Can Metro and BRT play nice in Rockville Town Center? -- Gazette.Net


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The county has high hopes for a bus rapid transit system that will intersect with Metro lines, but building a transit utopia isn’t as easy as plunking a few extra large buses down on Rockville Pike.

The city of Rockville is launching a study to figure out how bus rapid transit might best fit around the Rockville Metro station in Town Center.

Andrew Gunning, assistant director of Rockville’s planning department, said the city wants some good design ideas that it can promote at the state and county level.

“We need to get in front of this,” he said. “... Our concerns in the Town Center are not necessarily something that would be on their radar.”

The county’s plan for bus rapid transit, or BRT, has three corridors converging at or near the Rockville Metro station on Md. 355. From there, bus lines are planned to run north to Clarksburg, south to the District line and southeast to Wheaton.

Gunning said it makes sense to have routes link up at the station, but the area is already busy, and making room for BRT is going to be a challenge.

“If these routes do advance, they would provide our residents with more travel options, so that would conceptually be a good thing, but we have challenges, too,” he said.

Rockville’s Town Center is built up to the western edge of Md. 355, while the Metro station and its parking lots are close to the eastern side of the road. The intersection with East Middle Lane and Park Road, to the north of the station, is already one of the worst in the city, and Md. 28 crosses Rockville Pike at a complex intersection one block to the south, heading west as East Jefferson Street and east as Veirs Mill Road.

Gunning said the city wants to look at its options — which may be limited — for adding BRT to the existing infrastructure.

“There’s a lot of constraints and limitations in a very tight area, so we’re just trying to get in front of that,” Gunning said.

Charles Lattuca, Montgomery County’s rapid transit system development manager, said the county plans to start a two-year study of its own to look at traffic and station details on the whole Md. 355 BRT corridor this year. Lattuca said the county plans to work closely with Rockville to determine what BRT means for the area around the Rockville Metro station.

When the county begins to consider street- and station-level designs for the BRT system, Rockville officials want to have some designs for consideration. As the county and state look at the transit system as a whole, Rockville wants to see how the system fits in with its own master plan for the area.

“If these corridors advance ... we want to make sure they happen in a way that is very compatible and blends in with our Town Center,” Gunning said.

City staff and consultants from Environmental Resources Management already are collecting data and mapping the area for the first phase of the study. Gunning said that process, which has a $30,000 budget, should be finished by the end of the fiscal year in June.

The second phase of the study is expected to develop a preliminary conceptual design for the area, according to Mayor and Council documents. The study is included in the fiscal year 2015 budget preview the Mayor and Council are scheduled to hear at their Monday meeting.

The proposed budget for phase two is $100,000. Gunning said the city hopes to hire a consultant to start work by the end of this calendar year.

ewaibel@gazette.net