WHITE OAK – Making White Oak a place to live, work and play is the priority for the White Oak Science Gateway Plan.
With the Food and Drug Administration moving its offices and employees to the area and the potential of a new Washington Adventist hospital opening near the FDA campus, the county is looking for opportunities to capitalize on the thousands of jobs, commuters and residents coming to White Oak.
“We want to set the stage of taking advantage of the best assets in this area, like the FDA campus,” said Françoise Carrier, chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board. “We have a vision for the three centers, which are currently suburban locations, and we think they can be something much more exciting that will serve the residents well. It can be more vibrant, have better transit, and mixed used nodes that everyone else enjoys in other parts of the county.”
The White Oak Science Gateway Plan was first presented to the county in 1997 as one of four plans for redevelopment in the eastern region of Montgomery County. The mixed use community is proposed on 300 acres owned by the county.
According to statistics provided by the county, there is a ratio of five residents to every east county job. The opening of the FDA and Washington Adventist hospital is estimated to bring 10,000 jobs to White Oak.
“The idea of bringing jobs, stuff to do, and retail is to meet the needs of the people who are already living in the housing that’s already there,” said Councilmember George Leventhal (D-at large). “We have always understood that people were living there and driving long distances to get to work, to shop, or to eat. The purpose was more stuff to do, more jobs and more retail, not necessarily more housing.”
One of the concerns brought up in the July 1 Planning, Housing and Economic Development committee hearing was the impact on traffic on Route 29 and New Hampshire Ave (Route 650). The plans for the mixed use district call for the reduction of traffic by as much as 30 percent through the creation of a walkable community. The county also plans to create three routes on the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.
The county will spend $180 million building the BRT routes; $439 million for transportation projects; $20 million for intersection permits; $108 million for bike way projects, which include bike lanes and wider roads; $5 million for to build a bus circulator in the West Farm/ Perconti area; $41 million to widen three roads in the West Farm business area; $76 million for four expanded business district streets; and $538 million for interchanges on U.S. 29, which will make the road a highway between New Hampshire Avenue and the Howard/Montgomery County line. The cost of land and home acquisition, the building of public schools and new firehouses and police stations in the expanded area were not included in the initial estimates provided by Glenn Orlin, deputy council administrator.
The county council is expected to complete work sessions on the White Oak Science Gateway Plan by July 31.