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White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan

Testimony to Planning Board, May 23, 2013

My name is Dan Reed and my family’s lived in White Oak for 15 years. I’m also the Land Use Chair for the Action Committee for Transit, which supports the White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan.

50 years ago, White Oak was the quintessential American suburb. Carol Black, who co-wrote the TV Show The Wonder Years, based it on her experiences growing up here. But today, White Oak suffers from disinvestment and a lack of amenities. This plan offers a new approach that can draw families and businesses back to the area.

This plan will give East County residents meaningful alternatives to driving with improved transit, new local street connections, and access to high-quality jobs and shopping. Right now, I walk or bike to the Target and Starbucks on Cherry Hill Road. This plan would make it easier for me to get there and offer more things to walk or bike to, reducing my need to drive.

This plan gives us more open space and places to gather. A new town square in White Oak, several neighborhood parks, the town center at LifeSci Village and a proposed 130-acre expansion of Paint Branch Park will give us more places to hang out and gather as a community.

This plan takes a realistic approach to traffic. Bringing new jobs, shopping and academic institutions to the area will bring more traffic. But it also means residents won’t have to go to Bethesda or Rockville for those things. It means the 9,000 employees at FDA can live close to work. A greater density of activity means the area can support better, more reliable transit, taking even more cars off the road.

This plan will make White Oak a destination of choice again. A recent study from the Urban Land Institute finds that a majority of Americans, including young adults and Baby Boomers, want to live close to jobs, shopping and notably transit, and the popularity of areas like Bethesda and downtown Silver Spring prove it. We must make this happen in White Oak if we want anything to get better.

However, this plan needs real, high-quality transit service. There’s a lot of development proposed here, and without good transit it’ll be a traffic nightmare. This plan makes funding and construction of Bus Rapid Transit on Route 29 and New Hampshire Avenue a staging requirement, but we urge the Planning Board to include dedicated lanes as well. Current plans for BRT would place buses in mixed traffic along large parts of both roads, making them slower and less reliable and ultimately discouraging transit use.

There are folks who just want White Oak to go back to The Wonder Years, but it won’t happen. I’m glad Planning staff has created this innovative vision for what my community can be and ACT is proud to support it. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to testify.