Tuesday, December 30, 2014

MOCO TRANSPORTATION PRIORITY LIST OUT-OF-TOUCH WITH REALITY, MORIBUND COUNTY ECONOMY

The new draft of Montgomery County's final transportation wish list to the State of Maryland presents a mixed bag as Governor-elect Larry Hogan prepares to assume leadership next month. It also represents a case of ideology and developer-driven priorities taking precedence over transportation and economic realities in Montgomery County. The list will be presented to the county Planning Board on January 8.

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."

- Reeve Hamilton and Jay Root
Texas Tribune (reprinted by
The Washington Post 12/28/14)

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.

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Northern Parkway"?

Now you're entering Douglas Willinger territory.

Please move to Texas.

Anonymous said...

Is this a serious post? Are you comparing a county in a completely different region to the entire state of Texas? I am not an economics major and even I know these two regions have vastly different economies. One being centered in energy production/IT and the other centered on Biotech/Cybersecurity. A logical comparison would be to compare MoCo to Fairfax which is also stumbling economically at the moment

Robert Dyer said...

6:05: Yes, it's a serious post comparing the economic results of one jurisdiction that makes functioning transportation infrastructure a top priority (Texas) with one that plays ideological, political and pay-to-play developer games with transportation planning (Montgomery County). No one expects the dollar amounts to be equal, but in a relative comparison, yes, it's a very effective contrast. Check the latest job numbers to verify MoCo's prone, limp job creation record vs. our competition in the region. Once again, the results are humiliating.

Robert Dyer said...

5:42: Do you ever drive on Georgia Avenue inbound during the morning rush, or outbound in the evening? If so, I rest my case on the missing Northern Parkway. If not, then you are commenting without a full understanding of the congestion there.

Anonymous said...

Where do all them milfs go to the gym?

Anonymous said...

I agree BRT is a waste, especially since it will reduce capacity for cars on some roads significantly. But why are you against Purple Line? It won't reduce car lanes, and will reduce traffic on roads like E-W highway.

Anonymous said...

I think when population is this concentrated (& growing), classic vehicle based commuting is just not sustainable or feasible. Like it or not, development is going to continue urbanizing upwards from DC more and more, and transit is going to have a bigger role to play. In no way should forward thinking and change in direction be called "out of touch with reality."

Anonymous said...

My recollection is that opposition to a new Potomac River crossing coming from the Great Falls area in Virginia was what really killed it. Not the people that politicians in Virginia want to mess with

Robert Dyer said...

7:12: I think you're right that the Purple Line could reduce traffic on East-West Highway. The problems I have with the Purple Line are the way it went from a single track to this massive project with 2 tracks, a trail, a fence, and space in between, requiring clearcutting mature forest canopy to an outrageous degree. I believe it should receive the same extensive underground segments as Baltimore's Red Line. It should run underground through Chevy Chase and Long Branch, to preserve the trail and the neighborhood in Long Branch. I've also got issues with the lack of protection from displacement for residents and businesses in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, and with the financing. I'm skeptical of a public-private partnership, because there won't be profits for the Purple Line like there would be for a toll road. So what is the incentive for the private funding, and the protection for the taxpayer? I am a supporter of rail transit, and would support a Purple Line that addressed these concerns, but I am not comfortable with the potential impacts of the current proposal.

Robert Dyer said...

8:19: I think true sustainability will require the opposite approach - we actually need to stop adding population outside of the urban areas of downtown Bethesda and Silver Spring. Where there is still land upcounty outside of the Agricultural Reserve, we should limit growth to single-family homes and garden apartments. Continuing to fantasize that infinite growth is sustainable is not "forward-thinking." There is no evidence that significant numbers of people are going to stop driving, and we can't plan via delusion.

Robert Dyer said...

8:24: That was probably a major factor leading to the new crossing being further north, with the highway connection now planned to be VA 28, rather than the Fairfax County Parkway originally planned for.

