Capital Budget Plan Delays Funding for Metro Station Improvements
Council members say White Flint, Forest Glen projects are vital to increase Metrorail use
Funding has been delayed for improvements at two Metrorail stations at opposite ends of the Red Line in Montgomery County.
In County Executive Marc Elrich’s proposed amendments to the county’s Capital Improvements Program for fiscal 2019 through 2024, funding has been reduced for the addition of a northern entrance to the White Flint station and a tunnel under Georgia Avenue connecting users of the Forest Glen station to neighborhoods on the east side of the thoroughfare.
The total funding needed for the White Flint project is $3.5 million — the entire amount of which Elrich has proposed cutting in order to seek project funding from the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, which operates the subway system.
In the Forest Glen project, $20.2 million is needed and $11.2 million is being cut due to the project being delayed two years while Elrich seeks funding from WMATA.
District 5 County Council member Tom Hucker, who represents parts of Silver Spring and Burtonsville, said that the Forest Glen passageway is essential to accommodate Metro riders who use bikes, and patients and others who use Holy Cross Hospital. The hospital complex is near the Metro station, at Georgia Avenue near the interchange with Interstate 495.
“It’s very unsafe to cross Georgia Avenue on foot or on a bike and has been the site of many near misses,” Hucker said.
District 1 council member Andrew Friedson, who represents Bethesda, said he was concerned about the delay for the White Flint project, which would involve creating a tunnel from the station to the shopping, restaurant and residential center Pike & Rose, near Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road.
“The county executive’s proposal suggests WMATA could pay for that. Committing to fund this is a critical priority for the district and also for transit,” Friedson said.
Friedson said he was unsure whether WMATA would be willing to foot the bill for the two Metro station projects.
“They’re [the two projects] connected because it’s a joint item, and they’re equally important to promoting Metro as the backbone of our transportation network,” he said.
Friedson said he appreciates the budget constraints the county is under, but a number of the cuts in the proposed CIP “disproportionately” impact his district, including a $793,000 reduction in funding for pedestrian and bike safety improvements along Seven Locks Road between Montrose Road and Bradley Boulevard.
The improvements are projected to cost $24.9 million, but funding has been delayed one year “due to affordability” according to the county executive’s amendment.
“Those communities [in my district] have waited a significant period of time for these projects,” Friedson said.
Elrich’s proposed CIP amendments are subject to the council’s approval. A public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 5.
Separately, WMATA announced this week that it would be selling eight surplus properties, including a 37,886 square-foot plot of land across from the Glenmont station on the east side of Georgia Avenue, which was occupied by the now-demolished KFC fast-food restaurant.
The land is zoned for commercial purposes. The transit agency is also selling a plot on the west side of Georgia Avenue, just north of the station that is 98,445 square feet and is zoned for mixed-use and residential uses.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.email@example.com