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County unanimously approves bus rapid transit

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Published on: Wednesday, November 27, 2013

By Holden Wilen

ROCKVILLE – A bus rapid transit system is one step closer to reality after the Montgomery County Council unanimously approved plans which establish routes and possible station locations.

The council hopes that by approving the plan it has provided a framework for future transit to enhance transportation in the county.

“Today our council has set out a bold course toward a less congested future,” said Councilmember Roger Berliner, who chairs the council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee. “A network of 10 Bus Rapid Transit corridors—in dedicated lanes—is at the heart of the plan unanimously adopted by our Council.  It is an aspirational plan that will be implemented only after extensive community involvement, and if achieved, will make our County a transit leader in the country.”

The recommended corridor routes are:

•    Corridor 1: Georgia Avenue North. 9.6-miles running down Georgia Avenue between the Wheaton Metro Station and Olney.

•    Corridor 2: Georgia Avenue South. 3.9-miles running down Georgia Avenue between the Wheaton Metro Station and the District of Columbia line.

•    Corridor 3: Maryland 355 North. 15.3-miles on Maryland 355 between the Rockville Metro Station and Redgrave Place in Clarksburg, with two routes in Germantown East. The southern portion of the corridor lies within Rockville’s city limits and the center portion lies within Gaithersburg.

•    Corridor 4: Maryland 355 South. 7.8-miles running on Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue between the Rockville and Bethesda Metro Stations.

•    Corridor 5: New Hampshire Avenue. 8.5-miles on New Hampshire Avenue (Maryland 650) from the Colesville park-and-ride lot south to Eastern Avenue at the District of Columbia line requiring cooperation from Prince George's County and the District of Columbia.

•    Corridor 6: North Bethesda Transitway. 2.7-miles running from either the Grosvenor or White Flint Metro Station to Old Georgetown Road, south on Old Georgetown Road to Rock Spring Drive, and west on Rock Spring drive and Fernwood Road to Montgomery Mall.  The plan creates an interchange connecting Fernwood Road to the HOV lane to and from the south on I-270.

•    Corridor 7: Randolph Road.  10.l-miles on Randolph Road between the White Flint Metro Station and the U.S. Route 29 corridor station at Tech Road.  In the western segment of the corridor, an alternative would be to add a BRT lane on Montrose Parkway between Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike.

•    Corridor 8: University Boulevard. 5.5-miles down University Boulevard between the Wheaton Metro Station and Langley Park.

•    Corridor 9: U.S. Route 29. 12.3-miles running along Colesville Road and Columbia Pike between the District of Columbia boundary and Burtonsville, with two routes in the White Oak area.

•    Corridor 10: Veirs Mill Road. 6.2-miles on Veirs Mill Road between the Wheaton and Rockville Metro Stations.

Councilman Marc Elrich, who first proposed the idea to create a bus rapid transit system when he took office seven years ago, said he is happy the council passed the master plan and recognized the importance of adding more transportation to the county. However, he acknowledged it could be a while before the plan is actually put into action.

“I am optimistic that if we are creative, work with partners and focus on achieving what we need to achieve—and don’t gold plate what doesn’t need to be gold plated—we will be able to design something that can be put into service sooner rather than later,” Elrich said. “And we can design something that helps and does not harm our existing communities.  We can achieve the goals of moving people in peak direction, which frankly is our headache.  At the same time, we will create a transit system that gives people a viable choice to sitting in their cars in gridlock.”

The council’s passage of the countywide transit corridors master plan is just one of many steps the county needs to take to get the transit system built. The next step is for the Montgomery Planning Board to transmit the approved master plan to the full Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission on Dec. 5. The commission’s council will then vote on approval for the plan on Dec. 18.

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