Anonymous said...

hil-fuckin-larious, Dyer. MoCo with its 4.5% unemployment, uber wealth, and booming development = "moribund county economy?" Do you understand how unbelievably fucking stupid you sound? You obviously have never lived in any other part of the state/country/world if you think MoCo has a "moribund" economy. You could not be more out of touch.

Anonymous said...

Robert, there is absolutely no desire to build the Northern Parkway, and there has been none since the proposal was cancelled back in the early 1970s.

You wring your hands about "clear cutting" to build the Purple Line, yet the route of the Northern Parkway cuts right through the middle of Wheaton Regional Park.

What's more, it would require demolishing more than half of the Holy Cross Hospital site.

And since the North Central Freeway isn't going to be built, either, the Northern Parkway would be forced to dead-end at Georgia Avenue and 16th Street. Thus bringing absolutely no benefit to the traffic situation on Georgia Avenue.

Do you ever seriously think about the actual consequences of your fantasies?

Anonymous said...

@ 10:56 a.m.

"MoCo with its 4.5% unemployment"

Versus Dallas County's 4.9% and Houston's 6.6%.

Notice how Dyer never bothers to verify his premises?

Anonymous said...

So glad I didn't vote for this idiot...

Please feel free to build your own Parkway to Texas with Rick Perry and leave us alone.

Robert Dyer said...

L10:56: You've got a lot of foul language, but little in the way of facts. The level of unemployment has absolutely nothing to do with the job creation or economic development inside Montgomery County - those fabulously wealthy people you refer to are drawing that income from outside of the county. Booming real estate development does not equal boomin economic development. The actual statistics prove your assertion false.

Robert Dyer said...

12:29: Every highway uses facilities currently set aside as "parkland." The Northern Parkway still has its right-of-way. Just because you don't want it doesn't mean it is not a significant missing link in MoCo's failing transportation system.

Anonymous said...

Texas' wealth comes directly from oil.

We'll see how well their economy does with the price of oil dropping like a rock.

Perry is in the same boat as Putin.

http://www.businessinsider.com/r-exclusive-oil-price-crash-claims-first-us-lng-project-casualty-2014-12

Robert Dyer said...

1:01: You've confused economic development with jurisdictional unemployment rates. They are two different indicators. Montgomery County has proven you can show low unemployment even with a dead local economy, thanks to high-wage jobs located outside of Montgomery County.

Robert Dyer said...

1:37: The people you voted for haven't attracted a single major employer to the county, presided over a school system their own report says declined since 2010, and were not endorsed by a single Chamber of Commerce in Montgomery County for the first time in history. If I'm an idiot, what are they?

Robert Dyer said...

4:40: An economy totally based on oil wouldn't move ahead of California as top tech exporter. Think about it. Oops. I doubt Putin's human rights and war victims would find much similarity between him and Governor Perry, a democratically-elected executive of Texas.

Anonymous said...

"The Northern Parkway still has its right-of-way."

Gibberish. In addition to the campus of Holy Cross Hospital, of which two-thirds of the current buildings lie on this purely imaginary right of way (necessary for any interchange with the Beltway), the desire line between the Beltway and the intersection of Georgia Avenue and 16th Street is completely built over, as are the areas where the desire line crosses Kemp Mill Road and Dennis Avenue.

And NO ONE wants a superhighway built right through the middle of Wheaton Regional Park.

Robert Dyer said...

6:51: Sligo Creek Parkway is already there by Holy Cross. All that's needed are an interchange for Sligo Creek Parkway with the Beltway, and an extension of SCP north of University Boulevard along the Northern Parkway right-of-way. A 2-4 lane parkway is not a "superhighway." The right-of-way is not imaginary; just examine Google Maps. There's no question that illegal attempts have been made to block the North Central Freeway in Silver Spring and DC, but those properties would be subject to demolition should the region decide to build the NCF in the future.

Arlington said...

It was breathtaking that the Chambers of Commerce couldn't endorse any of the MoCo incumbents in November's election. Speaks volumes.

