410 item on the Sept 24, 2012 council agenda

The city council will have a worksession discussion Monday evening of the latest draft Takoma Park-Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) Memorandum of Understand (MOU ) regarding Route 410 (Philadelphia and Ethan Allen Avenue) in Takoma Park. It is scheduled to start at 8:20 pm. Please see the meeting agenda packet, which includes a September 12 draft MOU.

The September 12 draft doesn’t have everything the city wants, but in my opinion, it is a significant improvement over the prior draft and is acceptable.

** Anticipating agreement on the MOU, the SHA expects to resurface 410, I believe between Park Avenue and New Hampshire Avenue, in the spring of 2014. The SHA has agreed to take care of sorely needed repairs to the stretch between Park Avenue and Carroll Avenue (facing the fire station) with a target date of October 15, according to Acting City Manager Suzanne Ludlow.

The September 12 document addresses major elements missing from earlier drafts, in particular, by respecting commitments made by former SHA Administrator Neil Petersen made in his April 2011 letter to the city, regarding SHA accommodation of city comments on work done along 410 in the city. It includes minor revisions requested by the city council in a September 10, 2012 closed-session meeting with staff.

This latest version is the product of late-summer staff negotiations. The cover page explains that several issues “have been resolved or clarified since the February 2012 meeting and are reflected in the attached MOU.” One of them is state ownership of the road, which the parties now recognize, doing away with the need for the perpetual maintenance easement that was part of the prior, spring 2012 draft MOU.

The current version notably includes a commitment by the SHA to not only accept city comment on utility permits, signalization, signs, and pedestrian crosswalks, but further that “The SHA will review the city’s comments and respond prior to commencing any action unless legitimate safety concerns require some immediate action of the part of SHA.” Response to city comments is a key Neil Pedersen commitment that was not respected in earlier MOU drafts.

The September 12 draft MOU retains clauses from earlier version, that the agreement should not be construed as City consent to future widening and that the agreement doesn’t limit city standing in future condemnation proceedings, etc. It protects existing crosswalks and recognizes city maintenance of sidewalks.

Please content me with your comments or concerns. There remains an opportunity to seek further revisions, should gaps become apparent, if the council agrees to pursue them. (Councilmember Tim Male has asked for the 1930s materials that are referenced, and Acting City Manager Suzanne Ludlow said she could probably have copies at the worksession.)

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