Council closer to funding bus rapid transit in eastern county

  • Published in Local

If everything goes as planned, the East County will be one step closer to having a new alternative for commuters.

Last week, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation and the Maryland Transit Administration released a study on the proposed Bus Rapid Transit for U.S. Route 29.

Representatives from MCDOT and MTA spoke to the County Council Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee last week. The T & E committee did not vote on the proposal during its meeting last week.

The proposed BRT for Route 29 is part of a series of BRT lines the County is proposing – along with one on MD-355 and MD-586 – that it hopes will cut down on heavy traffic congestion in the County. The BRT would operate partially along the shoulder lanes as a quicker alternative to buses.


Council questions WSSC rate structure change

  • Published in Local

LAUREL – A change in county water bills is almost certainly coming, but exactly how much more (or less) residents will pay is still to be determined.

On March 30, the Prince George’s County Council Transportation, Housing and Environment Committee (THE) held a joint meeting with their counterpart from the Montgomery County Council, the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) committee to hear from Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission staff about progress on the utility’s rate structure study. WSSC has to change the rate structure to remain financially viable, officials say.

“There’s always this tension between having enough revenue to meet the needs for providing the services, both water and sewer, but also on the capital side,” said Council member Todd Turner, chair of THE. “People are consuming less water, so because the revenues aren’t coming in because of the consumption, what are you going to do? Unfortunately, nothing goes down in cost, it seems like, so in making that (increase) reasonable, there’s a balance that we have to find as part of this process.”


Hogan calls for repeal of road scoring bill

  • Published in State

Governor says five major projects in the county are in peril unless law changes


Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Wednesday plans to introduce emergency legislation to repeal a transportation scoring bill that he said will kill 66 out of 73 transportation projects, including five major projects in Montgomery County.

The General Assembly overrode his veto of the bill in April.

Hogan at a press conference in Annapolis identified individual legislators by name and listed transportation projects in their home jurisdictions he said will die if the bill is not repealed. He did not single out any individual legislator from Montgomery County.


Higher fines coming if snow isn't removed

  • Published in Local

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Higher fines may be coming for business owners who do not remove snow or ice from sidewalks next to commercial properties.

After a public hearing Thursday, the Montgomery County Council Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee (T&E) amended and approved a bill to increase those fines from $50 to $250.

However, the County Council as a whole will have to pass the bill in order for it to take effect.


Berliner 'skeptical' about Hogan's plan for tackling traffic woes

  • Published in Local

Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner (D-1) said he is not sure Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) call for adding $229 million for transportation infrastructure improvements will significantly alleviate traffic congestion in the area.

“I think many of us are skeptical that you can get a lot of change for $100 million,” said Berliner, a third-term council member who chairs the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee. “The proof will be in the pudding, it’s an innovative approach.”


Riemer sets sight on transportation issues

  • Published in Local

HansRiemer-headshotAbout halfway through the year, County Council member Hans Riemer (D-At large) has said he is next setting his sights on transportation systems.

As part of new Council President George Leventhal’s committee assignments, Riemer got switched from Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) to Planning, Housing and Economic Development.

But, from an economic development conference in San Francisco, Riemer talked about his new policy initiative. Although he said he is still working on specific legislation to bring forward, he wants to change the way the county looks at transportation demand management.

“(It means) working with businesses and residents to use alternative means of transportation, whether walking or biking or bus or carpool or Metro or shuttles – looking at our traffic problems and trying to tackle them in a very 2.0 way rather than just saying the solution is just to build more roads. We just don’t really have the money or space to build more roads. It’s not a sustainable solution. We’ve got to use our road system more efficiently,” Riemer said.

TDM refers to the set of policy initiatives and strategies the county uses to provide alternatives to single-vehicle transport, and Riemer wants to take a comprehensive look at it. He said he also plans to work with Council member Roger Berliner (D-1), head of the T&E committee, but he has more to do first.

“You’re hearing it here first,” he said.

Riemer also said he is enjoying his work on the PHED committee since he has worked for a long time on economic development issues. He supported the majority on one of the more contentious issues this budget season – the energy tax. The council decided 5-4 to maintain the current rates rather than reducing them, which inspired Council Vice President Nancy Floreen to ultimately vote against the operating budget as a whole.

Riemer said there is more to economic development in the county than the energy tax and the “cost of doing business” in the county. The county has already started to look more toward attracting industries like cybersecurity to the area.

“I think the fundamentals are very strong, but what we have to do in my opinion is just really kind of focus more on what’s at the cutting edge in terms of sectors of the economy and how to position ourselves so we’re always one step ahead,” he said.

Although the energy tax sparked a split in the council, Riemer said the dynamic this term has been much calmer than in previous years. And Leventhal keeps the procedure on track, a stickler for the “rules of engagement” in a discussion.

“And I have no problem with that,” Riemer said.

He also gets to enjoy chairing his own committee, the Ad Hoc Committee on Liquor Control. Convened earlier this year, the committee is getting close to deciding how much of the Department of Liquor Control to privatize. It will most likely privatize special orders while keeping the rest under government control.

The committee has also looked at the new inventory system the county uses, Oracle, and other concerns about DLC employees. Riemer said it is more fun to chair and decide the committee’s direction.

“You get to really drive the agenda. You know what the plan is, and you’re working to get the input from your colleagues. But fundamentally you’re the one kind of shaping the issues and honing in the resources, whether it’s studies or responses from departments. You’re really able to focus on a goal,” Riemer said.

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