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White Flint ‘Complete Streets’ Advocates Lobby At Budget Forum

By Aaron Kraut

Wednesday - 7/31/2013, 3:15pm  ET

The White Flint western workaroundResidents and developers looking for a more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly road network in White Flint made up the largest group of attendees at Tuesday night’s capital budget forum with County Executive Isiah Leggett.

The Friends of White Flint (which counts residents and many of the area’s largest land owners as members) and the White Flint Partnership (a group of many of those same land owners) are putting on the push for funding of a Western Workaround that includes a more urban-feeling Old Georgetown Road.

Montgomery County’s preliminary design of the east-west stretch of Old Georgetown Road that connects to Rockville Pike has come under criticism.

The design doesn’t provide for a bikeway and critics say keeping the road at six lanes will mean less sidewalk space and a less walkable area.

On Tuesday, developers and residents joined together to ask a county Department of Transportation official to prioritize the project in the next six-year Capital Budget, or CIP, which Leggett will propose to the County Council in January.

Federal Realty’s Evan Goldman, whose company is building the Pike & Rose project at Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike, and Francine Waters from Lerner Enterprises both asked that area road projects get funding in the next CIP.

Under the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, the new development in the area will make up a special taxing district that would pay the county back for the proposed road network, which includes a realigned Executive Boulevard.

Friends of White Flint Executive Director Lindsay Hoffman and member Dan Reed also said the county should redesign Old Georgetown Road to the standards in the Sector Plan. The preliminary designs calls for a 40 mph speed limit.

In June, County Transportation Engineering chief Bruce Johnston told residents and developers that State Highway Administration guidelines are holding the county back.

Johnston said if the county went ahead and connected Hoya Street, what has long been a service road behind Mid-Pike Plaza, the SHA has indicated it would be more open to allowing bike lanes on Old Georgetown. A connected Hoya Street could allow some of the north-south traffic flow to avoid east-west Old Georgetown, allowing more room for lanes and other streetscaping features.

County planners included the Hoya Street connection in its list of recommended priorities for the CIP.

Leggett spoke briefly about the challenge of picking certain capital projects over others and took a few mostly general questions about the county’s budget and construction process.

He gave no indication of where he stands on any Bethesda-area projects that could be in or could be left out of his recommendations.

Leggett again defended his past decision to delay funding for the Bethesda Metro South Entrance based on uncertainty around the Purple Line. With the state’s new gas tax now providing a source of funding and talks with the Federal Transit Administration ongoing, it’s unclear if Leggett feels the Bethesda Purple Line station is close enough to merit funding for the South Entrance.

The South Entrance would serve both Metro and Purple Line riders near the Purple Line station on Elm Street.