Funding Secured for Georgia Avenue Project

by Geoff Gerhardt

The Maryland Department of Transportation has announced that it will fully fund the design phase of the Georgia Avenue improvement project.

Despite widespread support of the surrounding neighborhoods, the design and engineering plans for the Georgia Ave improvement project have been stuck at about 50% for almost two years. But due to the determined efforts of NWCA, Friends of Forest Glen and Montgomery Hills, other neighborhood associations, and our elected representatives in Annapolis (especially Delegates Jared Solomon and Lorig Charkoudian), MDOT Secretary Greg Slater agreed to include $1.6 million in the transportation budget to complete design of the project.

The funding could not have come at a better time. It is widely expected that the new Biden Administration will be looking to fund state and local infrastructure projects with an emphasis on projects that improve biking, walking, and transit access. The Georgia Avenue project does all of that.

Progress Continues Towards Improving the Georgia Avenue Corridor

By Geoff Gerhardt, Vice President

Following the Montgomery County Planning Board’s approval of the Forest Glen-Montgomery Hills Sector Plan in September, the County Council began the process of considering the plan. NWCA President David Cox and Vice President Geoff Gerhardt testified in support of the sector plan at a County Council hearing in November. Council committees are holding working sessions on the plan, and the full Council is scheduled to vote on it later this winter. Meanwhile, the State Highway Administration is making slow but steady progress on its plan for overhauling Georgia Avenue between 16th St. and Forest Glen Rd. Earlier this year, the state announced it had selected a version of the plan, known as Alternative 5B Modified.

This plan would bring wider sidewalks, protected bicycle track, and a landscaped median with dedicated left turn lanes to Georgia Ave. The plan would also make improvements to the Beltway interchange and eliminate the southbound “slip lane” at 16th St., creating a traditional “T” intersection instead.

The SHA plan is currently at the 30 percent design stage. This fall, the Federal Highway Administration gave preliminary approval to Alternative 5B Modified, which allows design and engineering efforts to move forward. Redesign plans for Georgia Ave. could be finalized by SHA by the end of this year.

However, much work remains to be done to secure construction funding for the project, which is estimated at $35–$40 million. In November, Geoff Gerhardt testified at a hearing of state senators and delegates representing Montgomery County in support of state funding for the project.

In addition, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation listed Georgia Ave. as its highest priority highway project in a draft letter to Maryland Department of Transportation. The final letter is scheduled to be sent to Maryland DOT this spring. Assuming it’s finalized, placement of Georgia Ave. at the top of the county’s transportation priorities list will be a huge victory—due in large part to letters and emails sent by residents of North Woodside. Thank you!

Farewell Woodside Deli

The original Woodside Deli on Georgia Ave—a much-loved neighborhood institution for 72 years—closed suddenly in early October due to a disagreement with the landlord on renewing the lease. Many neighbors expressed shock and sadness over the closing on the neighborhood email list. A Woodside Deli memory from a long-time neighborhood resident:

When I lost to Doug Duncan in the 1994 Democratic primary for County Executive, he was nervous about who I might support in the November general election. The Republican nominee was a smart, popular elected official (in those times, the County GOP was a real player—we had Republican Councilmembers and our Congresswoman was Republican) and Doug ran poorly in this area of the County.

So after the primary election we met at the Woodside Deli to discuss specific issues we differed on, the coming campaign, and my potential endorsement. The Woodside was a popular spot for politicians and reporters alike and remained so to its very unfortunate demise. Just yesterday (October 10), I got an e-mail from a prominent reporter saying, “ Oh no, now where can we meet and talk over breakfast?”

I shall miss the Woodside mightily.

— Gus Bauman

2nd Montgomery Hills Street Fest Bring Community Together

By Geoff Gerhardt

The second annual Montgomery Hills Street Fest took place on Saturday, September 21, 2019 on Columbia Boulevard. The Street Fest attracted more than 1,000 residents of the communities along Georgia Avenue for an afternoon of live music, local food, diverse vendors, and socializing.

Silver Spring brewery Denizens provided a selection of local beer and wide range of artisans, including North Woodside painter Gavin McSkean, sold art, jewelry and other handcrafts. Musical acts included Suzanne Brindamour, the Einstein High School Jazz Combo, and the Airport 77s.

The Street Fest also provided an opportunity to learn about initiatives underway to improve the Georgia Avenue corridor. The Montgomery County Planning Department discussed the draft sector plan update for the area, Friends of Forest Glen and Montgomery Hills answered questions about the state’s plan for improving Georgia Avenue, and local politicians pressed the flesh while giving their perspective on the future of Montgomery Hills.

Local elected officials in attendance included Senator Chris Van Hollen, Representative Jamie Raskin, County Executive Marc Elrich, as well as county council members Tom Hucker, Hans Reimer and Evan Glass. Members of the Maryland state assembly such as Jeff Waldstreicher and Emily Shetty also gave short speeches and talked with residents.

