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Montrose Parkway undermines White Flint's urban future

After 40 years of planning, an extension of Montrose Parkway through White Flint could soon become a reality. County and state transportation officials say the highway is needed to move cars, but residents and county planners say it contradicts their goal of making White Flint an urban center.

The existing part of Montrose Parkway. Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

Yesterday, the Montgomery County Planning Board recommended that the State Highway Administration and Montgomery County Department of Transportation change their plan to build a $119 million, 1.62-mile extension of Montrose Parkway from Rockville Pike to Veirs Mill Road. They questioned how it fits into the White Flint Sector Plan, which calls for the creation of a place "where people walk to work, shops and transit."

"It's hard to see this as consistent with a pedestrian-friendly environment," said Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier, who lives near White Flint. "It detracts from our efforts to create a grid of streets ... it makes our transportation goals harder."

Work on Montrose Parkway began in the 1970's, when it was planned as part of the Outer Beltway, which was eventually built as the Intercounty Connector. Later, a portion of the highway's route between Veirs Mill Road and New Hampshire Avenue was turned into Matthew Henson State Park.

Planning for the current version of Montrose Parkway began in 1998 and resulted in the construction of the segment west of Rockville Pike, which opened in 2010. The Planning Board's recommendations, which aren't binding, will next go to the County Council for a vote. SHA officials say that construction won't begin for at least 5 years.

The proposed four-lane highway would have a stoplight at Chapman Avenue and overpasses at Nebel Street and the CSX railroad tracks. At Parklawn Drive, there would be a single-point urban interchange or SPUI (pronounced "spooey"), where drivers on Parklawn would stop at a light before turning onto the highway. A SPUI already exists at the junction of Falls Road and I-270.

SHA and MCDOT representatives insist that Montrose Parkway is needed to handle anticipated traffic from the redevelopment of White Flint. "If you build more density, you're going to have more traffic congestion," said Edgar Gonzalez, MCDOT's deputy director for transportation policy.

However, recent studies and local examples suggest that compact, mixed-use development like what's proposed here will actually reduce traffic, raising the question where MCDOT and SHA's concerns are actually valid.

Parkway would reduce east-west connections

Plan showing Montrose Parkway at Parklawn Drive if Randolph Road is closed.

Plan showing Montrose Parkway at Parklawn Drive if Randolph Road is open.

Since the latest plans for Montrose Parkway were first presented two weeks ago, residents have expressed concerns about the state's plans to close Randolph Road, a major east-west thoroughfare running parallel to the parkway, where it crosses the railroad tracks.

"One of the biggest problems in White Flint planning is the lack of east-west crossings," wrote Barnaby Zall last week. "We've been trying for years to figure out a way to bridge that gap."

SHA officials say it'll improve safety. The Federal Railroad Administration calls it the 4th most dangerous crossing in Maryland: there have been 21 collisions there in the past 35 years, including one death. Since 2007, there has been just one collision. Separating the road from the railroad tracks also means trains won't have to blow their horns when they pass through, something many neighbors have complained about.

Randolph Road would end in a cul-de-sac just east of the tracks, and anyone who wanted to go further west would have to get on Montrose Parkway. Chair Carrier worried that this would hurt access to shops along Randolph Road. "It would be hard to imagine that the businesses there would remain viable," she said.

Gonzalez said it could be a safety hazard. "You have to weigh the benefits [of access to Randolph Road] with the possibility of a future event occurring," he said. "Nobody wants to be in a train collision."

Nonetheless, board members voted to keep Randolph Road open at the railroad crossing, which planning department staff recommended because it gives travelers more options, reducing the traffic burden on any one road.

Debate over whether interchanges are "barriers"

Plan of the entire eastern segment of Montrose Parkway.

Much of the debate about Montrose Parkway revolved around the proposed interchange with Parklawn Drive. Board members worried it would become a barrier between White Flint and Twinbrook, making it difficult for people to walk or bike from one side to the other.

"We should rethink what we're doing in the context of the future land use of White Flint," said Planning Board member Casey Anderson. "We're not trying to build these huge slabs of asphalt that divide communities into pieces."

In the past, county planners have recommended putting a stoplight there instead. Former planning director Rollin Stanley argued that interchanges in White Flint "[reinforce] the view that Rockville Pike is a runway to get through White Flint versus moving through the area as a destination itself." Last fall, acting planning director Rose Krasnow wrote a letter asking MCDOT and SHA to consider it, but was rebuffed by MCDOT director Arthur Holmes, who said the interchange would "improve safety and reduce barriers by separating conflicting flows" of cars, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Likewise, Gonzalez said that an at-grade intersection, which would require that Montrose Parkway be 9 or 10 lanes wide to handle projected traffic, which would be just as bad for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Planner Larry Cole argued that it's because the county and state's plans are "overdesigned" and overestimate the amount of future car traffic in White Flint. "The reason [Montrose Parkway] is this big is that the space is available," he said.

