Greater Greater Washington

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Weekend links: While there's time


Photo by Old Shoe Woman on Flickr.
MD Senate funds transportation: The transportation funding bill passed the Maryland Senate and now goes to Governor O'Malley for certain signature. The Purple Line and various road expansions will get needed state funding. (Post)

Let ANCs talk more?: Mary Cheh wants to give ANCs an official chance to weigh in on large buildings. Her idea wouldn't give them a veto, but would force city officials to respond to their concerns. (City Paper)

A stop for super stops: Arlington is putting future "super stops" on hold to reassess the design and cost. The budget had $900,000 per stop, but residents said they didn't even protect enough against rain. (ARLnow)

Keep Arlington in the loop as you bike: BikeArlington has a handy map of the "Arlington Loop," the four trails (Mt. Vernon, Four Mile Run, W&OD, and "Aimee" Custis) that circle central Arlington. This makes understanding the bike network much easier.

Anacostia Playhouse gets green light: Phil Mendelson came up with a way around the Anacostia Playhouse's zoning problems: get a permit for the work without formally making it a theater, then switch the use once the BZA approves. They got the permit today, and Mayor Gray even signed it personally. (City Paper)

People want a safer Bethesda: After a driver hit a mom pushing a baby stroller and several other close calls in Bethesda, residents are calling for action on pedestrian safety, but little is forthcoming, and Bethesda Elementary has not yet gotten Safe Routes to School attention. (Gazette, Wendy Leibowitz)

Fences get cut on MBT: MPD tells Met Branch Trail users not to bike alone after "crimnals" repeatedly cut the fence to the CSX tracks. But are they cutting the fence to commit crimes or to cross to the Metro station? (ToTville, TheWashCycle)

Who got tickets?: Who got the city's free tickets for NCAA Sweet 16 games? (NBC4) ... Who got over 60 speeding tickets in Montgomery or Prince George's? (NBC4)

And...: Landlord discrimination against people with section 8 vouchers has declined. (City Paper) ... MARC tickets and the website will look different. (Examiner) ... The most beautiful room in DC? The Library of Congress reading room, say BeyondDC readers.

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David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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It's 24 years since the first time I went to a hearing about the Purple Line. Yesterday was a great day.

by Ben Ross on Mar 30, 2013 10:15 am • linkreport

Most of the fence-cutting on the MBT is to cross over to the Metro...it's been going on for years. I'm sure it also provides a convenient escape route for criminals, but most of it would cease if we could somehow light a fire under the city to get the bridge done. It's been designed and, it seems, funded, and just got a staging area for construction, from what I understand...so lets ROLL already. That bridge is KEY to sparking further redevelopment on that side of the Metro, while additionally providing a MAJOR convenience to people coming from/going the other direction.

by Ms. D on Mar 30, 2013 4:59 pm • linkreport

Downtown Bethesda seems to be the border where the walkability of further in and driveability of further out collide. The Woodmont Triangle is particularly bad. Tons of people out walking on the sidewalks, yet everyone blows through stop signs. You could give out 50 tickets a day just for serious stop sign infractions (e.g. when people are trying to cross in the cross walk) at Norfolk and Cordell. And I've never seen a cop there.

by Brian S on Mar 30, 2013 6:16 pm • linkreport

Does anyone know if weekend MARC service is also on the agenda, now that MD is likely to pass the new transportation bill?

by HH on Mar 30, 2013 7:58 pm • linkreport

This is a great day for transit in DC and particularly, Montgomery County. With the Purple line happening, DC's street cars should be fast tracked and the line up Georgia Avenue should be planned to terminate at the purple line's Silver Spring stop, next to the metro.

They could rebuild the Silver Spring transit center to accompdate all these differing lines while there at it. Measure twice, pour once, measure again.

by Thayer-D on Mar 30, 2013 8:28 pm • linkreport

RE: Fence Cutting

As Ms. D mentioned the fence cutting has gone on a long time with trespassers crossing the CSX ROW to get to the Rhode Island Ave station. When I rode the MARC train up until a few years ago there would always be trespassers waiting for the train to pass so they could cut across the tracks and squeeze through the hole in the fence. The last time I took the train it seemed that they stopped this by CSX double/triple fencing the existing fence, and the city putting up a new iron fence for the MBT extension.

