Greater Greater Washington

Will Montgomery fund new transit, or build more roads?

Maryland's gas tax increase means it now has the most transportation funding in a generation. Will Montgomery County spend its share on transit to support its urban centers, or keep building highways?


Downtown Silver Spring. Photo by dan reed! on Flickr.

Coupled with existing revenues, the new gas tax has made $15 billion available for transportation, a 52% increase from last year and the most transportation funding in a generation. This month, the County Council will send the state a list of their transportation priorities in order to receive some of that money. As in past years, there are a number of road projects on the list.

But the Planning Board, noting the high cost of new highways and efforts to direct future growth to urban centers, urged the council to choose transit instead. Transit isn't "the answer to every transportation problem," they write, but "where roadway widenings to solve perennial traffic congestion would significantly affect existing communities, natural resources and parkland, a more efficient solution is needed."

Funding would give county's transit plans teeth

Not all of the projects on the list are likely to receive funding. But if they were, the county's transit network could expand dramatically.

Some projects already have the support of county and state officials, including the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway. Also included are funds for more 8-car trains on the Red Line, which will allow Metro to stop turning trains around at Silver Spring instead of running them to the end of the line at Glenmont.

There's also funding to build three of the county's proposed BRT lines along Georgia Avenue, Route 29, and Veirs Mill Road, as well as studying future lines on Rockville Pike and New Hampshire Avenue. A proposed HOV lane on I-270 could eventually support transit between White Flint and Tysons Corner. Planners also recommend funding new sidewalks and bike paths along Georgia Avenue between Forest Glen Road and 16th Street, which the State Highway Administration is currently studying, and a pedestrian underpass at the Forest Glen Metro station.

These projects would serve the county's existing urban centers, like Silver Spring and Bethesda, by giving people alternatives to driving. And they would support the development of future ones like White Oak, where County Executive Ike Leggett envisions a research and technology hub.

Planners say transit would better serve growth areas

But many of the road projects in the priorities list could undermine those efforts, whether by directing funding away from transit or by encouraging more people to drive there.

The priorities list includes three interchanges along Route 29 in East County, at Stewart Lane, Tech Road, and Greencastle Road, which have been in planning for decades and would cost $344 million. (Maryland has already set aside $7 million to design a fourth interchange at Fairland Road, estimated to cost $128 million to build.) Under the county's traffic tests, they have to be built before development in White Oak can happen.

County planners estimate that the three interchanges would cost the same to build as an 11-mile BRT line along the same corridor between downtown Silver Spring and Burtonsville. They say transit would not only better support the creation of a town center in White Oak, but give commuters from points north an alternative to driving, ultimately reducing local congestion.

"We believe that prioritizing the [Route 29] transit corridor improvements is the better choice," their report says.

Other road projects on the list include funds to build Montrose Parkway, a highway that would divide White Flint and Twinbrook. And there's a proposal to widen Norbeck Road between Georgia Avenue and Layhill Road and build an interchange at Georgia, even though the road runs parallel to the underused Intercounty Connector a half-mile away.

Maryland's new transportation funds present a rare opportunity to the state and Montgomery County, its economic engine. Some road improvements may be necessary and beneficial, especially in the county's suburban areas. But the county's urban centers are where most of its future growth will happen, and they need transit to thrive. We have to make the right choice now, because we may not get it again for a long time.

A planner and architect by training, Dan Reed also writes his own blog, Just Up the Pike, and serves as the Land Use Chair for the Action Committee for Transit. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. 

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Why do think sustainable transportation, other than in 2006 wrt the Purple Line, isn't much of a campaign issue in MoCo as far as local elections are concerned?

Do you think that it makes sense to raise it in this election cycle?

Hans Riemer did in his 2006 race, which he didn't win.

- https://www.flickr.com/photos/82269993@N00/231462500/in/photolist-msiJL-msiJJ-7Dj79Z

I don't remember how big an issue it was for his 2010 campaign, which was successful.