Nonetheless, the board eventually voted in favor of keeping the interchange after officials from MCDOT and SHA promised to look at ways to make crossing the interchange safer and more pleasant for pedestrians, such as restricting right turns on red. The parkway will already have a 10-foot path for bicyclists and pedestrians on the north side and a 5-foot sidewalk on the south side.

Over time, the vision for White Flint has changed a lot. Forty years ago, the Outer Beltway was supposed to pass through it. Twenty years ago, the Planning Board sought to build multiple interchanges along Rockville Pike. Even the White Flint and Twinbrook sector plans, which are less than 5 years old, included the Montrose Parkway.

However, these neighborhoods are envisioned as urban places where people will be able to drive less, and to succeed it needs a street network where people feel comfortable and safe not driving, and Montrose Parkway as proposed could undermine that. The Montgomery County Department of Transportation and State Highway Administration work for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users, not just drivers, and their plans for places like White Flint must reflect that.

Crossposted on the Friends of White Flint blog.

Dan Reed is an urban planner at Nelson\Nygaard. He writes his own blog, Just Up the Pike, and serves as the Land Use Chair for the Action Committee for Transit. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. All opinions are his own. 


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i don't know how necessary it is to build the eastern section of the Parkway, but the Western section has helped to improve the flow of traffic between 270 and the Pike.

In any event, traffic congestion is constantly building on the Pike, and it seems unlikely that dropping a bunch of new apartments or condos and retail would somehow decrease traffic.

by Chris S. on Mar 22, 2013 12:22 pm • linkreport

The grade-separation at the B&O tracks is essential and is a half-century overdue.

There's a case to be made for grade-separating the intersection with Parklawn, but Nebel Street? C'mon.

But building a completely new road that would end abruptly at Veirs Mill would be a huge mistake.

by Frank IBC on Mar 22, 2013 12:28 pm • linkreport

Can anyone tell me how the Parklawn Building got to be located where it is? It seems OK in terms of the Metro, but really bad in terms of the road network.

by Frank IBC on Mar 22, 2013 12:32 pm • linkreport

The SHA does not understand how to make streets in an urban context. I think the close in suburbs need to actively join together to fight the SHA and lobby for a different paradigm. The SHA consistently undermines the value of these close in neighborhoods by ramming down over-engineered stroads through them.

by thump on Mar 22, 2013 12:53 pm • linkreport

SHA did the same thing to my neighborhood 20 years ago. I understand why the need to eliminate grade crossings, but it is maddening that since it's never cost effective to keep the pedestrian crossing, you lose it.

But here, the density is greater so there should be ways to close the grade crossing but keep the connection. People should shift away from the demand to keep things as they are, and instead investigate the best way to get rid of that crossing. Has anyone looked at the topography to consider lowering the tracks maybe 6-8 feet and then regrading Randolph up just a bit? Raising the tracks a bit and lowering the road?

by JimT on Mar 22, 2013 1:02 pm • linkreport

I'm probably going to disagree with most people on this one, but, first, to completely build out white flint, and not add at least some additional capacity for vehicles is not realistic, unless we want that to take 80 years and in the mean time watch Tysons continue to attract all the big companies and now young professionals seeking to live in an apartment. People still drive cars, the rate may be dropping, but it's not going to drop as fast as building may be built. Likewise, businesses like good connections and multiple modes of transport to/front their location of business. The existing road crossing is already crowded and too valuable to not seriously consider a grade separated crossing of the railroad tracks. I'd rather have the'through' traffic confined to a parkway with minimal interaction with the area, and 3 or 4 good engineered points of bike/ped crossing, than to have all that through traffic bog down the local streets, adding to congestion and making being a pedestrian more dangerous. The redevelopment of White Flint is not going to in its self remove that desire to travel through the area.

Next we have Parklawn, which, like it or not, up to this point has been thought of in the eyes of DOT, as the 'beltway' or 'bypass' of White Flint. Arguing that it won't also function in that way in some manner tells me you have not looked at a map recently. At Montrose and Parklawn we now have primary east-west corridor crossing primary east side bypass. Leaving that at grade would likely need a dedicated right, 2-3 through, and probably 2 left turns for all four approaches. That does not sound very pedestrian friendly to me at all. There has to be a better way to have bikes and peds cross Montrose east of the tracks.

