A plan to connect two roads, which was taken out of the county’s Capital Improvements Program, is back on the books despite the protests of local residents.
The Montgomery County Council recently voted to restore funding for the proposed 300-foot extension of Rainbow Drive and Thompson Road connection in Silver Spring and reinserted the project in the FY15-20 Capital Budget Improvement program.
But some residents are not happy with the idea.
Bryan Plunkett, who lives with his family at Rainbow Drive, said traffic will increase if the connection is made.
“If this connection were to go through, it would destroy the quiet, peaceful, nature of our neighborhood and provide no improvement to the safety of our residents. I would no longer allow my children anywhere near the street if the connection were to go through,” Plunkett said.
Other concerns are children’ safety while walking from Briggs Chaney Middle School and excessive speeding by drivers cutting through traffic to the Spencerville area and Briggs Chaney Road to Peach Orchard Road.
The County Council discussed the project during a March 25 work session, while reviewing the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee’s recommendation to reinsert the project in the CIP.
Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At Large) of Takoma Park made a motion to remove the Rainbow Drive project. He said that county executive Hearing Examiner Michael Subin conducted the hearing on the case in 2012 and the project is not in the public interest.
Elrich’s motion did not receive a second and failed.
The council then voted 8-1 to put the project back in the program.
According to a county document, residents from the neighborhood testified in front of Subin and said Good Hope Estates Civic Association sent a survey to 600 homes in the community, asking if residents favored the project. The association received a 42-percent response; two out of every three responses were against the project.
Subin concluded that the connection was not in the public interest. County Executive Isiah Leggett denied the construction of the Rainbow Drive extension.
As a result, the County Council unanimously adopted Bill 24-13 on Oct. 8, 2013, taking away the executive’s authority to authorize construction of a road before beginning its construction. The executive approved it on Oct. 16, 2013, and it went into effect on Jan. 15, 2014.
At the March session, Glenn Orlin, a deputy council administrator, said, “Seeing that the council had unanimously approved this project in the past, I brought the project forward again and the committee unanimously recommends it.”
The council staff said there were three conditions required before the construction could start: The connection shouldn’t occur sooner than Norbeck Road Extended was open to traffic; the design must include calming devices such as traffic bumps; and the county had to do a study about cut-through traffic in the road.
Staff said all conditions have been met.
The proposed project was originally recommended in the 1981 Eastern Montgomery County Master Plan and again in the 1997 approved and adopted Cloverly Master Plan, with a total cost of $540,000.
Mike Conn, a Good Hope Estates resident, said the County Council should take into consideration the amount of time spent on public engagement and discussions that led to Subin’s recommendation against the project.
“The county executive used a process that was fully endorsed by the council at the time, in order to deal with the issue of the Thompson Road connection project once and for all,” Conn said. He added: “The public doesn’t know they reinserted this thing.”
Councilwoman Cherri Branson (D-Dist. 5) said her decision to include the project in the FY15-20 CIP was guided by the actions taken by previous councils and the guidelines that were approved in the Cloverly Master Plan.
“There’s not a reason for this transportation project not to proceed. ... The council has now voted four times to approve the project,” Branson said.
The County Council will vote on the FY15-20 Capital Budget Improvement program in May. If approved, the Rainbow Drive and Thompson Road connection project will be ready by the summer of 2015.