ROCKVILLE – The County’s plan to fix traffic just got a bit more complicated.
On May 4, the County Council Transportation, Infrastructure Energy and Environment Committee instructed the Montgomery County Department of Transportation to explore a new idea for the proposed Bus Rapid Transit System on U.S. Route 29.
The BRT is a proposed bus route with limited stops that would use the shoulder lanes as well as drive in mixed traffic to help shorten the commute for riders in the East County. During the public hearing for the BRT, some residents criticized County Executive Ike Leggett’s proposal, saying it would not significantly shorten commute times.
Now MCDOT is looking into a new idea originally proposed by East County resident Sean Emerson that would put the proposed U.S. Route 29 BRT in the median to avoid driving in mixed traffic.
“That testimony was really persuasive. Our professional staff likes it,” said Berliner of Emerson’s idea.
Last week the T & E committee asked MCDOT to find out how much it would cost to fund an engineer and design study for BRT in the median. The idea to put the BRT in the median on U.S. Route 29 is not in the planning stages yet, but Emerson proposed making lanes one foot narrower to make room for a track in the median to fit the BRT.
Berliner first announced the plan to explore the proposal to put the BRT in the median during his May 1 weekly news conference, saying the County would go through with Leggett’s proposal and explore the option to put the BRT in the median.
Berliner said he was not worried that putting the BRT in the median would be a danger to pedestrians who would have to cross a busy highway to reach the BRT stop or prevent cars from making left turns.
On Tuesday the Council deferred action to approve $7.5 million for the County executive’s proposal for the BRT on U.S. Route 29. In total the BRT proposal would cost $31.5 million, with the County funding $21.5 million and the federal government funding $10 million of the project.
Also last week, the T & E committee voted to recommend the County Council fund Metro Extra on U.S. Route 29 for an expanded Metrobus service with limited stops. Council members Tom Hucker (D-5) and Nancy Floreen (D-at large) voted to recommend funding for Metro Extra, while Berliner was the lone dissenting vote on the committee.
“The only alternative in FY 18 is Metro Extra, but that doesn’t necessary commit us to anything in the future,” Hucker said.