For north-south bike and pedestrian movement east of the tracks we already have the path that follows the ramps up/down from Rockville Pike, and cross at a signal over Montrose, and we'd have Nebel St, which would just coast under the Parkway as it goes over the Tracks. East of the tracks there is no reason there can't be a design that incorporates a grade separated interchange with a safe, maybe dedicated bike and pedestrian crossing for north-south pedestrians and bikes moving along Parklawn, be it the inclusion of well marked and signal timed crosswalks, or a bridge or tunnel. If we want to help with east-west connectivity, get permission to keep the old alignment of Randolph open for pedestrians and Bicycles. I think if we're going through all of this trouble, shutting Randolph down for cars is a safer option with less conflict points for pedestrians to meet cars. Those few businesses that would be cul-de-saced by the closing of Randolph should be rezoned mixed use, and let the market redevelop that area into a new community. The location would be good for that kind of use, and could help pay for additional needed bike/ped improvements.

I want White Flint to work, I want to see it be a vibrant mixed use area that can be walked around, and can connect and interact with the surrounding communities, but the regional context can't be ignored, and I really do believe by not providing way to get cars through and out of the area, we're just asking for continued gridlock on all of the existing and proposed streets, which no one wants.

I now open up my post for the criticism of the masses.

by Gull on Mar 22, 2013 1:11 pm • linkreport

I really think you need to grade separate the rail line. That means either closing Randolf Road or building a bridge. A close to level 4 lane bridge across Randolf Road would be too expensive and would further limit the walkability of the neighborhood as people would freely speed across the bridge.

I think a smaller 2 lane bridge that incorporate as steep grade on both sides, with an option of a separate foot and bike bridge that has less of a grade would be an idea compromise. It would also cost less than a full 4 lane bridge.

It would slow drivers down, if you want to go fast you can take the parkway while preserving the conductivity of the neighborhood. It would also encourage growth from White Flint Metro north into the now safer and less noisy walkable neighborhood.

by Richard Bourne on Mar 22, 2013 1:48 pm • linkreport

Another option would be to connect old georgetown road to parkland and leave Randolf road closed

by Richard Bourne on Mar 22, 2013 1:50 pm • linkreport

What happened to all the plans that revolved around grade seperating the Randolph Road railroad intersection? I could've sworn that was a project all it's own at one point.

by Justin..... on Mar 22, 2013 2:00 pm • linkreport

"MCDOT director Arthur Holmes, [...] said the interchange would "improve safety and reduce barriers by separating conflicting flows" of cars, pedestrians and bicyclists."

Sure. But that doesn't sound like a SPUI to me. SPUI's seperate conflicting flows of cars from other conflicting flows of cars; bikes and pedestrians can't navigate a SPUI safely without VERY long light cycles.

Holmes' letter says that "[g]rade-seperated interchanges, properly designed to take into account pedestrian and bicyclist movements, are not mobility barriers." So... what exactly are the plans to provide "properly-designed" pathways for bikes and peds through this particular SPUI? Because I'm not sure the answer "interchanges can be great for pedestrians!" is any indication that this particular one will be.

by Steven Harrell on Mar 22, 2013 2:22 pm • linkreport

They may get the money: the gas tax passed the Maryland House today 78-56.

by JimT on Mar 22, 2013 2:31 pm • linkreport

Sorry, I meant to link to the post on Washcycle

by JimT on Mar 22, 2013 2:33 pm • linkreport

Drat--my typing is bad today. I really meant to link to this post on Washcycle

by JimT on Mar 22, 2013 2:35 pm • linkreport

Art Holmes is incorrect. A grade-separated highway of any kind is antithetical to a traditional downtown area. Look at the problems that I-83 causes in downtown Baltimore or the Vine Street Expressway in Center City Philadelphia. The existing segment of Montrose Parkway is going to cause plenty of problems for White Flint. Extending it to the east would make it impossible to connect it to Twinbrook.

Gull, I disagree with your assertion that we need more road capacity to serve White Flint. We didn't need new road capacity to serve Bethesda as it grew in the 1990's. We didn't need new roads to serve Silver Spring as it revitalized in the 2000's. Arlington didn't need new roads to serve the R-B Corridor as it grew out of a bunch of dead strip malls. D.C. hasn't needed new roads as it has revitalized and its economy has grown beyond anything it ever was before.

