Imagine having a syringe containing the cure for cancer. And choosing not to use it or share it with the world.
The traffic equivalent is Montgomery County's decision to abandon the Rockville Freeway about 20 years ago. Originally part of a circumferential right-of-way for the Outer Beltway, it became a proposed freeway connecting Falls Road with the new Outer Beltway alignment (now know as the ICC) near Indian Spring Country Club. Then-County Executive Sid Kramer admitted that the Rockville Freeway would reduce traffic and travel times. But killed the road anyway.
Fortunately, we still have the right of way. For now! Part of it has been developed as the Montrose Parkway. This also involved the creation of a grade-separated interchange at 355 and Montrose Road/Randolph Road. As you know if you drive that stretch of 355, the elimination of the traffic signal there has cut travel time by at least 5 minutes. This was perhaps the most effective congestion relief project completed by the MCDOT in county history, and they should be commended for all of the work and long years that went into that controversial project.
Now we are at a major turning point.
The necessary course of action is to build the Rockville Freeway as originally planned from Montrose Road all the way out to the ICC. We can only begin to absorb the level of traffic the new White Flint sector plan (a.k.a. Carmageddon East) will generate if we have the Rockville Freeway. This would be a grade-separated, 6-8 lane freeway.
Assuming our leaders lack the political will to build the Rockville Freeway, a poor man's compensation prize would be to at least make the same Montrose-ICC connection with the Rockville Freeway, Jr: a.k.a., the 4-lane Montrose Parkway.
Instead, the county is, at the behest of past county councils, building the Montrose Parkway only to Veirs Mill Road. But wait, it gets worse. Before it hits Veirs Mill, the parkway will now suddenly veer from the long-established Master Plan right-of-way and come through what is currently Gaynor Road. Not only does this waste the costly right-of-way we already had, it is unfair to the homeowners who will lose their homes, because this alignment was not in the Master Plan.
Furthermore, dead-ending at Veirs Mill defeats the whole purpose of the Rockville Freeway corridor. It was never meant for "355-Veirs Mill" travel. Rather, it was designed to give highway access to 270, Potomac, Aspen Hill, and - via the ICC - points beyond such as Briggs Chaney Road, Burtonsville and Columbia.
Now all it will do is duplicate Twinbrook Parkway, Edmonston and Randolph, while dumping regional traffic into the Aspen Hill area. From there, drivers will try to get to the destinations I just referred to above. Which makes this Montrose Parkway alignment a waste of the taxpayer's money.
Yesterday, I was one of 3 citizens who testified at a public hearing on Montrose Parkway East in Rockville. I made the above points, and above all, emphasized the need to preserve the Rockville Freeway right-of-way, and that we will have to build that connection sooner or later. Hearing examiner Mike Subin did say that the possibility remains, but the comments of the MCDOT staff do not make it sound like that will happen anytime soon.
But with the White Flint projects quickly moving through the Planning Board, we'll need the Rockville Freeway sooner than many realize.