The insanity of cutting the bike path along the ICC to save money and the environment was picked up in MSM last month. Next meeting 9/18 at 9am - no public testimony. For some history on this
Marc Fischer starts it off
Nay to Maryland's builders of the Intercounty Connector, who have bizarrely decided that while a massive highway is no threat to the environment, a little separate bike path alongside the new highway would be, and therefore the bike path--long promised as a sop to those who were appalled by the prospect of the new highway--must die.
a 10-foot wide bike path is a menace to the critters, but a six-lane superhighway is man's latest gift to nature.
Montgomery County planners say a continuous 10-foot-wide asphalt bike path would cause too much damage to ecologically sensitive parkland traversed by the toll road under construction between Gaithersburg and Laurel. Instead, planners say, cyclists and walkers should be detoured in some areas onto local roads, such as New Hampshire Avenue and Layhill Road.
But bicycle enthusiasts say forgoing a continuous off-road trail on environmental grounds is absurd, saying damage from a path would be minuscule compared with that from the highway. Requiring walkers and cyclists to use sidewalks along busy roads, they say, would be too intimidating and potentially dangerous for many people, particularly recreational riders and children.
The debate is playing out before the Montgomery County Planning Board, which will decide whether to preserve the bike route that runs adjacent to the highway and through parkland, as outlined in the county's master plan, or support a state plan that would use some local roads. The Planning Board is scheduled to consider the issue again next month before making recommendations to the County Council, which will have the final say.
The Post story is a pretty good summary of the situation
Although the long-planned east-west bike path through central Montgomery avoids local roads, it falls within the state-owned right of way for the connector, said Chuck Kines, bikeways planner for the Montgomery planning department. Connecting the state-built pieces of a new bike path without using state-owned property or local roads would require building a trail through county parkland, Kines said.
Many Montgomery parks department officials who act as stewards of that parkland want to protect its flood plains, wetlands and large forests, including habitat for endangered species, Kines said. That means limiting rainwater runoff from pavement, including asphalt bike paths, that can contaminate streams and other habitat.
As a transportation planner, Kines said, he believes it would be "shortsighted" not to build a continuous, off-road bike path along the highway. However, he said, parks officials think improving local roads, such as by widening sidewalks to accommodate bikes, would be sufficient.
So the park officials are trying to design a transportation project, which may or may not be better than letting highway engineers do it.
Bike advocates say bike paths can be made more eco-friendly by being built around environmentally sensitive areas or as wooden, water-draining boardwalks.
This exchange is odd
"The ICC is going to cut across some very environmentally sensitive areas," he says, "If you're going to go ahead and build a six-lane highway, you might as well add a 10-foot bike path to it."
"I think that is a reasonable argument except it goes nowhere just as the bike path will go nowhere if we don't make these connections," said Montgomery County Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson.
the current group of planners and elected nincompoops is now planning to eliminate the hiker/biker trail that was one of the centerpieces of the "green" aspect of this highway. They now say that the inclusion of six to eight feet of hiker/biker path will require them to do bad things to the environment. What a crock of box turtle dung. They can build a highway that is 75 or so feet wide but can't build an extra couple feet of paved space for self-powered, two-wheeled vehicles we tend to call "bicycles?" Talk about another bait and switch.
I have supported the building of the ICC because the county and the region just don't have enough east/west arteries.... But actions such as the proposal to eliminate promised accoutrements make me very suspicious about the sincerity of the intentions from the start.
The Baltimore Sun sided with cyclists
The Montgomery County Council should tell the overzealous park protectors to take a walk, and OK the entire path as outlined on the county master plan. The environmental cost will be relatively tiny and the benefits large.
The Examiner uses the trail fight as an opportunity to criticize environmentalists. The Post, which has been all rah-rah-rah for the ICC, seems to criticize cyclists for demanding that the trail not be watered down
It's easy to understand why cyclists, who have been promised much and given little, are skeptical. But they should allow county planners, who seem committed to assessing the proposal seriously, to do their job.
Yes, we should just sit back and let them do their job, silly us. The Post adds
But county planners must consider the path's impact on the environment, along with its cost.