We need to kill extending Montrose Parkway. Defund it. Delete it from the CIP. Montgomery's future economic growth depends on it. Future businesses and employees will want to be in a pedestrian-oriented downtown that is safe and comfortable to walk it. Bethesda is almost full. Silver Spring will be soon. Wheaton will take on a more residential character. We need White Flint (and Twinbrook) to be successful for commercial real estate. Building a highway through it is the exact opposite of all those things. Somehow all those other successful pedestrain oriented places don't have grade-separated highways next to them.

by Cavan on Mar 22, 2013 3:02 pm • linkreport


I don't remember there being an existing traffic problem in Bethesda and Silver Spring before they started to Urbanize, and are built in older suburban neighborhoods with ample inter-connectivity, and are not surrounded on all sides by the same amount of auto-dependent commercial sprawl. I'd also for the record love to get the through traffic off of Geogria and Wisconsin avenues because in my opinion they can be very hostile places.

Even if I buy into the idea of being against Montrose Parkway acting as a major cut through between middle county and I-270, there still should be a grade separated crossing of the tracks to get people in Mid-county more effectively into 'downtown' White Flint without being stopped multiple times a day for a train. I at the age of 6 or 7 started thinking how that crossing should be 'overpassed' like others along the rail line already were. Problem is the eastern and middle portion of Montrose Parkway are already built, connecting it to 270. I'd love an alignment that crosses over the tracks, then merges Montrose Parkway back into Randolph, but that would require some substantial takings and a much more expensive redesign of how Parklawn interacts with everything.

The R-B corridor is also very different because it has two, 3-4 lane wide one way streets which more efficiently moves traffic, is effectively is a dead-end when it reaches the Potomac, limiting any sort of through traffic, and like Silver Spring and Bethesda, is not surrounded by the same type of sprawl suburbs that White Flint, or Tysons for that matter, have to deal with.

Turning the western leg of the red line into one pro pedestrian anti-car corridor acts like a wall making it difficult for people who want to cross over that wall. Montrose Parkway is one release valve providing for that east-west movement.

by Gull on Mar 22, 2013 3:30 pm • linkreport


Grade-seperated highways might be antithetical to traditonal downtown areas, but grade seperations themselves aren't necessarily bad. There's a big difference between Connecticut Avenue in Dupont Circle, Route 1 in Crystal City, and the Springfield Interchange, for instance.

I take issue with Holmes' assertion that, since some grade seperations are good for bikes and peds, this interchange is good for bikes and peds. There are plenty of ways to accomodate bikes, pedestrians, and cars; but a Single Point Urban Interchange is probably not a good way to do that. There was one near my high school in Durham ( It wasn't too too bad, but--despite its title--I doubt anyone would associate it with "urban."

by Steven Harrell on Mar 22, 2013 3:50 pm • linkreport

"We didn't need new road capacity to serve Bethesda as it grew in the 1990's"

Um, right. Wisconsin is a zoo around rush hour (Arlington Rd too). The streets around Bethesda Row are clogged most of the day. Not sure where new road capacity could go, but it would be nice.

by Chris S. on Mar 22, 2013 3:57 pm • linkreport

Much to my surprise, the Parkway actually has alleviated traffic W of the Pike, but the interchange with the Pike seems like a big waste of space and wrecks a surprising well-used if unpleasant pedestrian environment. Having it go just a bit further seems like a waste of money and its role in teh redevelopment of White Flint seems rather peripheral. What does need to happen is determining how the network of roads like Nebel, Executive Blvd/Jefferson, etc. can help relieve pressure for service traffic if Rockville Pike ever becomes a boulevard.

by Rich on Mar 22, 2013 5:02 pm • linkreport

Chris, you don't relieve congestion by building roads. You add more congestion by building roads. It's called "induced demand."

If you knock stuff down in Bethesda to widen roads, you'll have more traffic along with less economic activity AND an unsafe pedestrian environment. You'd both kill your downtown and make traffic worse.

The same will be true in White Flint except rather than destroying an existing downtown, we'd be preventing a planned one from working.

Gull, I don't know what you're talking about when you call turning the Red Line into a wall to cars. You know that a pedestrian-oriented street grid moves more cars per unit time than a (congested) highway, right? Stopping the extension of Montrose Parkway isn't a "war on cars." Adding is certainly a war on pedestrians. Even worse, it's detrimental to the county's future economic growth.

by Cavan on Mar 22, 2013 5:30 pm • linkreport

@Cavan - Perhaps that's true, but meanwhile the traffic congestion in Bethesda is bad and it is hazardous for pedestrians. If not more road capacity, then there should be another solution.

