One of the most contentious issues in developing the White Flint Sector Plan is mobility, or in the more automobile-oriented vernacular of the Montgomery County Council, “transportation.” One of the purposes of the Plan is to transform an area dominated by asphalt parking lots and Rockville Pike into a walkable, sustainable community, where pedestrians, bicyclists, differently-abled persons, and families with strollers can be as comfortable moving through the streets as cars and truck drivers.
Today the Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee of the Montgomery County Council is meeting all day, and as Chairman Mike Knapp announced moments ago, they will begin their consideration today with transportation, and try to get through as many issues as possible today. Committee Staffer Glenn Orlin opened the discussion by summarizing the first page of his memo (discussed in a prior posting, and available on-line here:
The Committee had asked whether “Old” Old Georgetown Road could be extended northbound to connect with Rockville Pike after it passes Montrose Road (it is now only southbound at the connection). The Montgomery County Dept. of Transportation testified that doing so would interfere with their plans to put a stormwater management pond in the open area. Council President Nancy Floreen responded: “We’re going to interrupt this grid for a stormwater pond?” Edgar Gonzalez, speaking for the MCDoT, said, “well, we have a grid. It’s a different grid, but it’s a grid.” He complained that we have a perfectly functional road at Executive Boulevard, and asked why we should “tear this up.” Floreen responded, “what bothers me about the Planning Board’s Plan is that we’ll have to buy all this land.” Committee staffer Orlin pointed out that under the Plan, making this a through street would make this a “local street” which is “the heart of the Plan.” The Planning Board’s version “would make this a much more developable area. It’s a trade-off.” Gonzalez interjected: “if it’s a public road, it’s yours to develop.” Dan Hardy, head of transportation planning for the Planning Board, pointed out that it was a partnership to make the area “work,” and compared it to Block 31 in Bethesda.
Floreen: everyone agrees that adding additional southbound capacity to Old Georgetown Rd. But if can’t connect to Old Georgetown Rd. northbound, you’re going to have a problem. People won’t have a way to go. Orlin: Just can’t go all the way to the Pike, but can go most of the way. Floreen: what’s wrong with having two ways to go? Orlin: takes through traffic out of core of White Flint. Floreen: it’s going to be a little sparse. Gonzalez: coming southbound you have one lane, but northbound on Old Georgetown Road, you have three. So you still have more capacity to move traffic. This is the only alternative to 270 southbound. Councilmember Marc Elrich: Old Georgetown carries a heavy load, and you’re going to solve this by making people turn on Montrose? Hardy: it’s all signalized in a grid. Elrich: you need someone to model this.
Gonzalez: through movement northbound, not southbound. Evan Goldman, Co-chair of Friends of White Flint, representing Federal Realty, if it isn’t a through street, we will turn our development away from it, because it’s the back end of our development. we’d never put anything lively or walkable there. Paula Bienenfeld, speaking for Luxmanor, said we are concerned about people going north-south who will cut-through our area (which is to the west of Old Georgetown Rd.). Elrich: what would you need to protect that? Bienenfeld: some kind of traffic calming and traffic mitigation protection. Hardy: Luxmanor has worked with DoT and they have solved the problem. Forecast is that cut-through traffic through Luxmanor will not be a problem. Knapp: Ballston, Rosslyn corridor this isn’t a problem. They have a grid system similar to what we’re talking about. Have they seen increases in cut-through traffic? Hardy: haven’t seen the problem there. They have put in improvements. They have a good grid, but their grid is more extensive than ours.
Joe Alfandre, representing the Planning Board, said that he’s gotten lost in Luxmanor more than anywhere else. “Their problem is that they have an old grid meeting the newer suburban model. There are steps that can be taken to address Luxmanor’s problems.” Floreen: “I don’t know why we’re putting this whole project behind a storm pond.” Orlin: two ponds. One part of the Montrose Parkway, and another by the Monterey. Gonzalez: water flows down no matter what the Council decides. This is the low point and the pond has to be here. Fear in Luxmanor because grid system works when you get here, but the majority of the traffic comes from 270, and that’s where the cut-through comes from.
Elrich: I’m ok with the Planning Board version. Knapp: ok, we’re agreed.