Friday, September 25, 2009

District 18 Delegation Opposes Connecticut-Jones Bridge Road Widening

Following is the letter written by Senator Rich Madaleno and Delegates Ana Sol Gutierrez, Jeff Waldstreicher and Al Carr.

September 17, 2009

Governor Martin O'Malley
100 State Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401-1925

Re: SHA BRAC proposal to widen Connecticut and Jones Bridge Road intersection

Dear Governor O'Malley,

We are writing to urge your office to direct the Maryland Department of Transportation to take a comprehensive approach in planning for the expected growth in traffic and travel due to the relocation of Walter Reed Medical Center to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.

State Highway Administration staff have been directed to design projects that will improve the capacity of major intersections near the Bethesda medical center. They have worked hard at re-designing these intersections and at reaching out to impacted communities. We sincerely appreciate their professionalism, diligence, and outreach. However, in the case of Jones Bridge Road and Connecticut Avenue, the original proposal was to widen all four legs of the intersection at great expense and great disruption to the community but with questionable long-term benefit.

Connecticut Avenue is used as an access corridor for Kensington, Bethesda, Chevy Chase and many other communities. The communities along this corridor will be affected by a number of different pending transportation and development projects including the opening of the ICC, L7/L8 Metrobus service cuts, the Purple Line and large mixed use developments at Chevy Chase Lake and in Bethesda. We support requests to perform sustainable corridor planning for MD 355. Any such planning of the MD 355 corridor needs to include Connecticut Avenue, Old Georgetown Road, Jones Bridge and East West Highway, as these routes are used to access many destinations on Wisconsin Avenue. Such a study would also include a review of the MD 355/ I 495 intersection design, which greatly affects surrounding intersections and communities.

We were disappointed to learn that only limited coordination has occurred between state planning for BRAC and state/local planning for these other projects, some of which will occur within the same time frame. We would like to also ask MDOT fully include the impact of these other projects in their updated analysis for BRAC transportation improvements in Bethesda.

Analysis of traffic patterns using level-of-service approaches have been standard practice in Maryland but seems less and less sustainable as we acknowledge the need to move away from single-occupancy-vehicles. We applaud the SHA staff for listening to the community and refining their proposal to reduce community impacts and make better use of the existing right of way. We look forward to additional refinements but also ask for the work to be done in a broader context. The fact that the original widening proposal was met with near-universal opposition from the affected communities points to the need for different approach. This new approach needs to take a holistic view of mobility and may require additional tools and support. The community recognizes that simple road widening tends to make intersections even less hospitable to pedestrians, bicyclists and neighborhoods. The Jones Bridge Rd / Connecticut Ave intersection was recently rated as one of the top ten intersections in the County for pedestrian activity.

SHA Administrator Neil Pedersen spoke at a recent seminar before the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Transportation Planning Board and acknowledged the need to evaluate "person throughput" rather than "vehicle throughput" when planning transportation projects. We are very pleased to hear this vision from a state transportation official because it is more sustainable and balances the role of transit, pedestrian and bicycle access in transportation planning.

We would like to ask MDOT to fully support Mr. Pedersen's stated vision and for MDOT and SHA staff to perform their analysis of Jones Bridge Road and Connecticut Avenue using "person throughput" rather than "vehicle throughput". This type of analysis might lead to more sustainable and more cost effective options that would likely be less disruptive and more acceptable to the affected community. Such solutions might include ways to increase the ridership and capacity of local transit, including: transit signal priority, bus queue jumpers, and financial incentives for passengers to ride transit.

We also ask that the State Highway Administration reconsider direct beltway access and explore all creative options that might alleviate the need to widen local roads. We believe the State Highway Administration should also incorporate planning to address the smaller intersections that will be greatly impacted by BRAC growth. Two of these affected intersections are Summit /Knowles (MD 547), and Rockville Pike (MD 355) / Grosvenor / Beach.

Thank you for considering additional sustainable approaches that reflect both the current needs of our community, as well as plans for future growth.


Richard Madaleno Jr., Senator
Ana Sol Gutierrez, Delegate
Jeff Waldstreicher, Delegate
Alfred C. Carr Jr., Delegate

cc: Congressman Chris Van Hollen
Beverly Swaim-Staley - Secretary of Transportation
Lt. Governor Anthony Brown
SHA Administrator Neil Pedersen
County Executive Ike Leggett
Council President Phil Andrews
Councilmember Roger Berliner
Andy Scott - MDOT
Phil Alperson - Montgomery County
Bob Weesner - Village of North Chevy Chase
Avice Meehan - Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Ilaya Hopkins - Coalition of Military Medical Center Neighbors
Ken Strickland, Chairperson, Chevy Chase Valley Citizens Association
Freda Mitchem and residents of NW quadrant of MD185/JBR intersection
Henry Levin - Chevy Chase Park resident
Vanessa Chernick - Chevy Chase Park resident
Parkwood Residents Association
Kensington Estates Civic Association