Planning officials are continuing their blind rush toward building cookie-cutter, sprawling, traffic-generating development patterns in and around Gaithersburg. We’ve already discussed how SHA only really considers more lanes as a solution to congestion on I-270, and the Planning Board only considered suburban office-park density for the JHU Belward Farm development. Now, the Planning Board staff has issued their recommendations for the area, which disregard everything the region has learned about development since World War II.
The Planning Board staff recommends widening I-270 by up to four more lanes, two in each direction. Between Clarksburg and Rockville, they suggest adding four express toll lanes, which would make I-270 a full 12 lanes wide, possibly even with extra space to grow to 14. North of Clarksburg, they recommend two reversible toll lanes, for a total of six lanes.
As for the Corridor Cities Transitway, which makes this a “multi-modal” corridor study, they recommend using Bus Rapid Transit on a circuitous route, winding through many far-flung office parks between Gaithersburg and Rockville. They also dropped two planned CCT stations, in Gaithersburg and Germantown.
The I-270 widening would require demolishing many new townhouses, which represent some of the densest housing that’s been built in this area, to fuel more sprawling, detached housing development in Clarksburg and north to Frederick County. Meanwhile, estimates predict this version of the Corridor Cities Transitway to carry fewer than half the riders of the Purple Line. Despite JHU’s claims that many of its workers would take transit, this plan is just a recipe for a slow, poorly used transit line and huge numbers of new auto trips.
This isn’t what Montgomery County needs. The county should look instead to the greater foresight its own leaders had in past decades, when it focused much of its growth in creating new, walkable, truly transit-oriented places like Bethesda and Silver Spring. If Montgomery County really wants to develop the Rockville-Gaithersburg-Germantown corridor, it should instead plan to enhance the existing MD-355 corridor with mixed-use, walkable development and high-quality transit, and use congestion pricing to manage demand on I-270. That would push housing and job growth onto the corridor, where residents can use transit, instead of forcing them to drive from Clarksburg and beyond.
Tomorrow, we’ll look in more detail at the I-270 plan, followed by a closer look at the Corridor Cities Transitway.