One of the most common questions asked about the new White Flint Sector Plan, particularly by seniors, is “will I live to see any of it?” The answer is “yes.”
But up till now, the only people doing actual work on the new White Flint, as opposed to thinking about it or talking about it, or even planning it, were in the private sector. Some of that private effort has been spectacular: the new JBG project at North Bethesda Market, across from White Flint Mall; the LCOR projects at North Bethesda Center at the Metro station.
But the big question has always been whether the County would follow through on its promises to put in needed infrastructure to support the new Plan. And now the County Executive has proposed funding for the first projects in White Flint.
As Diane Schwartz-Jones, the Executive’s coordinator for White Flint, promised at the January 10 meeting of the White Flint Implementation Committee, there are four White Flint implementation projects proposed in Montgomery County’s Fiscal Year 2012 CIP (capital projects) budget, but they are a bit different than I had noted before. I had called them:
- implementation planning,
- the design of Rockville Pike,
- the T-intersection at Market Street and Executive Boulevard, and
- the eastern side of the Plan, including bike paths and Nebel Street improvements.
The Implementation Planning FY12 CIP Proposal is for $3 million over five years, concentrated in the early years for the “plans, analysis and development coordination activities necessary to implement redevelopment in the White Flint Sector Plan Area.”
The “design of Rockville Pike” project turns out to be more of a traffic analysis and mitigation plan. The Traffic Analysis FY12 CIP Proposal is for $1.5 million evenly-spaced over five years, for three projects: mitigation of “cut-through traffic” (which was the subject of the Friends of White Flint 2010 White Flint Town Hall meeting), “capacity improvements” for “congested intersections;” and studies to help meet the aggressive “modal splits” (encouraging employees and residents to use transit instead of driving) proposed in the Plan.
The T-intersection improvement is now called the “Western Workaround,” and is much more than just that, meaning the work necessary to provide traffic flow on the western side of Rockville Pike during the difficult reconstruction of the Pike, and the beginnings of the Pike reconstruction itself. The Western Workaround FY12 CIP Proposal provides $20 million in the first five years, and $98.6 million for the total project, for the Western Workaround. A lot of this cost is for the Pike reconstruction itself, and much of the Western Workaround (Market St., Executive Boulevard, and Old Georgetown Rd.) will be done by 2014.
The Eastern Workaround area is much more road construction for Nebel Street and the new Executive Boulevard Extended (on the eastern side of the Pike) through the eastern side of the Sector, than it is bike paths. The Eastern Workaround FY12 CIP Proposal provides $1.2 million for the “preliminary engineering” of the Nebel St. and Executive Blvd. improvements, split evenly over Fiscal Year 2012 and 2013. Again, these streets are important to provide traffic flow during the reconstruction of Rockville Pike, and later, as ways to move traffic through the Sector without clogging the new Pike.
The proposals are just the opening salvo in the budget process, and there is no guarantee that the County Council will adopt them, intact or otherwise. But at least this shows the County is serious about stepping up to the responsibilities it said it would undertake in the White Flint Sector Plan.