will not have to pay for the flaws of the contractor,” says County Executive Ike Leggett, who has threatened to cancel the county’s contract with Foulger Pratt and other contractors and sue to recover any funds paid to fix the transit center’s construction issues, like inadequately thick concrete.
“Whatever we spend we will get back because we are going to pursue to the ultimate degree of the law and the legal process to make sure the county is reimbursed for anything we may have to put out in advance,” says Leggett.
Council President Nancy Navarro echoed Leggett’s vow to go to court, if necessary, to protect taxpayers but left open the possibility the county is also responsible for the mess at the transit center.
“I have not said at any moment that the county could not have some responsibility in this. It is possible,” says Navarro, who says the transit center could open to the public while any litigation proceeds.
No lawsuits have been filed yet.
Contractor Foulger Pratt has said the county’s design plan was flawed from the start. Company executive Bryant Foulger has said any safety issues concerning concrete and reinforcing steel bars are the county’s responsibility.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
(Matt Bush -- Washington, D.C., WAMU) An independent report on the yet-to-be-opened Silver Spring Transit Center shows the transit hub is plagued by flaws that will render it unfit to open unless fixed.
The transit hub, which will connect commuters to rail, Metro, buses, bikes and cabs, was scheduled to have opened two years ago, but has been dogged by construction errors and cost overruns. After seeing cracks in the concrete last year, Montgomery County commissioned a report on the SSTC from structural engineering firm KCE.
And now that report concludes the problems with the center go far beyond cracked concrete.
In a statement, county executive Isiah Leggett says the center as currently constructed is "severely compromised." According to his statement: "The facility contains significant and serious design and construction defects, including excessive cracking, missing post-tensioning cables, inadequate reinforcing steel, and concrete of insufficient strength and thickness. These deficiencies not only compromise the structural integrity of the facility but could also begin to impact the Transit Center’s durability far earlier than expected, thus shortening its useful life. At worst, if no changes are made, some of the facility’s elements may not withstand the loads they are intended to support – thereby putting the many users of the center at potential risk."
Read the full report here.
Earlier this year contractor Foulger-Pratt said the county has needlessly delayed the opening of the center as it awaited this report.
At this time, there is no timetable as to when the center will open.
Follow Matt Bush on Twitter.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
(Armando Trull and Matt Bush -- Washington DC, WAMU) Maryland's Montgomery County is considering a $2.1 million plan to expand Capital Bikeshare to more than 48 locations, including Takoma Park, Silver Spring, Bethesda, Friendship Heights and the NIH/Medical Center Metro station. Funding for the 350 bikes and their respective stations will be a combination of money from state grants, the county and the private sector.
Two bills were introduced in the County Council today to encourage bikesharing. One would eliminate a zoning requirement needed to set up a bikesharing station, while another would allow county transportation money to be spent on such stations.
"Twenty-nine stations in Silver Spring, Bethesda, Friendship Heights, Medical Center — all the places where you would most want to provide the kind of biking community integrated with the District of Columbia," said Council President Roger Berliner. He said both moves would encourage bikesharing with businesses and their workers.
While passage of both bills wouldn't necessarily mean that D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare would be coming to Montgomery County, Berliner says whatever bikesharing program there is in Montgomery County would have to be integrated with the city's.
Councilwoman Nancy Floreen warned though that Montgomery County has a long way to go in updating its roads to ensure bikers are safe.
"There are many, many accidents that are occurring on a regular basis," said Floreen. "Whether or not they reported. I'm going to a lot of hospitals to visit folks."
Floreen added the county can take its cues from D.C. on this issue as well, pointing to how the city increased the number of bike lanes and bike markings on major roads by turning some of them into one-way streets for vehicle traffic. Public hearings on both bills will take place late next month before the council.
The county has already received federal money to purchase 200 additional bikeshare bikes in the Rockville and Shady Grove Life Sciences Center. The bike rental program -- the most popular in the country -- already operates in the District and Arlington County and the City of Alexandria in Virginia.
