No Bridge, No ICC: Go Montgomery

No Bridge, No ICC: Go Montgomery

July 30, 2002

County Executive Doug Duncan called the County Council names.

Councilmember Blair Ewing questioned the realism and direction of the initiatives that the Council passed.

Council president Steven Silverman said he remained disappointed.

The County Council today, Tuesday, July 30, passed a 10-year blueprint for transportation, concluding three weeks of worksessions on Go Montgomery, Duncan's $10 billion transportation plan, the Transportation Policy Report and Silverman's own set of transportation proposals.

Although the Council passed a number of initiatives including transit, roadways and intersection improvements, to Duncan, who afterwards referred to the Council as the "Congestion Coalition," what was most striking was what the Council left out from his initial proposals.

Despite Duncan's recommendation to spend $400,000 to help fund a study on an additional Potomac River Crossing, the Council remained consistent with its long-time opposition to a bridge crossing the Potomac in Montgomery County, leaving the issue off its list of items to consider.

Duncan reserved his ire for another Council omission. Council members voted 5-3 to leave the InterCounty Connector (ICC) off a list of priorities for state construction.

Silverman, Howie Denis (R-1), and Michael Subin (D-at large) voted for the ICC while all other Councilmembers — excluding Isiah Leggett (D-at large) — voted against approval of the ICC. Leggett was not present for that vote.

"Today's vote by the Montgomery County Council not to approve the InterCounty Connector as part of a comprehensive transportation plan, signals that they are satisfied with failure. Well, failure is not acceptable to me," wrote Duncan in a statement issued after the Council's vote.

Duncan’s plan, dubbed Go Montgomery, called for $10 billion of new transportation projects, including the InterCounty Connector; Metro Purple Line from Tysons Corner through Rock Spring in Bethesda to the University of Maryland and New Carrollton; a Regional Transportation Authority and widening the Beltway to add a lane for carpools and busses. He proposed that the $1 billion in county spending would be financed with tax increases, including adding three cents to the property tax rate and a 10-cent-per-gallon increase in the state gas tax. Duncan said additional funding would come from state and federal revenues.

Duncan proposed a different route for the Metro Purple line, an Outer/Inner Hybrid; Council staff estimated this route would cost $5.3 billion, not $4 billion of the overall $10 billion that Duncan budgeted in his Go Montgomery Plan.

And the total cost would be higher. "This estimate does not include the cost the Commonwealth of Virginia would have to cover for its four miles of Outer Purple Line, its stations, and additional rail cars to operate in its segment," wrote Glenn Orlin, deputy Council staff director in an addendum provided today to Councilmembers.

"There is nothing specific in our proposals in terms of revenue for these projects," said Ewing (D-at large). "What concerns me is that we are assuming the state will pay for more than the state will be willing to pay. … I think we ought to be realistic about what we can in fact do."

The Council passed a number of initiatives including:

* Confirmation of the Inner Purple Line as a state construction priority with an estimated cost of $1.2 billion.

* Confirmation of the Corridor Cities Transitway from Shady Grove to Clarksburg.

* Directing the Planning Board to prepare a final draft amendment to the Master Plan of Highways that evaluates I-270 Spur widenings, I-495 carpool lanes from Virginia to the I-270 West Spur, New Hampshire/Randolph Road interchange, Veirs Mill Road/Randolph Road interchange

* Support of land-use objectives and actions, such as making the I-270 Corridor a balanced mixed-use community by increasing housing and decreasing jobs; planning for a series of interconnected transit-oriented communities at Metro stations; and reducing development pressure in the Rural Area

* Inclusion of the Western Corridor and the Eastern Connector projects, which would provide alternatives to the ICC for east-west mobility

* Support of increased efforts at regional cooperation on transportation, but not to take a position on a Regional Transportation Authority until there is a specific proposal before the Council

* More than 25 different road improvements or building of new roads

* 3 transit improvements including bus and carpool lanes on I-270 and portions of the Beltway

* Bus priority projects

* Acknowledgment that additional resources will be needed to fund transportation priorities and that the Council will have to work with Montgomery County House and Senate Delegations and the County Executive to secure needed resources.

"Today is not the end of choices, only the beginning. We are setting the blueprint. The next step is to roll up our sleeves, work with the County Executive, Park and Planning, and next to seek funding to address these issues," said Silverman, who also said he "remained disappointed that the Council opposed the ICC."

Councilmember Phil Andrews (D-3) defended the Council's vote in opposition of the ICC.

"Our residents want resolution, they don't want rhetoric … They want results right now. What I hope council will do is turn from 'Go Pave Montgomery' to 'Go Montgomery,'" said Andrews.

To Ewing, the Council did not spend enough time addressing ways it could control new growth and land-use decisions.

"From my point of view, there is no proposal here that balances projects with consideration of serious growth management. We need a more serious look at how we manage growth, place growth and ensure that growth doesn't overwhelm us."

The Council voted to address his suggestions concerning the planning of growth and future land-use decisions following its one month recess in August.