The Street Fest could not happen without volunteers to organize and staff the event. Many thanks to the North Woodside residents who generously volunteered their time and energy at this year’s Fest. Special thanks go out to North Woodside residents Heather Lair, Genevieve McDowell Owen, and Melinda Schnare who were part of the organizing team. If you are interested in helping to organize or volunteer at next year’s Street Fest, contact the organizers.

North Woodside Traffic and Road Construction Update

Traffic. Nobody likes it, but a certain amount is to be expected in a community that is located near a thriving urban center. Unfortunately, there are a number of construction projects about to get underway that are likely to increase traffic in and around our neighborhood.

The North Woodside-Montgomery Hills Citizens Association will continue to work with officials from the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, state transportation agencies, Purple Line and others to minimize the impact. But there is an inevitable it’s going to get worse before it gets better aspect to the next several years. Here is a short summary of the projects about to get started or that are in the planning stages.

Seminary Road Intersection

The Seminary Road Intersection Improvement Project is intended to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety at the so-called mixing bowl where Second Avenue meets Seminary Road, Seminary Place and Linden Lane. Construction is scheduled to begin in July 2018 and be completed roughly 12 months later. While traffic will be allowed to use the intersection throughout the project, backups and delays should be expected.

In May, the county’s Department of Transportation hosted a meeting at Woodlin Elementary where officials walked through the project’s schedule and heard testimony from residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. At that meeting, I provided input on the project on behalf of NWMHCA. One of the points I emphasized is that our neighborhood is greatly impacted by cut-through traffic on Second Avenue, which often backs up at the mixing bowl intersection. I pointed out that this problem could be reduced by allowing left turns at rush hour from Georgia Avenue onto Seminary Road, Seminary Place and Forest Glen Road.

Purple Line and Talbot Bridge

In late April, the Talbot Avenue Bridge was permanently closed to vehicle traffic following an inspection that found the bridge was no longer safe for cars. DOT says the bridge is still safe for pedestrians and bicyclists. No advance notice of the closure was given to the surrounding communities. NWMHCA worked with DOT to develop better detour signage than what was originally put in place.

Now that the lawsuit regarding the Purple Line has (mostly) been resolved, replacing the Talbot Bridge is high on the county’s priority list. The new bridge is slated to be about 41 feet wide (compared with 11 feet wide for the current bridge) in order to accommodate three lanes two for vehicle traffic and one for the Capital Crescent Trail.

NWMHCA petitioned county and Purple Line officials to reduce the size of the new bridge to be more consistent with the current bridge. We asked that the new bridge have one lane for alternating two-way vehicle traffic and one lane for the trail. However, we were informed that this proposal would violate federal safety standards, which requires new bridges to have two lanes for vehicle traffic. Therefore, the new bridge would be built as originally planned.

We are now actively working with the Lyttonsville and Rosemary Hills civic associations on ways to ensure that both vehicle and trail traffic can use the bridge safely. We want to promote traffic calming measures on the surrounding streets and look at ways to improve the aesthetics of the new bridge. We are also supporting efforts spearheaded by Lyttonsville to preserve portions of the current bridge in order to memorialize its unique history.

Lyttonsville Place Bridge

The Lyttonsville Place Bridge will also be replaced as part of the Purple Line project. The timing is unclear, but it looks like the Lyttonsville Bridge will be closed after the Talbot Bridge is replaced. It is likely that some traffic that would ordinarily go over the Lyttonsville Bridge would be rerouted over the Talbot Bridge. We are working with DOT on strategies to minimize the effect on North Woodside. These would includes establishing a detour route that will encourage traffic to travel on larger state roads like 16th Street and making sure trucks aren’t allowed over the new Talbot Bridge. The situation is going to be further complicated by construction on the Spring Street Bridge as part of the Purple Line.

Seminary Road Bridge

This winter, the state Department of Transportation will start work rehabilitating the Seminary Road Bridge over Interstate 495. The project will take about a year to complete. The state plans on keeping two lanes of traffic open through- out the project, but lane shifts will be required and traffic back-ups could occur.

Georgia Avenue Study

The Maryland Department of Transportation has spent several years looking at ways to improve Georgia Avenue from 16th Street to Forest Glen Road. The planning study was funded by the county, although no funds have been set aside to actually make any of the proposed changes.

Options being looked at by DOT include installing a median, adding a dedicated bike lane and providing left turns lanes from Georgia Avenue onto Seminary Road, Seminary Place and Forest Glen Road. In September, Maryland DOT announced it was still working on identifying the preferred alternative for the project and conducting additional engineering analysis. The preferred alternative is supposed to be announced this fall. At this point, it is unclear how the planning study will be affected by Gov. Hogan’s proposal to add four lanes to the Beltway.