The success of the White Flint Sector Plan depends on a workable and effective plan to revitalize and improve Rockville Pike, the main north-south highway through the Sector. There is general agreement that the Pike needs to be converted into a “boulevard,” with sidewalks, transit improvements, and retail opportunities closer to the street (instead of being pushed back behind parking lots).
There are now two competing visions on how to make this transformation. The Planning staff has proposed an existing 150′ right 0f way, with transit in a “diamond lane” at the curb side of the existing Pike. The White Flint Steering Committee (the advisory committee established by the Board last year at the conclusion of the citizen Advisory Group process) has endorsed a different proposal, offered by the White Flint Partnership; Friends of White Flint has also endorsed the Partnership proposal. The Partnership proposal is sometimes called the Glatting Jackson model, after the international transportation consulting firm which crafted it; Glatting Jackson also proposed the “robust street network” model which the Board adopted to siphon traffic off the Pike. The Partnership proposal would move transit to a wide central median on the Pike, provide wider, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, and bike-friendly intersections.
The other major distinction between the proposals is the time to implementation. The Planning staff proposal is said to take until 2032 to renovate the Pike; the Partnership proposal is said to be ready for implementation far earlier.
The Planning Staff memorandum prepared for the June 4 Board worksession contains a discussion of these two options. See, http://montgomeryplanningboard.org/agenda/2009/documents/20090604_Item5.pdf, after page 18.
The Planning staff convened an inter-agency meeting on May 18 to evaluate the two proposals. The Partnership also sent representatives to the meeting. The staff memo reports “primary conclusions” from the meeting, including that the Partnership proposal has no “fatal flaws,” but ultimately recommends leaving the decision as to which proposal is to be implemented for further planning. The staff recommends a design study during the first phase of White Flint Plan implementation, with Plan language describing the purposes of the improvements.
The staff also addressed the issue of transit in the median. The staff noted that transit in the median depends on the availability of Bus Rapid Transit in other areas, but argued that additional space should be reserved in case additional transit opportunities become available in the future.
The staff memo also addressed another contentious topic: parking. The original draft of the Plan included a recommendation for a parking district, similar to that used elsewhere, with public parking availability. The new staff memo reverses that proposal, arguing that private parking garages would be preferable.