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County Council Hears from Public Regarding Resolution to Ignore M83

“People care deeply about this issue,” said County Council President Roger Berliner at one point during Tuesday night’s public hearing on the proposed a resolution titled “Transportation Solutions for Northwest Montgomery County” which would instruct the County Planning Board to ignore M83, as residents in attendance began to become a bit rowdy. “What you hear tonight is an evenly divided testimony. Obliviously, people care deeply on both sides. Let’s be respectful of people on both sides.”

The Montgomery County Council heard from 30 residents on Tuesday night about the proposed resolution. At the start of the meeting, Berliner said the Council would hear from 17 residents speaking in favor of the resolution, and 17 speaking against the resolution. However, a number the individuals scheduled to speak did not appear.

With the exception of a councilmembers Craig Rice, Hans Riemer, and Nancy Floreen and the admonishment from Berliner, members of the Council did not address the public. councilmembers Tom Hucker, District 5 – Silver Spring and Sidney Katz, District 3 – Gaithersburg/Rockville were not in attendance at the public hearing.

M83 is the highway which has been on the County’s master plan since 1966. It is the extension of the Mid-County Highway which would run from Montgomery Village Avenue in Montgomery Village to Ridge Road in Clarksburg. If completed the 5.7-mile extension would provide a direct route from Clarksburg Village to Shady Grove Road near the Metro Station and the entrance to the Inter-County Connector, MD 200.

This is an old and much-debated topic in the County about a road which exists only as an idea thought of over 50 years ago, but it has gotten new life as development in the Clarksburg area continues to grow, and the County continues to drag its feet on providing transportation improvements for the growing UpCounty population.

In September, At-Large Councilmember Hans Riemer proposed a resolution titled “Transportation Solutions for Northwest Montgomery County” which would instruct the County Planning Board to ignore M83.

M83 will remain part of the Master Plan, but the Planning Board will not make judgments based on the roadway being built. “The council will still decide in the future what will or won’t be built when it comes to M83,” said Reimer who stated that he is opposed to completely removing the Mid-County Highway Extension. I am totally opposed taking a highway away,” Riemer told Germantown Pulse in September.

Reimer said, “What this resolution does is leave the road on the master plan of highways, but since there is no agreement to build it, we are going to stop adding more development in master plans where that development doesn’t work unless you have the road.”

The public hearing began with a speaker in favor of the resolution. Peter Young, President of Montgomery Village Foundation, Board of Directors said his group supported the resolution because it outlines how the council is going to bring congestion relief to the UpCounty, through expanding capacity on I-270, implementing transit alternatives, including the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT), Bus Rapid Transit in the Rt. 355 Corridor, and improvements to MD Rt. 355.

“We believe that the County is doing very good work in stepping up service along the 355 corridor with a brand new RideOn Extra limited stop route which started this month. Let’s push for more solutions like these, all of these transportation priorities will improve traffic from Clarksburg to Shady Grove. This resolution puts forth a solution that is better for the environment and will yield community and economic benefits far better than building M83.”

Young was followed by Susan Swift, the executive director the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance, who supports the building of M83. “The resolution before you seeks to ignore Mid-County Highway’s purposeful history and neglects the fact that it was promised as a life-blood north-south access for Clarksburg, the fastest growing community in the County,” said Swift. “It is unrealistic and short-sighted to either remove it from the master plan or, as in this resolution, pretend it is not going to be counted in capacity. What happens to all of the density built and already attributable to this missing link?”

Swift was followed by Margaret Schoap, of the Coalition for Alternatives to Mid-County Highway Extended, known as the TAME Coalition, which has been a vocal group against the building of M83.

“Clearly, M83 strikes out by not being aligned with County’s economic development policies, nor the MCDOT’s sustainability policy for the environment,” said Schoap. “This proactive and reality-based resolution accomplishes far more than making a basic transportation on this road. I hope this resolution leads to more discussions on how land-use affects transportation throughout this county.”