Funny, the Post never said that about the ICC. John Kelly is a bit more reasonable
Not so good is the news that the intercounty connector might not have a continuous bike path along its 19-mile route in Montgomery County. Bad for the environment, planners say. As opposed to, say, the six-lane highway itself and the thousands of vehicles that will travel on it?
Let's see: There's too much traffic. There's too much pollution. There's too much fat. It seems to me that every new road that's built around here -- and plenty of old ones -- should include dedicated bike lanes.
It doesn't help that the cost of the entire trail - the one that was too expensive - is only 10% of the ICC's most recent cost overrun.
The middle segment of the six-lane toll highway between Georgia Avenue and Route 29 was predicted to cost $410 million to $460 million, according to documents on the project's Web site. The agreement, known as Contract B, was awarded July 22 at $559.7 million
So, there wasn't $10 million in the budget for the trail, but there was $100 million for the overrun? Oh yeah, that was just one segment too. But I'm sure they can recapture the overrun in other segments.
And the ICC has other problems stemming from the cut in statewide transportation funding. Yet somehow it is only the trail that got cut (others items have just been delayed indefinitely).
The testimony to the Planning Board (emails and letters) in June was overwhelmingly pro-bike trail. There were around 100 pro-trail emails sent, but I saw only one against the trail. The writer of that letter supported "trees over trails" which at first I took literally ["I too enjoy a good tree canopy over my trail" I thought] but then realized he meant "don't cut down trees to build trails". But all the others I skimmed seemed to be in favor of not changing the plans. And it appeared the Board agreed, MoBike wrote (on page 186 of the testimony) that
Obviously you are a different board, and we are delighted to hear your comments last night and your instructions to staff to fully examine routing options in park areas.
The Planning Board then had a work session on July 21st. The results, unfortunately were not good.
While the board did not modify the staff-recommended alignment for SP-40 through the area, they did ask staff to highlight in the plan a proposed alignment for a future park trail - consistent with, and reflection recommendation contained in the 1998 Countywide Park Trails Plan - through Upper Paint Branch SVP that would complement the staff-proposed realignment of SP-40 through this area.
So they decided to go with the alignment no one wanted except for that guy who prefers trees to trails [I need to reread that letter, it must've been very convincing]. Here's the plan now.
The new alignment, they argue, will save $12 million dollars and preserve sensitive areas, but to appease the hundreds of people opposed to this alignment Planning staff came up with a "compromise" solution, which represents progress but provides no guarantees. [NOTE: By compromise I don't mean MoBike or WABA agreed to this, so not a real compromise]
The compromise recommends a good alignment at least through Upper Paint Branch Park (the dotted green line in the map above). But the compromise removes the route through Upper Paint Branch Park from the Master Plan and puts it into the Park Trails Plan. The Park Trails Plan is an MNCPPC internal plan that is entirely under Planning Board control, as opposed to master plans which are ultimately under County Council control. Building a path in the trails plan is predicated on a design study and subsequent determination that the environmental impacts are not severe. So there is no guarantee that a trail
in the trails plan will be built as conceived -- it may be canceled or rerouted beyond recognition, which has happened before.
So... MoBike is still insisting that the trail stay in the master plan. That gives an extra level of security.
The compromise would also have the trail running along Briggs Chaney Road instead of the ICC for a couple miles east of the park. See map below.
That's not the alignment MoBike wants (due to busy crossings rather than length). But, the trail MoBike wants would have to cut through private land, bridge over Rt. 29 and squeeze past car dealerships (ones that are already trying to kill the Route 29 Commuter Bikeway)...in all, a daunting task. Nevertheless MoBike is insisting that the original alignment there stay in the master plan so that they have a chance to fix those problems.
The next meeting on this is September 18th at 9:00 am. There will be no public testimony at this hearing. The staff is recommending they transmit the Planning Board Draft Plan to the County Council, which is where this fight will probably have to continue. If the planning board was unswayed by all the letters and negative publicity they got this summer, they probably can not be swayed at all. The last time the planning board submitted a substandard plan to the county council, MoBike fought it and won
we went to the County Council in 2005 and they unanimously overruled the Planning Board decision and said the trail should be built within the ICC right-of-way from Needwood Road to the county line. So we'll do that again if we have to.
It looks like they will.