Montrose Parkway construction. Photo by Joe Hatfield on Flickr.

The multibillion-dollar Intercounty Connector may get the lion’s share of attention, but it isn’t Montgomery County’s only major road construction project. And while the ICC’s cost overruns have already threatened other transportation projects in Maryland, the other new expressway is still moving forward: Montrose Parkway.

Montrose Parkway is a partly controlled-access highway slated to run between I-270 and Viers Mill Road. The alignment for this highway occupies much of the right-of-way set aside for the original Outer Beltway, the precursor to the ICC. The western portion has already been constructed, splitting off Montrose Road just east of the I-270 interchange and ending on Old Georgetown Road just west of Rockville Pike (MD-355).

The planned eastern portion will run underneath Rockville Pike, connecting with an interchange (a SPUI, I believe), veer north from Randolph Road along a stretch of undeveloped land, and end at the Veirs Mill Road intersection with Parkland Drive. Construction has already begun, creating traffic jams on Rockville Pike.

The Parkway will dump freeway-like traffic onto Parkland Drive, a two-lane street through a low-density residential neighborhood. This will no doubt lead to excessive traffic on Parkland Drive and Aspen Hill Road, another minor artery through the neighborhood that intersects Parkland Drive before it ends on a side street a few blocks north. Effectively, what Montrose Parkway will do is ease traffic at on intersection and move the problem into a residential neighborhood.

Red: Existing Montrose Parkway. Blue: Currently planned portion. Peach: Original Outer Beltway alignment. View larger map.

I don’t think a road here is a bad idea in theory. If constructed with community involvement, it could connect disjointed neighborhoods and serve walkers and mass transit. But if constructed as a quasi-freeway, it will only induce more car trips, not relieve traffic. Randolph Road, which Montrose Parkway will supposedly relieve, will not likely see a decline in automobile trips, since the county plans to build a new interchange at Georgia Avenue, while Montrose Parkway has no direct access to Georgia.

I have a bad feeling that this situation will result in a call to continue the parkway east along the old Outer Beltway plan to the ICC. Residents of the Aspen Hill neighborhood, through which Parkland Drive runs, will certainly not put up with freeway-density traffic through their quiet residential streets. They might lobby to continue the parkway east through Matthew Henson State Park (a swath of trees originally set aside for a freeway) to Connecticut Avenue (where exit ramp stubs still exist from the Outer Beltway planning days), then Georgia Avenue, Layhill Road, and on to the ICC.

A road along the route of Montrose Parkway could better connect communities east to west across Montgomery County. As currently deesigned, though, it could wind up being a spur off the ICC, partitioning the landscape with a freeway. And considering the lack of attention the construction of this road has received in the shadow of the ICC debate, that is a frighteningly likely possibility.