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Written September 1, 2003 by Daniel Reed
Yesterday I went into Washington for the National Symphony Orchestra concert, and to get there I took the Metro from Glenmont, on the Red Line. On the way there I noticed a sign at the gas station which read “visit saveglenmont.org.” I assumed it for the Glenmont Arcade, which a few years ago I heard was being closed. But no, Glenmont needs to be saved from a lot more than a lack of entertainment venues.
In 1998 the Metro stop at Glenmont opened, marking the last of the originally planned stops on the Red Line (with the exception of New York Avenue, which is under construction now). This charming community of Levittown-era tract houses and 1960’s apartments had taken a big step towards becoming a Transit-Oriented Community – a place where people can walk to the store, to school or work – and to the Metro, of course. I read over the Park and Planning Commission’s Master Plan for Glenmont – which was filled with mandates and recommendations for its future, and I was pleased. However, there was something I did not notice, something that is becoming very common in Montgomery County, and that is the interchange.
It is an interchange – better known as a “cloverleaf” or when two intersecting roads are separated so that one goes over the other, such as when roads cross the Beltway – that is threatening the livelihood of Glenmont and many other communities in Montgomery County. The interchange at Georgia Avenue and Randolph Road, just a block away from the Metro stop, is a major step backward – taking a community that could have been pedestrian-oriented and designing it for the automobile. Glenmont may end up being as dense and a “town center” as prescribed by Park and Planning; but there is no way that people will be able to walk there if they are blocked by a highway.
Of course, Glenmont is not the only case. Interchanges are planned at several other places hailed as transit- and pedestrian-oriented. Rockville Town Center – yes, the Rockville Town Center – is due for an interchange. The intersection of Rockville Pike and Randolph Road – home to the newly renovated Montrose Crossing Shopping Center, once a typical suburban strip mall that has been re-outfitted with the pedestrian in mind – will be getting one as well. So goes Rockville Pike and Gude Drive – best known as the home of King Farm, a transit “village” where people can live, work and shop in the same community – adjacent to the Shady Grove stop. Another major corridor affected by interchanges is Columbia Pike (Route 29) in the East County. Three interchanges are already underway at Cherry Hill Road, Briggs Chaney Road, and in Burtonsville at Rt. 198 (Sandy Spring Road).
As we have now entered the 21st century it is time to reconsider the way our communities are designed. For a half-century we have been building them around the car, and the pollution, the sprawl, even our own waistlines have shown us that this must stop. From Burtonsville to Rockville, from Briggs Chaney to Glenmont, we must put an end to this poorly conceived and even more poorly executed form of development and demand that our communities retain their quality of life. No one wants to live next to a highway and not everyone wants to drive on it either. The people of Glenmont have already united in opposition to a project that could destroy their neighborhood as they know it. It is time that the rest of us wake up to the reality and make ourselves heard.
Do you want your community to end up like the dozens of neighborhoods that have been divided and scarred by the Beltway?
E-Mail Me with any suggestions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. The New Urban Suburbanite Visit Christ United Methodist Church. Last Updated: September 1, 2003 Pictures for all communities with the exception of Fairland Greens and Tanglewood were taken without permission. All other pictures are the property of Daniel Reed.