Montgomery County's legislative delegation is joining the chorus of opposition to 32 miles of proposed east-west highways through Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
The lawmakers are considering bills that would stop construction of the two roads. One is called the Intercounty Connector; the other is known as the Rockville Facility.
The two prjects, which planners say are of criticl importance to relieving Beltway congestion and improving transportation between I-270 in Montgomery County and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in Prince George's County have been on the state's highway agenda for more than a decade.
A three-year, $1.5 million study of the east-west transportation issue began last year and in August, the State Highway Adminstration presented 12 alternatives, which were discussed in public workshops. The alternatives range from simply widening Randolph Road (Rte. 183) to building a four or six-lane, limited-access freeway north of Rockville with a four-lane spur south of the city.
The freeway project is the Intercounty Connector and the spur has been dubbed the Rockville Facility.
Residents along the two routes say they fear the proposed highways would cause neighborhood displacement and would aggravate traffic, pollution and taxes. Last year Del. Robin Ficker (R-Mont.) sponsored a bill to halt the study, but it was filed late and the delegation decided not to consider it. t
Monday night the delegation will vote on two bills. One, sponsored jointly with Prince George's County delegates, would prohibit the Department of Transportation from spending any money to build either of the two roads.
A second bill would halt both the study and construction of the Rockville Facility, a 10-mile spur south of Rockville. Ficker, sponsor of the bill, said he believes there is more local oposition to the Rockville Facility than to the Intercounty Connector because it would transverse old neighborhoods in his district.
He said a survey of his constituents found that they felt the other part of the highway -- the Intercounty Connector from Gaithersburg to Prince George's County -- was worth studying.
George Grandy Jr., project manager for the state Highway Administration, said he understood Ficker's opposition to the Rockville Facility because it would go through the most densely populated part of his district.
"But that density means that most of the traffic is there, and some improvements are needed in that area," he said.
The bill initiated by Del. Idamae Garrott (D-Mont.) and co-sponsored by seven other Montgomery and Prince George's County delegates, was worded specifically to stop construction of the two proposed highways. But Grandy says passage of such a bill would leave the Highway Administration the option of studying other routes.
"Unless the bill said that study would stop, it wouldn't keep the SHA from studying to build a road other than the Intercounty Connector," said Grandy. "But, based on the cost of a new alignment, we are looking more and more at upgrading existing roads." He said a preliminary study has found the new routes could cost as much as half a billion dollars.
Garrott said she is amending the bill so that it would prohibit construction of any new freeway, but would allow other ways of improving east-west transportation to be studied.
Garrott's bill must be approved by the delegations of both counties, because the Intercounty Connector would cross both counties. If the delegates approve the bill, it will go to the locaal senators, who must also approve it before the entire General Assembly could take it up in January. Local bills approved by both local delegations and senators are usually passed by the Assembly.
The SHA is working to narrow its list of 12 alternatives to six by the end of November. Garrott said she has asked the SHA to consider rail transit in place of a highway.
"The final decision hasn't been made and we don't want to look at it negatively, but the existing conditions don't support light rail," said Grandy. "Mass transit needs more homes in smaller areas because persons using mass transit aren't going to walk more than a quarter mile. It has to be in a place where people go on a daily basis. The east-west route doesn't have that."