I was impressed with how ACT made the Purple Line an issue in 2006 too. But ACT probably needs to go through a strategic planning process and a rebranding-repositioning-reboot to take on more of an integrated and sustainable transportation not just "transit" (as what's in the name) approach.

by Richard Layman on Jan 14, 2014 10:52 am • linkreport

Putting a third track on the CSX Brunswick Line, which would allow MARC to run all day both ways as it does on the Penn Line, should be added to this list. This can be implemented in stages, with the number of daily trains increasing as each section of track is built.

by Ben Ross on Jan 14, 2014 10:54 am • linkreport

Where they know adding transit would increase congestion, they shouldn't take lanes from traffic. If they do, they endanger people in the local neighborhoods. Funny how less expensive options that people repeatedly ask for - that they run more buses more frequently even on the most obvious routes to do so in MontCo and improving the stops got all pushed to the backburner or ignored entirely after Rockefeller lobbies starting pushing BRT throughout Montgomery county. Even where the optimistic projected dedicated lane speed improvement is only 2 minutes at an outrageous cost and the damage done to the driving conditions looking to be at least double that - BRT got approved (Georgia Ave S. ) Also, new improved routes for Montgomery county Georgia Ave -down through 16th street and necessary pedestrian crossings and dedicated left turn lane for the hospital at Georgia/Forest Glen and pedestrian crossing at Georgia/Seminary Rd. - safety concerns placed backburner to the hot new thing. Though nobody knows who'd pay for it.
Where a more express route bus would make sense - like at the proposed White Oak Science development - Charter buses aren't proposed, though Council says they could make that work in a DAY. Montgomery county has TWO bus systems already - MetroBus and RideOn. They take SmartTrip just like the Metro, which means that becomes a convenient multipass. There aren't ableist, inconvenient turnstiles at bus stations, which is great, too. Proposals that include those should be frowned upon.
Is it their constituents that matter or these lobbies?
BRT is not an efficient or cost-effective plan as usually proposed. The stations are overpriced and neglect the middle class who actually use buses by focusing on stations at expensive developments. Why is it expensive developments rarely even allow good placement of a decent shelter in front of their places? I think the BRT idea is to get tweee businesses to start liking bus riders, really, where currently they look down on them - so when they put a building near a bus line, they'll add a stop. They could just allow these businesses to pretty up their stops - hire Arts on the Block to do beautiful tiling, etc.. but anyway - that culture change of some businesses towards being pro-bus won't happen because of BRT, though - instituted in, soon they'd see minorities and middle class ride the bus, not the rich. Then they'd eventually make ridership difficult again.

by asffa on Jan 14, 2014 10:55 am • linkreport

"And there's a proposal to widen Norbeck Road between Georgia Avenue and Layhill Road and build an interchange at Georgia, even though the road runs parallel to the underused Intercounty Connector a half-mile away."
Georgia Avenue is very busy (and if ICC didn't come in, they probably could have fit a nice transit dedicated lane in the median, btw.) They took a turn lane here for the ICC which is useless for most who use Georgia Avenue for local traffic, they messed up the drive down Georgia Avenue for those going from Wheaton - Olney for the same ICC purpose, and it causes major traffic headaches. The ICC was poorly planned for Georgia Avenue, and all those responsible for causing the worsened congestion had PROMISED they would not make traffic worse on Georgia.
They had been misleading people and ignoring the public's outcries, but they are under fire for messing this up, and the proposal to build at Norbeck is to appear to mitigate some of the problems their poor planning regarding the ICC caused. That's all it is. They spent millions on the ICC, but didn't concern themselves enough with environmental impacts.
There's even millions spent by the State to give a town with greater political pull than Olney and Wheaton a "historic" status where they build and route a new piece of road AROUND their town so ICC interchange headaches don't have to affect them. Wheaton and Olney are both jealous.

by asffa on Jan 14, 2014 11:07 am • linkreport

Complete streets should be part of the counties efforts in their transportation initiatives. Certain road projects need to be done and sidewalks need to be greatly expanded where practical, but fixed transit seems like the best bang for our bucks.

"Where they know adding transit would increase congestion, they shouldn't take lanes from traffic. If they do, they endanger people in the local neighborhoods."

"Funny how less expensive options that people repeatedly ask for - that they run more buses more frequently even on the most obvious routes to do so in MontCo and improving the stops got all pushed to the backburner..."

