Transportation leaders from Maryland and Virginia took part in an online public hearing to go over studies that suggest ways to expand bus service with the addition of a new American Legion Bridge along Interstate 495.
NOVA Transit Planning Manager Ciara Williams opened up the forum with a presentation laying out three different investment strategies ranging from low, medium to high.
The baseline package includes two main route connections for riding peak service to Bethesda and Gaithersburg in Maryland and Tysons in Virginia.
A medium-range proposal adds an additional route to the minimum investment plan, increased bus frequency and introduction of peak service.
The most ambitious, high-investment proposal would include all-day bus service, additional routes servicing almost a dozen communities, including a new hub at Dulles International Airport.
“When you’re working on a planning study like this, you’re using longer-range models; and you’re making predictions of future land use and development,” said Jennifer DeBruhl, chief of public transportation for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, or DRPT.
But some questioned why Dulles wasn’t part of a plan that is most guaranteed to be approved. DeBruhl and others pointed out that they have so far not seen enough demand for such a route.
“If you build it, they will come, right?” one viewer responded.
“I mean that’s something that we can definitely talk about,” Williams said.
Recommendations from the two studies were based on three categories concerning productivity, equity and connectivity.
Specific issues revolved around things, such as maximizing ridership at the lowest cost, serving areas with high concentrations of low-income and minority riders, and providing route access to the most jobs and people.
“We’ll certainly go back and look at it again, but if it doesn’t make this initial study, this evaluation of transit options doesn’t end with this study,” DeBruhl said.
The American Legion Bridge replacement is part of a massive undertaking to expand lanes along the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 in Maryland, and to link up Virginia’s I-495 extension effort.
The public comment period for the transit proposals related to the bridge is open online through Feb. 1.