Gaithersburg, Rockville seek faster movement on BRT plans

ROCKVILLE, Md.  — As Montgomery County moves forward with a $1.6 billion project for a bus rapid transit system, Gaithersburg and Rockville leaders presented studies about how to best get the buses moving faster.

“Our density is going to be pretty intense in the city, and we have to serve it,” said Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman. “There have to be ways for people to get back and forth.”

The conversation centered on bringing bus-only lanes to Route 355, from Bethesda to Clarksburg.

Rockville officials expressed concern over losing two lanes to bus-only traffic in Rockville Town Center. A proposal called for building a tunnel under Rockville Pike (Route 355) for through traffic, similar to the tunnel on Connecticut Avenue at Dupont Circle in D.C.

“It gives room for the (bus rapid transit) on top; it also gives room for green space, which is something we desperately need,” said Rockville Mayor Bridget Newton.

County leaders say Rockville and Gaithersburg stand to benefit from a planned bus rapid transit system. But where bus rapid transit corridors will be developed, and how the county will pay for the project, remain unknown.

Plans for an independent agency to build and operate the system were recently scrapped by County Executive Isiah Leggett.

“We’ve got a lot of details to sort out — there is certainly the funding issue, what this means for traffic congestion and how we meet community needs,” said Nancy Floreen,  Montgomery County Council president.

County Councilman Hans Riemer said that instead of waiting to fund the bus lanes, the county could implement a faster, cheaper option: “You could get thousands and thousands more riders with limited-stop buses,” Riemer said.

Gaithersburg and Rockville have yet to formally vote in support of the project.

Ashman  says it’s important for his city, which continues to grow in population, to work toward a plan to get the bus lanes up and running.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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