This is a non sequitor. If traffic is already congested, how would running buses on those routes not also get stuck in traffic. As hard as it will be, we need to bite the bullet and put transit on those very routes that are the most congested. Howelse will we ever relieve the culture of cars with-out going through this transition to a sustainable mode of transport? How much more development can these low-density suburban collector troads sustain if they are already congested?

by Thayer-D on Jan 14, 2014 11:08 am • linkreport

Town given the historic status and millions put on road construction just for them, so they don't have to deal - Brookville, btw. http://townofbrookevillemd.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/BrookevilleComprehensivePlan.pdf

by asffa on Jan 14, 2014 11:12 am • linkreport

"Where they know adding transit would increase congestion, they shouldn't take lanes from traffic. If they do, they endanger people in the local neighborhoods."
This is fact. look at what happens where congestion is increased - more accidents of cars, pedestrians, bikes, and more cars go racing down alternative routes not designed to handle the extra amount. Emergency vehicles have a harder time, too. People get hurt and killed out of deliberately congesting traffic for political points - Chris Christie is feeling public anger for his role in doing that in New Jersey, and anybody doing that in Montgomery county deserves wrath as well.

by asffa on Jan 14, 2014 11:16 am • linkreport

Thayer -D you missed that they would plan to close/repurpose and congest traffic (and of course the construction is also a traffic issue) to put in these transit lanes for buses.

by asffa on Jan 14, 2014 11:17 am • linkreport

My vague recollection was that there was some sort of agreement that there would be a 50/50 split between road and transit funding from the new fuel tax proceeds. Assurances that roads would get half the funding was necessary to get rural and exurban legislators to support the bill. Do I recall correctly?

If additional funds become available from a sales tax on internet purchases (as opposed to gasoline) three years hence, there will be a strong argument that this portion of the funding need not be subject to the 50/50 split in jurisdictions with substantial transit facilities.

by JimT on Jan 14, 2014 11:18 am • linkreport

They would congest the cars (this actually isn't guaranteed) not necessarily anyone else though. They'd speed up the buses. Creating congestion for cars while moving far more people via bus seems like a fair trade though. More people are moving through an area than they were before.

by drumz on Jan 14, 2014 11:21 am • linkreport

So, what portion of the new gas taxes should be dedicated to transit vs. roads? The typical ratio in many places has long been 20/80.

To the extent that transit reduces congestion on roads, it makes sense to use gas taxes for transit. However, if you limit yourself to transit that maximizes congestion benefits, you aren't necessarily pursuing transit with the greatest ROI. For those transit projects, a funding source other than gas taxes should be used since the idea of gas taxes is that they are a user fee.

by Falls Church on Jan 14, 2014 11:24 am • linkreport

@assfa:
"Where they know adding transit would increase congestion, they shouldn't take lanes from traffic. If they do, they endanger people in the local neighborhoods."
This is fact.
This is not a fact. Congestion isn't all that related to danger to people.

The factor most obviously related to traffic fatalities is the number of vehicle miles traveled. If you can make transit good enough that you can decrease VMT or at least slow the growth of VMT, you can get real reductions in traffic-related injuries and fatalities.

by Gray on Jan 14, 2014 11:24 am • linkreport

@assfa: Transit is a more efficient means to move people around. Therefore, where there is congestion, there is an even stronger argument for prioritizing transit over cars, rather than the other way around. If you have wide open spaces with very few people trying to get around, by all means prioritize automobile traffic.

And what is "the Rockefeller lobby"? Is it the 1930s around here?

by alurin on Jan 14, 2014 12:15 pm • linkreport

Dan, I agree with most of your sentiments on prioritizing transit in MoCo but you come across as being against any roadway projects in this piece. Are there any here that you would support?

I've said this before but the Brookeville Bypass and the grade-separation of the CSX tracks at Randolph Road/Montrose Parkway need to get built. And building those remaining interchanges (or at least grade-separating them) would make US 29 north of White Oak safer than it is now.

by Reza on Jan 14, 2014 12:56 pm • linkreport

alurin Transit done right is not only more efficient but also doesn't congest driving traffic. If it congests traffic it's not more efficient - it's wasteful, damaging, even potentially deadly. Subways like the Metro(if it'd been maintained and still worked now)could have been an ideal example.

by asffa on Jan 14, 2014 2:53 pm • linkreport

If we can only build more metro tunnels because they don't present the possibility of harming vehicle traffic then I'm afraid there are few transit solutions coming to Montgomery County at all.

Is there any data to support the conclusion that transit has made traffic fatalities rise in a given corridor?

by drumz on Jan 14, 2014 2:58 pm • linkreport

@asffa: It depends on what you mean by "traffic". If traffic is just automobile traffic, then you could have a more efficient transportation system which nevertheless led to congestion. But if "traffic" means "moving people around", then transit is typically much more efficient. For example, if you reduced the number of lanes allocated to automobiles and provided buses or trams with dedicated right-of-way, you could move many more people in those dedicated lanes than in the automobile lanes. But in some cases the automobiles would move more slowly than before. Often, of course, shifting modes to transit also improves automobile traffic by getting people out of their cars. But even if that weren't true, it would still be more efficient to devote the resources to transit.

