Montgomery Co.’s Bus Rapid Transit plan met with skepticism, praise

County Executive Ike Leggett is promoting the BRT as a sensible transit project that would well serve the county's future needs. This file photo shows a rendering of an aerial view of a Bus Rapid Transit station. (Courtesy Maryland Transit Administration)

WASHINGTON — As Montgomery County considers building a $21 million Bus Rapid Transit line on U.S. Route 29 from Burtonsville to Silver Spring, a recent public hearing had residents lining up to share their views on the proposal. 

“It will link the vibrant downtown of Silver Spring to White Oak and Burtonsville, creating a new, safe, reliable and affordable connection between east county and the rest of the region,” said Joana Conklin, rapid transit system development manager with Montgomery County Department of Transportation, at the county council’s public hearing Tuesday night.

County Executive Ike Leggett is promoting the BRT as a sensible transit project that would well serve the county’s future needs.

BRT systems typically run extra-large buses in dedicated lanes for commuter time savings. But while the US-29 BRT would run in a dedicated lane between Burtonsville and Industrial Parkway, it would operate in mixed traffic from the parkway to downtown Silver Spring.

The plan has its doubters: The council heard repeatedly from residents who said they don’t have enough information about the project costs, station placements and whether the BRT would make a difference in improved travel times.

“There is still a very, very clear sense that folks in our neighborhoods don’t know enough about the project. We would like that to be corrected,” said Raul Chiavera of the East County Citizens Advisory Board.

“We need to know if there are going to be any travel time savings before we fund this,” added Kevin Harris of the Four Corners Civic Association.

Some supporters say it will improve the environment.

“The fewer cars we have on our roads — if people ride transit — the better it is for our environment,” said Brian Ditzler of the Sierra Club of Montgomery County.

After this final public hearing on the proposal, the council must decide whether to press ahead with the project.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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