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Reject M83

Testimony to Army Corps of Engineers
Presented by ACT President Tina Slater, August 7, 2013

As President of Action Committee for Transit, a Montgomery County-based transit advocacy group of 500 members, I urge you to reject the permit application for M83. The Midcounty Highway Extended is being offered up at a time when we should consider real transit alternatives to new highway construction to help plan for a sustainable future for Montgomery County.

The example of Clarksburg's population growth represents the perfect opportunity for Montgomery County to be progressive in implementing viable mass transit systems that connect Activity Centers --- the goal of transportation is to move the most people, not the most cars. Not only would a strong new transit system serve Upcounty residents, it will also serve thru commuters from the growing areas north of our county. For that reason, we support the MD355 North corridor of the BRT extended to Clarksburg. Please note that the County’s Clarksburg Master Plan states: “Transit is an essential feature of this plan; without it, the Plan’s vision cannot be realized.”

Regarding tonight’s hearing, the most pressing issue about constructing M83 is the potential impact on wetlands and aquatic resources. In addition to wetland impacts, construction of M83 could destroy acres of forest, park land, and prime farmland.

While building M-83 may provide traffic relief for a few years, after that, it too will become congested. Further, we must pay attention to the regional effects of highway expansion on suburban sprawl.

Rather than build M-83, we should improve and upgrade existing MD355. It costs much less, has fewer environmental impacts, and amply supports the development of high quality Rapid Transit connecting Clarksburg to Gaithersburg and points south. While MCDOT’s report says that Rapid Transit is too early in the process to consider, the Rapid Transit plan is being considered by our County Council as we speak. It would be a mistake not to evaluate a real transit alternative to this highway.

Maryland is committed to Smart Growth. Just two weeks ago, our Governor reiterated Maryland’s goal of a 25% reduction of Greenhouse Gas emissions by 2020. In a time of scarce resources and rising environmental challenges like climate change, we cannot afford to make the wrong investments for our future. ACT opposes the permit application for M83.