I'm hoping that someone will get serious about real economic development this term. Keep Riemer away from this. Last time he focused on economic issues (Night time economy) we lost a bunch of bars in the downtown. Christ, even Roof closed.

Anonymous said...

It's official now: Dyer is as kooky as Douglas Willinger.

Anonymous said...

lol @ Arlington. Yeah, Hans Reimer caused bars to close. Would you mind explaining to me which loosened restriction you're against? And explain how loosening restrictions - passing a whole host of bills universally applauded by restaurants and bars in the region (and sometimes even directly allowing them to open, e.g. Denizens Brewery) - has been a bad thing? It's remarkable how such uneducated some people are.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to hear how Riemer is somehow responsible for Roof closing.

Robert Dyer said...

9:02: Bars and restaurants "universally approved" of higher minimum wage bills? Universally approved of the Energy Tax rate? The laws changed still haven't solved the liquor issues or improved selection of beer and wine at MoCo establishments. The fact is, since Hans Riemer took office, and ran his little nighttime committee, several major nightspots in downtown Bethesda have closed, and remain dark and vacant. The proof is in the pudding, and the commenter therefore makes a valid point.

Robert Dyer said...

7:17: What's kooky about finishing the County's master plan highway system and attracting high-wage jobs to a moribund economy in Montgomery County?

Robert Dyer said...

9:18: Did it have something to do with Montgomery County being a cybersecurity hub while running on Windows 2000, the most vulnerable operating system in the world? Master of the nighttime economy, but major nightspots have gone dark on his watch? Solved the take-home county car problem, but Planning Department is still driving taxpayer-funded luxury vehicles to locations walking distance from Metro? Sounds like your guy Hans is more hype than anything else. No surprise a Wall Street guy like him is backing Clinton over Warren.

Anonymous said...

@Dyer, we're clearly talking about the Nighttime Economy Task Force. Please keep up. Critical reading skills are important.

Anonymous said...

"I'd love to hear how Riemer is somehow responsible for Roof closing."

Robert Dyer said:

"Did it have something to do with Montgomery County being a cybersecurity hub while running on Windows 2000, the most vulnerable operating system in the world?"

Wow, what a non sequitur.

Robert Dyer said...

11:18/10:25: My argument is totally on point. Hans Riemer and his pals in the media said he was the god of the nighttime economy. And 4 years after Hans Riemer took office, the bottom line shows that there is less nightlife, and more vacant bar square footage than there was before his nighttime economy "effort." End of story. A lot of talk and obsequious press, but less nightclubs in Bethesda than 2010. Just like Councilmember Riemer would tell you he's a progressive steward of the environment. But 4 years after he took office, there are LESS square feet of parkland in Bethesda than before he was elected. What part of the bottom line do you not understand? Anybody can talk, but what are the results?

Anonymous said...

"My argument is totally on point."

You can't even read what you wrote. Your random babbling about "Windows 2000" isn't the slightest bit relevant to nightlife in Bethesda.

Who "in the media said that [Riemer] was the god of the nighttime economy"? Can you cite any actual quote that even comes close to that?

Do you really think that there are fewer nightclubs in Bethesda now, than 5 years ago, when we were just coming out of a recession?

And where is this "loss of parkland" that you're babbling about?

Robert Dyer said...

7:39: Virtually every local media outlet, including the Washington Post, Gazette, etc. had multiple stories about Hans Riemer and his "nighttime economy" initiative and committee. All of his newspaper endorsements cited it, as well.

Yes, there are literally fewer nightclubs in downtown Bethesda now than when Hans Riemer took office. So much for helping the "nighttime economy."

The loss of parkland was in Little Falls Stream Valley Park, sold to private developer EYA.

Anonymous said...

So "Hans Riemer is the god of nighttime activity" is your words, and your words alone. Thank you.

"Yes, there are literally fewer nightclubs in downtown Bethesda now than when Hans Riemer took office. So much for helping the 'nighttime economy'."

Let's see some actual numbers, not just the usual glittering generalities. Starting number in 2010, less ending number in 2014, yields net loss (or gain). That should be a straightforward task.

