Gaithersburg Mayor and Council

Gaithersburg Leaders Oppose Changes by SHA to Watkins Mill Road Interchange

road construction 450 x 280 for sliderUPDATED Gaithersburg city leaders are voicing their opposition to some proposed changes by the State Highway Administration (SHA) to the future Watkins Mill Road Interchange at I-270, and the city leaders are upset that they weren’t notified of a delay in the project’s construction schedule.

As MyMCMedia first reported earlier this month, the construction of the long-awaited intersection, which is described as the number one transportation priority for the county on the SHA’s website, was delayed late last year for design changes.

In a letter to SHA last week, Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman and the five-member City Council said: “We are writing to not only express our dismay that we were not informed substantive changes were being considered but to strongly disagree with the findings that these changes address traffic concerns in the short term. The city is not supportive of anything less than a full interchange.”

According to the city leaders, any cost savings by modifying the design “would be outweighed by the negative economic development and vitality impacts to the city of Gaithersburg and the Upcounty area.”

The elected leaders said the design modification was “unacceptable,” and, they requested, “that construction of the full interchange project move forward to bid as expeditiously as possible. ”

According to their letter, city officials also expect to be “included in any and all discussions about this project,” which, they say is located in the “heart of our community.”

The letter is signed by Mayor Jud Ashman, Council Vice President Michael Sesma and council members Neil Harris, Henry Marraffa, Ryan Spiegel and Robert Wu.

Now MyMCMedia has learned that a meeting with the SHA and city leaders is scheduled for this Friday, Jan. 22, at Gaithersburg City Hall to discuss the interchange. Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman said he plans to be at that meeting. No other information has been released.

On her Facebook page, Marilyn Balcombe, the president and CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, encouraged followers to contact Maryland Governor Larry Hogan about the importance of the interchange.

“Not only is the interchange an important east-west connector and a necessary improvement to the flow of traffic along I-270, it was also a fundamental assumption in the development of the surrounding areas,” wrote Balcombe. “We have just learned that the project is in jeopardy. The State Highway Administration is now considering scrapping the full interchange and reducing the project to include only the bridge across I-270 or only exit ramps off the highway with no access onto I-270. These changes would have profound negative impacts on the surrounding area in Gaithersburg. The Watkins Mill Interchange is not just a vital part of the local transportation infrastructure, it is an important aspect of economic development in our region. We need your help. Please contact the Governor and the Secretary of Transportation and tell them to keep their promise and keep the full Watkins Mill Interchange!”

Montgomery County Councilmember George Leventhal reports that the interchange was one of the topics discussed at a weekend brunch with some state lawmakers. On Twitter, Leventhal said State Senator Nancy King said she is working to restore the full interchange.

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Sonya Burke

About Sonya Burke

Sonya Burke is the Multimedia Manager at Montgomery Community Media (MCM). You can email story ideas at sburke@mymcmedia.org or reach her on Twitter @SonyaNBurke.

Comments

3 Responses to “Gaithersburg Leaders Oppose Changes by SHA to Watkins Mill Road Interchange”

  1. On January 15, 2016 at 3:32 pm responded with... #

    The Montgomery County board and the city councils are virtually owned by the developers. We don’t need a Watkins Mill interchange with 270. We didn’t need the Clakesville disaster, and we don’t need the stupid construction going on at Watkins Mill and 355. We need to maintain a livable community, not let the developers pave over every scrap of land until it looks like Herndon, VA.

    These yapping corporate tools won’t stop until they’ve drained every scrap of blood out of the county. The claim “Development is necessary” without accepting any accountability for their screw-ups.

  2. On January 15, 2016 at 9:09 pm responded with... #

    Glad Mayor Jud Ashman and the five-member City Council are fighting this…

  3. On February 15, 2016 at 11:50 pm responded with... #

    Thank you Mr Mayor and City Council! As a resident of the Parklands, I moved back to my hometown so that I could raise my children in the city that raised me. Transportation oriented communities such as the Parklands encourage the use of transit to commute to centers of employment. Retail development like the urban core will make the community truly walkable. I can’t wait to walk to a nearby coffee shop to grab some cup, or maybe even a local brewery. Without a full interchange, this urban core will not be financially viable, leading to a vital missing component of a new urbanism community.

    Good access to I-270 will also help promote Gaithersburg as a center of employment. If development plans such as a second major NIH campus come to Watkins Mill, it could mean I no longer have to commute into Washington, DC for work. There are many offices that have undergone renovations in anticipation of a full interchange. Many investments have already been made in this area by businesses and homeowners to stop this project, just before construction was to start.

    Finally, the elimination of 2 lanes, the median and one of the sidewalks on the bridge raise serious safety concerns. This design has been given a lot of thought and deliberation. To stop this project in the eleventh hour and attempt cut corners will only lead to a less than optimal design. If we are to invest, let’s invest in a truly effective solution that will benefit Gaithersburg, Montgomery County and Maryland.




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