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Acting MCDOT Director Says There’s No Room For New Roads In MoCo

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The acting director of Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation says the local road network “is essentially built out” and county transportation planners will focus on walkability and transit.

“I plan to take a hard look at all of MCDOT’s policies and procedures to ensure that they are consistent with our emphasis on smart growth principles,” said Al Roshdieh, who took over for retired MCDOT director Art Holmes last week.

Roshdieh made the comments in an interview published by the county a few days after some transit advocates, business leaders and bicycle boosters asked County Executive Isiah Leggett to look for “a visionary leader” to bring forth a sea change in how MCDOT operates.

“This approach is not just about focusing on Ride On or bikesharing or more sidewalks. It’s about taking a holistic view of all of MCDOT’s efforts and asking the question: How do we create the type of community that truly enhances our quality of life and how can our transportation system contribute?,” Roshdieh said.

Roshdieh officially took over last Monday. The 25-years veteran of Montgomery County’s government was MCDOT’s deputy director under Holmes.

In a press release, Chief Administrative Officer Tim Firestine credited Roshdieh with leading the county’s recent Pedestrian Safety Initiative, Capital Bikeshare rollout and planning for a Bus Rapid Transit network.

MCDOT Acting Director Al Roshdieh, via Montgomery County“As far as constructing new roads, I do believe that our road network is essentially built out,” Roshdieh said in the interview. “With the exception of a few needed roads, our focus will be on ‘spot’ and ‘intersection’ improvements that can increase the capacity of our existing roadways and make them more efficient at moving traffic.”

That’s likely what county transit and smart growth advocates want to hear.
Officials from the Action Committee for Transit, Greater Capital Area Association of REALTORS, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, Montgomery County Sierra Club and Washington Area Bicyclist Association penned a joint letter last week to Leggett, who’s searching for a new permanent MCDOT director.
The group praised Holmes for “many fruitful years of service.” But it also said the new director should better understand that “facilities designed for a largely suburban county in which automobile travel predominated now serve a far more diverse community.”
In the interview, Roshdieh points to the county’s planned Rapid Transit System (or Bus Rapid Transit) as key to easing congestion “even in the less densely populated areas of the county.”
County officials have pledged to get some sections of the Rapid Transit network up and running by the end of Leggett’s third term as county executive. A county official said the completed, countywide system could run anywhere from $800 million to $1.5 billion to build, though the precise figures are very much unknown and the county would most likely implement the system corridor-by-corridor.
In the interview, Roshdieh was also asked about the public’s perception of MCDOT.
A recent spat over working designs for a section of Old Georgetown Road in the White Flint area pitted residents, developers and smart growth advocates against MCDOT and State Highway Administration planners.
“Just as Mr. Leggett wants to usher in and foster a ‘culture of yes’ when it comes to doing business in Montgomery County, I want to also foster a ‘culture of yes’ in MCDOT,” Roshdieh said. “Does that mean we will always be able to meet the needs of everyone? That is not always possible. But, I do believe that in our role as public servants we are compelled to find innovative solutions for our residents and businesses that meet engineering standards while addressing the broader goals of our county.”