Oh, and the Metro actually still works now. I took it to work this morning.

by alurin on Jan 14, 2014 3:13 pm • linkreport

drumz - the projected speed increase for buses with entirely dedicated lanes over regular local bus was optimistically 24% (10-31% per line). The damage to drivers wasn't studied but even loose projections were at double or worse that length time lost to drivers. (4-5 minutes extra for 2 minutes gain)
Repeatedly studies find the wait between buses and the comfort of that wait matters more to riders than the wait on the bus, where it's at least warm - especially if it's not too crowded that they can have a seat. They aren't sending more buses right now on the most popular routes despite riders asking for them and the current buses there being full - No, despite each of these studies reinforcing what we know is the popularity of the Q lines for example, they still only send buses at most every half-hour, when if they could just sent them every 15 minutes, people wouldn't have to sit in the cold as long. No, instead any important transit conversation is inconveniently diverted mostly by Rockefeller Foundation Lobbies to promoting BRT, which won't even serve or HELP most people who ride buses currently. Who cares if a BRT goes every three minutes if each station is designed to be where rich people who don't ride buses can use them?

by asffa on Jan 14, 2014 3:13 pm • linkreport

But, adding more buses can add to congestion (see: operational constraints on DC/Arlington's streetcar corridors). Which doesn't bother me so much since I'm generally all for buses but seems to be a concern of yours.

What's the next step after we add as many buses as we can to these routes? Either you begin tunneling or building over head which is expensive. Or you can begin dedicating lanes to transit only but that seems non-negotiable to you.

by drumz on Jan 14, 2014 3:18 pm • linkreport

Alurin I'm glad the Metro worked for you today (and friends who needed to get to Union Station). I live off the Red Line.. and even more than other lines have it, you just never know.
I know I'm going to get circle logic where you may pretend you don't know exactly what I mean about if you make traffic more congested, then the transit options were poorly planned. However, I know when I have made my point and actually was understood, and the other person just doesn't like it since it's true and they'd rather it wasn't. And I did, so just think about it more on your own.

by asffa on Jan 14, 2014 3:20 pm • linkreport

If it congests traffic it's not more efficient

Of course it can be, if you are moving more people in the same space. Some people might be going slower, but if those riding on transit are now going faster, their total time savings can be greater than the time lost by people sitting in congestion.

the projected speed increase for buses with entirely dedicated lanes over regular local bus was optimistically 24% (10-31% per line). The damage to drivers wasn't studied but even loose projections were at double or worse that length time lost to drivers. (4-5 minutes extra for 2 minutes gain)

Right, so as long as the buses are moving twice as many people as the cars then you have a winning situation.

by MLD on Jan 14, 2014 3:26 pm • linkreport

However, I know when I have made my point and actually was understood, and the other person just doesn't like it since it's true and they'd rather it wasn't. And I did, so just think about it more on your own.
. . .

Wow.

by Gray on Jan 14, 2014 3:28 pm • linkreport

drumz-Montgomery county isn't anywhere NEAR being like DC/Arlington areas that get buses every few minutes. Someone else came in and said it's like 3-4 minutes between -and I think they're getting streetcars in response. Expensive, but maybe it'll work out. Good luck.
In MoCo, It's a half-hour wait between for the busiest routes, which doesn't make sense, and the riders complain about them being packed, etc., but that's real. Oranges aren't apples, and require different care.

by asffa on Jan 14, 2014 3:39 pm • linkreport

MLD IF they run buses as-is more often on said routes, they'd legitimately be seeing if that have that double-that-of-cars ridership demand.
Reason they won't, is nobody thinks they have that.

by asffa on Jan 14, 2014 3:44 pm • linkreport

Sure, but if your concern against BRT is that it'll worsen congestion (for cars, to be clear). Then adding more buses has the potential to do that as well. You might have to choose one day between better bus service and keeping things free and clear for those choosing to drive.

by drumz on Jan 14, 2014 3:45 pm • linkreport

In MoCo, It's a half-hour wait between for the busiest routes

This is wrong. The Q buses come every 8 minutes during peak period in the space they overlap. Frequency is every 15 minutes in the places they don't.

