Testimony of Darian Unger to Montgomery County Council
8204 Cedar St., Silver Spring MD 20910
Feb. 9, 2012
I appreciate the chance to testify today, and urge the council to amend the proposed Capital Improvement Project (CIP) budget to include the Metropolitan Branch Trail. I’m one of many who believe this.
I’ve testified here many times before – as chair of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, as chair of the Transportation and Pedestrian Safety Committee, and as a volunteer firefighter – but today I’m here in a different role: simply as a Silver Spring resident concerned about sustainable development in our county and working to prevent a complete mangling of transportation priorities by the administration and a backwards-looking DOT.
The administration and Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed completely eliminating the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which is designed to connect the Capital Crescent Trail to the Silver Spring Metro station, downtown Silver Spring, Takoma Park, and Washington D.C. They zeroed it out through 2018. That’s not just a cut…it’s outright elimination of a longstanding Silver Spring priority with a relatively small budget
It is especially galling that this important urban hiker, biker, and commuter path is targeted for elimination, while the CIP budget for resurfacing of rural roads is increased to over $91 million. That contrast was announced at our last public monthly meeting of the Silver Spring Transportation Committee, and it did not go over well. It represents a car-oriented mentality we would expect to see in West Texas, perhaps…but not in Montgomery County.
We understand it’s a tough budget year, and some cuts and capital delays are expected. But this is poor planning. Many of us in Silver Spring have begrudged DOT for inflexibly prioritizing automobile throughput at the expense of walkability, bicycling, and clean commuters, but this is a new low. We are counting on County Council to reinstate the Metropolitan Branch Trail and restore common sense priorities. The proposal as it stands is indefensible.