RE: Transportation Bill

Best news of the year out of Annapolis, and it wasn't even close to being a sure thing in light of the fact that it failed last year and wasn't even on O'Malley's agenda for this session. Sen. Miller deserves props for being the main force behind getting this bill passed.

However, I am less optimistic at the new revenue providing enough funding for all of the states planned transportation projects. Just given the price tag of the Purple Line, Red Line, and CCT, it would be pretty hard to fund all 3 and still have enough left over for road and other transit projects (such as continued improvements to MARC). I predict that some of these projects will be deferred, and they'll be some infighting in Annapolis over what gets funded first.

@HH

The MTA has had funding for weekend MARC services for a long while. The reason why there isn't any service now, is because Amtrak (which provides train crews for the Penn Line) doesn't want to run MARC service on the weekends because for staffing reasons. In a similar vein, CSX also refuses to let MARC add any more weekday trains to the Brunswick (and presumably the Camden) Line, despite the MTA having the funds to pay for it.

by King Terrapin on Mar 30, 2013 10:14 pm • linkreport

Anybody know why the Arlington bus stops were so expensive?

I could see if it was DC, as they never met a project they couldn't inflate to ridiculous levels.

But you don't expect this in Arlington.

by Hillman on Mar 31, 2013 8:25 am • linkreport

I would disagree that the holes on the MBT fences are for people crossing to the the metro. Yes in the past people used to do do that then they put up the extra fences and people still did it but not by cutting holes they climbed the fence and just milk cartons. Then they put up the barbed wire topping and I have not seen anyone doing it since I witnessed the bloody mess that resulted from 3 guys trying to climb thru that. The holes are cut for graffiti and other crimes/escaping. I agree about the bridge though and have been pushing to get it built since I moved here 5 years ago! They say it is coming now that all the bids are in and they are picking a contractor. It can not come soon enough!

by Sally on Mar 31, 2013 9:48 am • linkreport

@Ben Ross: "It's 24 years since the first time I went to a hearing about the Purple Line." Odds are good that when they hold public outreach meetings on the final design and construction phases, that people will complain why are they rushing this? :-/

The other winner is the Baltimore Red Line. I think the Red Line will have a greater transit and economic impact on Baltimore than the Purple Line will on its communities. The Bal Red Line will provide the city the foundation of a connected rail transit system over the isolated single subway line and N-S light rail line. With a transfer tunnel connecting the Bal Red Line to the subway Green Line downtown and one would hope, a reasonably useful connection to the current light rail line, Baltimore will finally have a metro system. They will have to follow up with expansions of the subway Green Line to the NE, a second N-S line to Bal Penn station and Towson, but it will be a huge step.

As for seven day a week MARC service, my understanding that Amtrak has also not cooperated because they want to keep traffic light on weekends for track work given the capacity constraints. With the new revenue, even if most of the funds go to road repair, Purple and Bal Red Lines, there will be more funds available for MARC capital projects. The NEC BWI station rebuild and 9 miles of 4th track project is likely to advance with MD picking up a larger piece of the tab. Same for the B&P tunnel replacement project although that will require a large amount of federal funding.

With the Bal Red Line connecting to the NEC at West Baltimore, there will be considerable incentive to have 7 day a week MARC service on the Penn Line when the Red Line opens. of course, that is going to be another 8-9 years.

by AlanF on Mar 31, 2013 11:12 am • linkreport

I am surprised that no one has commented on the Cheh/ANC proposal. In my opinion, this would be a really bad idea. If a property owner has a by-right proposal, it is certainly a courtesy for them to meet with the community and ANC to share their plans. However, giving the ANC a platform for complaint, particularly on subjective design review would, in my opinion, set a precedent that would lead to chaos for future projects across the city.

by William on Mar 31, 2013 12:17 pm • linkreport

@AlanF

Interesting, since they let SEPTA and NJ Transit operate on the weekends, although those lines have 4 tracks along nearly their entire length. Add to your list of projects the Gunpowder and Susquehanna bridge replacements, which would probably also be heavily funded by the feds. Also, I would be shocked if MARC didn't get weekend service by the opening of the Red Line.

by King Terrapin on Mar 31, 2013 1:06 pm • linkreport

Improvements in MARC service are definitely on the agenda. I don't know what the balance will be between capital and operations expenditures, but the capital projects have little point unless they lead to more service. Fortunately, the capital plans for MARC have lots of little pieces that each help service incrementally, so something is sure to happen. And MARC upgrades were definitely understood as part of the package by legislators in Howard, Baltimore, and Anne Arundel Counties who voted for the tax increase.

