Friday, October 21, 2011



Virginia's Commonwealth Transportation Board

Votes to Study

"Corridor of Statewide Significance"

Fabulous Friday in Montgomery County transportation news: Let me recap again what's happening that could one day reduce traffic congestion whether you are in Bethesda, Rockville, Damascus, New Market, Mount Airy or Westminster!

First of all, last month County Executive Isiah Leggett, in response to my question at a Town Hall Meeting here in Bethesda, said the long-delayed Rockville Freeway makes sense and would provide needed "connectivity" between growing employment centers. (He was equally emphatic that there would be no money available to build it, however).

Then Walmart announced it is building stores near two planned interchanges of the Rockville Freeway, in Rockville and Aspen Hill. It would make all the sense in the world for Walmart and the Montgomery County Planning Board to support a study toward construction of the freeway. Walmart could provide critical moral - if not modest financial - support for the Rockville Freeway, which would not only handle the increased traffic to their stores, but bring even more customers to them.

Of course, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation is already conducting a Midcounty Corridor Study, which could result in construction of the also-decades-delayed M-83 highway (Midcounty Highway Extended) to Clarksburg. The choice is between the master plan alignment, with a right-of-way that already exists (which is the one I favor) or a frightening alternative: the county would widen rural roads in the Goshen area, and demolish homes there. It's pretty obvious which option makes sense. The M-83 got another boost when County Councilman Craig Rice (D - Upcounty) announced that he supports the Master Plan alignment.

Finally, the highest-profile announcement was Virginia Sen. Mark Warner's endorsement of the Outer Beltway. Strangely, this was not reported in any local newspaper! It is a huge development, because the local media believe Warner can do no wrong, and he has a fortune he can use to sway his colleagues at all levels of government.

The only news outlet to report Warner's comments (aside from the radio show he made them on) was the Virginia blog, Bacon's Rebellion. Fortunately, James A. Bacon is providing in-depth coverage of Virginia transportation issues that are of interest to those of us in Montgomery County, as well.

So, with this long preamble out of the way, let me pass along Mr. Bacon's latest scoop that wasn't in your local Maryland or DC paper: As I predicted when I testified before the Rockville Planning Commission this past winter, the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board has just voted to create a Master Plan for a "corridor of statewide significance."

This is code to the true believers like me: (whisper) "outer beltway!" It's kind of like calling the best steak in town a "product of beefy significance."

Bacon reports that Virginia transportation officials are insisting this is not an Outer Beltway.

But some other "true believers" in the Outer Beltway and freedom of movement on the Board aren't quite so coy - and bravo for them! You certainly haven't heard anybody say anything like this on our side of the Potomac in the last few years:

“My goal is river to river. We have connectivity needs with Maryland.”

- J. Douglas Koelemay

“The governor of Maryland has been contacted... Senator [Mark] Warner favors a river crossing. It’s in dialogue.”

- Gary Garczynski

Quoted by Bacon's Rebellion blog

I love it! And I'm looking forward to hearing Gov. Martin O'Malley's response to the Board, as both he and President Obama have said building roads and bridges are the way to create jobs.

I agree 100%! The Rockville Freeway, M-83 and Outer Beltway are three national showcases for infrastructure stimulus, so let's get started on them!

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