by MLD on Jan 14, 2014 3:57 pm • linkreport

MLD Then you've proved the point of why they don't need BRT- if they doubled the number of buses, it'd still not make sense to close a lane for bus use only. With lots more buses more frequently made available, it would still not be a wall-to-wall of buses in Montgomery necessitating alternatives like streetcars, etc. (where supposedly it'd been in Arlington.) But it'd be a wall-to-wall mess if they closed said lanes to drivers, so rather than unnecessarily harm people for an optimistic average 24% faster busing- they shouldn't.

by asffa on Jan 14, 2014 4:45 pm • linkreport

A 25% travel time improvement is huge; amazing that you can hand-wave it away so easily.

The fact that they don't run buses every 3 minutes right now doesn't prove that BRT isn't needed for the future. In fact, If you install dedicated lanes that let buses move 25% faster, then you can run more service with the same number of buses and drivers - so you've provided that better service you're looking for without buying a bunch of buses.

by MLD on Jan 14, 2014 4:55 pm • linkreport

So, add more buses but don't do anything to actually speed up the buses once you get on them. And at 4 minutes between buses, which you seem to be suggesting, you absolutely run into the issue of buses beginning to back up other buses.

With bus lanes you could increase frequency by ensuring that buses can go up and down the routes more frequently. This saves money since you have one driver completing multiple trips rather than paying two drivers for less completions of a circuit.

Moreover, as the bus speeds up more people start choosing to take it over driving. Making things better for the people still choosing to drive.

You're arguing for two different things to exist simultaneously. You want a world where no one waits for a bus more than a couple of minutes at most but also a world where our current street layout remains unchanged.

by drumz on Jan 14, 2014 4:59 pm • linkreport

drumz - the most optimistic projection with fully dedicated BRT gives an average 24% speed (10-31%) increase with BRT over running more local buses in mixed lanes - no more, that's all, and it's unlikely to be that good. That's as fast at it could go in Montgomery.
That lures nobody and isn't making your ride "fast". Besides, it's ignorant to give that small speed increase much weight in terms of increasing ridership figures. studies show already that people care more about the convenience of the bus, their comfort waiting for the bus and inside. Increased price itself would be a big turn-off, btw.

by asffa on Jan 14, 2014 5:14 pm • linkreport

"Studies show" that people don't give a crap about travel times, except apparently for the special flower SOV drivers, who will be pissed because they will be stuck in "deadly" congestion.

by MLD on Jan 14, 2014 5:18 pm • linkreport

asffa,

So time savings doesn't matter (and 24% is a significant time savings!). Only comfort matters. Ok, so how does simply adding more buses acheive this or beat the BRT metric as you're claiming?

Also, no, time savings do increase ridership. Pretty much every time it happens. Find a case where they sped up the frequency of a bus and yet ridership fell. If you do, I'll find three more cases where it grew. People may say they value comfort over all things but apparently when it comes to making a decision they ride when they know a bus is frequent.

So MoCo could choose to spend millions on nicer bus stations and comfier seats but if they want to increase ridership they'll focus on the thing that will reduce transit trip times by 24%.

by drumz on Jan 14, 2014 5:30 pm • linkreport

MLD when it'll cause 50% or more slowing congestion in the other lanes, you bet it's huge.
Also huge - costs over 3 billion dollars and means cut-backs to RideOn and MetroBus.
Projected cost to taxpayers per year for operation -121 million (67%), total cost 180 million. That doesn't pay the billions to build it, either. See, they know its not going to be that popular - they project 33% returns paid by customers.
Nobody says it's not huge, but what's small are buses averaging 9 minutes faster ride costing many millions a mile. Only 2 minutes on some routes.
Few are saying this isn't huge. It's hugely damaging, potentially dangerous, even fatal for somebody, probably.

There are areas where I could see a lane being added for buses and a shuttle put there as great - those are areas with large medians where someone could just build one. There's even areas of 29 that fit that description - the problem is developers don't care about Burtonsville to Howard County, they want access to Four Corners and other area's zonings changed and homes paved for them.

by asffa on Jan 14, 2014 5:37 pm • linkreport

drumz I'm dying to know where you live if you live in MontCo, then which bus stop are you near, and if they plan a BRT bus station nearer your door.
Again, BRT would not even HELP most people who ride the bus.

by asffa on Jan 14, 2014 5:42 pm • linkreport

when it'll cause 50% or more slowing congestion in the other lanes, you bet it's huge.