Friday, May 18, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
(Washington, DC -- WAMU) Compared to major U.S. metropolitan areas, Washington D.C. is one of the best when it comes to the choices available to commuters who want to avoid the congestion of the Beltway. We have the Metro, buses, and a new, popular bike share program. Compared to other cities across the globe, however, Washington is somewhat lacking in transportation innovation, but advocates and government officials say that is slowly changing.
Benefits of bus rapid transit systems
From the Silver Spring Metro station, Michael Replogle and a WAMU reporter traveled downtown via Georgia Avenue, one of the most congested north/south roadways in the city, one that Replogle would like to see transformed into a more efficient facility.
Replogle is global policy director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, an organization that promotes sustainable transportation programs around the world.
"This could be a bus rapid transit corridor," he says. "You might have buses running down the center of the street and basically getting rid of the parked cars on the sides."
George Avenue has three lanes running in each direction. The outside lane both ways is often taken by parked cars. Buses regularly get stuck behind turning vehicles. A bus rapid transit, or BRT, system, would free buses to travel down exclusive bus lanes in the center of the road with the traffic lights programmed to hit green block after block.
"Bus rapid transit in Guangzhou, China is carrying 850,000 passengers a day on a single 20-mile corridor moving 28,000 passengers per hour per direction, which is more than any of the Metro lines here in Washington, D.C.," says Replogle. "They were able to build that system at a cost of less than $10 million a mile, which compares to several hundred million dollars a mile for building Metro."
BRT is being considered in Montgomery County, where County Councilman Marc Elrich has given several presentations on its benefits.
"Ideally, we would like to add more rail lines but at $300 to $400 million per mile for heavy rail like Metro and $50 to $100 million per mile of light rail, we cannot afford to build much of a next generation public transportation system," says Councilman Elrich in a statement posted to his website. "At $10 to $25 million per mile, bus rapid transit (BRT) is less expensive and allows for more interconnecting routes."
Bus rapid transit systems exist in some American cities, including Eugene, Ore. and Cleveland, Ohio. "People could have a one-seat ride from the mid- or upper Montgomery County all the way into the city," says Replogle. "There is now a growing realization that we can't afford to build Metro to everywhere in the region. We're struggling to come up with money to finance things like the Purple Line."
The benefits of BRT would extend beyond faster commutes. The improvements brought with better transportation systems extend to the design of neighborhoods (more mixed-used development closer to transportation hubs; fewer large car parking lots) to the local economy.
"For every dollar Americans spend to buy gasoline to drive their car to work something like 85 cents of that dollar leaves the local and regional economy and goes to other countries," he says. "For that same dollar to be spent on bus fare, 80 percent of that goes into paying the wages for the driver."
Metro has opened a new bicycle parking area at the College Park station with plans to open two more bike-and-ride facilities next summer. Construction is expected to be completed later this year at a new transit center in Silver Spring where there will be three bus services, shuttles, Kiss and Ride access, and a new transit store where commuters can buy fare cards and maps.
Replogle says Silver Spring's new transit center will be lacking in one area: it won't have a bike center.
"Unfortunately that is a plan that has long been thwarted," says Replogle.
Montgomery County officials say they are considering building a bike center that can accommodate a large number of cycling commuters at a nearby park, but that plan is in the early stages.
"I think this is something that may yet turn around. There are certainly some in the agencies who are fighting to get the project back on track," says Replogle, who says other cities have extensive bicycling facilities and road infrastructure to make bicycling safe.
"In a number of places in Europe like Münster and Bonn, in Amsterdam, in Switzerland, in Scandinavia, you find bicycle parking halls that store thousands of bicycles at the station entrances," says Replogle. "Hangzhou, China has 50,000 public bikes available throughout the city so that people can take a bicycle from one place and leave it at another place."
Union Station has the only large bicycle parking area in the city--a glass building that can hold about 100 bikes per day with around-the-clock security. Washington's Capital Bikeshare program has about 1,500 bicycles.
"In the Netherlands there are several towns where there are bike stations that hold over 6,000 bicycles," says Replogle.
