County Council Debates Future of Mid-County Highway Expansion
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Montgomery County Council, the debate over M83 or the expansion of the Mid-County Highway continued, much as it has for the last many years. Tuesday’s debate ended, as debates over M83 have done for many years with no decision.
The debate came about as the Montgomery County Planning Board was presenting its semi-annual report to the County Council. After Planning Board officials touted the successes of County parks and planning projects, the topic of M83 came up as a result of the Planning Board’s intention to revisit the Master Plans in many of the areas of the county east of Interstate 270, including Montgomery Village and Gaithersburg East. As Montgomery County Deputy Council Administrator Glenn Orlin said, “It is hard to do a master plan without knowing the fate of a major project like (M83).”
M83 or the Mid-County Highway extension has been in the Montgomery County Master Plan since the plan was originally adopted in the 1960s. The controversial four-lane road between Gaithersburg and Clarksburg is designed to ease traffic on heavily congested Route 355 and other roads east of Interstate 270.
According to a 2015 Washington Post article, “County transportation officials have said the road was long-planned to accommodate the crush of traffic that planners knew would follow as subdivisions and shopping centers popped up in northern Montgomery. Development was allowed to occur assuming that the road would one day be built, county planners have said.”
In 2015, M83 was estimated to cost $357 million, but the county has not budgeted any money for its design or construction.
The impetus for the latest discussion of M83 by the County Council was the release of the long awaited results of an independent study whether building the M83 or funding the proposed Bus Rapid Transit program along Rt. 355.