Montgomery executive’s capital budget to feature heavy focus on schools, roads -- Gazette.Net


Montgomery County would pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the White Flint area to promote private growth and redevelopment around the Metro station under a fiscal year 2015 capital budget proposed by County Executive Isiah Leggett.

Almost $340 million of public money will be dedicated to generating private investment of even more money in White Flint, according to a draft copy of the proposed budget provided to The Gazette.

The six-year capital improvement plan features plans to construct a new road and bike lane on the area’s Main/Market Street, reconfiguring Executive Boulevard North and reconfiguring the intersection of Old Georgetown Road, Executive Boulevard and Hoya Street.

The project includes $170 million in county funding for road projects on Montrose Parkway East and Chapman Avenue Extended and relocating the White Flint Fire Station to promote redevelopment in the area.

The Montrose Parkway East portion will build a new road to connect with the existing Montrose Parkway/Rockville Pike interchange to Viers Mill Road.

There are also plans to build a new parking garage for a conference center in the area to combine with future retail space and areas for affordable housing.

The White Flint plans are part of a $4.4 billion capital improvement plan Leggett is scheduled to share with the council on Wednesday.

The capital improvement plan finances construction projects such as schools, roads and infrastructure.

Funding for schools is a major part of Leggett’s proposed plan, as Montgomery County Public Schools attempts to deal with dramatic increases in enrollment.

The county’s public schools increased by 14,599 students between 2000 and 2012, and nearly half of the schools are projected to have too many students to accommodate by the 2018-19 school year.

The county is working with its delegation to the General Assembly to get about $20 million more from the state to combine with $40 million from the county for school construction. That would allow the county to generate between $600 million and $700 million in money for school expansion and construction.

“I’m optimistic, but cautiously optimistic,” Leggett said Friday about the possibility of additional state funds. “I think we have a strong case to make.”

Leggett joined Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz to announce they’ll work together on legislation for additional funding for school modernization and construction.

Leggett’s capital improvement program recommends $1.117 billion for the county’s public schools, a 13.1 percent increase from the approved Fiscal Year 2013-18 CIP.

Those expenditures are being balanced by a 14 percent decrease in funding for county government projects, totalling $308.3 million.

If the proposal is fully funded, MCPS’s school construction request could fund new additions to 18 elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools, according to the draft proposal. Those projects would create 455 new classrooms by fiscal 2020.

Among other education projects, the proposal includes a $37 million increase for heating, air conditioning and ventilation work.

The capital proposal also includes $348.1 million in funding for Montgomery College, with $89.6 million expected to come from state funding.

The plan would include completing a renovation to a science building and construction of a parking garage on the Rockville campus in 2015; opening the Germantown campus’s Bioscience Education Center in fiscal 2015; and the beginning of design in fiscal 2018 for the Takoma Park campus’s Takoma Park/Silver Spring Math and Science Center, with construction scheduled to begin in fiscal 2020.

Leggett’s plan would provide funding for transportation projects, including several in the upcounty region.

One project would extend Observation Drive between Germantown and Clarksburg to relieve traffic congestion, while a public-private partnership would connect an intersection of Brink Road and Little Seneca and Snowden Farm parkways to support development and improve traffic flow.

Another project would widen lanes and add sidewalks, bike paths and center medians to Goshen Road South from Girard Street to Warfield Road near Montgomery Village.

Leggett’s plan proposes $51.9 million to replace fire apparatus that couldn’t be replaced during the recession.

Over the six-year course of the plan, the money would be expected to replace nine aerial units, 64 ambulances, 21 engines, four all-wheel-drive pumper trucks, four rescue squads and two tankers.

The capital improvement plan would change how the county renovates libraries.

The county is in a transitional period with its libraries, re-evaluating how they’re built and used, Leggett said.

Technology is changing how libraries operate, and the county will look at how the buildings are used, he said.

Leggett’s proposal includes money for the Silver Spring Library, which is scheduled to open this year, as well as a combination of a library and recreation center in Wheaton.

In the future, rather than closing down and renovating them, the county will likely perform “refreshments” that will provide electrical and furniture upgrades to more quickly provide upgraded facilities, Leggett said.

The new method is expected to allow the county to update and renovate 17 libraries over the six-year course of the capital plan rather than two libraries under the old method.

Leggett’s proposal also provides $363 million in investments in stormwater management by shifting the focus of the county’s programs from hard concrete structures to methods such as rain gardens, bioretention fields and other environmentally friendly techniques.