Last month County Executive Ike Leggett announced his recommended $4.4 billion FY17 Capital Budget and six-year FY17-22 Capital Improvements Program, also known as the CIP. Leggett’s planned capital improvements for the next six years seem not take into account that Germantown even exists when it comes to economic development and transportation.
The need for some sort of economic development in Germantown is great. The UpCounty area of Germantown/Boyds/Clarksburg is one of the largest population centers in Montgomery County, but Germantown is not one of the largest job centers in the County. According to US Census Bureau Data, in 2013, only 21,032—or five percent—of Montgomery County’s jobs were located in Germantown while Germantown was home to nine percent of the County’s population. The population in the Germantown area grew 29 percent from 2000 to 2010, while the rest of Montgomery County’s population grew by just 11 percent.
As a result, of the population growing faster than the job rate, 90 percent of Germantown residents commute to jobs outside of the Germantown area, according to the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission.
Montgomery County has no plan to spend tax dollars to noticeably improve the quality of life for residents living in Germantown.
Below is the entire paragraph from County Executive Leggett’s press release of the Capital Budget and six year CIP plan as it pertains to Economic Development. If you come across something in this paragraph that is within 10 miles of Germantown, please let the Germantown Pulse know because we can’t find anything.
“Leggett’s recommended capital budget provides funding to spur economic development and grow quality jobs in the County as demonstrated by the County’s public-private partnerships to redevelop White Oak, White Flint and Wheaton, as well as the Smart Growth Initiative. It includes $173 million in funding for planning and design, and construction of roadway improvements in the White Flint District. Another $169 million is programmed in supporting projects, such as Montrose Parkway East and White Flint Fire Station #23. It also includes funding for two additional floors in the Wheaton building that will house Park & Planning and County departments.”
There is no plan to invest our Montgomery County tax dollars in economic development in the Germantown area. No plan use tax dollars to improve nightlife our downtown area. No planned capital expenditure of tax dollars to attract new restaurants or retail businesses to Germantown. The CIP is Montgomery County’s long-term spending plan, and Germantown doesn’t seem to be in Montgomery County’s long-term plans.
Let’s look at the many transportation projects County Executive Leggett is boasting about in his announcement. Again, let us know when you read about anything that is within 10 miles of Germantown.
“Also included in my capital budget is a new Purple Line project to cover the County’s costs to secure land for right-of-way for the Purple Line as well as coordination and monitoring of the Purple Line and the three County-funded projects - the Capital Crescent Trail, Bethesda Metro Station South Entrance, and the Silver Spring Green Trail,” said Leggett.
There are big plans for the new Purple Line, which will cost $40 million in Montgomery County Tax dollars, and will benefit the same people that have been getting the lion’s share of the benefits in Montgomery County for the past 40 years, those folks who live within those Beltway — those Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Takoma Park folks. Since 78 percent of the County Council is made up of residents who live within the Beltway, it is a pretty sure bet that they won’t have any problem approving this budget recommendation.
Let’s move on to the section where Council Executive Leggett talks about the capital improvements over the next six years that will be made to roads in the Germantown area.
“Funding for new and improved roads has increased due to project cost increases and projects moving into the FY17-22 capital improvements program. Significant projects include:
• Montrose Parkway East: This project will provide a new east-west road (with bridges, interchanges, sidewalks, and bikepaths) to connect the existing Montrose Parkway/Rockville Pike interchange to Viers Mill Road. This road will improve access to the White Flint area and to I-270.
• Goshen Road South: This UpCounty project provides traffic congestion relief and safety improvements to the existing Goshen Road by widening existing lanes and adding center medians, sidewalks, and bikepaths.
• Snouffer School Road and Snouffer School Road North (Webb Tract): These two related projects will provide traffic congestion relief and safety improvements (sidewalks, turning lanes, and traffic signals) in the vicinity of the County’s future Multi-Agency Service Park. Both projects will be completed in FY19.
• Seminary Road Intersection Improvements: This project realigns an existing intersection in Silver Spring to improve traffic flow and enhance safety by adding on-road bike lanes and sidewalks by FY20.
• East Gude Drive Roadway Improvements: This project will provide sidewalk safety improvements and enhance turning lanes at intersections to improve existing and future traffic flows by FY21.
• Stringtown Road, Clarksburg Transportation Connections, Subdivision roads Participation, and State Transportation projects: The projects represent partnerships with private developers to support development in the Clarksburg area. Work will be completed at various points during FY17-FY20.
• Maryland/Dawson Extended: Funding for the City of Rockville has been added to construct curbs, gutters, pavement, drainage, utility relocation, sidewalks and other safety and connectivity improvements to support continued development in the Rockville Town Center.
• Wapakoneta Road Improvements and the Platt Ridge projects will be completed in FY17.”
Did you see that? The words UpCounty and Clarksburg were used in that section talking about Goshen Road in Gaithersburg, which is budgeted for $132.5 million and $8.0 million for Stringtown Road in Clarksburg. However, Germantown was not mentioned at all, again.
Indeed, the only time that Germantown, with its burgeoning population of over 90,000 residents was mentioned in the CIP announcement was to say that a new student center at the Germantown campus of Montgomery College would be funded, and a new Cricket Field at South Germantown Recreational Park would be funded. While these projects are noble pursuits, they will hardly benefit the vast majority of residents in the Germantown area.
What is the County government going to do for Germantown in the next six years?
Based on this budget announcement, the Germantown Pulse is unsure. Further research into Leggett’s proposed CIP reveals that there are some road projects slated for the Germantown area that were not mentioned in Leggett’s released announcement. Those include $141.5 million to extend Observation Drive for 2.2 miles to connect Waters Discovery Lane and West Baltimore Road. This project is very far in the future, with final designs not to begin slated until FY20 and construction not scheduled until after FY22, only a fraction of the $141.5 million could be spent over the next six years.
Another Germantown road project in Leggett’s proposed CIP (but not in the press release) is $15.2 million for the design and construction of a new 2,565-foot roadway to connect Century Boulevard to the future Dorsey Mill Road bridge over I-270. The bridge has been part of the master plan for Germantown since 2009 and is part of the Corridor Cities Transitway. However, the CCT is not part of the County’s current CIP and was not included in Leggett’s new CIP ranging to FY22.
So really, what is the County government going to do for Germantown in the next six years?
One thing is certain, if we—as voters—don’t change the geographic make-up of the membership of the County Council or somehow improve Germantown’s standing as a political force within Montgomery County we can expect more Capital Improvement Plans in which Germantown is only mentioned in passing.
The Germantown Pulse urges political leaders from both parties to find and recruit qualified UpCounty-based candidates to begin the process to even out the geographic representation of the Montgomery County Council. Germantown residents are urged to contact the four At-Large members of the County Council — Mark Elrich, Council President Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, and Hans Riemer — and tell them if you are displeased with the lack of projects benefiting the Germantown area.
All residents are urged to take a few minutes and read through the County Executive’s full FY17 Capital Budget and six-year Capital Improvements Program.
Lastly, the Germantown Pulse urges all residents to voice your displeasure with this proposed budget plan to County Executive Ike Leggett when he comes to Germantown to host a Budget Forum at the BlackRock Center for the Arts next Monday, February 8 at 7:00 pm.