Gaithersburg Leaders Oppose Changes by SHA to Watkins Mill Road Interchange
UPDATED 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.
— George Leventhal (@georgeleventhal) January 16, 2016
— GGCC (@GGCCNEWS) January 15, 2016
Shocked to hear Gov Hogan proposing cutting $ for Watkins Mill Interchange, a key econ dvlpmnt project. I thought MD was open for business?
— EricLuedtke (@EricLuedtke) January 15, 2016
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Although the timing has been changed, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett says state officials have indicated that the Watkins Mill Road Interchange is going forward. He said the questions that remain are the cost and the make up of the project. Find out more in this MyMCMedia Extra, video:
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UPDATED Gaithersburg city leaders are asking residents and business owners to contact Governor Larry Hogan about the importance of moving forward with the Watkins Mill Road Interchange. On Friday, Mayor Jud Ashman and the Council released a joint statement about the project: “Late last year the City Council and I were very disheartened and disappointed […]
Here are your five things to know today, Feb. 19, in Montgomery County: 1. The Montgomery County House Delegation is scheduled to be briefed on the Watkins Mill Interchange today at 9 a.m. in Annapolis. 2. Mayor of Takoma Park Kate Stewart will be hosting a coffee meet and greet at Black Lion Grocery at 8:00 […]
The Montgomery County House Delegation is scheduled to receive a briefing on the Watkins Mill Interchange at a meeting on Friday morning in Annapolis. According to an agenda for the meeting, State Highway Administrator Greg Johnson is scheduled to be part of the briefing. Just last week, Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn met with Montgomery […]
In this MyMCMedia Extra video, County Council President Nancy Floreen says conversations are continuing with state officials about the status of the shovel ready Watkins Mill Road Interchange. Local leaders recently learned that construction of the future interchange had been delayed and that the scope of the project may be changing.
Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman is scheduled to meet with Maryland Transportation Secretary Peter Rahn today, in Hanover, to discuss the future of the Watkins Mill Road Interchange at I-270. Just last month, Ashman and the five-member City Council sent a letter to State Highway Administration officials expressing concerns about proposed changes to the design of […]