This week we embark on a project to share with you the answers to the questionnaire we gave to the at-large council seat candidates. The June 26th primary is a critical one for Montgomery County, and there are four at-large County Council seats up for grabs. There are more than three dozen candidates vying for your vote. We hope their responses help you to be a more educated voter.
Today we share the responses to our question, “What are your top three infrastructure projects for the White Flint area and how would you fund and implement those projects?” (Please note that we’ll change the random order of the responses for each question.)
The first priority for the area is Montrose Parkway East, a master planned road that should be built given that development of White Flint assumed the road would be completed. The County Council recently agreed on a compromise to fund the road with a one year delay. The ultimate completion will rest with the new County Executive and Council. Another priority is the second White Flint Metro entrance. The new entrance was part of the White Flint Sector plan. The new north entrance to the White Flint Metro station will be closer to Pike & Rose, which will integrate Metro with the community. A third priority would dedicated funding of Metro to ensure that safety and reliability of system. Dedicated metro funding will come from the State. If Amazon were to come to White Flint, Montrose Pkwy and the new Metro station would most likely be done as part of the infrastructure package proposed in the Amazon bid. If not, funding would go through the CIP process in competition with other DOT priorities.
I’d need to study this matter more thoroughly, once I’m elected. I’d give some tax incentives to help fund and implement projects.
My top three infrastructure priorities for White Flint include: a second Metro entrance, introduction of Bus Rapid Transit along Rt 355, and a better integration for pedestrian and bicycle routes.
Increase the usage of the MARC trains to run all day by increasing scheduled service. The passengers by paying for their train ticket, would pay for the cost of increasing scheduled service.
Research the cost to build either a tunnel under Rockville Pike or a trolley system that services the White Flint area.
Gather information from the White Flint neighborhood that identifies the streets that are causing backups in the neighborhood for residents to be able to move in and out of their neighborhoods. Implement simple solutions to fix congested areas more efficiently through smart traffic signals, stop signs, yield signs, green right turn or left turn signals, etc.
The three top infrastructure projects in the White Flint area are: 1) Working with Lord & Taylor and the owners of the former White Flint Mall property to find a mutually beneficial arrangement so we can start redeveloping the property as soon as possible. What has been done in a courtroom, we should do over dinner. We need to sit down with both parties and work out a proper compromise. Possible cost would be arranging for a new property for Lord & Taylor to locate to. 2) Making sure there will be enough school capacity to accommodate all new residents. This is something Melissa McKenna, a fellow At-Large candidate, and I have already worked with our PTA colleagues to address. As part of the very successful group we were part of, The Next Steps Reps, we successfully advocated to the County Council to make sure all new development pays its fair share of the cost of constructing new school seats. In the past this amount was approximately 95%. Thanks in good part to our efforts, it is now 120%. A talk Melissa and I had with then Council President Nancy Floreen, and testimony we and our PTA colleagues gave to the entire County Council were key to making this possible. 3) Making sure mass transportation options as well as parking are convenient and readily available. The introduction of the BRT on 355 should be helpful. That said, we should consider making BRT more upscale by adding amenities such as USB recharging ports in all seats, onboard monitors that display estimated time to next stops, and nicer seats. This enhancement would be financed by advertising in the buses and at stations along the line. Ads on screens could be geared toward the businesses near each stop.
Bus Rapid Transit on Rockville Pike is essential to moving people while reducing reliance on driving. I’m also looking forward to construction of the parking garage that will allow the Recreation Department and Parks Department to convert the parking lot at Wall Park into green space that can also serve as a center of activity for outdoor recreation and social events. A second Metro entrance and/or an additional MARC station also would be helpful to realizing the vision of the White Flint plan. None of these projects is very expensive compared to the $9 billion the state is planning to spend on improvements to the Beltway and I-270, for which there are other less costly options, and these projects all promise to deliver economic development benefits as well as improvements to quality of life in the White Flint area.
My top priority is getting an elementary school in the former White Flint mall site. Wall Park and a new fire station are also very high priorities. Funding for capital projects that these all entail is a perennial challenge. For schools, the state must come through with school funding from casino gambling revenue. Paul Geller and I have been pursuing casino gambling revenue funding for education for several years now. We most recently testified on March 8th in Annapolis on HB1697/SB1122 in favor of the “lockbox” to ensure that gambling revenue supplements current education formula funding. The development of the White Flint Sector plan will influence the timing of Wall Park and a fire station and present an opportunity for public private partnerships on these projects. Perhaps even for that elementary school.
There are many important infrastructure projects needed for the White Flint area including addition of a new entrance to the White Flint Metro stop, improved bikeways and pedestrian walkways and creation of open space. To my mind, the three most important projects are the restructuring of Rockville Pike into a walkable boulevard that would accommodate BRT, the construction of a new network of side streets that would improve traffic flows and access, and the construction of a new MARC station. All of these are fundamental to the way that White Flint would work in the future. In particular, if better track access could be structured with CSX the addition of a new MARC station could be transformational for commuting traffic in the region. I would pay for these improvements through a combination of revenues from the special property tax district that has been put in place for the White Flint area, funds from the County budgeted through the Capital Improvements Program, and funds from the State of Maryland contributed as part of the Amazon incentive package if White Flint is chosen by Amazon.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Lanes This is a county-wide priority, as part of extending alternatives to personal automobile use. I believe White Flint (as well as Silver Spring, Kensington and Wheaton) is a prime area for the development of a network of dedicated, protected lanes for walkers and bikers — well-lit, with footbridges where necessary and state-of-the-art traffic light management. I see the Western Workaround as part of that priority to make our streets about moving people, and not just moving automobiles.
