New Rockville Pike plan asks city to imagine a better place
Rockville residents urged to weigh in with their thoughts on future of thoroughfare
When it comes to Rockville Pike, something has to give.
Residents know the thoroughfare has problems. Some consider it an eyesore, while others see it as a road that is as dangerous for pedestrians as it is for bicyclists. Then there is the traffic, which is stacked end-to-end during the morning and evening commutes.
What can give, said Gianni Longo of ACP Visioning and Planning in presenting "Rockville's Pike: Envision a Great Place" to the City Council and the Planning Commission last week is the way residents commute, and it starts with infrastructure.
"The spirit of the plan is to inspire people, but before we do that we need to separate through-traffic from local traffic," Longo said. "Rockville has this great economic engine and the question it has to ask itself is, Why does it have to be so ugly?'"
The plan focuses on redesigning 410 acres along a 2.2-mile stretch of Rockville Pike, starting at Richard Montgomery Drive and ending at Bou Avenue at the southern end of city limits. Staff and consultants began planning "Rockville's Pike" in spring 2007. It is an update to the Rockville Pike Corridor Neighborhood Plan of 1989.
Longo paid the 1989 plan high praise, saying the setbacks required in that plan make the vision of a "multi-way boulevard" possible.
Requirements in city code that called for distance between stores and the road create and opportunity to widen and divide the road by including two-lane access roads in each direction. The lanes would be split: one for buses and bikes, the other for local traffic.
The plan sites K Street in the District and Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona as examples of well-executed plans.
About 80 people attended an open house to discuss the new Rockville Pike plan at Richard Montgomery High School on Jan. 11.
"Many of the problems with [Rockville Pike] come down to the right lane," said David Levy, chief of long-range planning and redevelopment. "The pike is trying to be both a highway and it's trying to be a local road and that causes safety issues. This is not a revolution in road design this is a change in Rockville Pike."
Planning Commission Chairman John Tyner called the plan great, but said implementation presents serious challenges.
"It requires a lot of changes with the zoning ordinance," he said. "[The infrastructure requirements] are going to require the city to front a lot of things and with the city's financial situation and the county's financial situation that's all a couple of years off."
Nancy Breen is the chairwoman of the Rockville Bike Advisory Committee and is optimistic about the future the plan presents.
"Studies show the safer it is for biking the more people bike and the more people bike the safer it becomes," she said. "This should invite cyclists and it's going to change the face of Rockville. By saying walkers are welcome, cyclists are welcome, and telling them this is the space for them to use should change everything."
The most important thing, Levy said, is that the public weigh in on the plan.
"We want your comments and we as city staff are prepared to come to your community organizations to help you understand what is going on," he said.
"We are available for questions and the draft was supposed to reflect what it was that the public told us."
To submit public testimony, send a letter to: Rockville Planning Commission, c/o Long Range Planning, Community Planning and Development Services, 111 Maryland Ave., Rockville, MD 20850. Residents also can send an e-mail to rockvillepikeplan@
rockvillemd.gov or attend the Planning Commission public hearing at 7 p.m. March 9 at City Hall. Residents are asked to include their name and address in all testimony.
To review the Rockville Pike Plan, visit www.rockville
md.gov/rockvillespike. The plan also is available on CD from the Community Planning and Development Services Department on the second floor of Rockville City Hall, 111 Maryland Ave. Hard copies of the plan are available at City Hall and the Rockville and Twinbrook libraries.