$21.5 million going to Silver Spring State funds to be used in downtown renewal, Glendening says

January 27, 1998|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Promising $21.5 million to rejuvenate downtown Silver Spring, Gov. Parris N. Glendening said yesterday its renewal is a symbol of two of his pet themes: responsible growth and protecting the Chesapeake Bay.

The governor took a 30-minute walking tour of the downtown with Montgomery County officials and the architects and developers of the revitalization plan, then presented County Executive Douglas M. Duncan with an oversized check.

The $21.5 million will be disbursed over three years to help pay for road and utility improvements and to design a transit center for bus, rail and Metro service.

"I see a vision," Glendening told a beaming Duncan and business and civic leaders. "I see the future. I see Smart Growth painted out."

The governor referred to last year's Smart Growth legislation, which uses state funding to discourage sprawl. He also had kind words for Smart Moves 2000, a Montgomery commuter initiative launched yesterday morning in Chevy Chase.

Glendening, on an all-day visit to the state's most populous county, said bolstering an aging community such as Silver Spring and upgrading mass transit reduces sprawl and saves open space.

"What we do here is directly linked to the health of the Chesapeake Bay," he said. "This is the positive side of the coin in our anti-Pfiesteria activities."

In October, a development team led by Foulger-Pratt Co. of Rockville unveiled a $326 million plan to build a "town center" at Colesville Road and Georgia Avenue that would include shops, restaurants, a movie theater and a hotel.

The project's architect, Gary Bowden of RTKL Associates of Baltimore, showed Glendening drawings of the proposed commercial center as they walked through the 26-acre site.

"What we're really after is to make the streets alive again," Bowden told the governor.

Duncan said he hopes to sign a development contract with the team by mid-March and break ground late this year. In Chevy Chase, more than 200 business and civic leaders attended workshops to learn how companies can offer employees incentives to lure them onto mass transit and other alternatives to driving alone.

The goal, Duncan told the audience, is to enlist support of 2,000 businesses by 2000 to reduce Washington-area traffic congestion, second only to Los Angeles.

Studies of the region have shown that the cost of congestion -- in wasted time and gasoline while idling in gridlock -- is the highest in the nation, and average commuting time is 30 percent higher than the national average.

"Clearly, greater use of alternative transportation is good for our business climate good for our economy and our tax base," Duncan said.

"Smart Growth and Smart Moves are very clearly related," Glendening said. "We want to reduce travel time between home and work and improve the quality of life and our environment."

Smart Moves 2000 leaders say employers can offer workers an "alternative transportation benefits menu" that might include a monthly commuter allowance of $65 for transit and van pool costs, flextime, a fare voucher for use on any mass transit system and preferred parking for car pools.

Duncan and Montgomery County Council President Isiah Leggett of Burtonsville said finding relief for gridlock in the Washington suburbs is important for Baltimore-area commuters.

Leggett said U.S. 29 no longer serves as a convenient back entrance to Washington for motorists from Howard and Baltimore counties. Traffic from new subdivisions and those in the pipeline will bring rush-hour gridlock to the four-lane road, he warned.

Duncan said Smart Moves 2000 may provide alternatives that can be used elsewhere.

"We're the only county with HOV lanes, but they're coming Baltimore's way," he said. "Perhaps some of the ideas we use here can help boost mass transit ridership in Baltimore."

Pub Date: 1/27/98

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