A New Wall Park As part of the mixed-use re-development of the White Flint/Pike District, I’d make the new Wall Park a priority for my time on the County Council. I believe we must protect and promote our open, green space in the county, and make these spaces available and functional even as we protect that open space. The plans for Wall Park’s new garage allow us to rip up the current impervious-surface parking lot and replace that with the proposed Great Lawn is a great example of that.
White Flint Fire Station As we re-develop our aging infrastructure and improve our neighborhoods with higher-density development, we have to maintain our public safety infrastructure. That includes completing work on the White Flint Fire Station on time, with the equipment needed to better navigate the new urban streets we want to see in the White Flint area.
While White Flint was originally proposed as a urban center, it has still a long way to go away from it’s slightly more suburban and car-oriented feel. As such, my top three infrastructure projects are: (1) Expanding the BRT system to include Rockville Pike; (2) Making the White Flint Metro Station more accessible; and (3) Reducing school overcrowding. Specifically, for the BRT system, I believe we should also create reversible bus-only lanes. This removes the need to create two separate bus lanes on Rockville Pike, helps reduce speeding (thus making it safer for pedestrians and bikers) and, of course, increases continued access for those trying to commute to White Flint. For increasing access to the White Flint Metro Station, I believe we need to create a northern entrance to the station and create protected sidewalks that are well lit. For reducing school overcrowding, we must be thoughtful about setting aside specific land and space for new school construction. Each of these projects is an investment that can help retain our tax base while also expand it, thus strengthening our local economy
Second entrance at White Flint metro – this is already being funded through the County CIP.
Western Workaround – this actually involves a number of road projects and should be a combination of County CIP and White Flint District Tax funding.
Wall Park and garage – this is being funded through the County’s CIP.
My top three infrastructure projects for White Flint would be.
a) Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), funded with existing capital budget for BRT, b) Northern Entrance to the White Flint Metro station, funded with new dedicated funding source for Metro, and c) Montrose Parkway East, funded with additional capital budget resulting from Amazon HQ2 locating to White Flint area
My overarching priority is rebuilding 355 as a multimodal corridor, relying upon:
High functioning WMATA, Local and long distance buses operating in a dedicated lane, Protected bicycle lane network (as I requested MNCPPC to plan), Walkable streetscapes. All of these projects will be built through a combination of the county and state capital budgets and private property owner responsibilities (funded as development obligations or through the tax district).
Now that a dedicated funding source has been agreed to for WMATA Metro, which will help provide critical funding for capital improvements to the transportation backbone for the region, the next top three infrastructure projects for the White Flint area are: Finishing the White Flint West Workaround, providing a second entrance to the White Flint Metro and providing a new White Flint Fire Station.
The White Flint West Workaround is funded from special obligation bond issues and ultimately Special Taxing District revenues. The debt service will be financed with Special Taxing District revenues. The White Flint Metro second entrance could be funded with a combination of State funds, GO Bonds and Special Taxing District revenues. The Fire Station would be funded through GO Bonds with debt service financed with Fire Tax District funds.
1) Create new parks, open spaces, and public use spaces, 2) Create a new transportation infrastructure including White Flint Metrorail station entrance (via reallocation of funding from the Montrose Parkway East and 3) Extension of the Rockville Pike (MD 355) Boulevard concept to the city limits of Rockville with bus rapid transit (BRT) (per the White Flint 2 Sector Plan).
Funding sources will include development impact fees and developer-created amenities, state and federal transportation funding, and county capital expenditures.
Montrose Parkway East, MARC station, North Entrance to White Flint Metro station. I will work to change our business climate over the long term to attract more high-wage jobs and revenue. But in the short term, I will vote to cancel all spending on BRT, and transfer that money to Montrose Parkway East. I want to meet with CSX to discuss joint economic opportunities along their Metropolitan Branch northwest of Rockville that could fund the third track and WF station we need.
The county and state must work together to complete the Montrose Parkway. This half-completed major road cannot be left the way the current County Council envisions. The funding is available in the County budget and the new Council should reverse decisions recently made by the current Council to remove that funding.
Future development plans in the White Flint / North Bethesda / South Rockville area must include provisions for road improvements, realistic approaches to future school capacity and include accurate needs for parking spaces that will support the businesses that will be included in these mixed-use projects.
Development of all types is needed for our county, but future County Councils cannot continue to approve development plans with the provisions that infrastructure needs will be figured out later. The school clusters in the White Flint area are already near capacity. The County Executive, the Council and the Board of Education must start planning now (it takes about six years to plan for a new school) to address how the area will address school capacity needs for the next generation of this area.
1) The northern entrance to White Flint metro, 2) The Montrose Parkway East plan should be started now, not in 3 years, and 3) More bike and pedestrian paths. Funded and implemented in the CIP