Improving transportation for Upcounty
As the Council debates the resolution I introduced to make sure that future master plans don’t make traffic worse, here is some background information on what we can do to improve mobility.
The Resolution currently before the Council does not make any decisions about what transportation projects, including M83, will or will not be built. It expresses the will of the Council that future master plans should not factor in M83 on the master plan alignment when the transportation capacity of the master plan area is assessed. There is no consensus to build M83 on the master plan alignment, therefore it does not make sense to continue adding new development that requires M83 as a transportation solution.
The Montgomery County Department Of Transportation has produced several detailed studies of options for improving mobility Upcounty over the last decade. They can be viewed on the County’s website at:
http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/corridor/. I believe there is an option that will make significant improvements for the area and could also gain the consensus needed to go into construction.
The most recent study was the Midcounty Corridor Study Supplemental Report from February 2017. DOT studied how four possible alternatives would perform in 2040, using the same background assumptions about development and infrastructure.
- “No Build” – No improvements on 355 or M83
- “Scenario 1” – Widening 355 and adding service lanes, improving intersections throughout the area, and building Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on 355.
- “Scenario 2” – Building a two-lane reversible parkway on the M-83 route and BRT on 355.
- “Scenario 3” – Building a four-lane highway along the M-83 right-of-way, without any improvements to 355.
See the figure below that summarizes the results of that study. The study did not recommend one alternative, but found that each scenario improved conditions over the “No Build” scenario.
I believe that Scenario 1 – widening 355, improving intersections, and building BRT – should be our highest priority, in addition to I-270 and the Corridor Cities Transitway, for which we are seeking state funding. Compared with Scenario 3 (M83), Scenario 1 allows auto travel times at rush hour that are only 2 or 3 minutes more, while allowing 22% of commuters to take transit and producing 34 million fewer vehicle-miles per year. Only 8 intersections continue to fail under Scenario 1, compared with 9 intersections under Scenario 3 and 14 intersections under No Build.
Scenario 1, which I favor, includes a combination of road improvements from Alternatives 2 & 5 of the 2013 Environmental Effects Report. These expand auto capacity along Ridge Road, 355, and the existing Midcounty Highway by widening the route to a six-lane divided highway along the entire stretch (sections are already six lanes) and building service roads along 355 to minimize driveways and turning movements.
- Ridge Road would be widened to a six-lane divided highway with a sidewalk and shared use path from future Snowden Farm Parkway to Brink Road under a separate developer-funded project. (From Brink Road to MD 355, Ridge Road is already six lanes.)
- From Ridge Road to Middlebrook Road, MD 355 would be widened from a four-lane divided highway that contains auxiliary turning lanes at various locations to a six-lane divided highway with auxiliary turning lanes, service roads at select locations, and a sidewalk and shared use path.
- From Middlebrook Road to Montgomery Village Avenue, MD 355 is already a six-lane divided highway. Service roads would be added at select locations.
- Montgomery Village Avenue between MD 355 and Midcounty Highway is already a six-lane divided highway, but would be modified by replacing the existing eastern sidewalk with a shared use path.
- Existing Midcounty Highway from Montgomery Village Avenue to Goshen Road would be widened from the existing four-lane divided highway to a six-lane divided highway with a sidewalk and shared use path.
- Intersection improvements (such as additional turn lanes) at the following intersections:
- Midcounty Highway /Montgomery Village Avenue
- Midcounty Highway/Goshen Road
- Midcounty Highway/Woodfield Road
- Midcounty Highway/Washington Grove Road
- Midcounty Highway/Miller Fall Road
- Midcounty Highway/Shady Grove Road
- MD 355/Shady Grove Road
- MD 355/Montgomery Village Avenue
- MD 355/Watkins Mill Road
- MD 355/Professional Drive
- MD 355/Gunners Branch Road
- MD 355/Middlebrook Road
- MD 355/Germantown Road
- MD 355/Shakespeare Boulevard
- Watkins Mill Road/Stedwick Road
- MD 115/Shady Grove Road/Airpark Road
- Finally, Scenario 1 includes Bus Rapid Transit on 355, attracting more than 1,600 new daily transit riders according to the study. You can read more about the proposed BRT line here.