Part of an occasional series looking at how the new White Flint will come together.
The White Flint Sector Plan is made up of lots of “big moves,” like a new Rockville Pike, that will take a long time to complete. But there are also lots of smaller projects that will play a big role in the area’s evolution. Thankfully, they’ll happen much sooner.
Rockville Pike: A long time away
The most important part of the new White Flint may be a new Rockville Pike, reimagined as an urban boulevard. While the county has set aside money to redesign Rockville Pike in the CIP, work may get delayed if the County Council approves the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, which proposes a Bus Rapid Transit line down the median.
The plan will specify where stations should go and how wide the road will need to be, allowing planners and engineers to do more detailed design work. It’s possible that property owners along Rockville Pike will have to dedicate some land to accommodate BRT, meaning work can’t really start until the master plan is approved.
Dee Metz, the County Executive’s White Flint Implementation Coordinator, notes that White Flint is “ahead of the game” because the county is already asking landowners to dedicate land for the new Rockville Pike when they apply to build new developments. But there’s still no construction funding lined up for Rockville Pike, meaning it’ll be a while until anything happens.
Montrose Parkway: No word yet
Montgomery County has been talking about Montrose Parkway for decades, and a few years ago, the portion west of Rockville Pike actually got built. Not surprisingly, progress on the eastern part has been slow.
To save money, the county split Montrose Parkway East into two segments. Officials have already set aside $55 million to build the 1-mile section between Parklawn Drive and Veirs Mill Road, which will start construction in 2018 and finish in 2020.
Meanwhile, the State Highway Administration will spend $64 million to build the .62-mile portion between Rockville Pike and Parklawn Drive, including a new interchange at Parklawn. This section has been more controversial because of the interchange and a proposal to close Randolph Road at the train tracks, effectively cutting off White Flint from neighborhoods to the east.
The Planning Board voted to build this section while keeping Randolph open in March, but there isn’t much else happening. As of September, state highway planners were finishing design work on the parkway, but there’s no timeline for construction yet.
“I don’t see that starting anytime soon,” says Metz.
Maple Avenue: Could open by 2015
However, work could start soon on rebuilding and extending Maple Avenue, currently a dead-end street south of Randolph Road, to connect to Chapman Avenue. This is an important part of White Flint’s future street grid, creating a new connection between Marinelli Road, Randolph Road and the Montrose Crossing shopping center.
The $21 million street will include 5-foot-wide sidewalks on both sides, landscaping and street trees, streetlights, and stormwater management. In addition, the county will move utilities underground. Construction will start next summer and end by the summer of 2015.
New fire station and senior housing: In planning
As White Flint’s population grows, the area will need a new fire station. Meanwhile, an aging population will create a need for more senior housing, especially for individuals with limited incomes. Montgomery County plans to address both needs by building a fire station with senior housing above at the southeast corner of Rockville Pike and Montrose Parkway, next to the new Maple Avenue.
That may seem like an unusual combination, but fire stations and housing have been built together before, including the Station at Potomac Yard, an affordable housing complex atop a fire station in Alexandria. To build the two, Montgomery County will purchase land that the state of Maryland acquired to build the interchange at Rockville Pike and Montrose Parkway, but no longer needs.
Conference Center: New parking garage could open in 18 months, mixed-use development to follow
Within 18 months, Montgomery County will begin work on a parking garage behind the Bethesda North Conference Center on Marinelli Road. The garage will replace the current surface parking lot, freeing up room for buildings, since this site is not only adjacent to the Metro station, but behind the future White Flint Civic Green. County officials would like to see a mix of retail space and housing there, 30% of which would be set aside as affordable housing.
Right now, the county’s doing a feasibility study to figure out how to fit a parking garage and housing and retail space on the parking lot, part of which will get shaved off as part of the realignment of Executive Boulevard. With most of the funding already in place, Metz says construction on the parking garage could begin within the next 18 months.
New entrance at White Flint Metro: No funding
Likewise, residents will be waiting a while for a new northern entrance to the White Flint Metro station at Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road. The project, which is under WMATA’s jurisdiction, currently has no funding and no timeline for construction. Like the proposed south entrance at the Bethesda Metro station, money would probably come from Montgomery County and the state of Maryland, but it’s up to WMATA to ask for it.