You said the county didn't study congestion effects on the roads that have lanes taken away. Where is this statistic coming from?

costs over 3 billion dollars and means cut-backs to RideOn and MetroBus.

Again, where is this coming from?

See, they know its not going to be that popular - they project 33% returns paid by customers.
That's not what that means. You could be bursting at the sames and still have a low fare capture rate. It would be 0% if the fares were free.

Few are saying this isn't huge. It's hugely damaging, potentially dangerous, even fatal for somebody, probably.
Pretty sure you're the only person claiming this.

Nobody says it's not huge, but what's small are buses averaging 9 minutes faster ride costing many millions a mile. Only 2 minutes on some routes.
If buses are only going to be successful at <5 minute frequencies then yes, time savings of two minutes is a big deal. If that two minutes is represented in that 24% time savings then its still a big deal because it's a quarter of the time being shaved off.

I'm just having a hard time reconciling the claim that MoCo's explicit effort to create a better bus service will actually make things worse, and that the correct solution is to actually not change anything except to buy more buses and hire more drivers but otherwise leave everything else as-is.

by drumz on Jan 14, 2014 5:50 pm • linkreport

and no I don't live in Montgomery County. Now I mean this in the best way possible: I don't think people in the county are all that special. I think they make their personal transportation decisions any differently than someone living in DC, Va, or even California. Different types of BRT have been introduced all over the country and the world lately. So far it hasn't been shown to A: worsen congestion, B: cause a rise in the highway fatalities rate. I don't see why Montgomery County is different.

by drumz on Jan 14, 2014 5:55 pm • linkreport

Also I meant to put this in earlier. It's been observed many times that when a lane for cars is taken away there isn't a commensurate increase in congestion in the remaining lanes. Doubly so when you're replacing the lane for cars with a lane dedicated to transit.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disappearing_traffic

by drumz on Jan 14, 2014 5:59 pm • linkreport

drumz if disappearing traffic was projected and likely, and it was safe, etc. I would support BRT with all my heart.

by asffa on Jan 14, 2014 6:04 pm • linkreport

drumz Also, where are BRTs in place now locally?

by asffa on Jan 14, 2014 6:10 pm • linkreport

There is the La gold line, the Boston silver line, NYC SBS and even here when metro is adds an express route. Surely the psyche's of MoCo residents aren't so radically different.

And the county doesn't have to study something before it happens or not. The phenomenon has been observed in dozens of cases in dozens of different contexts. It's reasonable to expect it to happen here. But again, I don't hold preservation of current travel times for cars paramount. Not when you're talking about moving more people overall.

by Drumz on Jan 14, 2014 6:43 pm • linkreport

So we have evidence that BRT increases transit ridership, and evidence that taking a lane from cars can reduce congestion. Meanwhile there isn't much evidence linking BRT to increased traffic fatalities.

What's different about Montgomery county that will disprove all of these?

by Drumz on Jan 14, 2014 7:01 pm • linkreport

@Reza
It's not that I disagree with all road projects, it's that they don't necessarily advance the goals the county wants to pursue, like increasing transit ridership, or directing growth to current or future urban centers.

Given, there are some "grey areas." As currently designed, Montrose Parkway could improve transit (by eliminating the at-grade rail crossing) but hurt pedestrian connections (by eliminating the potential for a street grid between White Flint and Twinbrook.

Or the interchanges on 29: they might allow for faster bus service by eliminating stoplights, but they also invite more car traffic, which makes it harder to create a transit-oriented community around BRT in White Oak. And they also just allow drivers to reach the actual chokepoint (Four Corners) faster.

We're not going to get to build everything we want. So we might as well focus on the thing that best helps our aims as a county, which is transit.

by dan reed! on Jan 14, 2014 7:10 pm • linkreport

What will it take to get BRT on 355? I understand the need to put a line on Viers Mill because of the high ridership, but I cannot support a system that does not put a BRT line on 355 in the first phase.

