White Flint Partnership to Council: County must approve plans for rapid transit system

October 2, 2013 – Montgomery County must approve plans for a Rapid Transit System as presented through the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, said Francine Waters, testifying on behalf of the White Flint Partnership at a public hearing before the county council last week. 


Waters encouraged county officials to take measures that would designate transit corridors and accommodate the introduction of a proposed Rapid Transit System into our existing road network. As Executive Director of the White Flint Partnership and Senior Managing Director of Transportation and Smart Growth for Lerner Enterprises, Waters called rapid transit “key” to a successful redevelopment of the White Flint area. 


“It will enhance our ability to create and retain high quality jobs, balanced and sustainable economic growth, improve our fiscal health, as well as support our county’s and the state’s economic competitiveness with neighboring jurisdictions,” she said on Thursday, September 26 during the second of two nights of hearings regarding the plan. 


Also speaking before the council, Tommy Mann of Federal Realty Investment Trust, a Partnership member, lauded the plan as an important stage in planning for Montgomery County’s transit future. “It’s important to keep in mind that approval of this plan doesn’t implement the systems described,” said Mann, Federal Realty’s Development Manager. “The plan only establishes the direction for the more detailed work that needs to be done in order to improve our transit corridors.” 


In her testimony, Waters agreed, noting, “Yes, there are many details that need to be worked out, but we will only be able to have those conversations if this plan is approved.” 


Waters and other community leaders noted that last week’s county council hearings are one of many important steps in the planning process. County Councilmember Roger Berliner clearly laid out those steps in the September 2013 issue of “The Berliner Brief” sent to constituents, noting that public outreach is an important component of this phase. Early steps that follow the identification of a project in the master plan also include the start of both facility planning and engineering, Berliner said. 


After 35 percent of the project’s engineering is completed, the project will go to the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee for review, Berliner said. If both the county executive and the council approve, only then would the project receive funding for design. The Department of Transportation then could obtain permits, which allow for more detailed right-of-way planning. 


Affirming the importance of engineering in her testimony, Waters noted, “Every effort should be made to engineer a system that will provide the highest level of performance standards for the entire network.” Waters later expanded that adoption of the functional master plan would allow a complete engineering study to pinpoint the highest performing rapid transit configurations. 


According to Mann, failure to adopt the master plan would mean that “the framework to examine and move forward with a rapid transit solution is completely gone.”


The White Flint Partnership is an alliance of property owners working with the community and the government. In addition to Federal Realty Investment Trust, its members include Saul Centers Inc., Gables Residential, The JBG Companies, White Flint Mall Redevelopment – Lerner Enterprises and The Tower Companies.

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