Governor supports buses for upcounty transit route -- Gazette.Net


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The proposed Corridor Cities Transitway will use dedicated bus lanes instead of light rail, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced Friday.

The planned 15-mile corridor would connect the Shady Grove Metro station in Rockville with the Comsat property near Clarksburg to help alleviate traffic capacity currently prohibiting further development in the Great Seneca Science Corridor and elsewhere. State transportation agencies will now move forward with engineering and design, said Jack Cahalan, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation.

O’Malley chose bus rapid transit — bus-only lanes separated along existing streets — because it is less costly than building light rail. Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) issued a statement Friday, agreeing with the decision.

“Bus Rapid Transit can be built sooner and at a significantly lower cost while complementing our master plan,” he said in the statement.

Montgomery County is also considering a system of dedicated bus lanes for roads such as Rockville Pike.

Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley said the state will look for Federal Transit Administration funds for at least half of the cost of the project, estimated at $828 million. She said the state will explore public-private partnerships for funding the CCT project.

Swaim-Staley said bus rapid transit will help ensure the CCT will be built soon.

“It’s much less complicated [than light rail], once it’s planned,” she said. “There are no tunnels to dig.”

Plans for the expansion of the Universities at Shady Grove and more development in Gaithersburg, Germantown, and Clarksburg rely on the construction of the CCT so there is less traffic on Interstate 270 and other major roads, according to county planning documents.

The project would cost $828 million and could be completed by 2035, according to figures provided by the transit administration. The agency will submit the project for Federal Transit Administration funds this summer for construction as early as 2018.

The project would be split into two, starting with a 9-mile segment from the Metropolitan Grove MARC station to Shady Grove that could begin service as early as 2020. Swaim-Staley said that would make it the first bus rapid transit services active in Maryland.

The Montgomery County Council selected bus rapid transit over light rail Jan. 17, reversing its 2009 preference for light rail.

Early cost estimates put the cost of construction for a light rail-operated CCT close to $1 billion, according to the Federal Transit Administration cost effectiveness index. The index estimated the cost of a bus rapid transit CCT at $533 million in 2007.

A bus rapid transit CCT would have 68 buses traveling between 16 stations over 15 miles, according to figures provided by the transit administration. It would carry on average 47,700 daily riders.

Buses would run six minutes apart. A trip from the Comsat property in Clarksburg to Shady Grove would take about 49 minutes.

aruoff@gazette.net