Weekly Message From County Executive Marc Elrich
Per Montgomery County:
We continue to make tremendous progress in our fight against COVID-19. Our test positivity rate and our cases per 100,000 have consistently been among the lowest in the State. More than 60 percent of our residents have received their second shot.
The big news is that Montgomery County is No. 1 in the nation among counties with more than 300,000 residents for vaccinating the 12-and-over population.
Each week, more is opening around the County.
The County liquor stores are resuming their full hours, including Sundays, at the 26 stores across the County. On Monday, eight more libraries will reopen to the public. In addition, our Department of Permitting Services office will resume in-person service next week.
I also want to remind people that individual businesses and establishments can still require customers and visitors to wear masks. If an establishment requires a mask, you must abide by its rules. While we still have unvaccinated residents, mask wearing and distancing are our best tools to limit the spread of virus. Masks continue to be required on public transportation and in health facilities, schools and camps.
Managed lanes proposal by the State
In other news, this week, the Maryland Transportation Authority Board unanimously approved several measures that pave the way for a public-private partnership that will widen and add toll lanes on I-495 from the American Legion Bridge to Old Georgetown Road and on I-270 from the spur to I-370. I joined with other elected leaders, organizations and residents to highlight some of the major problems with the plan as approved by the Board.
I appreciate the State’s willingness to try to tackle our congestion problems on I-495 and I-270 and the acknowledgment that work must begin at the American Legion Bridge, where the traffic problems begin. The bridge is a crucial link from Virginia up I-270 and connects to the north and west, and it needs to be replaced.
The best solution lies in a partnership with the Federal government, not in a public-private partnership that will cost State taxpayers unnecessary money. We now have a President who is committed to infrastructure investment. The State should ask the Biden Administration to include the American Legion Bridge in its infrastructure plans; it is a perfect project for Federal investment, and it would save taxpayers money and still address a regional transportation problem. That solution must include meaningful transit, which would include rail options and BRT.
We can develop a transportation solution that includes significant transit improvements and addresses the needs from Frederick to Virginia without the pitfalls and costs of the ill-advised public-private-partnership (P-3) plan. The next step in the process is a vote in July by the State Board of Public Works. I urge you to contact the Board members and ask that they not approve the project in its current form. This is a major infrastructure project: we owe it to our residents to get it right from the beginning.
Supporting our vibrant bio and research sectors
This week, I joined Governor Hogan for a tour of the new headquarters site for Novavax in Gaithersburg. Novavax’s growth and investment in Montgomery County is not just great news for us, but is equally important to the State, the entire DMV and for all our bio and life sciences companies.
As companies like Novavax grow, we must build a pipeline of well-trained, highly educated people for their workforces. This is why we are about to begin a landmark partnership between the County, the University System of Maryland and Montgomery College.
This partnership will guide the future of post-pandemic education utilizing existing assets to create an economic development powerhouse for Maryland in life and regulatory sciences. These efforts are an important part of the work I have been doing since I became County Executive to implement intentional strategies to help Montgomery County improve its prior limited job growth.
The last 15 months have highlighted the importance of our bio, life science and related sectors, and we must continue to invest in their success. It is imperative that we grow and provide a workforce with the skills and talent they need to succeed.
In the past, the approach has been to change our zoning, a strategy that has failed to produce the additional jobs and economic development that supporters claimed would happen. More than a decade of insignificant growth in jobs and businesses has demonstrated that zoning and increased density are not the solution. We need to create an environment where businesses thrive and that includes providing them with the talent they need. This partnership will help to ensure that we create a pipeline that will help to bring jobs and opportunity to this County.
Throughout the pandemic, we have not stopped working on a multitude of issues, but now we are able to focus on other priorities and that is exciting. I continue to thank all of you for being patient and enduring the last 15 months.
Thank you for getting Montgomery County to this point. We have much to be proud of. But we still have neighbors, friends, co-workers and family who have not gotten vaccinated and we will maintain our many efforts to get them vaccinated.