Coalition Rally Against Mid-county Highway Extension
On Nov. 21, a Transit Alternatives to the Midcounty Highway Extended (TAME) Coalition rally attracted over two dozen neighbors, environmentalists, and faith leaders who spoke out against the proposed Midcounty Highway (M83) development which the coalition says will;
- adversely impact parkland, agricultural land and stream valleys
- divide existing neighborhoods of Montgomery Village, east Gaithersburg
Residents urged the Planning Board to ask the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) to develop and evaluate an effective transit alternative for the growing Upcounty population.
Such a ruling would concur with the Planning Department staff’s analysis of the MCDOT’s environmental review of six “road-only” alternatives for the Mid County Highway extension earlier this year.
Planning staff concluded that “consideration of all other alignments should await the completion of a transit alternative” and called for the Planning Board to send the report back to MCDOT to develop and evaluate a transit alternative.
Planning staff made their recommendation based on their analysis of the impacts of a new highway: “The extensive parkland, environmental, and community impacts demand that we further examine using transit and improvements to existing roads to arrive at an alternative that significantly reduces those impacts”, stated the report.
Jim Hall from the Dayspring Church community cheered the planning staff’s recommendations.
“Transit brings communities together. Instead of pitting one neighborhood against another, arguing over where a new or widened highway will go, all can get onboard with a transit alternative,” he said.
As we have often said, ‘Not in our back yard, not in your back yard, not in anybody’s back yard.
Planning staff and residents alike called attention to the County Council’s imminent approval of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on 355 to Clarksburg as an excellent potential alternative.
“Rather than focusing narrowly on Clarksburg’s commuting challenges, we believe we must focus on addressing the congestion challenges for the entire Upcounty as many communities within Montgomery’s borders and beyond continue to grow”, said Coalition for Smarter Growth Next Generation of Transit Campaign Manager Kelly Blynn.
“With the possibility of MARC service expansion, redevelopment around the Shady Grove Metro station, and future BRT stations on 355, there is a major opportunity to dramatically improve mobility by expanding transit service while focusing development around transit corridors.”
Residents also reminded Planning Board members of the negative impacts of the original highway proposal.
“Since 1993, Audubon Naturalist Society volunteers have been monitoring three streams that would feel the impact of the highway: Dayspring Creek, Wildcat Branch, and Goshen Branch”, said Cathy Wiss, who leads Audubon’s stream monitoring program. “These truly special creeks would suffer grave and irreparable harm from construction, stormwater runoff, and air pollution. No engineering solutions are available that can prevent or adequately reduce the sediment and other forms of pollution.”
According to TAME, the Mid County Highway extension was added to the Montgomery County master plan in the 1960s, and if built as originally planned would be a six-lane controlled-access highway parallel to Route 355 to the east. It would run for 6 miles through existing neighborhoods of Montgomery Village, parkland, and parts of Montgomery’s prized agricultural reserve to connect Snowden Farm Parkway in Clarksburg to the existing segment of Midcounty Highway further south in Gaithersburg. MCDOT has indicated that the County would pay for the project completely, which is estimated to cost $350 million.