Leggett looking for new ways to build bus transit system

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett is finding new ways to fund a bus rapid transit system after his original plan stalled.

At a news conference on Monday, which also touched on the county’s AAA bond rating and the county executive’s recent back surgery, Leggett said he’s directing the county Department of Transportation to find new ways to move the transit plan forward.

The new direction isn’t too different from the initial plan Leggett unveiled last December.

He proposed setting up an independent transportation authority for Montgomery County, but withdrew the plan because unions and local residents didn’t like the idea. Leggett said he could set up the transit system quicker if the county had its own transportation authority.

Leggett offered no specifics on the transit program. He didn’t say which proposed route would get priority or pinpoint a possible date for any route to be established. Instead, Leggett said he hopes to include funding for bus rapid transit in his next budget.

Plans for establishing dedicated bus lanes have included possible routes along Viers Mill Road, Route 355 from Rockville to Bethesda, and Route 29 from Burtonsville to Silver Spring.

“I’ve always said we’re going to do it on a piecemeal basis,” Leggett said.

Also during the news conference, Leggett talked up the county’s AAA bond rating, a new promotional video called “Choose Montgomery,” designed to appeal to entrepreneurs looking for new opportunities, and a database that will allow users to track development plans in the county.

Asked about Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot’s critique of the county’s Department of Liquor Control, Leggett said he’d like to get the county out of the alcohol business. Montgomery County government controls the distribution and sales of alcohol. However, he said the county can’t do without the $35 million in revenues generated by sales each year.

Leggett said a recent letter from a bond counselor suggested that the county’s AAA bond rating could be damaged by the loss of the revenues from alcohol sales.

“There’s an irresponsibility on the part of some who would simply say we could just make that up,” the county executive said. “No, you can’t just make that up. That’s not going to happen.”

Leggett recently underwent back surgery for spinal stenosis. He told reporters that the condition was partially the result of a vehicle collision in Burtonsville, and that he’d been taking medication for it. Surgery became necessary when the medication resulted in complications.

Leggett said his schedule will be affected over the next two weeks while he recovers. There won’t be any long-term impact to his administration and he’ll be able to fill out the remainder of his term.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

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