ROCKVILLE – There is little debate that traffic is one of the biggest issues in the County, but there is much debate on what to do about it.
Tuesday night, residents testified at the County Council on the County’s plan for a Bus Rapid Transit system on U.S. Route 29.
The proposed U.S. 29 BRT would be a 14-mile bus route that would quickly shuttle people up and down the East County while driving in both mixed traffic and on shoulder lanes. The proposed bus route would cost $31 million, $21.5 million coming from the County and $10 million coming from a U.S. Department of Transportation grant.
At the public hearing Tuesday night, reaction to the planned BRT was mixed. While most agreed there needs to be more transit options for commuters in the East County, residents are split on what that solution is.
Carole Ann Barth, member of the Route 29 Corridor Advisory Committee said the County wasted millions of dollars on studies of BRT and ignored their results to push the project through.
“We have thrown away a big pile of money that could have been used to actually benefit transit riders today,” Barth said.
In addition to the BRT on U.S. Route 29, the County is also proposing two other BRTs on MD-355 and MD-586. The public of the BRT on U.S. Route 29 was originally scheduled for March, but it was pushed back several times to allow more information about the plan to be made available.
“Have all the details of the Executive’s (U.S. Route) 29 proposal been fleshed out? No. Nonetheless, I believe DOT (Department of Transportation) has provided all the documentation available for a proposed project of this scale which involves little construction,” said Council President Roger Berliner (D-1).
Many supporters of the proposed U.S. Route 29 BRT packed the room at the County Council Building Tuesday night, saying the bus system would give poorer residents in the East County who don’t have cars another way to travel to work.
Daniel Lovas, a transportation engineer from Silver Spring, said he supports the U.S. Route 29 BRT as convenient way to commute and to cut down on growing traffic concerns in Silver Spring.
“I look forward to an appealing BRT service right in Four Corners that is likely to save me time getting to downtown Silver Spring and so convenient that my 3-year-old son can grow in using it and become accustomed to having that option in the future as well,” said
The proposed BRT would include 11 stations from Burtonsville to the Silver Spring Transit Center. The BRT would have limited stops, with off-bus pay stations to facilitate quick stops.
County Executive Ike Leggett has previously said the proposed BRT for U.S. Route 29 is part of his plan to develop the East County, one of the poorer regions of Montgomery County.
According to the County, 65 percent of the people who live around the U.S. Route 29 corridor are minorities, many of whom do not have access to a car. Leggett said the proposed BRT would become a mode of transportation for people who will work in the proposed White Oak Science Gateway, which will include a new Food and Drug Administration Headquarters and new Washington Adventist Hospital.