Decades-old Gaithersburg communities along a possible Midcounty Highway extension may lose one of the characteristics that make their homes unique — their water source.
County officials have presented several options for the construction of a Midcounty Highway extension, intended to relieve congestion on Md. 355, improve vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian access to employment centers, commercial districts and residential areas, and do so in an environmentally sensitive manner, according to the county’s 2010 study.
Chuck Tilford, president of the Greater Goshen Civic Association, said the right-of-way needed for a highway along the Alternative 4 plan could mean about 20 homes on the route could lose their wells or be forced to relocate them.
The Alternative 4 plan would widen the corridor that includes Brink, Wightman, Snouffer School and Muncaster Mill roads. The corridor would become a four- to six-lane highway with a sidewalk and bike lanes, at an anticipated cost of $251 million.
A handful of local residents who opposed Alternative 4 expressed concern about the fate of their wells at a public hearing about Midcounty Highway’s alternatives, held Aug. 7.
The majority of the affected homes are along Brink Road, which borders the Agricultural Reserve, Tilford said.
In 2005, the county council adopted a policy that prohibits new extensions of public water and sewer service in the reserve. The policy prevented a Montgomery County-based church from building a new 3,000-seat location on the north side of Brink Road, inside the reserve.
But, some Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission facilities have already reached the Alternative 4 route. A housing community for seniors, Meadows Ridge, is located at the intersection of Wightman and Prathertown roads. The 28 housing units on the ten lots there are connected to WSSC through an extension from Montgomery Village, Tilford said.
According to Montgomery County Department of Transportation Planning Manager Aruna Miller, well or septic service may be “impacted” at an estimated 20 homes along the Alternative 4 route. If that route is selected, the county would try to avoid changes to those systems by adjusting the roadway location or grading, but relocating the well or septic system may be unavoidable.
If the well or septic system cannot be relocated within property lines, the county will consider connecting the home to WSSC’s system.
Peggy and Denver Saunders’ home sits on Wightman Road and across from Meadows Ridge at the entrance to Prathertown, a small community established by freed slaves in 1883. The Saunders have lived in their well water-supplied home for 48 years. Peggy was born and raised in Prathertown.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think a four-lane highway ... would be coming through here,” Peggy Saunders said.
According to Saunders, if Alternative 4 were to be built, she and her husband could expect to see a retaining wall in front of their home. Their well, situated in front of their home, could also be affected.
Tilford said the residents of Goshen, whose homes bear a Gaithersburg mailing address, want the county to evaluate the well and septic issue before the Midcounty Highway extension route is chosen.
The Saunders say they support Alternative 9A, the master plan highway, since it would move traffic from Clarksburg more efficiently. If 9A is chosen for construction, a new four-lane highway would be built between the existing Midcounty Highway and Watkins Mill Road. Alternative 9’s three ending options, extending from Watkins Mill Road to Brink Road, would enter the Agricultural Reserve, run along Ridge Road, or create a new highway along the master plan route. The anticipated cost would be between $255 and $274 million. Alternative 9’s route would not require additional right-of-way along Wightman, Brink or Ridge roads, and would not affect wells in the Goshen community.
With the roads in their community at their current two-lane size, Denver said, “I see the traffic backed up from my house down to Brink Road.”
Peggy said she opposes Alternative 4 because of the consequences it would have for their home.
“It’s the well, it’s the traffic, it’s the retaining wall. It’s a lot,” she said.
For more information about the options for Midcounty Highway, visit the county’s website at montgomerycountymd.gov/corridor.