One thing that I cannot stand anymore is people talking about congestion. Going back to 355, I travel on 355 between Rockville Town Square and White Flint. People need to wake up. There is massive development going on around Twinbrook and White Flint metros. Traffic is bad now and the possible influx of thousands of new residents isn't going to make the situation better. The only way is to offer a transit solution.

by Kevin on Jan 14, 2014 9:01 pm • linkreport

One item in the lower of the priorities has been the extension of Midcounty Highway to the ICC. This was originally supposed to be part of the ICC project but was scrapped. If you see the extra right of way in the ICC tunnel, that was designed for the future merge lane onto Midcounty Highway extended. This short segment of road when linked to the greater M-83 project will provide direct access from the ICC and I-95 corridor to the Eastern Arterial to communities in Gaithersburg, Germantown, and Clarksburg, thus enhancing transportation capacity in the area.

This short segment could be funded by a surcharge on the ICC toll paid by drivers who exit at the new road instead of Shady Grove Road and backtrack to Midcounty. The toll difference might not be significant as it would save mileage and the ICC is tolled by the mile.

by Cyrus on Jan 15, 2014 12:05 am • linkreport

The priorities list includes three interchanges along Route 29 in East County, at Stewart Lane, Tech Road, and Greencastle Road, which have been in planning for decades and would cost $344 million. (Maryland has already set aside $7 million to design a fourth interchange at Fairland Road, estimated to cost $128 million to build.) Under the county's traffic tests, they have to be built before development in White Oak can happen.

County planners estimate that the three interchanges would cost the same to build as an 11-mile BRT line along the same corridor between downtown Silver Spring and Burtonsville. They say transit would not only better support the creation of a town center in White Oak, but give commuters from points north an alternative to driving, ultimately reducing local congestion.

Those interchanges were put in the 1997 Fairland Master Plan to benefit Fairland residents in several ways:

(1) Lowered crash rates;
(2) Dramatically improved conditions for walking and biking across U.S. (ever try walking across this wide highway?)
(3) Improved east-west circulation;

It really bothers me that Montgomery County planning staff is returning to the failed ways of the 1981 Eastern Montgomery County Master Plan, when Fairland (and White Oak) residents were asked to make significant sacrifices to support countywide goals.

by C P Zilliacus on Jan 15, 2014 1:06 am • linkreport

What really bothers me is why do people have an issue with Montgomery County building roads but yet they are also putting money out to support cheap transit projects that could be better invested in expanding heavy rail subway projects that will attract higher transit usage. The existing road projects that were already in the County plans need to be completed out along with expanding Subway/Commuter Rail Service along with extending local Metro/Ride On buses to Operate 24/7 in order to reduce bottleneck traffic and maintain growth in Montgomery County instead of pushing growth out of Montgomery County.

Expanding Roads + Expanding Subway/Commuter Rail >>>>> BRT/Street Trolley Buses

by Nate on Jan 15, 2014 2:09 am • linkreport

@C P Zilliacus:

I'm not an engineer but it seems to me that upgrading interchanges on existing arterial roads to improve flow is beneficial from both a people-moving and safety aspect. There are unfortunately plenty of "parkways" in the area that are far from it. While I always support more money for transit I think we should also keep upgrading at-grade interchanges in perspective as well.

by Joe on Jan 15, 2014 9:04 am • linkreport

CP Zilliacus who is responsible for the design of the two interchanges at E Randolph and Briggs Chaney - because those are terribly designed. The idea behind them is sound - placing a turn lane in a way that won't interfere with Rt. 29 as much - but the way the lights and turns are placed upon the actual bridge instead of being loops ahead of the bridge confuses some drivers and there's been terrible fatalities, especially on Briggs Chaney. I have friends who literally won't drive them, and I actually often drive up to use the Greencastle or Fairland interchanges instead - those are actually safer.

It's perhaps too late to redesign the current interchanges, but they shouldn't use the previous failures as models for the future.

by asffa on Jan 15, 2014 5:05 pm • linkreport

The friends that won't drive it - they'd complained to the County the interchange design was confusing and dangerous, and then this happened, and they knew two of the victims
http://www6.montgomerycountymd.gov/Apps/Police/News/NA_details.asp?NaID=2412

by asffa on Jan 15, 2014 5:12 pm • linkreport

CP Zilliacus who is responsible for the design of the two interchanges at E Randolph and Briggs Chaney - because those are terribly designed. The idea behind them is sound - placing a turn lane in a way that won't interfere with Rt. 29 as much - but the way the lights and turns are placed upon the actual bridge instead of being loops ahead of the bridge confuses some drivers and there's been terrible fatalities, especially on Briggs Chaney.

They were designed by the State Highway Administration and public input was solicited by SHA several times, going back to the 1980's.

