Monday, July 20, 2009

Smart Growth Groups Oppose I-270 Widening

Following is the press release from Action Committee for Transit, the Audubon Naturalist Society, the Coalition for Smarter Growth and 1000 Friends of Maryland.

July 20, 2009

Ben Ross, President
Action Committee for Transit

Dolores Milmoe, Conservation Associate
Audubon Naturalist Society

Cheryl Cort, Policy Director
Coalition for Smarter Growth

Dru Schmidt-Perkins, Executive Director
1000 Friends of Maryland

Proposed $4 Billion I-270 Expansion at Odds with Montgomery County’s Smart Growth and Climate Goals

The Montgomery County Planning Board recently recommended that taxpayers spend $4 billion on widening I-270 while it voted to deny public funding to a $70 million plan to rebuild Rockville Pike near White Flint Mall that would turn the highway into a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly boulevard with center bus lanes, and would support a compact, sustainable redevelopment plan.

“We urge the County Council to reject the Planning Board’s misguided transportation recommendations, the result of which would be more cars on the highways and more traffic jams,” said Ben Ross, President of Action Committee for Transit, a Montgomery County citizens group. “The council should ask the State to evaluate some of the many possible transportation improvements for the corridor that don't involve more highway lanes. We cannot pave our way out of traffic congestion.”

Dolores Milmoe, Conservation Associate for the Audubon Naturalist Society, agrees. “Rather than waste $4 billion widening I-270,” said Milmoe, “the county should invest in light rail from Shady Grove to Kentlands; a fast, direct rail connection from Shady Grove to Germantown and Clarksburg; and all-day, two-way MARC service from Union Station to Frederick and Harper's Ferry.” (The latter is already in the state's plans, but remains unfunded.)

The groups, joined by other transportation activists in our area also prefer that part of the money go toward rebuilding Route 355.

“We support turning Rockville Pike into a walkable urban boulevard, beginning in the White Flint area and stretching to Rockville and Gaithersburg,” said Ross. “The people-first approach that has been designed for White Flint would serve as a model to improve accessibility along the rest of Route 355 in the future.”

“At what point in our history would the widening ever stop?” asked Cheryl Cort, Policy Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, about the Planning Board’s I-270 recommendation. “Meeting the county and state smart growth goals, and reducing traffic, energy use and climate emissions, demands a very different and comprehensive approach -- making transit and walkable streets the top priority.”

"We urge the County Council to reject the Planning Board's misguided transportation recommendations and to ask the County and State to instead evaluate and adopt a comprehensive set of transportation and land use solutions for the corridor that don't involve never-ending highway widening,” said Milmoe. “We want the Council to make a statement against lanes as the solution to the corridor's needs and to adopt transportation solutions in keeping with their expressed commitments to fight climate change, reduce energy use, and implement smarter growth.”

The groups also endorsed the Sierra Club’s recent letter to the Montgomery County Council. The letter provides additional detail as to why all of the groups request a more comprehensive examination of alternatives.