Defunding Pike conversion threatens Montgomery's growth
Recently, the Montgomery County Executive submitted a funding plan for White Flint that omits converting Rockville Pike into an urban boulevard. Such a plan would cripple the new White Flint town and its potential to create economic growth for Montgomery County.
Rockville Pike is currently hostile and dangerous to pedestrians, with too few crosswalks, too-fast automobile traffic, and too many large surface parking lots. This will deter new pedestrian, cycling, and transit oriented residents and offices.
Two young men, who responsibly enjoyed nightlife in DC by taking the Metro rather than drinking and driving, were killed in a crosswalk while crossing Rockville Pike. This terrible tragedy is also a painful example of why Rockville Pike in its present form will be a deterrent to new residents and offices moving into White Flint, preventing the area from reaching its economic potential.
One cost-effective funding mechanism is Tax Increment Financing (TIF). The strategy would be fully paid for by a portion of the new tax revenues generated within White Flint. Arlington County has recently approved a TIF as part of its revitalization plans for Crystal City so there is precedent for that strategy in our region.
Another proven funding strategy is General Obligation (GO) bonds from the Capital Improvement Budget. They represent the cheapest possible alternative to fund the necessary conversion of Rockville Pike into a pedestrian-friendly urban boulevard with a dedicated bus/streetcar right-of-way in its median. The GO bond of $100 million amortized over 30 years represents less than 1% of the county's debt cap.
Because of White Flint's high land value, new economic investment in the area is projected to return positive tax revenues to the county in the short term. The increased tax revenues could then be reinvested in Sector Plans that are projected to take longer to generate positive tax revenue like White Oak, Wheaton, and the Great Seneca Science Corridor. However, the perpetual positive tax revenues are currently in jeopardy on account of not funding the reconfiguration of Rockville Pike.
The Montgomery County Council is having a hearing on the funding plan for White Flint tonight, October 26, at 7 pm.
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