And the white Flint plan does involve a lot of destruction. It's not a greenfield site.

by Chris S. on Mar 22, 2013 6:09 pm • linkreport

Chris, that traffic congestion is part of what makes Bethesda work. It slows down cars so it's safer to walk. It compels motorists to find a place in the garage to ditch their car so they can walk around since it's the better mode of transportation. That congestion also compels people from Upcounty to take the Metro.

You can't eliminate congestion. Car traffic is like a gas. It fills whatever volume it's in. It doesn't flow like a liquid. The only way to decrease congestion is to decrease economic activity. However, even in decreasing economic activity, more roads will still induce more traffic depending on the pace of the economic decline.

As for White Flint, there isn't destruction there. It's the present landowners redeveloping their properties after the useful (physical and/or accounting) lifetime of the existing buildings expire. There are no plans to take anyone's property to build any new roads, except this misguided Montrose Parkway East.

by Cavan on Mar 22, 2013 6:29 pm • linkreport

I live in Glenmont and frequently shop in White Flint, so I am quite familiar with the area and this stretch of road in particular. In my opinion, the current design for the eastern extension of Montrose Parkway is in my opinion completely nuts. Not only would it further divide White Flint from Twinbrook and Rockville, but I do not see how it benefits east-west traffic on Randolph Road. Having Montrose Parkway stop at Veirs Mill would force east-west traffic to either jog south to Randolph to turn at the already congested (with both cars and pedestrians) intersection of Randolph and Veirs Mill or for the traffic to go to the equally bad intersection of Randolph and Parklawn and ply the narrow, steep and winding section of Randolph between Parklawn and Veirs Mill.

I have been pondering the dilemma faced by Montgomery County. It is and always will be primarily suburban yet has rapidly urbanizing corridors. The transportation needs of these two aspects of the county population are often at odds, so how can the county serve both the transportation needs of its primarily automotive suburban population while preserving the integrity in mixed mode transportation needs of it emerging urban corridors?

I think, if redesigned Montrose Parkway could show the way. First, I think the the Parkway should remain grade separated, tunneling beneath White Flint, with no interchanges, from east of Parklawn to west of Hoya St. Next, reconnect Randolph Rd. to Montrose Rd. with an at grade intersection with the Pike. Last, extend Motrose Parkway east of Veirs Mill, following what is now Colie Dr. to merge back with Randolph. I know this would be more expensive, and not very popular as it would take our a row of homes, but it would permit easy east-west traffic flow, reconnect White Flint to Twinbrook, ease the issues at the intersection of Randolph and Veirs Mill and free it up for more urbanized development, and also make it easier to take lanes on the section of Randolph between Veirs Mill and the Pike for a future BRT line between the Glenmont and White Flint Metro stations.

by DaveS on Mar 23, 2013 9:50 am • linkreport

I haven't seen the Parklawn intersection plan yet, but I must point out that the whole point of the Montrose Parkway is to address regional traffic, and to eliminate the existing conflict with CSX. The White Flint plan is dependent upon it. This conversation is about how to address the needs of the communities outside of White Flint, folks who have not chosen to live in an urban environment and need to get around it. Parklawn provides access to our minuscule amount of industrially zoned land, which the whole county sorely needs, and it does provide a critically needed alternative to the Pike in that area.

by Nancy Floreen on Mar 23, 2013 9:54 am • linkreport

"Chris, you don't relieve congestion by building roads. You add more congestion by building roads. It's called "induced demand."

By that 'reasoning' lets not try to capture the benefits of electrical "roads" (circuits) because any such circuit is just predestined to be too successful and burn itself up.

by Douglas Andrew Willinger on Mar 23, 2013 5:22 pm • linkreport

"Chris, you don't relieve congestion by building roads. You add more congestion by building roads. It's called "induced demand."

The entire "induced demand" argument is actually quite silly. Every method of transportation suffers from it.

In fact, transit advocates actually hope for "induced demand" for transit projects; some even advocate "forced demand" to make them feasable. However, when it comes to roads, the "induced demand" canard becomes the basis for the slogan, "We can't build our way out of congestion."

Which leads directly to "so don't bother trying". "Induced demand" is the ready-made "reasoning" behind the road-haters' argument to kill every road project, regardless of merit.

"Induced demand". Yeah, right.

by ceefer66 on Mar 23, 2013 5:40 pm • linkreport

Induced demand does exist for every mode of transportation but many would recognize that inducing demand for pedestrians is generally good while inducing demand for cars is generally bad.

by Drumz on Mar 23, 2013 7:55 pm • linkreport

Montrose Parkway has been good for traffic, but it is geographically ugly as it approaches Chapman Rd., and as it realigns back with Montrose Rd. to the west.

