Comments: 2024 Master Plan of Highways and Transitways Update (Montgomery County)

Stephen Aldrich
2425 Reedie Drive, 14th Floor
Wheaton, MD 20902

Please accept these comments on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. CSG is the leading organization advocating for walkable, inclusive, transit-oriented communities as the most sustainable and equitable way for the D.C. region to grow and provide opportunities for all.

  1. Complete Streets: Thank you for your work to incorporate Complete Streets definitions and corresponding target speed designations into the MPOHT. This is a major step forward to make our roadways safer for all users, and recognize the major role that design choices play in the safety of our streets. 

    We look forward to continuing to work with Planning, MCDOT, the County Council, and other stakeholders to secure the funding needed to implement recommended Complete Streets design changes, as well as reprogramming existing federal, state and local funding toward Complete Streets investments.
  2. Transitways and lane conversion for BRT: We are also glad to see Transitways included in the master plan for the county’s roads. Public transit is an essential component of our county’s transportation infrastructure. Ensuring that our roadways support fast, frequent, and reliable transit—not just the speed and convenience of personal vehicles over all other goals—is critical to realizing our climate and equity goals. 

    In allocating road space for rapid transit, we recommend that conversion of existing lanes into dedicated bus lanes be prioritized over road widening to add dedicated bus lanes. Conversion of lanes is far less expensive, reduces the cost of right-of-way purchases, supports walkable urbanism in transit corridors, and can potentially accelerate the installation of bus rapid transit.
  3. Reclassification of Midcounty Highway Extended (M-83): We join peer organizations and advocates across Montgomery County in asking you to reclassify M-83 Midcounty Highway Extended as no longer a master planned road. The remaining unbuilt portions of M-83 are only tenuously included in existing county master plans, and no longer reflect our county’s transportation, climate, and conservation priorities.
    • Unbuilt segments of M-83 as identified in the December 2023 MPOHT Functional Classification Table are currently listed in three county plans: the Upper Rock Creek Master Plan (2004), Montgomery Village Master Plan (2016), and Shady Grove Minor Master Plan Amendment (2021).
    • Only a small portion of the unbuilt segments of M-83 are provided for in the Shady Grove Minor Master Plan Amendment (Shady Grove Rd to Redland Rd) and Upper Rock Creek Master Plan (Redland Rd to the ICC). The Upper Rock Creek plan (2004) predates Council guidance issued in 2017 to ignore the potential capacity of M-83 in land use and transportation planning, and as it has not been amended to align with this guidance, no longer reflects current County policy. 
    • Guidance in the Planning Board draft of the 2021 Shady Grove Minor Master Plan Amendment notes that the engagement required to make a decision on the status of the Shady Grove Rd-Redland Rd segment was outside the scope of the plan due to the segment’s potential effect on mobility outside the plan boundaries (148). 
    • Likewise, the approved 2016 Montgomery Village Master Plan (MVMP), which contains the majority of the unbuilt segments of M-83, notes that: 

      The MVMP does not address the unbuilt portions of Midcounty Highway (M-83), since decisions about this road will not be resolved within the time frame of this Master Plan. The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) is studying transit and roadway alternatives to Midcounty Highway and implications to Montgomery Village and other areas of the County. None of the recommendations in this Plan restrict the outcome of that study (70).

      Further assessment by MCDOT—as called for in the 2016 MVMP—has led to the removal of M-83 from critical long-range regional transportation plans. Its inclusion in these plans would be necessary to move forward with construction of unbuilt segments. M-83 was not included in the Visualize 2045 long-range regional transportation plan approved in 2022, and has not been resubmitted for consideration in the forthcoming update, Visualize 2050.

For these reasons, we believe it is appropriate to reclassify unbuilt segments of M-83 as “no longer a master planned road” in this update of the Master Plan of Highways and Transitways—particularly those provided for only within the 2016 Montgomery Village Master Plan, as this plan stipulates that it “does not address the unbuilt portions of Midcounty Highway” and that its recommendations are not intended to restrict future MCDOT guidance on the status of M-83.

This reclassification would better reflect standing County policy with regards to M-83, and correctly state the intent and impact of Council and MCDOT decisions made subsequent to the Upper Rock Creek Master Plan, Montgomery Village Master Plan, and Shady Grove Minor Master Plan Amendment on the implementation of these plans.

Thank you for your consideration.

Carrie Kisicki
Montgomery County Advocacy Manager