A model of a sustainable transportation system
You don't have to look across the ocean for examples of sustainable transportation systems on a large scale. Look across the Potomac River at Arlington County, considered a regional leader in transit innovation.
"The most important things that Arlington has done right start with land use and the decisions that were made by my predecessors beginning in the '60s and '70s to invest in the Metro system in the way that no one outside of D.C. did," says Chris Zimmerman, a member of the Arlington County Board with 20 years of expertise in sustainable transit.
The county is a partner in the Capital Bikeshare program and has worked to design the areas around the Rosslyn Metro Station, to name one, to be more bike-friendly.
"We were the first to put bike lanes on the street and we have about 30 miles of bike lanes. We also have bike trails that connect to them," said Zimmerman in an interview outside the Rosslyn station. "We created bike parking. A lot of the work this shop does is to make sure people have provisions in their buildings. I can bike to work because there is a place to put my bike in the building."
Arlington provides an array of resources online, from websites to help commuters who choose to walk or bicycle, to its Mobility Lab (mobilitylab.org). The county also runs several one-stop shops for commuters called Commuter Stores, where people can access transit schedules, bike/walk maps, and car and van pool information, as well as purchase fares.
Zimmerman says the county's efforts to get people moving more efficiently have garnered a lot of attention with the United States, but he looks to other continents, too.
"I went to Copenhagen about 11 years ago on a study tour," he says. "I saw what rush hour looked like in a place in which a third of the people were moving on bicycle in a place that's farther north than we are, tough winters and all that, a third of the people were moving on bicycle. They had become more car-oriented and they had to re-orient themselves to walking and bicycling."
In order to facilitate more walking and biking in Arlington, officials needed data. Commuter-counters were employed at key junctures. The results were eye opening--6,000 people were crossing the Key Bridge daily, to name one major roadway, on foot or on bike.
"No one was counting for years," says Zimmerman. "In many places in this country we are already moving large numbers of people without cars. We ultimately save money, we even build tax base."
In a few weeks Zimmerman will depart for France to visit three cities roughly the size of Arlington to study how they are becoming less car-dependent. The goal, he says, is to create a seamless transportation system in which commuters know they can travel around the region without wasting time. They would be aware of plentiful bus routes, bike lanes, and train schedules.
"In European cities they've been doing this for many more decades," says Zimmerman. "They've built up more of it, and so you can get all over the place in a combination of transit and bicycle; you can pretty much travel anywhere. It is hardly ever an option in the United States."
Friday, February 17, 2012
Earlier this week the New York Times ran a big multimedia piece online about the growing need for government support in middle class communities. The piece was a two-fold argument. First, the social safety net isn’t just for poor people anymore. Second, the areas that are often receiving the most government support have representatives in government who come from the Tea Party side of the political spectrum.
The story was about the nation as a whole. But in the map graphic that accompanied the piece, something interesting is going on in New York State.
TN MOVING STORIES: House Blasts Feds Over Chevy Volt Battery Fire Investigation, PATH Ridership Booming
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Top stories on TN: The president gave two nods to transportation in his State of the Union address -- to the auto industry and cutting red tape. San Francisco and Medellin won the ITDP's Sustainable Transport Award. New York State released a report saying there were no environmental barriers to replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge. A Maryland county is exploring bike share. Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood -- which has only one bus line -- will get two more buses added to that route later this year. And the Bronx will join Staten Island in having real-time locating information for all its buses.
