Which is more urgently needed, the Wheaton Redevelopment or the Bethesda Metro South entrance?
The two projects seem to be competing for attention (and millions) in the Montgomery County Capital Improvements Program. Or is this a false dichotomy? As many people have pointed out, all projects compete in the CIP budget for a limited amount of county funds.
Still, these projects appear to be linked in many minds this past month.
Adam Fogel, Council Vice President Nancy Navarro’s chief of staff, told members of the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee at their February meeting that the Bethesda South Metro entrance construction project was competing directly with the Wheaton Redevelopment Program in the CIP.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett recommended $41 million for Wheaton Redevelopment in the CIP, and Navarro, whose area of representation includes Wheaton, circulated a memo to fellow councilmembers earlier this month, pledging her support for the redevelopment.
David Dise, director of the Department of General Services, told members of the Wheaton Redevelopment Advisory Committee that “it will be difficult to do both the Purple Line and Wheaton Redevelopment at the same time.”
Reporting by the Washington Examiner indicates that the Bethesda Metro funds may trump Wheaton Redevelopment for at least two Montgomery Councy Council members:
Two council members told Leggett "they would much prefer funding Bethesda and not fund the Wheaton project," the county executive said, though he would not say which council members.
A Montgomery County Council transportation committee voted earlier this month against deferring the majority of construction funds for the Bethesday Metro entrance, even though Leggett recommended delaying.
"Now is the time to move forward in Wheaton," Leggett told the Examiner. "I am committed to fully funding the South Bethesda entrance and moving forward on the Purple Line at the appropriate time."
“I think it’s premature to put the Wheaton redevelopment program against the Purple Line,” Councilmember Hans Riemer told the Gazette last week. “The Purple Line is a regional priority. It’s not important just to Bethesda or Silver Spring. It’s important to Wheaton, Rockville, Prince George’s County, the state of Maryland.”
Bethesda blogger Robert Dyer is on the side of the Metro entrance, for various reasons:
Clearly, if one has $42 million burning a hole in their pocket, a small portion of that could be used to provide more police resources, keep existing shopping and residential centers in good shape, and make highway and infrastructure improvements.
With pressing needs addressed, Wheaton is doing just fine. Visit sometime, and you'll find that - by golly - they do have good restaurants. Some of the best chicken can be ordered in Wheaton, and many critics have said the best dim sum is at Wheaton Plaza's Hollywood East Cafe.
Change will come to Wheaton, but let the market bring it, parcel by parcel. Developer profit in Wheaton is not an urgent concern of 99.9% of people there or countywide. What is urgent, is that we have a failing Metro entrance here in Bethesda.
Cavan Wilk, writing on the blog Greater Greater Washington, argues that the county should fund both projects by cutting down on the money spent for highway construction.
All the county has to do is defer some of the $359 million in new highways in the 6-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP). That $359 million is all for new capacity, over and above the necessary cost of maintaining the county's existing roads and bridges. (...)
Why does the County Executive claim that it doesn't have enough money for the Bethesda Metro, a necessary step for the Purple Line in the part of the county that generates the most tax revenue, and Wheaton, a prime spot for new mixed-use growth and an already-thriving community right on top of another Metro station, but can spend money on new roads in car-dependent areas which may grow in the future?
Who do you agree with? Or do you have a completely different opinion? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.