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Gaithersbungle: Planning Board staff latest to ignore better way for Gaithersburg

Planning officials are continuing their blind rush toward building cookie-cutter, sprawling, traffic-generating development patterns in and around Gaithersburg. We've already discussed how SHA only really considers more lanes as a solution to congestion on I-270, and the Planning Board only considered suburban office-park density for the JHU Belward Farm development. Now, the Planning Board staff has issued their recommendations for the area, which disregard everything the region has learned about development since World War II.

This shouldn't be Montgomery's future. Photo by Sam Beebe.

The Planning Board staff recommends widening I-270 by up to four more lanes, two in each direction. Between Clarksburg and Rockville, they suggest adding four express toll lanes, which would make I-270 a full 12 lanes wide, possibly even with extra space to grow to 14. North of Clarksburg, they recommend two reversible toll lanes, for a total of six lanes.

As for the Corridor Cities Transitway, which makes this a "multi-modal" corridor study, they recommend using Bus Rapid Transit on a circuitous route, winding through many far-flung office parks between Gaithersburg and Rockville. They also dropped two planned CCT stations, in Gaithersburg and Germantown.

The I-270 widening would require demolishing many new townhouses, which represent some of the densest housing that's been built in this area, to fuel more sprawling, detached housing development in Clarksburg and north to Frederick County. Meanwhile, estimates predict this version of the Corridor Cities Transitway to carry fewer than half the riders of the Purple Line. Despite JHU's claims that many of its workers would take transit, this plan is just a recipe for a slow, poorly used transit line and huge numbers of new auto trips.

This isn't what Montgomery County needs. The county should look instead to the greater foresight its own leaders had in past decades, when it focused much of its growth in creating new, walkable, truly transit-oriented places like Bethesda and Silver Spring. If Montgomery County really wants to develop the Rockville-Gaithersburg-Germantown corridor, it should instead plan to enhance the existing MD-355 corridor with mixed-use, walkable development and high-quality transit, and use congestion pricing to manage demand on I-270. That would push housing and job growth onto the corridor, where residents can use transit, instead of forcing them to drive from Clarksburg and beyond.

Tomorrow, we'll look in more detail at the I-270 plan, followed by a closer look at the Corridor Cities Transitway.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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How is the moco planning board so terrible at it's job?

by Skinfan on Jun 29, 2009 11:06 am • linkreport

My understanding is that the extra lanes to be added between Clarksburg and Rockville would be an extension of the local lanes. This would lead to a total of 12 lanes not 14.

by Craig on Jun 29, 2009 11:34 am • linkreport

David, thank you for making light of this insanity.

I anxiously await part two of this post.

by Cavan on Jun 29, 2009 12:10 pm • linkreport

With you on this, although your photo features sidewalks and gridded streets with what appears to be a large vacant space in the center, perhaps a future park, school, or commercial center. Photo was also shot in montana. Nitpicking, I realize, but we have no idea what kinds of things we'll see come out of MoCo just yet.

by JTS on Jun 29, 2009 12:23 pm • linkreport

The Planning Board does not control I-270, the CCT or any state highways. The Maryland Transportation Authority and MDOT will decide if there is toll lane construction on I-270. The CCT's mode and alignment will be decided by MDOT and must get federal approval. The State Highway Administration controls all state roads. So just because the Planning Board issues opinions on these things, that doesn't mean they will happen.

by Adam Pagnucco on Jun 29, 2009 12:26 pm • linkreport

I'm with JTS, the choice of image is a curious one. It's a somewhat OK, reasonably dense development with small lots, and a well connected street grid. Some of the blocks have alleys, and all the blocks have sidewalks. It could be a lot worse, although the streets are a little too wide, and the architecture is bland, cookie-cutter modern.

by Paul on Jun 29, 2009 12:38 pm • linkreport

The threat of demolision should bring out the NIMBYs on this plan, which would tie it up for years, let alone getting the State or Feds involved to pay for it.

by Rich on Jun 29, 2009 1:24 pm • linkreport

I mean, at least it won't destroy a bike trail; that would be a real environmental disaster...

Christ, the areas most affected by this problem are some of the ones that would benefit the most from transit: relatively urban areas. Instead, this plan will dump more cars onto the Beltway and Connecticut and Wisconsin Avenues.

by цarьchitect on Jun 29, 2009 1:32 pm • linkreport

yeah, what Cavan and tsarchitect said. This plan aches for a Health Impact Study. Here's an example:

by Bianchi on Jun 29, 2009 1:45 pm • linkreport

i think that image, while clearly of some cookie-cutter-ness, is actually a much better example than a lot of new development.

by DG-rad on Jun 29, 2009 1:45 pm • linkreport

Probably will get flamed for this, but 6 lanes up to Frederick makes sense, and doesn't involve any additional right-of-way. Don't have an opinion (yet) on the rest of the 270 widening proposal, though instead of ETLs, SHA should be considering HO/T lanes instead (since with ETLs, HOV users still have to pay).

On a related note, I've noticed that A LOT of people in this region have angst against HO/T lanes. Perhaps because of the way the regional governments around here have gone about it (i.e. via public-private parternerships where the private entity gets the profits). Back in my hometown (Minneapolis), proceeds from the HO/T lanes (currently along I-394, under construction along I-35W) go to support bus service in the HO/T corridor.

by Froggie on Jun 30, 2009 6:59 am • linkreport

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