Sensibly high on the list is Phase II of the Montrose Parkway, which will extend the road from MD 355 to Parklawn Drive. The latest draft makes a specific request of $25 million from the state for that project. A grade-separated Montrose Parkway is critical to even begin handling the massive increase in traffic that will result from development in the Pike District area. There are also quite a few needed intersection improvements, and attention to the Metrobus Priority Corridor Network.
Not so sensible is the late-yet-premature placement of several Bus Rapid Transit lines on the Construction priority list. The inclusion of BRT routes for MD 355 (Clarksburg to Bethesda) and US 29 finally and authoritatively disprove politicians' assertions that BRT was a long-range idea, many years off in the future. Now we're being told that BRT lines will begin operation before County Executive Ike Leggett's current term is up in 2018.
The US 29 route has leapfrogged over many longstanding and more-deserving priorities on the list, such as the Georgia Avenue-Norbeck Road interchange and I-270-Newcut Road interchange, as well as needed interchanges on 29 itself. Neither the US 29 nor the MD 355 BRT projects have even a penny in identified funding, no credible ridership projections, and would reduce existing automobile capacity on both roads - making traffic worse, not better.
This comes as the Montgomery County Department of Transportation released an "interview" with its own acting director, Al Roshdieh, on Monday, in which he appears to endorse the truly farcical idea that no new roads can be built in Montgomery County.
That assertion is simply not true. Rights-of-way continue to exist for long-delayed, necessary freeways throughout Montgomery County. These routes include an extension of I-370 west for a new Potomac River crossing, the Rockville Freeway (Montrose Parkway and Rockville Facility right-of-way) between Falls Road and the ICC, the M-83 Midcounty Highway Extended (from Montgomery Village Avenue to Ridge Road (MD 27), and the Northern Parkway. If someone tries to tell you there's no room for new roads in Montgomery County, you can rest assured they are pushing a political and developer agenda, not facts. These new roads are in addition to the potential of extending the HOT lane network into Maryland, via widening of I-270 and I-495 in Montgomery County.
Given the moribund state of the county's economic development - not a single major corporation having moved here in over a decade, the worst office market in 30 years, and a laughable number of high-wage jobs created in comparison with Northern Virginia and the District - one can be justifiably shocked that only a single one of those roads is even being studied right now (the M-83), much less being placed on a priority list, or in a master plan.
Compare Montgomery County's lackluster economy with that of Texas, where Governor Rick Perry made infrastructure and highway construction a major priority:
"[A]ny governor in America would be happy to boast, as Perry has, about the kind of economic expansion Texas has experienced in the last decade or so.
From 2003 to 2013, Texas produced a third of the net new jobs in America. It has been the top exporting state for the last 12 years in a row, and recently Texas surpassed California as the top exporter of technology, according to the TechAmerica Foundation.
Under Perry, Texas has been given top honors five times for corporate relocations by Site Selection magazine, and the governor credits the state’s pro-business policies — including millions in tax subsidies used to entice companies such as Toyota to set up its American headquarters here — as a major factor driving the boom."
Incoming governor Hogan surely is aiming for a jobs record more like Perry's than Montgomery County's. Purple Line jobs? That's good for a laugh. The only long-term jobs created by the Purple Line will be the baristas and jeans-folders working the ground floor retail of the luxury apartment buildings that will displace the low-income residents and small businesses along its route. Corridor Cities Transitway bus ridership numbers? Good for a laugh, too, at best. It's luxury housing development that would be spawned by the CCT, not high-wage jobs. Those jobs would be here today if they were coming, as they in no way require BRT. Hogan would do better to emulate Perry's example than to pay attention to the cacophony of developer-funded editorials demanding support of the Purple Line (the latter following the absurdist logic of, "We totally opposed you, trashed you all year, and didn't donate to your campaign - now do what we say!).
With sensible Democrats such as Sen. Mark Warner (new Potomac River crossing), Rep. John Delaney (widening I-270) and County Councilmember Craig Rice (widening I-270, building M-83) supporting highway projects, now is the time to work in a bipartisan fashion to achieve the economic development and congestion relief needs of Montgomery County.
The priority list should emphasize the projects that move the most people for the least money, and the most corporate headquarters and high-wage jobs - highways.