On Monday, December 22 on his first day as MCDOT Acting Director, Al Roshdieh met with senior staff and the editor of Go Montgomery! to talk about his goals for the Department.
Go Montgomery Editor: First of all, I’d like to congratulate you on your selection as the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) Acting Director. Your appointment comes at a challenging and exciting time for Montgomery County as we strive to strengthen our economy. In his inaugural address, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett announced a six point economic plan that will better position Montgomery County for the future. How do you see MCDOT playing a role in supporting Mr. Leggett’s vision?
Roshdieh: Montgomery County is a vibrant and innovative community that has embraced smart growth principles as the path to an even brighter economic future. To achieve this vision and further unlock the County’s economic potential, we must continue to transform our transportation infrastructure to be even more transit-oriented, bikable and walkable.
Go Montgomery Editor: Why do you think focusing on transportation alternatives is the way forward?
Roshdieh: When you look at the trends in car ownership, driving habits, bike commuting and transit ridership nationwide, it is clear that our country has undergone a significant shift away from a traditional model of single occupancy vehicles commuting from the suburbs to a central city. The Washington D.C. region reflects this shift and the communities that have most strongly embraced this change are the ones that are thriving. Our neighboring jurisdictions are proving that reliable, convenient transit supported by an extensive bikeway network and safe pedestrian access is the best way to convince people to get out of their cars. That is why I plan to focus on a comprehensive approach to mobility that promotes sustainable alternatives.
Go Montgomery Editor: How will MCDOT implement this new vision?
Roshdieh: I plan to take a hard look at all of MCDOT’s policies and procedures to ensure that they are consistent with our emphasis on smart growth principles. This approach is not just about focusing on Ride On or bikesharing or more sidewalks. It’s about taking a holistic view of all of MCDOT’s efforts and asking the question: How do we create the type of community that truly enhances our quality of life and how can our transportation system contribute?
Go Montgomery Editor: Not all of Montgomery County is urban. How will your approach affect those who still rely on their cars?
Roshdieh: One of the wonderful things about Montgomery County is that it is urban, suburban and rural. Each of these areas has something unique to offer residents and each area has its own transportation needs. However, what they all have in common is increasing traffic congestion. We cannot solve traffic tie ups by continuing to build more and more roads. Even in the less densely populated areas of the County, providing more alternative transportation options, like the Rapid Transit System, and providing better and more frequent links to existing transit will provide greater opportunities to reduce vehicle traffic. Getting more cars off the road benefits those who have fewer or no alternatives to driving.
Go Montgomery Editor: What about our roads and bridges?
Roshdieh: Our road and bridge network is no less important because we are also expanding our alternatives. Our County’s continued investment in this transportation infrastructure is vital to our economic health. I will continue to rehabilitate, renew and maintain our roads and bridges to enhance the livability of our communities and ensure the public’s safety.
As far as constructing new roads, I do believe that our road network is essentially built out. With the exception of a few needed roads, our focus will be on ‘spot’ and ‘intersection’ improvements that can increase the capacity of our existing roadways and make them more efficient at moving traffic.
Go Montgomery Editor: What do you think is the public perception of MCDOT?
Roshdieh: Just as Mr. Leggett wants to usher in and foster a ‘culture of yes’ when it comes to doing business in Montgomery County, I want to also foster a ‘culture of yes’ in MCDOT. Does that mean we will always be able to meet the needs of everyone? That is not always possible. But, I do believe that in our role as public servants we are compelled to find innovative solutions for our residents and businesses that meet engineering standards while addressing the broader goals of our County. I look forward to working with our entire community and those at the regional, state and federal levels to meet the challenges of realizing our smart growth vision.