Wednesday, August 23, 2006

valerie ervin drops the "m" word

I haven't said too much about the current push for a pedestrian tunnel under Georgia Avenue for the Forest Glen metro station. At first, I was a little frustrated by the concept of a tunnel - it reminds me of all those skywalks in cities like Baltimore that allow the local streets to be turned into de facto expressways - and, of course, there is that spectacular (and existing) eight-million-dollar bridge across the Beltway. But as someone who ran across Columbia Pike on a daily basis this summer, I can see why Forest Glen residents might like an easier time crossing the street.

And, this morning, I got an email from Adam Pagnucco, Forest Estates resident who called into NewsTalk on NewsChannel 8 yesterday with a question for guests and County Council candidates Valerie Ervin and Hans Riemer. He asked Ervin and Riemer about the proposed tunnel, congestion at Georgia Avenue and Forest Glen Road, and their position on the proposed development at the Forest Glen metro station. This is what Valerie Ervin had to say:
This gentleman is asking a very good question because the way that Montgomery County has done its planning is to focus density around Metro. Unfortunately, what we're seeing now is so much density around Metro that there must be some place where we can cut off as we're counting the numbers of new housing developments going in around Metro. I see it as a big concern and I would like to support A) the tunnel under Georgia Avenue, and B) either a moratorium or some sort of a tax to keep, to make sure that the development doesn't go way overboard. And a lot of people think that that's what the case is.
This is also essentially Ike Leggett's position on growth: if we stop it, the traffic will magically disappear. So Valerie Ervin proposes a moratorium around the Forest Glen metro station, preventing people from living near Metro - which can take quite a few cars off Georgia Avenue and possibly save a few souls from getting hit. That doesn't make any sense.

And this is what Hans Riemer had to say:
I've been a big advocate for the tunnel. I've had to cross that intersection many times and I've actually been out helping to support the community and advocating for that tunnel. It would cost about 8 to 10 million dollars. I think it would be a good expenditure for the state. What's needed from the council member is coordinating between the state agencies, the school system, obviously the county government to secure the funding for it and push it through.

Regarding the development there, it's important that… Now, this is WMATA's property, so it could be hard to stop. But should it go forward, it's important that it help benefit the community overall. And that means perhaps the money could be brought from that development into constructing the tunnel and make sure that any impact on the schools or the roads are mitigated. And the council member has to fight to make sure that's the case.
How about that? Let the developer help pay for the tunnel, and the schools - Adam Pagnucco said that the nearby elementary school has seven portables (well, Galway has twelve, but I'm not complaining!) - so he can build next to the Metro and give a few people a chance to ditch their cars. That sounds like a win-win situation. If you listen to the Neighbors for a Better Montgomery, they'll tell you it's bribery and hyperdensification.

The way to deal with growth is something we were all taught in elementary school: to cooperate. State and local agencies have to work together. The school system and the planning board need to meet. Homeowner's Associations should be talking to developers - talking to, not arguing with. Moratoriums are a temporary solution to a persistent problem, an edict handed down from above with little or no discussion or conversation between opposing bodies. That doesn't sound very progressive to me.


Anonymous said...

There is a good reason for slowing down development around metro stations. If we do it now it will be done wrong. By that I mean not enough development.

The developers are all talking townhouses. The community is up in arms about that much density. And what is needed are midrises as part of complete, transit oriented development. That won't happen if we do it now.
But it might if we wait a few years.

Dan Reed said...

Anonymous 3:38: Good point. I'd never thought of that . . . timing is a tricky, tricky thing.

Mr. Fustero: I say this politely: Move. There are thousands of people who ride the Metro and would gladly take your place in Forest Glen. Those property values are skyrocketing for a reason . . .

Silver Springer said...

This is the reason why I advocate for more offices than residential at this point. We are not nearly where we need to be as far as the number of jobs in Montgomery County. Too many people drive to work especially in places like Germantown.

To rfustero, we could be like Columbia where 95% of people drive to work unlike Bethesda where it is far far less than that all because of the metro rail and other different modes of transporation as well as high density, office, residential and retail.

Transit oriented growth is the best solution on the table right now. I figure if you don't have anything better to offer you shouldn't complain.