Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Concerns raised over ICC, traffic

Bus routes and congestion discussed at transportation forum

E-mail this article \ Print this article

Hell hath no fury like a frustrated commuter.

That was the underlying tone of a transportation forum hosted by the Eastern Montgomery Regional Services Center and East County Citizens Advisory Board on Saturday at the center in Silver Spring.

Many of the 30 residents in attendance had questions about specific problems, from inconvenient bus routes to speeding vehicles on Randolph Road to shrubbery that makes turning on eastbound Briggs Chaney Road from Robey Road dangerous.

Arthur Holmes, director of the Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation, noted all of the concerns and additionally suggested another meeting with representatives from his department and Metro officials to address them, which was warmly received.

Despite their individual problems, residents also questioned and offered advice on larger commuting issues on the east side of the county following presentations by state and local transportation officials. It was a dialogue all sides welcomed and hope to continue.

‘‘There’s no hotter topic today than transportation in our region,” County Council President Marilyn J. Praisner (D-Dist. 4) of Calverton said in remarks to open the meeting.

And it may only get hotter. Traffic congestion in the Washington metropolitan area is expected to more than double by 2030, said John Swanson, senior transportation planner with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, an independent nonprofit group or 21 local jurisdictions surrounding Washington, D.C. During that same period, the area’s population is projected to increase 40 percent and the number of daily miles driven is projected to increase 45 percent, while additional miles of roads will only increase an estimated 16 percent, he said.

Public transit may not be the solution, Swanson added. ‘‘We’re forecasting the majority of future growth will be outside transit areas.” When asked about the accuracy of his numbers, Swanson said COG’s predictions have ‘‘underestimated in the past.”

One way the state is preparing to handle the region’s growth is with the Intercounty Connector, a proposed toll road connecting interstates 270 and 95. Construction on the first part of the ICC, from I-270 to Georgia Avenue, is scheduled to begin later this year, said Mike Jaeger of the Maryland State Highway Administration.

Jaeger is the contract manager for the second planned segment of the ICC, from Old Columbia Pike to I-95. Construction there is scheduled to start no earlier than next spring, he said.

The ICC will be built under most roads it crosses, which will result in a new interchange at New Hampshire Avenue, he said. The one exception will be at Route 29 because it is at the lowest grade of the roads the ICC will intersect, Jaeger said. Instead, a three-level interchange will be constructed at least 50 feet off the ground, he said, drawing questions of concern from audience members.

Construction all along the ICC is planned for nights, weekends and non-peak hours to prevent delays, Jaeger said. ‘‘The plan was developed to minimize interruption at all major roads it crosses,” he said.

On a more local, immediate level, Holmes discussed east county road improvement and construction projects at various states of completion. The new interchange at Briggs Chaney Road and Route 29 is the third of eight planned along Route 29, he said, but a study will be done to determine the impact of the current interchanges on the area before funds are set aside for the remaining ones.

Ride On buses will begin running later this month along the new Route 21, which will serve residents in the Colesville and Fairland areas, Holmes said. All new buses will use low-emission diesel fuel or be hybrid vehicles, he added.

Following the forum, Doris Goodlett tried to locate on a blown-up map where the ICC is projected to run in relation to her house off Fairland Road.

Goodlett is opposed to the ICC but appreciated the information presented by the forum’s panelists. She was most encouraged by the response of the audience. ‘‘I was impressed with the knowledge of the attendees,” she said. ‘‘It shows the community is concerned with what happens here.”

Work in progress

Transportation projects in eastern Montgomery County currently or soon to be under construction

White Oak Transit Center (2008)

Burtonsville Access Road (to be completed in 2009)

Fairland Road improvements (to be completed summer 2008)

Greencastle Road improvements (starting this summer)

Extended left-turn lane at intersection of Spencerville Road and New Hampshire Avenue (construction this year)

Median on Spencerville Road at Kruhm Road (construction this year)

Source: Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation