Thursday, March 27, 2014

ROCKVILLE PLANNING COMMISSIONER QUESTIONS LACK OF DETAIL ON BIKEWAY MASTER PLAN

Can you tell what impact
bike facilities will have
on College Parkway
from this map?
Would you buy a car sight unseen, if the salesman said he could only tell you it was a 4-door sedan? Rockville residents are being asked to comment on the draft update of the Rockville Bikeway Master Plan at a public hearing on April 9. But critical information is missing from the draft, according to Rockville Planning Commissioner Jack Leiderman.

While the document illustrates many common on-road bike facilities, and lists a recommendation for specific roads within Rockville, Leiderman noted that residents have no way to know how the proposals will affect parking, the width of existing travel lanes and other relevant details.

Andrew Gunning, the city's assistant planning director (and staff liaison to the planning commission) said planners hadn't gone into that level of detail at this stage. "I'm requesting it," Leiderman responded. "How am I going to comment" on the plan without knowing the details, he asked.

This situation is virtually identical to that of the recent Montgomery County Transit Corridor Master Plan process. With relatively few details worked out on the specific design and traffic impact of the county's proposed bus rapid transit system, the plan was rammed through by the council, with promises that the details would be known later. But if some of the potential impacts were untenable, why would a citizen allow the BRT Master Plan to pass?

The same applies to the bike plan. Should the plan be approved, it will become the document that can be referenced to justify a wide range of changes to city roads. Once adopted as a master plan, those changes - like BRT - will become "a fait accompli," as Leiderman put it Wednesday night.

"I'm not just going to rubber stamp a list of streets," Leiderman said.

Also at Wednesday night's meeting, Planning Commission Chair Don Hadley discussed his upcoming  appearance before the Mayor and Council at their April 7 meeting. Hadley invited his fellow commissioners to attend, but said he has not yet been informed of the format of the discussion. Commissioner John Tyner somewhat jokingly suggested Hadley review the comments of Councilmember Tom Moore on the topic prior to the evening. Moore was critical of the commission's pace last week.

Leiderman advised Hadley to emphasize the importance of taking time to get the plan right: "Measure twice, saw once," he said.

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