Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Planners suggest route for ICC hiking-biking trail

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The county Planning Board has proposed a route for the 18-mile hiking and biking trail that would run parallel to the Intercounty Connector, suggesting it begin at Midcounty Highway and Shady Grove Road in Derwood and end at Briggs Chaney Road in Burtonsville.

Along the way, it would go from Emory Lane to Georgia Avenue, from Layhill Road to Notley Road and from New Hampshire Avenue to Route 29, utilizing some local roads and existing bike paths as it winds eastward.

The recommendations are contained in the staff draft of the Intercounty Connector Limited Functional Master Plan Amendment, which seeks to modify two county master plans, the 2005 Countywide Bikeways Functional Master Plan and the Master Plan of Highways within Montgomery County. It will also amend the Planning Board’s Countywide Park Trails Plan.

A public hearing is scheduled for June 26.

Chuck Kines, bikeways coordinator for Park and Planning, said the trail has long been identified in county plans as part of the ICC, the 18-mile toll road that will eventually connect Interstate 270 in Gaithersburg to Interstate 95 in Laurel at a cost of $2.4 billion.

Following March and April meetings designed to gather community suggestions, planners and representatives from several county agencies have worked to configure a path, Kines told the county Planning Board on Thursday.

When the State Highway Administration published its final plan for the ICC in May 2006, it recommended seven miles of the 18-mile trail be built as part of the highway. The remaining 11 miles would need to be constructed separate from the highway project.

Kines told the Planning Board last week that staff is working to prepare a cost estimate of the amendment so that it is available for the first worksession following the public hearing. He said planners would also provide a report on types of trail surfaces at that time.

Royce Hanson, chairman of the Planning Board, said the biggest problem with the county’s bike trail system is that it is ‘‘segmented” and not connected well.

‘‘Our real priority is filling in the blanks,” he said.

Kines said Friday he is not sure when the trail would be completed, but noted Hanson has expressed the desire that it be built ‘‘concurrent with ICC construction.”

Following the public hearing, worksessions will be held to incorporate suggestions provided during the hearing. The Planning Board is slated to transmit its recommendations to the County Council in July.