City council actions on Route 410

All, Tuesday evening (February 19, 2013), after council discussion and public comment, the city council voted 6-1 in favor of a resolution authorizing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the State Highway Administration (SHA) and 7-0 in favor of a resolution supporting state legislation precluding the SHA from adding motor vehicle lanes to 410 in Takoma Park.

The dissenting vote regarding the MOU was cast by Councilmember Terry Seamens, who saw the MOU as unnecessary given that the SHA has acknowledged its responsibility for maintaining 410 and given that the SHA has not sought to widen the 410 roadway in Takoma Park. I agree with his reasoning. I also pointed out that the MOU falls far short of the written commitments made by former SHA Administrator Neil Pedersen in an April 12, 2011 letter. Nonetheless, I voted For the MOU resolution because a) city staff wants the MOU, in order to have a city-SHA protocol regarding permitting and maintenance laid out in an official document and b) I wish to acknowledge that I am accountable, as a city official, for the city’s SHA relationship. By voting For, I am stating that I share ownership of the results.

I’ll add that c) the enacted version of the resolution is stronger than preceding drafts, adding, for instance, recognition that 410 runs through a historic district and that state law, “absent a capital improvement project for the adjacent highway, the local jurisdiction is responsible for securing rights of way for the placement of a new sideway,” and d) I see minimal risk of an initiative to widen the 410 roadway.

Thank you to everyone who turned out to speak at the council meeting or phoned me or wrote to the council. Thanks also to Historic Takoma Inc. — especially Vice President Lorraine Pearsall — and HTI attorney Michele Rosenfeld, without whom the council would have accepted a much weaker MOU last spring.

Several February 19 attendees questioned the linkage of the MOU to the proposed state legislation. I proposed a motion, which failed by a 5-2 vote, to delay the MOU-resolution vote until after enactment of the proposed state legislation, so the council proceeded with the vote.

Attendees took issue with the proposed legislation language. They asked variously that we eliminate the word “through” or the word “motor” from the reference to “a new through lane for motor vehicles.” I didn’t see any difference removing “through” would make. Given the outcome, my council colleagues agreed on that point and that we should retain the possibility of bicycle lanes on 410. Note that the city has long planned bike lanes on 410 east of New Hampshire Avenue.

A couple of attendees asked city endorsement of in-principle restrictive language. That is, they asked that we not specificy wording in our resolution. The council was unwilling to move forward without specific language, however. Who knows what we might have ended up with?

What’s next? My understanding is that Delegate Heather Mizeur will submit the legislation soon. Because this will be a late filing, it will have to be approved by the House of Delegates’ Rules Committee, whose members include Delegate Sheila Hixson, who also represents us in District 20. The language may be changed by the committee the bill is assigned to but I’m guessing it won’t be since it has the imprimatur of SHA non-opposition. We’ll see what happens. I’ll plan to keep you posted.

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