AAA Mid-Atlantic is urging the county to reconsider its bus rapid transit plan.
AAA representative Mahlon G. Anderson wrote in a letter to the Montgomery County Council on Sunday that the county’s plan is “fatally flawed in multiple ways.”
County planners are working on a plan to bring a rapid transit network to existing county roads.
The county is proposing eight lines, which would run through U.S. 29, New Hampshire Avenue, University Boulevard, Georgia Avenue, Veirs Mill Road, Randolph Road, Md. 355 and North Bethesda.
The network would be part of the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, which is intended to improve transportation options, support local businesses and be environmentally friendly, according to county planners.
Anderson argues in his letter that building bus lines on existing arteries would hobble the area’s infrastructure.
“Reducing ... capacity by ‘repurposing’ general lanes on some of our county’s most clogged arteries is a recipe for even worse gridlock,” Anderson wrote. “Dedicated lanes should be created by adding capacity to our arteries, not by subtracting it.”
A memo from Montgomery County Deputy Council Administrator Glenn Orlin said some lanes may be created from medians or along the side of county roads, and others may be implemented through reversible lanes.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth, an advocacy group for mass transit, has supported the plan, but some downcounty residents, including Councilwoman Nancy M. Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park, have criticized it.
In Friendship Heights, residents argued that the traffic congestion from bus lanes, in an area with multiple mass transit options, would do more harm than good.
In August, the County Council added a second day of public hearings to its schedule for the proposed 81-mile bus rapid transit system. The system has been pared down from County Executive Isiah Leggett’s 2012 plan for a 161.5-mile network.
The AAA representative questioned whether the county could afford the current proposed network, with possible capital and operating costs coming to half a billion dollars per year.
“We believe a detailed financial analysis must be conducted,” Anderson wrote.
Orlin’s memo to the council said the county expects an estimated cost for land acquisition, design and construction to be about $3 billion. In comparison, Orlin noted, the Intercounty Connector cost $2.4 billion.
In his letter, Anderson applauded county planners’ move toward pedestrian, bicycle and transit activity.
“This is appropriate for current and future urban areas, but ... it must not be accomplished by doing serious damage to those commuters and residents who choose to use — or must rely — on their cars.”
The County Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee will assess the plan, corridor by corridor, during a series of work sessions this month.