DRAFT: Comments for Veirs Mill Corridor Master Plan

The Montgomery County Council is currently reviewing the draft Veirs Mill Corridor Master Plan.The Corridor starts on the north edge of Wheaton and runs to Rockville. KHCA lies just outside the Plan's bounds, but we in Kensington Heights are users of the Corridor. Further, the Plan will need to be carefully coordinated with planning related to Wheaton. In particular, there is interest in pushing for construction of a delimited pathway around the ring road of Wheaton Westfield mall so that pedestrians and bikers are safely away from traffic lanes and to facilitate the safe movement of people from one side of Wheaton to the other.

The Council is holding a hearing February 7 and written comments are due shortly after that.

  • KHCA has drafted comments regarding Montgomery County's Master Plan for the Veirs Mill Corridor.

  • These draft comments are being shared with Kensington Heights residents who are encouraged to review them and let KHCA know if you have input or concerns.

  • Please respond by Friday, February 22. THANK YOU!

TO: Montgomery County Planning Department

FROM: Kensington Heights Civic Association

As President (Karen Cordry), Land Use Committee Chair (Derek Karchner), and Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Committee Chair (Andy Fraser) of the Kensington Heights Civic Association (“KHCA”), we submit the following brief comments with respect to the proposed Veirs Mill Corridor Master Plan (“the Plan”) currently being considered by the Montgomery County Council. In that regard, we note that KHCA is not within the physical boundaries of the Plan but that the southern border of the Plan abuts the area covered by the Wheaton Central Business District and Vicinity Plan (“the Wheaton Plan”), and much of the area in KHCA is included within the latter plan. In particular, the Wheaton Westfield mall is the largest single feature of the Wheaton Plan, and KHCA wraps around the Mall on the southern and western sides. KHCA is intimately involved with the Wheaton area, and its residents are frequent users of the Veirs Mill travel corridor. Accordingly, KHCA residents have a keen interest in the plans for near and short-term improvements along that area.

We welcome the concerns expressed in the Plan for improving the safety of those using the Veirs Mill Corridor while also working to implement Bus Rapid Transit as a way to reduce traffic congestion to make for a better driving experience for all concerned. We also agree that the Vision Zero principles are useful in ensuring that improved traffic flow can be combined with improved road design, better education, and better enforcement to ensure that all types of users can be accommodated on the road safely. In that regard, we applaud and support efforts to obtain the funding necessary to redevelop the Veirs Mill Corridor over time into the type of “complete” roadway that separates pedestrian, bike and auto/bus traffic to the greatest extent possible within existing physical constraints.

One of our primary concerns, as residents of the adjoining Wheaton area, is that the County ensures that the Plan and the Wheaton plan work together as a seamless whole and that all portions move forward together in a coordinated fashion. In that regard, they also need to coordinate with and integrate the County’s separate plans for Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Areas (“BIPPAs”) in both the Wheaton area and the Veirs Mill/Randolph area. Our other concern is that these plans actually do move forward, particularly with respect to the less costly aspects of the Plan related to adding sidewalks and bike paths alongside the main roads and on adjoining roads. A number of aspects of such proposals have been made by planning groups and studies since at least 2005 (and probably well before that). Many such proposals (as discussed in the Wheaton BiPPA report) have been made, and made again, and repeated again, in report after report, but most have not yet been acted on. Proper design can go far to helping the promise of Vision Zero become a reality. It’s time to stop talking about these projects and start building.

The most recent such review of needed work is set out in the letter recently prepared and sent by the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee. Among the proposals the letter noted should be supported is the creation of bikeways and sidewalks off the main corridors on adjoining roads (which could be done quickly in the interim periods while more ambitious plans to redevelop the Veirs Mill Corridor are being reviewed and placed in the queue for funding).

One aspect of such plans that we would particularly support would be to implement a marked, shared bicycle/pedestrian path around the entirety of the Ring Road on the Wheaton Mall. Aspects of such a path were part of the agreements that led up to the decision to grant $4 million in funding to the Mall as part of the Costco expansion. While moving forward on such work was delayed during the pendency of the Special Exception hearing process on the Costco gas station, that issue has now been resolved and there is no reason not to proceed now. The analysis during the Costco hearing made clear that there was adequate space to be able to carve out such a path from the existing lanes and still leave room for traffic. Doing so (and linking it to the existing roads parallel to Veirs Mill would create a useful bypass around the most densely congested are of the Urban District and would be a major step forward in creating the seamless network of bypaths that the County has long envisioned.

We strongly encourage the County as it considers approval and implementation of the Plan that it look at these aspects as a first, and much-needed down payment on the completion of the entire Plan and the realization of Vision Zero.

Respectfully submitted on behalf of KHCA by

Karen Cordry
Derek Karchner
Andy Fraser

Karen CordryComment