Transportation remains county’s No. 1 issue -- Gazette.Net


Transportation will be Montgomery County’s top issue in Annapolis this January.

The County Council met Tuesday to discuss the issues it wants to push in the upcoming state legislative session as well as local bills proposed by the county delegation.

With three major transportation projects on the horizon, Councilman George L. Leventhal said the county should make it clear to the delegation that if the state does not make some funding decision for transportation projects that it will have severe consequences.

Montgomery is looking to advance the Purple Line, the Corridor Cities Transitway and a Bus Rapid Transit network.

The Purple Line, a proposed 16-mile light rail line that would connect Bethesda with New Carrollton, would cost $1.92 billion. The 15-mile transitway would connect the Shady Grove Metro station in Rockville to Comsat in Clarksburg with a bus rapid transit line, at a cost of $491 million. And a recommended 160-mile network of BRT would cost $1.8 billion to build.

Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park has raised concerns about lack of transportation dollars stalling projects like the Purple Line, which will be shovel-ready by 2015.

Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park reiterated a common concern among the council that the state Transportation Trust Fund needs to be replenished.

An effort to push for replenishing the fund could have support from jurisdictions across the state, she said.

Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg suggested the county continue to seek an increase in the statewide gas tax, saying it is the most fair way to fund transportation.

Council President Roger Berliner (D-Dist.1) of Bethesda previously suggested the county seek authority from the state to create a local funding mechanism for transportation.

County lobbyist Melanie Wenger told the council that County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) continues to favor a statewide solution for transportation funding.

The council also indicated its support Monday for local bills that would change the safety zones for archery hunting from 150 feet to 50 feet, that would allow the comptroller to issue more permits for wineries to sell at county farmers markets, that would allow licenses for businesses to sell growlers of draft beer and that would consolidate the city of Kensington into one Board of Education district.

Waiting for the Board of Education to weigh in later this month, the council took postponed taking positions on two bills affecting the Board of Education, one that would add two members to the board and change how members are elected, and another that would raise board member pay.