That said, I think the Parkway needs to be covered from the old Old Georgetown Rd. to just east of the CSX tracks, with the road going under Chapman Rd., Nebel Rd. and the tracks. (Perhaps CSX should pay for some of this). There should be openings for the Parkway on a reestablished, and reopened Randolph Rd. Randolph Rd. has been the main route going from one point of the County to the other, and shouldn't be close. It needs to reemerge as the dominant east-west thoroughfare it was intended to be.

Put Randolph Rd. up over the tracks; bring Nebel Rd. up on both the north and south side to meet it. There is enough room for this to happen. Have Chapman Rd. level with Randolph Rd.

Randolph Rd. should go primarily under the Pike with a few lanes on each side going up to the pike for turns. With two thoroughfares going east-west by the Pike, one capped-over, the other seen by cars, bikers and pedestrians, traffic moving east-west should continue to be light. We shouldn't just divert traffic one way, and close off a nice thoroughfare to do it if we don't have to. I'm for the old Rd., Randolph under the Pike, with the enhanced flow of the Montrose Parkway, unseen, as a sendary choice.

by Dave65 on Mar 24, 2013 4:54 am • linkreport

"Induced demand does exist for every mode of transportation but many would recognize that inducing demand for pedestrians is generally good while inducing demand for cars is generally bad. "

Induced demand - We must not increase road capacity - least of all by building a new road - ESPECIALLY in an area where people already live and work because people will actually want to use it.

On the other hand, we MUST spend billions on heavily-capitalized, perpetually subsidized "alternatives" - preferably trains - then find ways to MAKE people use them.

Because social engineering trumps common sense every time.

by ceefer66 on Mar 24, 2013 9:28 am • linkreport

"Induced demand - We must not increase road capacity - least of all by building a new road - ESPECIALLY in an area where people already live and work because people will actually want to use it."

strawman - I don't think most of us oppose ANY increase in road capacity in built up areas. What we support are increases that are compatible with multimodalism, walkability, and liveability. For example in the Mosaic area in Fairfax, most urbanists supported the Merrilee-eskridge-Williams connection, which adds road capacity, as well as connectivity for peds and cyclists. Many had difficulty with the widening of 29, which adds through road capacity largely at the expense of pedestrians.

Induced demand is not necessarily 100% of all added road capacity (and when it is, at least some of the induced trips may have real value) But it IS important enough to make one skeptical of road capacity additions in built up areas that are not designed to be supportive of multimodalism.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 24, 2013 9:44 am • linkreport

Ceefer, just because you call it "common sense" doesn't mean that you're correct. Again, car traffic acts like a gas, not a liquid. It expands to fill whatever medium you gave it.

If your so-called "common sense" was correct, SW DC with its enhanced traffic capacity in the form of I-395 running through it would be hailed as a success story rather than lamented as a monument to the failed ideas of the past. Meanwhile property values would be very low in Logan Circle with its lack of road capacity increases since 1791.

Or, for another example, at one time I-270 was planned to continue inside the beltway through the middle of Silver Spring. Do you think that Silver Spring would be as desirable a place to live, work, and play today if it had a grade-separated highway going through it?

No matter how you cut it, grade separated highways are incompatible with traditional downtowns. Like a scar on an animal, a traditional pedestrian-oriented human settlement can heal around the scar and even thrive like the Vine Street Expressway in Philadelphia or parts of our own SE-SW highway. But, like an animal, if you put a large gash in it before it's mature and has the strength to recover, you'll end up killing it before it ever grows up. Monrose Parkway East would be such a gash.

This isn't about roads vs. whatever else. It's about building appropriate transportation infrastructure that nurtures the growth of the planned land use. The current law of the land is the duly passed White Flint Sector Plan where the current landowners tax themselves to pay for infrastructure upgrades that are consistent with the plans. Those upgrades include small streets to make a continuous human-scale street grid, boulevardizing Rockville Pike, contributing to building schools and fire stations, and building parking structures. Given these facts, it's galling and slap in the face to County taxpayers that MCDOT is now trying to use county money to build infrastructure that will thwart the duly passed land use plan.

by Cavan on Mar 24, 2013 12:15 pm • linkreport

There are a lot of Montgomery County taxpeyers who just want to live their lives without being part of the White Flint development. Those are the folks the Montrose Parkway is designed to serve. If it wasn't built, tthat historic through traffic would clog the White Flint grid and prevent it from functioning as we hope it will. Transportation planning is all about addressing the needs of everyone. The" induced demand" argument does not apply to existing communities. It is the White Flint community that we don't expect to drive much - that's why we carved out special rules for them - but that doesn't apply to the suburbia surrounding it.

by Nancy Floreen on Mar 24, 2013 12:26 pm • linkreport

If it wasn't built, tthat historic through traffic would clog the White Flint grid and prevent it from functioning as we hope it will.

