The flurry of development pressure for Rockville Pike is difficult to understand. It is clear that tens of thousands of dollars are being poured into the city political campaign in hopes of a result favorable to the interests of developers and commercial landowners. The mayor wants to rush the proposed pike redevelopment plan through without public hearings before the coming elections.
It is easy to understand his anxiety. Testimony at the public hearing held by the planning commission was almost unanimously opposed. And there is no reason to believe that the reception to the new version will be any different. The opposition comes from the realization that traffic in Rockville is headed toward gridlock.
The very factors that caused the growth of Rockville in colonial times -- its strategic location at the crossroads of three major roads, the pike, Great Falls Road and Viers Mill Road -- now serve to block its growth. The intersections at the center of Rockville restrict traffic flow and reduce the effective carrying capacity to a single lane or less. Alternate roadways on East Jefferson and Chapman avenues parallel to the pike in the vicinity of Congressional Shopping Center would serve only to provide additional traffic at the choke points. The gateway intersections north and south of the city at Gude Drive, Shady Grove Road, Montrose Road and Twinbrook Parkway additionally restrict traffic flow on the pike.
City planners recognized these restrictions when they pushed for the construction of the Falls Road interchange. This roadway was supposed to promote the development of the town center by allowing direct access from Route 270 without the restriction of these intersections. It was recognized that traffic would use Route 270 and stay off the pike if at all possible. This is, of course, now the case, more than ever. Cars and trucks use the pike only if they must in order to get to destinations that they cannot get to any other way.
The plan to redevelop the pike in the image of Bethesda is not in keeping with the needs, desires or service capacities of Rockville. To double the traffic-generating development on the already choking road system is irrational.
It is clear that the Rockville master plan needs to be reexamined in terms of current traffic patterns and community needs. The proposed redevelopment plan for the pike is ill-conceived and wrongheaded and deserves to be rejected. ROALD A. SCHRACK Rockville