Monday, March 24, 2008

committee recommends delaying funds for b'ville access road

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Leggett cites "security concerns" for new $65,000 private bathroom; Burtonsville residents top Peeps contest with "Thriller" remake; Cabbie collective in Dumont Oaks worried about D.C.'s switch to fare meters.

Route 198 in Burtonsville. Despite increasing congestion and declining business in the so-called "village center," the County Council may cut funding for a proposed access road.

The revitalization of Burtonsville's town center could be put on hold indefinitely as the County Council considers removing the proposed Burtonsville Access Road from its Capital Improvements Plan, which assigns funding to transportation projects over the next five years. On her new blog Nancy At Large, Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) unveils recommendations made by the Council's Transportation and Environment Committee, of which she is the chair. The County Council will review those suggestions next month.

Elsewhere in East County, the White Oak Transit Center at New Hampshire and Lockwood Drive could be delayed for at least a year while new construction estimates are received. Meanwhile, a bike trail on the west side of Route 29 between Four Corners and Burnt Mills could be delayed indefinitely because a sidewalk was recently completed (with great fanfare) across the street. And funding for the Metropolitan Branch Trail through Downtown Silver Spring, which is tied into the Purple Line, could be held up because of conflicts with CSX, which is withholding permission to use its railroad paralleling the Red Line for the path.

Although only a quarter-mile long, the Burtonsville Access Road has long been considered essential to the revitalization of the business district, now a mix of aging strip malls and garages. The road first appeared in the Planning Department's Fairland Master Plan, drafted in 1997. It would allow local businesses additional access points and provide local traffic a way around congested Route 198. A market study released last fall states that the so-called "Burtonsville Village Center" will already be losing business from newer, more upscale shopping centers like Maple Lawn in Howard County and the massive Konterra development in Laurel.

Nonetheless, the County Council sees the project as unnecessary, especially given the ongoing budget crisis. "The timing for this road is not as urgent as was anticipated when the project was first conceived," the Transportation and Environment Committee says, citing that other improvements along 198, a State highway, have also been delayed. "The need for the road is not pressing."

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

While the report correctly states that the InterCounty Connector could reduce traffic along 198, its impression that Burtonsville's revitalization could simply be cast aside is disappointing. It's even surprising given that our County Executive, Ike Leggett, lives literally two minutes away from the village center. (However, Leggett's office in Rockville will be getting a $65,000 bathroom with shower, so he may not be spending too much time at home.) While the Route 29 bypass, has improved north-south travel, it's also making Burtonsville a pass-through on the way to Columbia or Silver Spring, crippling local businesses.

We need to give people a reason to stop in Burtonsville. The access road could do that. It would help to create a pedestrian-oriented "village center." By going behind Route 198, it would provide access to properties currently landlocked by existing businesses, providing opportunities for new operations to set up shop. It would also remove local traffic from the highway, making it easier for people outside the area to visit. One such parcel, near Burtonsville Elementary School, has been a rumored location for the Amish Market to move to when kicked out of its current home in the Burtonsville Shopping Center.

A decision to delay funding for the Burtonsville Access Road, even in the name of fiscal responsibility, would be nothing short of a mistake. Why kick the business district when it's already down? If anything, this road - and the revitalization - needs to be pushed up.

Check out the Transportation and Environment Committee's recommendations for the Capital Improvement Plans here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The only thing that is "unnecessary" is the County Executive's new golden toilet and his ass-wiping with our hard-earned tax dollars. Is his building so dangerous that he can't even go to the bathroom with the rest of the County employees. And why is the media not picking up on this? The media seems to snicker at any criticism of Leggett. I wonder if Doug Duncan could get away with this?