Thursday, September 22, 2011
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett held a town meeting last night at Westland MS in Bethesda. I attended and brought up the issue of the Rockville Freeway, as a long overdue (it's been on the books for over 50 years!) highway project that will relieve traffic congestion along the 355 corridor.
Surprisingly, Mr. Leggett said that he agreed that this road is necessary. This is quite a refreshing change from the county council's position, summed up best by Councilmember George Leventhal's remark last October: "The Rockville Freeway is dead."
The long-delayed 6 lane, divided highway is quite alive, however. Mr. Leggett noted that the freeway would provide "connectivity" between growing job and residential centers within and without of the county.
While Mr. Leggett concurred that such a road would have benefits, he was highly skeptical it could be built. "I don't share your optimism" about federal and state funding, he said, noting the dire state of transportation funds at both levels.
Mr. Leggett is the second county executive to acknowledge the value of the Rockville Freeway project; the first, Sid Kramer -alas- happened to also be part of the group of local and state officials who stopped it from being built! But as he did so, Mr. Kramer conceded that the freeway would have indeed reduced traffic congestion.
So I think it is a good sign and step forward that Mr. Leggett is at least open to the concept, and is not just dismissing the possibility. As I've noted previously, the White Flint sector cannot grow to the size projected in its oversize master plan without the Rockville Freeway being built first.
The freeway would connect the Montrose Parkway with the Intercounty Connector near Indian Spring Country Club.
I am more optimistic than Mr. Leggett about the funding, for a number of reasons, and would like to give that topic the time it deserves in a future blog entry.
Unfortunately, you probably won't see my question when the meeting is broadcast, because a large group of citizens opposed to the soccer fields in Potomac turned out, and dominated the night. The rules on time limits for speakers, and the clear instruction that the same topic was not to be brought up once it had been covered, were not enforced.
The result was that the topic of the Rockville Freeway, and others of interest to Bethesda and the entire county, will likely not be heard on Channel 6. Many of us came out in bad weather for a community discussion, only to find ourselves marginalized to an "after the 60 minute" segment. All because one group disrespected the rest of us by taking up the majority of an hour meant to cover a wide variety of topics. Worst of all, some went home without being able to speak at all. Again, it was not really convenient for busy people to attend, and I'm sure everyone could have been heard from if the rules had been enforced.
I do appreciate the fact that Mr. Leggett took some extra questions after the time limit, including mine, and overall it is at least good to hear that some elected officials recognize the tremendous need for the Rockville Freeway in light of the tremendous growth and automobile traffic in the future. We need to work to make the freeway a top priority, and to convince open-minded, responsible leaders that the funding can be achieved for this vital project.