ACT Testimony on Transit Access at Medical Center
Public Hearing, January 19, 2010
Testimony of Quon Y. Kwan,
Good evening. My name is Quon Y. Kwan and I am presenting comments on behalf of the Action Committee for Transit of Montgomery County.
Our first comment pertains to the ludicrous use of the term, “multimodal,” to describe this project. Just because a road or a street has a pedestrian sidewalk does not make it “multimodal.” Every urbanized street has a sidewalk for pedestrians, but we do not call such a street “multimodal.” We believe that the County is disingenuous in calling this project “multimodal” because the County is using the pedestrian sidewalk as a “smokescreen” for constructing a roadway.
On July 8, 2009, Clark Construction Co. presented a proposal to the County, National Institutes of Health (NIH), and National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) for a pedestrian/bicycle underpass from the Medical Center Metrorail Station with a roadway. The roadway is claimed to be for emergency vehicle access between NIH and NNMC.
First, Action Committee for Transit questions the use of the funds proposed for pedestrian/bicycle” tunnel that will serve as a smokescreen for a roadway. We say it is a smokescreen because a photograph of the Clark Construction Company’s rendering shows that the proposal would construct the roadway so as to provide a direct connection while it would take pedestrians and cyclists out of their way (that is, zig-zag north then south, then double back to the north). The direction connection for cars and circuitous routing form pedestrians makes it clear that the emphasis is for vehicles – not pedestrians and cyclists.
Second, Action Committee for Transit questions the use of funds for a roadway for emergency vehicle access between NIH and NNMC when the forecasted use is about once every three days. This does not seem to be a good justification for use of taxpayers’ money.
Third, Action Committee for Transit questions whether the roadway may be part of a larger road project to connect both NIH and NNMC directly to I-270 and I-495. The Action Committee for Transit was able to obtain a letter dated July 28, 2009 under a Freedom of Information Act request from the Navy. The subject of that letter from the Navy to a Clark Construction Co. subsidiary called Edgemoor Real Estate Services, is entitled, “355 & 270 / 495 Roadway Designs.”
If the roadway for which the so-called “multimodal” pedestrian/bicycle underpass is part of a larger road project to provide direct access to I-270/ 495, then the County is sternly warned that it violates the National Environmental Policy Act with respect to segmentation. If the roadway is part of a larger project, then an environmental assessment must be made of the entire project. The project may not be segmented into smaller projects to circumvent studying the impacts of the overall larger project. Segmentation also violates Section 771.1(f) of Title 23 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which provides general principles for properly framing a highway project.
The County is reminded of two court cases where the issue of segmentation was settled against the proponents of road projects:
Named Individual Member of the San Antonio Conservation Society v. Texas High Department [446 F.2d 1013 (1973)]
Hawthorn Environmental Preservation Association et al v. William T. Coleman, U.S. Department of Transportation et al [551 F. Supp. 1091 (1976)]
Testimony of Ben Ross
The following points are in addition to the detailed comments submitted on behalf of ACT by Quon Kwan.
1) A “multimodal crossing” is not a Purpose and Need, it is an alternative for meeting the purpose and need. Expressing the Purpose and Need in this way impermissibly excludes alternatives from consideration.
2) A roadway with a sidewalk is not a multimodal facility.
3) MCDOT has described the purpose of the proposed 4-lane roadway in ways that are inconsistent and often entirely implausible:
It is described in the county's ARRA TIGER grant application as a facility for pedestrians and emergency vehicles, but MCFRS comments on the BRAC EIS state that the traffic of emergency vehicles will be 2 trips per week.
MWCOG was told on July 15 that it is a pedestrian crossing. But the ARRA grant application submitted in September proposed a roadway with a sidewalk.
The text of the ARRA grant application says that “Existing transportation choices will be improved by eliminating at-grade pedestrian crossings”-in other words, the purpose is to prevent pedestrians from crossing the street in order to move cars faster on 355.
The ARRA grant application (p. 9) rejected WMATA's shallow tunnel alternative on the grounds that it “would not attract many Metro riders who would continue to walk across MD 355,” yet the zigzag tunnel MCDOT wants to build instead is longer and would be even less attractive to pedestrians.
Clearly, these are just excuses. The proposed four-lane roadway is the first phase of something bigger. If a roadway tunnel alternative is analyzed in the EIS, it must be the entire project—the entire “355 & 270/495 Roadway Designs” that were discussed at the July 8, 2009, meeting at which this project was hatched—and not just the first phase.
We believe that this project should be refocused on its original purpose—to improve pedestrian access. Review should focus on the alternatives identified in the WMATA study so that we can move expeditiously to construction. Our view is that the east-side elevator entrance is the best of these alternatives.