"Little Falls Stream Valley Park, sold to private developer EYA."

An easement for a driveway to their 1.8 acre site, totaling a few thousand square feet, for which they are required to contribute to improvements to the nearby stream. Do you have any sense of proportion?

And you wonder why no one takes you seriously as a reporter, let alone a political candidate. You're incapable of objectivity, accuracy or any kind of logical analysis.

Robert Dyer said...

6:05: It's my word that very effectively sums up the pompous, arrogant attitude of Mr. Riemer and his fans in the local media regarding his failed vanity project known as the "Nighttime Economy."

Are you familiar with Bethesda or not? You should be well aware that there are less nightclubs in 2015 than there were in 2010. The point is not in dispute.

Yes, my sense of proportion (and rudimentary math skills) helped determine another cold, hard fact - there are less square feet of parkland in Bethesda than there were when Mr. Riemer took office in 2010. It also turned out that, just as I predicted in my testimony opposing the parkland transfer, the EYA money didn't even go to the Little Falls Stream improvements advocates were fooled into thinking they would. Don't ask me, ask the Little Falls Watershed Alliance, and they can verify yet another indisputable point in my earlier comments.

And these indisputable fact-based arguments and reporting are *exactly* why I am taken seriously as a reporter and a political candidate. I'm exposing the truth that the local media prefers to ignore or cover up.

Anonymous said...

"You should be well aware that there are less nightclubs in 2015 than there were in 2010. The point is not in dispute."

You made the claim.

Let's see the numbers.

Robert Dyer said...

8:57: Is the MoCo Machine now outsourcing paid troll commenting to India? You're in a foreign country and have no idea about the nightclubs that have closed in Bethesda since December 2010? Oops.

Robert said...

God, Dyer. You're such a fucking twat sometimes. Just admit you're wrong and stop fighting with everyone. Your comments make no sense, yet you defend them to the death. You come across as such a douchey idiot.

Robert Dyer said...

7:02: Having blown apart your arguments with hard facts, why would I be the one to "admit I'm wrong?" That sounds like a debating point coming from a psychiatric ward. All you've got is foul language and locker room dialogue. There's room for new roads in Montgomery County, and your hero Hans Riemer's Nighttime Economy initiative has left downtown Bethesda with less nightlife.

Arlington said...

Any idea why 6:05AM makes sweeping statements like
"And you wonder why no one takes you seriously as a reporter, let alone a political candidate."

No one ever says that other than this negative anonymous guy on here.

Meanwhile, back in the real world in Bethesda, folks are enjoying Robert's reporting. Can anonymous join the rest of us in the real world some day?

G. Money said...

Dyer, by my estimation there have never been any "major nightspots" in Bethesda, so your comments at 9:24 and 9:34 are off-base. It would be helpful if you would give some examples or cite some sources to support these claims that you're making about nightclubs.

It is fair to say that I'm not particularly familiar with Bethesda nightlife insofar as I haven't heard of any events worth attending in Bethesda in many, many years. On the other hand, I remember when Tittsworth threw parties at a bar in Woodmont Triangle prior to opening U St. Music Hall, I remember hardcore shows at the American Legion hall over near Rugby and Auburn, and I remember the short-lived spots that tried to succeed right next to the Landmark Theater.

The problems of Bethesda nightlife go well beyond the control of the Council, and many of them are structural and demographic in nature, meaning that they will take far longer than four years to change. I don't know to what extent Riemer's task force is focused on Bethesda vs. MoCo as a whole, but it's going to take some serious time to build up Bethesda's reputation if it wants to be a serious nightlife contender in this area.

Anonymous said...

Guys, the Bethesda nightlife economy was a pillar of Riemer's re-election campaign. The Gazette cited it as his major accomplishment.

It's not too much to ask where are the tangible results? The Post couldn't find any, and dropped their endorsement for Riemer.

On transportation, can we get some more practical, common sense people in the county to work on this? We need solutions that work, not ideologues.