Zombie road rises from the dead in upcounty Montgomery
Montgomery County DOT has resurrected an expensive and environmentally destructive extension of Mid-County Highway in Gaithersburg from a dotted line on a 1960's map.
Codenamed M-83, the highway would waste scarce money from the county's Capital Improvement Program (CIP), destroy valuable parkland and wetlands, take people's property, and induce more traffic congestion than it solves.
The proposed highway extension would go all the way to Clarksburg. It would run roughly parallel to MD 355 and I-270.
This area is currently built out with car-dependent subdivisions and strip malls. Consequently, the road wouldn't induce much new tax revenue through greenfield development in the county. It would simply be yet another attempt to make it more convenient for drivers from Clarksburg and points north to drive to Rockville, Bethesda, and DC.
In reality, the existence of another through-road would increase the pressure to open up the county's Agricultural Reserve for more car-dependent sprawl.
M-83 would become congested like every other new road due to induced demand while being very expensive to maintain. More money will be taken out of the county's general funds that could go to transit, police, schools, etc. We'll be paying for environmental destruction yet again.
Just like the zombie outer beltway in Virginia, M-83's route was selected years before planners began taking environmental issues into consideration. Over the years, local residents have killed plans for this road multiple times.
The Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA have denied federal funding in the past because many of the alternatives would pave over protected, undeveloped parklands that contain tributaries to Great Seneca Creek.
Because each alternative includes widening existing sections of surface roadway to highway standards, local residents would lose private property. The Coalition for Transit Alternatives to Mid-County Highway Extended (TAME) has arisen to oppose the misguided plans to build M-83. TAME comprises mid-county and upcounty environmental groups, religious organizations, and civic associations.
While presenting to the August 9 Action Committee for Transit meeting, a representative of TAME described how some people attending the public meetings on M-83 originally angled to have someone else's yard taken for the road widenings. The representative noted that once the different stakeholders began talking with each other, they came to a consensus that no one's yard should be taken for a road that is expensive, environmentally destructive, and unnecessary. Stakeholders also agree that M-83 should be eliminated from the county's Master Plan and CIP.
Currently the M-83 project is funded exclusively with county money. Why is there money for M-83 when the county executive's office refuses to add boulevardizing Rockville Pike in White Flint to the CIP? Likewise with adding a second entrance to the White Flint Metro Station or funding the Corridor Cities Transitway?
This current mentality, where the county happily pays for any road project yet requires outside funding sources for transit projects, is selling our future short and must stop.
Just like TAME's vision, I implore Montgomery County to defund the cost-ineffective and environmentally destructive M-83 project in favor of projects like White Flint's urban retrofit, the Corridor Cities Transitway, and possibly the county's BRT vision.
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