The U.S. Department of Transportation wants to give more weight to factors including affordable-housing policy in deciding which local mass-transit initiatives will get federal money. (Bloomberg)
Hydraulic fracturing -- fracking -- has produced so much gas that the price is at a ten-year low. (NPR)
Maryland's Montgomery County wants to use bus rapid transit, not rail, for its Corridor Cities Transitway project. (Washington Examiner)
California's high-speed rail project relies on risky financial assumptions and has just a fraction of the money needed to pay for it, the state auditor said in a new report. (AP via San Francisco Chronicle)
Adolfo Carrion Jr. -- former Bronx Borough President and HUD executive -- will launch a consulting firm that will advise "private sector businesses that are building roads and bridges and pipes and wires and buildings." And: "I'm going to work with players in the affordable housing production universe and I'm going to advise governments about smart growth here and around the country." (New York Daily News)
Airlines are turning increasingly to renting planes -- and the trend is likely to keep growing. (The Economist)
The head of the MTA’s largest union — currently locked in bitter contract negotiations with the transit agency — refused yesterday to rule out the possibility of a crippling subway strike. (New York Post)
Elected officials in Toronto are pushing a new transit plan that could have a new busway operational in less than three years -- and shovels in the ground for new light rail lines by 2014. (Toronto Star)
Disabled parking placard abuse is rampant in downtown Los Angeles. (Los Angeles Times)
House Transportation Chair John Mica intends to release text of the “American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs” proposal perhaps as soon as Friday. (Transportation Issues Daily)
A House committee is holding a hearing this morning on whether NHTSA delayed warning consumers about possible fire risks with the Volt because of the federal government's financial investment in General Motors. (New York Times)
Residents and officials in Tenafly (NJ) blasted a plan to extend the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail through the community, saying it would bring pollution, accidents and noisy train horns. (The Record)
Customs officials intend to shut down their inspection station at Brooklyn's Red Hook terminal. (New York Times)
More commuters rode PATH trains across the Hudson River in 2011 than in any other year since the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey took over the rail system in 1962. (Wall Street Journal)
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
(Sabri Ben-Achour--Washington, DC, WAMU) The rate of land consumption in Maryland is three times the rate of population growth, according to the state's department of planning. That's a lot of urban sprawl for a small state. So earlier this week, Governor Martin O'Malley issued an executive order for an anti-sprawl strategy called PlanMaryland, but it's set up tensions around the state.
"This is America, we don't do centralized top down planning," says Rich Rothschild, a county commissioner in rural Carroll County. "That resembles the actions of a dictatorship more than a constitutional republic."
PlanMaryland asks local governments to make their growth strategies "smarter" --meaning denser, and less sprawling. And it requires state agencies to preferentially fund smart growth. So when it comes to all the things the state helps with -- public roads, utilities, transit -- money won't go to a project that the state thinks promotes sprawl.
State law clearly puts local authorities in charge of zoning, but PlanMaryland still makes some local authorities nervous. There's also somewhat of a split between rural and urban counties. Roland Stanley is in charge of planning for Montgomery County. He doesn't view PlanMaryland as a threat because his county is largely already in line with smart growth policies.
"The real impact is when there's money available and we have projects like the Purple Line etcetera, where we want to apply for state funding, it will help," says Stanley.
But Rothschild, over in Carroll County, fears that impact will be at the expense of rural counties. "Will it hurt some of these areas? Yes, it will paralyze some of them."
Andy Ratner of the Maryland Department of Planning sharply disagrees. "We want growth throughout the state," he says. "Just to be smarter that we're not just plowing under farmland and forests for more and more development that has to be supported by new public infrastructure."
Every county has areas where growth can be concentrated, and he says sprawl costs everyone. Why build a million dollar sewer line to service 100 people when it could service 1,000, even in a rural county?
PlanMaryland is set to become reality in eight months.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
(Washington, DC -- Jonathan Wilson, WAMU) Traffic congestion in Montgomery County has not gotten any better during the past two years, and the county’s network of roads continues to be strained by increasing numbers of commuters relying on cars as their primary means of travel, county planners say.
This most recent transportation evaluation comes from the annual Montgomery's Mobility Assessment Report. The report shows that certain corridors continue to be particularly bad for commuters during rush hours, including US-29 between Howard County and University Boulevard in the mornings, and eastbound University Boulevard between Georgia and New Hampshire avenues in the evenings.
Metrorail ridership in Montgomery County has remained steady, but bus service has declined slightly, according to the report. The survey also included a list of the county's worst intersections for traffic: taking top billing was Old Georgetown Road and Democracy Boulevard in Rockville, an intersection that hadn't been included in the top 10
There is hope for the future, planners say. Congestion should ease as more residents seek alternative commutes, and new housing developments are built closer to mass transit. The county board is scheduled to review the report at its meeting Thursday.