This isn't really true - urban grids are far better at handling and dispersing large volumes of traffic than forcing all of the through traffic to funnel into one choke point.

Transportation planning is all about addressing the needs of everyone.

No, it is not. Planning of all sorts is about explaining and balancing the trade-offs between policy decisions. A platitude about 'addressing the needs of everyone' instead glosses over those trade-offs as if they did not exist.

The" induced demand" argument does not apply to existing communities.

How does it not apply? Further, no one is suggesting that the community will induce the demand, but that the new highway will induce demand.

It is the White Flint community that we don't expect to drive much - that's why we carved out special rules for them - but that doesn't apply to the suburbia surrounding it.

None of which makes a grade-separated expressway through an urban development a good idea.

by Alex B. on Mar 24, 2013 1:16 pm • linkreport

Welcome to the world of Montgomery County land use and transportation planning. I've been involved in this for nearly 30 years- I invite you all to follow the studies, analyses, and public debates that have gotten us to where we are. If you don't like it, engage when we do our staging policy and master plan work, and offer genuine recommendations based on accepted criteria. Love to have you in the game when it matters.

by Nancy Floreen on Mar 24, 2013 1:42 pm • linkreport

Nancy, I've been "in the game" since 2008, about a year after I moved to Montgomery from Prince George's. If you look at my writing record here at GGW (, you'll see that I've been advocating for White Flint since I started writing. The White Flint Sector Plan has had to clear all kinds of hurdles in public, as it should in a democratic system such as ours. Now, MCDOT just tells out out of nowhere that they intend to destroy it? Why doesn't their expensive highway plan need the same scrutiny?

As for the surrounding communities... they've expressed near-unanimous support for a pedestrian-oriented White Flint throughout every meeting and public testimony since 2008. None of them have asked for a grade-separated highway in their back yard. No one wants a grade-separated highway in their back yard.

Many of those neighbors have been so positive about White Flint because it will bring more amenities in walking distance without adding extra traffic. If you build Montrose Parkway East, you will both cut them off from walking to all the amenities AND increase car traffic. From what I can tell, that's the exact opposite of the outcome that we all advocate for.

by Cavan on Mar 24, 2013 2:05 pm • linkreport

There are a lot of taxpayers who just want to live their lives without being a part of White Flint.<\i>

We don't need to build a highway for folks who don't want to be a part of White Flint any more than we need to bulldoze Potomac for folks who don't want to be a part of Potomac and just want to drive to Reston.

by Cavan on Mar 24, 2013 2:11 pm • linkreport

5 years is not much time to understand the history of this community. My neighbors, all of whom can technically walk to White Flint, and most of whom have lived here for many many years, would be interested to hear your perspective. They also live with the whistle blowing that we hope the above grade crossing at Randolph will reduce. Regrettably, the CSX tracks, and Rock Creek Park, and, frankly , all the surrounding communities, preclude the layout of a large grid that would permit the spreading out of traffic flow. Note that the White Flint plan calls for similar controls on the Luxmanor side. The City of Rockville doomed the Pike - and all of us - to everlasting backups when it eliminated the planned extension of Jefferson Street through the Woodmont Country Club years ago. You cannot look at this in a vacuum. Enough said.

by Nancy Floreen on Mar 24, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

Regrettably, the CSX tracks, and Rock Creek Park, and, frankly , all the surrounding communities, preclude the layout of a large grid that would permit the spreading out of traffic flow.

I agree, the existing street layout makes a retrofit into a grid impossible. Whatever is done to improve circulation will have to be grafted on what is there, with all its shortcomings.

by goldfish on Mar 24, 2013 3:46 pm • linkreport

I agree, Montrose Parkway east doesn't need to be built. We don't need it. But, the Montrose Parkway west was built, oddly and ugly, diverting a major east-west artery off it's intended route.

Randolph Rd. should've been grade separated under the Pike. It could've been done, widening the road too. If there wasn't enough room to widen between the old Old Georgetown Rd. and E. Jefferson Rd., traffic in the expanded lanes could've gone south on old Old Georgetown Rd. and then right onto a the western Parkway.

