Route 410 roadsign


After 3 years the city and the state may have a deal on Route 410!

The process has been like crawling naked through a raspberry thicket, and the council has the scars to prove it – just don’t ask to see them.

The city and the state are one city council meeting away from finalizing the MOU (memorandum of understanding) And, there’s a related bill ready to launch into the state legislative stream.

For three years the city council has been between a hard place and a harder place. On one side the council has the State Highway Administration (SHA), which doesn’t want to give the city anything. On the other side are local activists and citizens who are demanding the council ask for more.

Since 2010 the offers, refusals, discussions, negotiations, public hearings, closed meetings, public outcries, and shifting positions (on the part of the SHA) have been ongoing. The SHA changed administrators once. It also changed it’s mind twice about who “owns” the right-of-way under the state route that passes through the middle of the city.

Meanwhile, the roadway itself deteriorated as the SHA and city quarreled over which was responsible for maintaining it.  Recent patching is an indication of the state and city getting closer to agreement.

The meat of the matter

The MOU draft now says that:

  • SHA will maintain the road.
  • SHA will notify the city whenever utility or road work is planned. The city wanted more – it wanted to have work permit approval powers, but notification was as far as the SHA was willing to go. The SHA gives the city a 3-day notification period. City public works department says that’s sufficient for them. Some citizens want 30 days.
  • SHA will notify the city of proposed signal light changes and will do a study of and improve traffic light cycles.
  • It will do the same with signs and crosswalks.
  • The SHA may find funding to build sidewalks where there are now none (along Ethan Allen Ave), but once built, the city takes on sidewalk maintenance.
  • SHA is responsible for Route 410 stormwater management.

Do the twist

The state legislative bill is a new twist, it comes closer to addressing activist’s concerns than the SHA could.

Activists want a guarantee that the SHA will never widen Route 410, which is currently a two-lane road. SHA can’t make such a guarantee. Coming at the problem from a differnt angle, the proposed bill prohibits using state funds to widen the road. State Representative and Takoma Park resident Heather Mizeur and her staff have lined up enough support to get it through the Kafkaesque state legislative process.

Bike fight

Takoma Parkians were not about to let this get settled without a good argument, of course.

The biggest disagreement was over bike lanes. The bill’s prohibits installing any new “motor vehicle” lanes. Activists want to strike “motor.” They fear that a bike lane could be turned into a motor vehicle lane later.

Bicycling activists turned out to keep “motor” in there. They want a bike lane.

Many turned out to comment, and several more submitted emails to their council representatives. Since this MOU has been 3 years in the making, it is not too surprising that most of the commentors had not been following the issue all that time. In fact, it appeared some were only beginning to follow it that day. This become obvious from complaints that there should be more public hearings (more than 3 years-worth?), that the MOU had not been publicly available (for 2 weeks, actually), that the city attorney should meet with an activist group’s lawyer (she has), and from the number of “new” suggestions and changes that the city has been negotiating for years but were unable to find agreement on.

Several councilmembers remarked on the public comment’s inaccuracies.

On the positive side, there were some helpful suggestions made – mostly small word changes.

Not all councilmembers are solidly behind the MOU. A few are nervous about unintended consequences, and would rather have no agreement at all. They appear to be a minority, however.

The final vote will, or MAY – one can never be sure about this issue – be at the next council meeting, Tues. Feb 19. There will be opportunity for public comment. If you want to make a comment, please do your homework!

Redistricting done!

The new ward boundaries were passed unanimously at the Feb. 11 meeting. The only change in the ordinance was to make it effective immediately. If you felt the ground shifting beneath your feet, that was why.




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About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

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