Top 10 most trafficked intersections in Montgomery County:
- Old Georgetown Road at Democracy Boulevard
- Damestown Road at Riffle Ford Road
- Shady Grove Road at Choke Cherry Lane
- Rockville Pike at W. Cedar Lane
- George Avenue at Norbeck Road
- MD 355 at Edmondston Drive
- Great Seneca Highway at Muddy Branch Road
- Connecticut Avenue at Jones Bridge Road
- E. Gude Drive at Crabbs Branch/Cecil
- Randolph Road at New Hampshire Avenue
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
(Washington D.C. - WAMU) The U.S. Open golf tournament is set to begin next week at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. - just a few miles outside of the nation's capital. Thousands of fans are expected to attend, but as WAMU's Matt Bush reports, the tournament's organizers are providing them with a strong disincentive to use public transit.
For other large events in the D.C. region, Metrorail is usually the preferred option for attendees because of its convenience. But next week, that may not be the case. In addition, taking Metro will actually cost you more.
Metro fares will be the same, but if you take the train you also have to pay for a shuttle bus to the golf course. Reservations must be made for the buses, which will run from the Grosvernor-Strathmore station on the Red Line. They're $8 for a day or $35 for the whole week.
"Metro is not as convenient for this event as it is for other events, such as those down on the National Mall, where Metro stations are right there," says Emil Wolanin, chief traffic engineer for Montgomery County.
Wolanin says using the public parking lots in Gaithersburg is the best way to go, adding that if fans can, they should carpool. Parking and shuttle buses are free to and from those lots. All fans will have to undergo security screening, and Wolanin says it will be easier to do that at the public parking lots.
But if driving or Metro is out of the question, Wolanin says there are other options.
"There are some RideOn and Metrobus routes that go by the area. If you're inclined to come by bike, you can't take your bike into Congressional Country Club, but there will be some bike racks where you can lock up your at the taxi and limo drop off," Wolanin says.
As many as 50,000 are expected to attend each day of the four-day tournament.
Wolanin saw firsthand what the tournament can do to a congested area when he attended the tournament two years ago at Bethpage State Park on Long Island, in New York.
Wolanin and other county officials went to that Open to get a head start on preparations for 2011. Rainy weather marred the tournament, and taught Wolanin and others the importance of parking.
"There was a lot of mud, a lot of wet fields that parking was on," he says. "The USGA looks for paved parking. If you lose the field, you lose the ability to park people."
That's why the main public parking lot for next week's U.S. Open, Crown Farm in Gaithersburg, was laid with crushed stone to prevent the problems seen on Long Island. The lot that was used the last time the U.S. Open was at Congressional is now the Universities at Shady Grove.
Wolanin says that won't be the only change from 1997. There will be more people in attendance here this time around, but not necessarily fans.
"What they call the 'outside-the-ropes' footprint," he explains. "The media, the concessions, the corporate sponsors -- all that has about doubled since 1997." Hundreds of employees and volunteers are being shipped up to Congressional for the event. Predicting the event's attendance is difficult, but officials in California estimated that 275,000 people attended last year's tournament in Pebble Beach, Ca.
But the man most responsible for golf's increased popularity since then -- Tiger Woods -- won't be there. He decided this week not to play this year because of injuries to his left leg.
Friday, October 22, 2010
(Washington, DC — David Schultz, WAMU) Some cities use letters or numbers to name their train lines; here in D.C., we use colors. Depending on where you're going, you take the Red Line, Blue Line, Green Line, Orange Line or Yellow Line. The iconic D.C. Metro map is an artful study in the use of these five primary colors.
But for years, there's been talk of a new color - the Purple Line. Until recently, the Purple Line has been more myth than reality - in part due to the light rail project's nearly $1.7 billion price tag. In the past four years, however, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley (D) made it a priority and has begun seeking federal funds for the Purple Line.
O'Malley is up for election this year and Bob Ehrlich, his Republican opponent and his predecessor as Governor, is not a Purple Line supporter. And that may end up costing him the election.