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Montgomery County Needs to Address Upcounty Traffic Issues, NOW!

What happened last Friday, Oct. 7 in the Upcounty area was an epic traffic failure in Upper Germantown and Clarksburg.

It is not acceptable.

The Outlets are not even open and we are already drowning in traffic and associated downward spiral in traffic safety. Take MD 355/West Old Baltimore Road intersection for example — a classic failure of the County Council who let a developer move ahead without the necessary roadway improvements being in place. All because of the callous disregard of those in power to do the right thing, pretending that they never hear from anyone in Upcounty, as if our lives don't matter.

I am not opposed even a little bit to land development, but what is going on is totally unacceptable, and now, I would be the first to say that all new development in Clarksburg must stop immediately without necessary infrastructure in place. And I am not talking about some fictional, unfeasible, unrealistic transportation infrastructure — the CCT, BRT, etc. is pretty much on death bed — we need real solutions, which means completion of M-83, as well as widening of MD 355 from Milestone Manor Court to Clarksburg Road. What is going on with the MD 355 bike path, promised forever?!

Having dealt with the County over the last several years pursuing local roadway and transit improvements even under the threat of a Councilmember and County Executive when I was Chair of the UCAB, trying to get the County to build the necessary infrastructure that must serve Clarksburg and all of the communities to the east of I-270 has been a nightmare. What we have is a County Executive and many Councilmembers, who have chosen, despite several pleas, to ignore the plight on many residents in Upcounty. This cannot continue.

The County Executive and the Council must recognize that tax-paying residents live up here and must immediately do whatever necessary to move ahead with at least the two-lane option of extending Snowden Farm Parkway to connect to Midcounty Highway along the master planned route. The voices and quality of life of over 25,000 residents just in Clarksburg and many more in adjacent communities cannot be held hostage by the petty politics of our elected officials and a few NIMBYs who do not even pay property taxes! I believe those who pay taxes deserve better and I demand that the County get to action. Almost 1,600 people who signed the petition supporting completion of Midcounty Highway is asking for answers.

Here is the plan:

1. Approve final design and construction of a two-lane option for the extension of Snowden Farm Parkway to Midcounty Highway immediately. This is not someone else's fault; this is something the County must do. If there is a will, the County can make this happen. I have no doubt.

2. Make completion of interim and permanent improvements along the MD 355 the top priority in the upcoming MDOT CTP Tour. Mobilize the County Executive, Councilmembers, and District representatives to get this done! This must happen!

3. Do all that is possible in the County's power to put pressure on the Governor and MDOT to restart the I-270 Multi-modal Study/I-495 Westside Mobility Study. I did read the joint letter the County signed with Frederick County. Personally, I think the letter didn't go far enough to demand immediate improvements to the corridor. The letter sounded non-committal and if Montgomery County's track record is to be factored-in, I wonder if the letter is already filed away somewhere or in the shredder.

I am amused by the fixation some on the Council have and their commitment to make sure that the term-limit referendum will fail. Some are even putting their own campaign money to defeat the effort! I wish these Councilmembers only showed the same passion and commitment to fix the problems of those they represent, who deal with these problems in some Hellish way each and every day.

I am not sure if these Councilmembers realize that if they do their job without being in the pocket of special interest groups, no one will be after them. I am not sure if they realize that many residents are tired of them and will be happy to get rid of them, even if voting for the ballot measure is the only way to accomplish the goal.

Editor’s Note: Cherian Eapen is a member of the Coalition for Upcounty, an advocacy group which brings issues that matter to residents and businesses in the Upcounty area of Montgomery County to the attention of local and State decision makers.

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