Two projects that have a lot of local support are a new platform at Point of Rocks that will allow trains from Frederick to pick up passengers there, and upgrades to the Camden Line stations in Howard County. There is also a live possibility of adding a stretch of third track in upper Montgomery, where CSX already owns the right of way.

Additional and substantial Camden Line upgrades will be part of the state's transportation package if the FBI comes to Greenbelt. I know MARC has other near-term capital spending projects in mind, and planning for the longer-term, but very important, project of new rail tunnels north and south of Baltimore has begun.

by Ben Ross on Mar 31, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

#King Terrapin, SEPTA and NJ Transit own a lot of miles of their own tracks and the regional rail components are a much bigger operation than MARC. And the NEC in NJ, PA, down to Wilmington is almost all 4 tracks, except for the Hudson River tunnels, 6 tracks in northern NJ, and 3 & 2 tracks segments from Wilmington south. So, yea SEPTA and NJT run on weekends on the NEC.

The portion of the NEC MARC operates on is a mix of 2, 3, 4 track segments with a slow bottleneck at the B&P tunnel. But it will take many years to fix them. The critical steps are that the engineering studies on the B&O tunnel and Susquehanna River bridge replacement are funded and should be starting, because projects often stall waiting on funds for preliminary engineering & EIS. With the Purple Line connecting to the NEC at New Carrolton and the Bal Red Line to the NEC at 2 locations, I think there will be 7 day MARC Penn Line service by the time the 2 lines open.

by AlanF on Mar 31, 2013 5:03 pm • linkreport

I love the "Arlington Loop". Now if they could only improve the connections to the bridges.

by Frank IBC on Mar 31, 2013 6:47 pm • linkreport

@King Terrapin: The MTA has had funding for weekend MARC services for a long while.

That is not at all what I have heard from the MTA. I have heard them say that they do not have funding for weekend MARC service on the Penn Line.

by Miriam on Apr 1, 2013 7:27 am • linkreport

Woa, so the 66-ticket repeat offender caught by Montgomery County speeding cameras is a DC driver! As a Silver Spring resident, I'd like to hear a little less about supposedly horrible Maryland drivers terrorizing DC's streets. How about those DC drivers speeding all over Silver Spring, huh? 66 tickets! Can we ban this driver from entering Maryland, please?

by Ted on Apr 1, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

I laughed when I saw the "Arlington Loop" map. When I lived in Arlington just off of the Custis Trail, I used to do that exact loop for long runs, usually counterclockwise. It's about 16 miles around if I remember correctly. They could use clearer connection marking where the W&OD terminates though; finding where to join the Four Mile Run trail is tricky if you haven't done it before.

by CapHill on Apr 1, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

@AlanF

I concur. (You basically echoed what I said)

The BWI Airport Rail Station expansion and new West Baltimore parking lot will probably be long built before the B&P Tunnel and Susquehanna/Gunpowder bridge replacements get started for the reasons you mentioned.

In other MARC expansion news. The new hi-platform Halethorpe station should be opening shortly.

by King Terrapin on Apr 1, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

@Brian S.
"Downtown Bethesda seems to be the border where the walkability of further in and driveability of further out collide. The Woodmont Triangle is particularly bad. Tons of people out walking on the sidewalks, yet everyone blows through stop signs."

You're right, that area is getting way too crowded. Used to be just on weekend evenings, now it's much of the time. And there's at least 3 or 4 more major buildings coming, including the Westin Hotel.

by Chris S. on Apr 1, 2013 12:12 pm • linkreport

i think i've mentioned this on here before, but it strikes me that a connection between the penn line and the baltimore metro line could be made at upton, the B&P tunnel is only like a block south of the upton station entrance (although i think the platform might go northward from that entrance?). has anybody ever given any consideration to such an idea? obviously the current situation would have to resolved first, either with more tracks or with a bypass that would separate amtrak and marc trains entirely in that stretch.

by burgersub on Apr 1, 2013 4:21 pm • linkreport

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