Cover the Parkway between Randolph Rd. and old Old Georgetown Rd. and build the grade separated Randolph Rd. under the Pike. Don't build the east Parkway. With connections off of Randolph Rd. to Montrose Parkway west, a grade separated Randolph Rd./ Pike shouldn't be bad traffic wise, and it would help fix the grid White Flint desires. A grade separation is necessary under the Pike for Randolph Rd. based on the former traffic at that intersection. Randolph is a major east-west connection, not reserved just for people living and walking in White Flint. It belongs to the region. Silver Spring will get one too, at Randolph Rd. and Georgia Ave. The point is to minimise it's impact on pedestrians.

I hope the state examines this fully, and reevaluates their unwanted plan.

by Dave65 on Mar 24, 2013 4:04 pm • linkreport

Yes, there is a need for grade separating the CSX tracks.

However, the idea that building a highway is the only way to solve that problem is ludicrous.

by Alex B. on Mar 24, 2013 4:12 pm • linkreport

This is interesting because I literally grew up in that neighborhood. I remember going to that shopping Center where the Giant is as a kid and going on Randolph Road all the time. Now, as I live in DC, I rarely go up there any more; but, even if I did still live up there, I would avoid the shopping center where the Giant is like the plague because its traffic pattern is horrendous.

One interesting thing is that this highway would literally go through the middle of Rock Creek Park. As a child I noticed that Gaynor Road stopped in the middle of Franklin Park and then picked up again on the other side of Rock Creek by Viers Mill Road. At some point Gaynor Road must have gone all the way from Viers Mill Road to Randolph Road. Apparently, at some point in the past, maybe the 1960s or 1970s, they decided to stop the connection; and, whenever I would go on the bike path there, you could see pipes, drainage, and other vestiges of when the road did go all the way through. I guess that they didn't want the through connection because they didn't want traffic using the neighborhood as a bypass from Randolph Road.

Looking at the map of the Montgomery County, there is a narrow strip of wooded areas that extends all the way from Viers Mill Road to Connecticut Avenue to Georgia Avenue and to the ICC. Theoretically they could extend it that far, although I am sure they would have to use eminent domain to seize some of the homes. I think that that is also the Matthew Henson State Park.

On the one hand this extension to Viers Mill Road would help relieve traffic on Randolph Road. On the other hand, as it doesn't connect to Randolph Road, traffic would then have to turn on to Viers Mill Road and then back left onto Randolph Road. That would create a bottleneck where the other half of Gaynor Road hits Viers Mill Road.

For this road to work the logical extension would be to build it all the way to the ICC, which, based on the map of where the Matthew Henson State Park, is probably where they eventually want it to go. In that case it would destroy that parkland, probably result in some homes in the Aspen Hill/Leisure World Area being taken away via eminent domain, and so forth.

I think this highway would damage a lot of parkland, though I suspect it will be eventually built. The right-of-way is already there.

by Rain17 on Mar 25, 2013 12:55 am • linkreport

I know it would be expensive, but the solution does seem to grade separate the rail line -- either with a bridge over or a tunnel under Randolph. It'll be expensive, but I bet it would pay for itself in due course.

As for the highway, I do think it's needed -- but it shouldn't be an alternative to east-west traffic into and out of White Flint. There should be a highway that travels under the White Flint sector, with easy exits into the grid. There is a dire need to provide an alternative to the gridlocked Beltway, and to lessen the burden on that road, too. The ICC in it's current configuration is not that road.

The problem with the ICC has always been that it travels too far to the north. It's not especially convenient or useful for most folks in the County. However, if the road could connect to another parkway that can deliver folks quickly and easily to Rockville and Bethesda, it would greatly enhance the utility of the ICC.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Mar 25, 2013 1:38 pm • linkreport

@Cavan - "Chris, that traffic congestion is part of what makes Bethesda work. It slows down cars so it's safer to walk."

No, it is much more dangerous to walk around Bethesda today than it was 20 years ago. It used to be you could freely walk through town without much concern since traffic was relatively sparse. Now it is impossible to cross many of the key roads without waiting for the light or taking your life in your hands. Even if you stick to the crosswalks you have to watch out, as the congestion makes drivers impatient. There have been 3 or 4 pedestrians struck in the last couple of months.

"That congestion also compels people from Upcounty to take the Metro."

Maybe, but it usually compels me to spend money on shopping and restaurants elsewhere.

"You can't eliminate congestion."

Well, I don't know about that. It's all in the planning, isn't it?

"As for White Flint, there isn't destruction there. It's the present landowners redeveloping their properties after the useful (physical and/or accounting) lifetime of the existing buildings expire."

Perhaps we differ on the definition of "useful lifetime" then. In fact I was just in one of the restaurants in that area the other day and it seemed quite useful. In fact it was quite full with customers.

by Chris S. on Mar 26, 2013 7:55 pm • linkreport

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