I am not aware of any fatal crashes at the U.S. 29 and Briggs Chaney Road interchange since construction ended about 10 years ago (there were many prior to that). I cannot speak about the one at East Randolph Road, which I agree is a confusing design (SPUI) for persons that have never driven one before.

by C P Zilliacus on Jan 16, 2014 2:31 am • linkreport

drumz One size does not fit all. (Not for clothes, even less for transit.) Brazil and LA is not MontCo. in more ways than the weather.
CP Zilliacus some really terrible, awful, and not infrequent accidents at the Briggs Chaney interchange since its build. It was bad before, too, but for different reasons. They've made some improvements to it, but it still needs work to make better sense to drivers and safer for pedestrians.
Greencastle's has people going from Rt. 29 taking a left onto or going straight crossing nearby Old Georgetown road. Accidents there a lot. At night, visibility to the left is limited, that, and it's just a narrow street.. If they put an interchange and more people then use narrow nearby Old Georgetown, the plan could be counter-productive in preventing accidents. The two are really close - Maybe, with the right design, they can fix both.
SPUI acronym is an almost onomatopoeia description of that bridge. "Confusing" is the nice way of putting the description of "causing near collisions". I'd be glad to see that plan retired forever, it's stupid. I hope they don't plan to build more like that. Not "not more bridges" just better, safer, less "confusing" bridges.

by asffa on Jan 16, 2014 7:53 am • linkreport

So what's the difference? Why won't people in MoCo ride? Clearly, many people who live in the county already ride the bus.

by drumz on Jan 16, 2014 8:15 am • linkreport

drumz At least ONE Problem was probably already stated. The middle class rides the bus. Nobody rich rides the bus in MoCo even where the bus stop's right outside their fancy new condo buildings on 355. They wouldn't if it was an elite bus system for them only (BRT).

by asffa on Jan 16, 2014 1:45 pm • linkreport

Sorry, I didn't mean "Old Georgetown" I meant "Old Columbia" Sorry.

by asffa on Jan 16, 2014 2:28 pm • linkreport

I got a response today (though I assume it's a form letter) from Councilmember Leventhal:
Thank you for your message regarding the update to Montgomery County’s transportation priorities letter.

My belief in the urgent need for mass transit was a primary motivator in my decision to run for public office. My top transportation priority continues to be the Purple Line. I was very encouraged by the State’s recent decision to program dollars for the construction of the Purple Line, but until matching federal aid has been secured for the project, I am wary of creating new priorities which have little to no chance of being funded. Although enactment of the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2013 by the state legislature provided a new infusion of funds to the state's Transportation Trust Fund, only three projects of the dozens on Montgomery County's priority list were funded: the Purple Line, the 1-270/Watkins Mill Road Interchange, and the Brookeville Bypass. I am increasingly concerned that we are overpromising on what government can reasonably expect to deliver to the public in our lifetimes. Before we start dreaming up new ways to spend this new infusion of revenues, I think it is important that government deliver at least one project that the public has long been promised.

With respect to deferring unneeded highway expansion projects, interchanges are a very expensive proposition and while they help move traffic along, I appreciate that they also have the unfortunate side effect of making communities less pedestrian friendly. We should always look for opportunities to improve the efficiency of our road network by employing less costly upgrades that work for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and drivers alike. For instance, the County Council staff is suggesting that if additional turning lanes were to be added to the intersection at Georgia Avenue/Norbeck Road, it may alleviate the need for a new interchange. These are the types of solutions we should be working to identify.

The Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) committee met last Thursday to discuss revisions to the county’s transportation priorities letter. I am not a member of the T&E committee; however, knowing your views will be helpful to me when the matter comes before the full Council on Tuesday, February 4.

Best regards,
George Leventhal
Vice President, Montgomery County Council

by Gray on Jan 27, 2014 3:58 pm • linkreport

So apparently his argument is that since not everything on the priority list will be funded, we shouldn't worry too much that worthy transit projects are left off of it in favor of unnecessary road projects.

Because prioritizing transit amounts to "dreaming up new ways to spend this new infusion of revenues," while prioritizing road-building doesn't, I guess.

by Gray on Jan 27, 2014 4:08 pm • linkreport

I am really looking forward to those three interchanges and the one at Fairland Road being built - it's about time. Also I am very excited to see that funding has been approved for Montrose Parkway East. Hopefully BRT lines will die a short, unpainful death.

by BMG on Jan 30, 2014 10:45 pm • linkreport

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