Local Leaders Get on Same Track on BRT Proposal (VIDEO)
If there is one thing politicians can rally around, it’s traffic.
So when the Rockville City Council invited neighboring Gaithersburg and Montgomery County elected leaders to a discussion on the proposed Bus Rapid Transit system, it was a full house.
The group met on Wednesday night to get an update on the corridor planning study for the Md 355 Bus Rapid Transit. In addition to each city doing its own work on the project evaluating routes and stops, Thomas Street, assistant chief administrative officer for the Office of the County Executive, said Isiah Leggett is proposing the creation of an independent transit authority for Montgomery County which could evaluate transportation needs in the county and help with planning of projects like BRT.
The BRT along 355 is about 20 miles long and planning is in the early stages, according to Barrett Kiedrowski, from the State Highway Administration. Kiedrowski detailed a lengthy planning approval process with a final recommended corridor plan scheduled for presentation in the fall of 2016. That’s too long, says Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner, who attended the meeting. Berliner said he wants to set a construction date and work backwards to set a timeframe for approval.
“It should be ready for construction in four years,” Berliner told MyMCMedia.
Councilmember Marc Elrich said the BRT is a key to economic development in Montgomery County and he said Montgomery County may need to be prepared to pay for the massive transit project without state funding.
“There are ways to do this and we need to figure it out how we need to go forward and do it with or without the state if it has to be that way,” Elrich said. “The governor talked about stimulating the economy. One of his prime economic consultants was a proponent of this. I am optimistic if he is really willing to look at investments with an economic return to the state and to the county that he will decide that these projects are worth for the state to participate in.”
So far there is no estimated cost for the BRT. There has been about $10 million put toward the project so far in funding for studying the plan.
Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman said said the only way the BRT will be successful is for the jurisdictions to work together in creating it.
“We are very much on the same page,” he said.
Rockville’s Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said she was encouraged by the Wednesday meeting and she hopes the group will meet every six month on the issue.