Council Staff: Wisconsin Avenue Can’t Hold Median Bus Rapid Transitway

Proposed South MD 355 BRT corridor, via Montgomery County Planning DepartmentThe stretch of Rockville Pike and Wisconsin Avenue that would have a bus rapid transitway in the median isn’t wide enough for such a system, according to an analysis by County Council staff.

The Council’s Transportation Committee will continue worksessions on the Planning Board’s master plan for the BRT system on Friday.

Since the last meeting, when Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At large) asked which existing roads are wide enough to hold the 10 proposed BRT corridors, planners did a “sketch-level review.”

Opponents are concerned the proposed system would require the taking of right-of-way that would infringe upon businesses and homes.

Planners found that where a median busway is recommended with lane repurposing, as is the case on MD 355 from White Flint to Bradley Boulevard, BRT “may be accommodated in some areas where existing medians are wider than normal, but this will not be true typically.”

Council staff took that analysis a level further and determined that the existing section of MD 355 from White Flint to Bradley Boulevard is not wide enough to hold a median bus station. Council staff found the proposed curb lane treatment for MD 355 south of Bradley Boulevard to the District line is wide enough.

Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Chevy Chase) asked Planning Department staff where existing right-of-way would have to be increased to accommodate the proposed BRT corridors.

According to the staff report, there are only two segments where right-of-way would have to be increased from what’s in the existing master plan:

•  University Boulevard between Piney Branch Road and Carroll Avenue: Additional right-of-way is recommended per the current Purple Line plans and the portion within the limits of the Long Branch Sector Plan restates what is recommended in that plan. No additional right-of-way beyond that is recommended for BRT.

•  MD 355 South between 250′ south of Twinbrook Parkway and 200′ south of Hoya Street: The existing master plan recommends 134′ and the Draft Plan recommends a 150′ width that is expandable to 162′ through additional reservation for streetscape improvements. This is intended to duplicate the recommendations for MD 355 in the White Flint Sector Plan. While this additional right-of-way is not mandatory, the desire would be to have a consistent typical section through this commercial area

The Transportation Committee isn’t scheduled to make recommendations on the MD 355 South BRT corridor until a worksession next week.

But of interest is the Council staff’s recommendation for the US 29/Colesville Road BRT corridor in Silver Spring. Council staff is recommending the Council establish that the US 29 corridor end at the Silver Spring Transit Center, and not extend south to the District line:

However, there is no reason to carry these lanes further south than the Silver Spring Transit Center at Wayne Avenue until or unless the District ofColumbia wishes to create BRT service on 16th Street.

That idea could be a possibility for the MD 355 corridor, which is proposed to run all the way to the District line in Friendship Heights. Residents of the Chevy Chase West neighborhood, who have fought against the proposal, say the corridor should stop at Bradley Boulevard or even the Bethesda Metro station.

Also of note in the Council staff report is a recommendation against adding a Connecticut Avenue BRT corridor, as Councilmember March Elrich (D-At large) has encouraged.

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