Help is on the way for traffic congestion in Damascus and Clarksburg along Md. 27, Montgomery County Council Vice President Craig Rice told a roomful of constituents Wednesday evening in Damascus.
Planning is complete on a project that will transform Md. 27 into a six-lane divided highway from Brink Road to Snowden Farm Parkway, as well as a two-lane roadway with turn lanes and an acceleration/deceleration lane running from Little Seneca Parkway to Skylark Road, said Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown.
With the planning phase complete, a process of putting in bids on the project should take three to six months before the project is started, Rice said.
Construction is expected to take 18 to 24 months, Rice said.
Many traffic challenges have been created by county budget issues, but hopefully the next few budgets should be able to provide money for more projects, he said.
“Relief is coming,” Rice said about traffic on Md. 27.
Rice represents the county’s Second District, which includes Darnestown, Montgomery Village, Germantown, Clarksburg and Damascus.
Questions from the audience covered a variety of topics in Rice’s first community meeting in Damascus.
Kathy Thornett, who said she works with a group that provides academic counseling to students, discussed the lack of public transportation options for young people in Damascus.
Many youth feel “stuck” in Damascus because there’s not enough public transportation, Thornett said.
Many students she talks to would like to go to Germantown for jobs, but can’t because there’s no way to get there, she said.
She said others who are trying to get to Montgomery College’s Germantown campus have to take a bus to the Shady Grove Metro station to transfer to a bus to Germantown.
The county’s Ride On bus service has faced budget cuts, Rice said.
Cutbacks in service have been particularly hard on the upcounty area, which have fewer public transportation options than other parts of the county, he said.
Rice said that in the upcoming budget, the county will get money for transportation from the gas tax passed by the General Assembly in the past session.
Damascus resident Maria Pedak-Kari asked Rice to protect the Ten Mile Creek watershed, which covers parts of Boyds and Clarksburg.
The watershed has been the subject of controversy as increased development in the area has raised environmental concerns.
Growth won’t stop, and Ten Mile Creek will someday be an important part of Montgomery’s water supply, Pedak-Kari said.
In October 2012, the County Council directed the Planning Department to study the Ten Mile Creek area to look at how to balance development with protecting the water supply, Rice said. A recommendation is due to be presented to the council this fall.
Rice also updated the audience on the status of several school and other projects in the works for the area.
A new elementary school to address overcrowding at Cedar Grove and Little Bennett elementary schools is scheduled to open in August 2014 on Blue Sky Drive in Clarksburg. A new middle school to help deal with projected enrollment increases at Rocky Hill Middle School is scheduled to be finished in August 2016, according to a slide presentation prepared by Rice’s office.
A modernization of Damascus Elementary School is projected to be completed in 2021.
The Holy Cross Germantown Hospital, the first hospital to be built in Montgomery in 35 years, is expected to be completed in the fall of 2014.
The site near the intersection of Middlebrook Road and Observation Drive will be the anchor of Montgomery College Life Science Park, and is expected to provide up to 5,700 jobs, most of which will be in Montgomery, according to the presentation.