Recently, a pedestrian pathway known as Fleet Street located near Richard Montgomery High School has been subject to much controversy in the Rockville community. The pathway, which connects the intersection of Fleet Street and Mt. Vernon Place to Ritchie Center, is scheduled to be converted into a road directly connecting Richard Montgomery High School to the Wootton Parkway. The plan is part of the June 2014 Rockville Pike Plan to turn Rockville Pike into a more commercialized and community-friendly area.
The plan was created as an addition to the 1989 Rockville Pike Corridor Neighborhood Plan, which was also developed to transform the Pike into a vibrant commercial area that would benefit the greater Rockville economy.
The new road is meant primarily to relieve traffic flow on Rockville Pike, specifically at the intersection between the Pike and the Wootton Parkway. The extension would also allow easier access to Richard Montgomery High School, Rockville City Hall, and the Town Center.
According to David Levy, a member on the Rockville City Planning Commission, the extension would “eliminate many points of potential conflict” within the frequently used Hungerford neighborhood to get to Fleet Street. Levy also suggests that this would decrease chances of accidents in that same neighborhood, “every turn increases the chances for an accident to occur.”
While the construction of the new Fleet Street road is to be brought to a vote by the Rockville City Council, there has already been significant opposition to the plan. The biggest concern among activists against the construction plan is the demographic of the people who use Fleet Street. The majority of people who use Fleet Street on a day-to-day basis are the students at Richard Montgomery High School, who depend on the pathway to get to the Ritchie Center during their open lunch. The Ritchie Center offers many affordable dining options to the high school students, some of which include 7-Eleven, CVS, Jumbo Jumbo Cafe, and La Limeña. By converting Fleet Street into a road, many students worry that it will be more difficult, and even dangerous, to get to the Ritchie Center. In addition, students also use the pathway as a route to get to and from school every day.
Kiran Cunningham, a member of Richard Montgomery’s SGA, has publicly voiced her opposition to this proposal as well, stating that the road is unnecessary, “there is a road that is perfectly suitable less than 100 yards from the prospected new road’s location. By forcing the students to travel along a probably busy two lane highway, the students would be in danger of being hit by cars.”
The Rockville Pike Plan has also noted that the 1989 Rockville Pike Corridor Neighborhood Plan and the more recent 2002 Comprehensive Master Plan originally intended to convert Fleet Street into a four-lane road. Acknowledging the risks to the pedestrians, the Rockville City Council redrafted the plan to propose a two-lane road. This update would also allow for a sidewalk and a parking space on the Ritchie Park side, as well as walking and biking space on the opposing Hungerford neighborhood side.
Cunningham mentioned, however, that the safety hazards to RM students are significant, pointing out the death of a Wootton High School student crossing Turkey Foot Road in 1999. Additionally, she stated that the environmental impact would also be substantial to the surrounding neighborhood. “Along that path, there used to be a small thriving forest. Instead of building yet another road, why not attempt to bring back that forest?”
Rockville’s Mayor and City Council will hold another Public Hearing on December 8th at 7pm in the Mayor and Council Chambers to discuss the Plan with the public.
Article by the MoCo Student staff writer Olivia Antezana