Montgomery County is facing a backlog of more than a half-billion dollars in transportation projects ready to move forward.
County Executive Ike Leggett recommended cutting 15 percent of the county's funds for transportation projects in the next six years, creating a nearly $600 million waiting list of projects that could be finished earlier if the county dedicated the funds.
Although the County Council plans to fund several of the projects on the list, it plans to delay others, effectively maintaining the backlog. Many of those projects still waiting are road improvements and expansions.
|The waiting list|
|Project||Funds needed under Leggett's plan|
|Bethesda Metro South Entrance||$75,760,000|
|Capital Crescent Trail||$49,500,000|
|North County Maintenance Depot||$112,579,000*|
|Falls Road East Side Hiker/Biker Trail||$22,340,000|
|Frederick Road Bike Path||$4,554,000|
|Metropolitan Branch Trail||$11,091,000|
|Seven Locks Road Improvements, Phase One||$25,748,000|
|Silver Spring Green Trail||$5,259,000|
|Bethesda Central Business District Streetscape||$2,563,000|
|Burtonsville access road||$6,496,000|
|Goshen Road South||$14,040,000|
|Montrose Parkway East||$63,901,000|
|Observation Drive extension||$200,000,000|
|Seminary Road Intersection Improvements||$5,113,000|
|*The county executive's office is seeking a new site for this project.|
|Source: Montgomery County Council|
For example, the council plans to delay widening a section of Goshen Road that runs through Montgomery Village, not funding the project until fiscal 2017 so it wouldn't be completed until fiscal 2022.
Leggett firmly opposes delaying the project. In a recent letter to Council President Roger Berliner, he pointed to data showing that by the year 2015, 16 out of 18 intersections in the stretch of the road scheduled for widening will operate at an unacceptable level of service and travel time will increase by 20 to 28 percent.
At Tuesday's council meeting, some council members said delaying the road projects would be a disservice to residents.
"It's becoming harder to tell when you're entering Montgomery County and leaving another jurisdiction," said Councilman Marc Elrich, D-at large, saying that the difference in road quality between Montgomery and neighboring counties used to be obvious.
The council voted to remove some of the road projects in favor of those that are tied to the Purple Line, the light-rail project planned to run from Bethesda to New Carrollton.
Funding projects like the Capital Crescent Trail and the Bethesda Metro entrance is necessary if the Purple Line is going to stay on schedule and start construction in fiscal 2016, said Councilman Hans Riemer, D-at large.
But county Department of Transportation Director Arthur Holmes joined some of the council members in advocating a balance between roads and transit.
"It's not about one at the sacrifice of another. It's about ... achieving not only transit, but roads for this county," said Councilman Craig Rice, D-Germantown, adding that upcounty areas will be road-dependent for many years to come.
"If the county came out with a blanket statement, saying, 'We're going to put all our efforts into transit,' we would say, 'Wait a minute, we don't have transit up here,' " said Marilyn Balcombe, president of the Gaithersburg Germantown Chamber of Commerce. "It's a disservice for anyone to pit roads against transit. We need them both."