The TAME Coalition has produced a new film, “Road to Ruin: A Moral Choice.” The film’s title is the decision facing Montgomery County’s elected and appointed officials.
Montgomery County officials have two critical plans before them to be finished in 2021: Thrive Montgomery 2050 and Climate Action Plan. Both government draft plans are committing to best strategies in order to fight climate change.
County Officials must incorporate a No New Highways policy in both Plans, along with a related climate action in this direction: removal of proposed M-83 highway from the county’s master plans.
Removing M-83 highway from the master plans, and stepping-up investments in Upcounty transit, will set a clear direction toward people-centric and away from car-centric travel; will avoid increasing the county’s carbon emissions from transportation; and will enhance climate resilience through protection of existing forests, wetlands and stream valleys in Upcounty communities.
TAME Coalition Contributes to County’s Climate Plan
On December 14, 2020, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich published the County’s draft Climate Action and Resilience Plan. The Climate Action Plan is the County’s strategic plan to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2027 and by 100% by 2035, and to transition to a local economy and culture that is climate-resilient, healthy, and equitable.
The plan builds upon the work of more than 200 volunteer members of the Climate Technical Workgroups. TAME Coalition Director Diane Cameron was a member of the Transportation Technical Workgroup; she contributed to the Transportation Demand Management sub-group report and led the work of the Evaluation Sub-Group. The plan’s initial rollout in December 2020 contains 87 climate actions. The complete list of recommended actions is available at https://montgomerycountymd.gov/climate. The Draft Climate Action Plan is open for public review and comment through the end of February. The plan will be finalized in March of 2021.
Montgomery County’s Transportation Technical Working Group – part of the County’s 2018-2019 Climate Action Planning effort.
Through TAME Coalition’s ongoing participation in Montgomery County’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan, County officials are now considering inclusion of a No New Highways policy in the Plan, along with a related climate action in this direction: removal of proposed M-83 highway from the county’s master plans. Removing M-83 highway from the master plans, and stepping-up investments in Upcounty transit, will set a clear direction toward people-centric and away from car-centric travel; will avoid increasing the county’s carbon emissions from transportation; and will enhance climate resilience through protection of existing forests, wetlands and stream valleys in Upcounty communities.
Funding Transit and Canceling the Proposed M-83 Highway are Positive Climate Actions that Need To Be in the County’s Climate Plan
“Infrastructure Transformation: Highway expansion projects have stopped and planned and proposed new highways have been cancelled. The resulting hundreds of millions of dollars saved were dedicated instead to extensive ‘road diets’ and complete street redesigns with priority for pedestrians, bicyclists, shared vehicles, and dedicated public transport lanes for bus rapid transit (BRT). This policy helps protect the county’s landmark 93,000 acre Agricultural Reserve. (See Action Items 2.1.2; 3.2.2).”
The pie charts below show the mix of transportation modes used now, compared with the mix of modes we need in 2035 – with the “modal shift to transit and people-centric modes” starting right now. In order to meet its 2035 climate goals, Montgomery County must stop building new highways and must build transit instead – especially for the Upcounty communities of Clarksburg, Germantown, Gaithersburg, and Montgomery Village.
BRT-355 + Existing Road Improvements + NoM-83 => Lowest VMTs => Lowest Carbon Emissions
According to MCDOT’s 2017 Supplemental Study of the Midcounty Corridor, Bus Rapid Transit on Route 355, plus local intersection and roadway improvements, and not building proposed M-83 highway — is the approach with the lowest vehicle miles traveled. This translates to the lowest carbon emissions – a crucial climate goal.
We call this forest a Climate Resilience Forest for the Upcounty, because its mature trees, its understory, and intact forest soils serve to reduce the intensity of flooding and of summer heat waves, and filter air pollution.
Climate Resilience refers to the work of the TAME Coalition to promote the ability of Upcounty communities of Gaithersburg, Montgomery Village, Germantown and Clarksburg to adapt to global warming and increased storms due to climate disruption.
The Upcounty’s Climate Resilience Forest Must Be Kept Intact
- Our upcounty forest cools our neighborhoods, filters the air and water, and reduces high winds of hurricanes and blizzards.
- Adapting to climate disruption means we keep our forests intact.
- We call this upcounty forest the Climate Resilience Forest.
- Adapting to climate disruption entails canceling the proposed M-83 Highway, since this boondoggle project would:
- add pavement
- remove forest
- add pollution, and
- worsen local heat emergencies and floods
Below: A Map View of the Biodiversity of the Climate Resilience Forest of the Upcounty – map is from Montgomery Planning staff memo 11/21/13.
Keeping the Climate Resilience Forest Intact Requires that We Remove Proposed M-83 Highway from the Master Plans
In November 2013, the Montgomery Parks Department provided a memo to the Planning Board on the proposed M-83 Highway. This Parks Department memo, based on a detailed staff analysis, recommended that transit alternatives be considered for the Midcounty Corridor area, and that all of the proposed M-83 Highway Master Plan alignments “be removed from further consideration.” Excerpts of this key memo are provided below; the full text is available on the Planning Department’s website.
Join Us! In Hiking the Climate Resilience Forest!
In February, 2020, TAME Coalition sent out a mailer to 600 residents of the Upcounty, inviting them to hike the Climate Resilience Forest, a.k.a. the proposed M-83 Right of Way. TAME Coalition encourages the residents of Montgomery Village, Gaithersburg, Germantown and Clarksburg to hike with us, or on their own, wearing masks and physically-distant, in the Climate Resilience Forest.
Please stay tuned for upcoming dates on hikes in the Upcounty Climate Resilience Forest hosted by TAME Coalition in 2021.
City of Gaithersburg Faces Opposition to Damage at Whetstone Run in Blohm Park
In the summer of 2020, the City of Gaithersburg sent large earth-moving equipment into the forested floodplain of Whetstone Run, in Blohm Park. While project managers termed this a “stream restoration project,” skeptical residents termed it a “stream destruction project,” pointing to its removal of over 100 trees in Blohm Park, heavy equipment causing soil compaction, and straightening of Whetstone Run in segments where it formerly had natural curves and meanders.
Gaithersburg Residents Question Purpose of Stream “Destruction” Project
Given that the location of this large project overlaps with that of the proposed M-83 Highway Right of Way, many residents questioned whether the main purpose of this project is to provide stormwater mitigation for the planned highway. When this question was posed to City of Gaithersburg officials and staff, they denied any connection between this project and proposed M-83 Highway. They pointed to the State of Maryland’s stormwater permit, issued to the City of Gaithersburg and requiring mitigation of stormwater pollution from urban paved surfaces, as the sole reason for this project. Many questions remain to be answered, and the investigation continues.
Image below: Montgomery Parks website.