Metro unveils design for Glenmont parking garage
New facility would offer more space, but residents fear it will bring more crime, congestion
A proposed new 1,200-space garage that would ease the parking crunch at the Glenmont Metro station could begin construction as early as mid-December, but some neighbors who are fighting the plan fear it could drive new crime and traffic into the area.
The garage, which should be up-and-running by early 2011, will provide much-needed parking relief for the crammed end-of-the-line stop, said Gary Erenrich, the special assistant to the director of the county's department of transportation for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, who spoke at a Nov. 1 community meeting on the garage. The existing 1,700-space Glenmont Metro garage is full most weekdays before 8 a.m., and more than 700 people are on a waiting list to buy one of the 180 reserved parking spaces there, said Patrick Schmitt, the senior traffic engineer for the parking division at WMATA.
"We've needed a new garage here for a long time," Schmitt said.
The garage, which will sit at the corner of Urbana Drive and Georgia Avenue on the current Kiss & Ride site, was approved by the County Council more than two years ago. Developers say they are now securing site and building permits from the county. Once those are locked down, construction on the $23.6 million garage should take 18 months.
WMATA is paying for most of the design and construction, though the county set aside about $25,000 for construction, and the state also handed over $1.6 million to WMATA, according to a January expenditure memo.
WMATA, which owns the Metro station, commissioned the design and construction to Rockville-based Forrester Construction Company. Representatives from Forrester said the garage will feature a brick finish and street landscaping, and it will also be certified as environmentally friendly via the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.
But some residents at the meeting worried about the logistics. Because of its planned location on the west side of Georgia Avenue, the garage will sit practically on top of houses that line Urbana Drive, attracting crime and unwanted growth to the neighborhood, said longtime Glenmont resident Deborah Shum.
"Metro has a history of crime in the garages, and so to bring it right into somebody's backyard is awful," she said.
Members of the Glenmont Civic Association are advocating for the garage to move across the street, next to the existing garage and away from the neighborhood.
But Erenrich said having two parking garages side-by-side would wreak havoc on the already clogged intersections.
"Ideally you would balance your traffic by having a garage on both sides," he said.
And as for fear of increased crime, county and Metro police testified at the Nov. 1 meeting that the existing Glenmont Metro garage is relatively safe. Several years ago it was the 24th-most-dangerous garage in the county, but thanks to increased police patrols it has dropped to 43rd out of 86, said Cpt. Brian Heanue with the Metro Transit Police.
And to make it extra safe, the new garage will have an unprecedented 60 security cameras, said Don Free, Forrester's senior project manager. The existing Glenmont garage has none.
A police office will also be stationed in the new garage, and there will be two emergency police call boxes per floor, Free told residents.
Lights and police call stations will also line the sidewalks leading up to the garage, especially the sidewalk that stretches behind the garage into the neighborhood, Free said.
But some residents maintained that building a new garage is nothing but a bandage for the county's real problem: There are just too many people here to accommodate the crowded roads and ever-increasing stacked parking garages, said Glenmont resident William Dempsey.
"It looks like this 1,200-space garage is just going to be a momentary relief from growing pains with no end in sight," he told developers at the meeting. "When will it stop?"
Erenrich didn't calm any fears when he cited stats from recently constructed garages near or at the end of the Metro lines in Montgomery County: An additional 800 spots added to the 3,500-space Shady Grove garage in Gaithersburg filled up within weeks; the 1,500-space Grosvenor-Strathmore garage in Bethesda was fully occupied in a month; and he expects the new Glenmont garage to be at full capacity within several years.