Friday, July 17, 2009

Corridor Cities Transitway on Tuesday Agenda

On Tuesday, the Council will consider a recommendation that I believe is the best bet to maximize transit usage and reduce congestion along the I-270 corridor.

The Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, which I chair, recommended Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) for the Corridor Cities Transitway. This option offers a much higher level of service and convenience than a standard bus, and it provides the best flexibility to serve residential neighborhoods.

The alignment we chose for the transitway provides service to the highest-demand areas between the Shady Grove Metro Station and Clarksburg, including the Crown Farm area (which also serves the popular Rio commercial center) and the Kentlands (which includes the growing MedImmune campus). We also recommended a stop to serve Johns Hopkins’ proposed biotechnology center at the Belward Farm. We’re aware that the Council may approve higher densities in the upcoming Gaithersburg West Master Plan, so we reserved the right to revisit the light rail option if the new plan warrants it.

For the I-270 portion of the two-pronged plan, we’re supporting the option that adds two electronic toll lanes in each direction. I don’t like adding pavement any more than you do, but I’m convinced the juice is worth the squeeze in this case, especially since much of the land needed is within the existing I-270 right-of-way, and this, they tell us, is the best way to maximize transit and reduce congestion in the corridor up to Frederick.

The new lanes will be operated as High Occupancy/Toll (HOT) lanes, which are HOV lanes (allowing buses, carpools and vanpools to drive at the speed limit even during congested times) that also allow lower occupancy vehicles to use the lanes if they pay a toll. The experts tell us this is the best option to provide the most congestion relief with the least disruption to the people who live near the highway.

This is only the first step in coming to regional and state agreement on locally preferred alternatives both for the CCT and the I-270 project that will then go to the feds for review and, we hope, funding in the next year.

I have long believed that providing the appropriate transportation infrastructure is one of the government’s most basic jobs. That means supporting our growing biotechnology industry, the emerging Germantown Employment Corridor and the ongoing build-out of Clarksburg. Our proximity to the nation’s capital affords us vast opportunities, and we need to have the infrastructure in place to make the most of them. I feel confident we’ve chosen a good mix of highway and transit improvements to meet our goals.

For more details, see the press release, and remember to tune in to the Council session on Tuesday.

3 comments:

Don said...

Wow? Rapid Bus? Really?

Do we really want a Glorified Ride-On bus to be the cornerstone of MC's 21st Century transportation corridor? I was really expecting light-rail to the predominant decision. It kind of feels silly building a special roadway for those buses since they could just run on many of the existing roadways.

I sure hope that the council change its mind on this. I have been looking forward to Light rail ever since I first read about the CCT. It make perfect since to build dense population centers around the light rail stations. I just don't expect affluent MC residents to embrace a BRT solution, even if it does have dedicated lanes.

Light Rail cars hold more passengers and do so with more in a more comfortable manner.
Light Rail tracks are more durable than paved surfaces and will require less maintenance costs over time.
Light Rail is powered by electricity which is cleaner, quieter, and faster than a diesel bus.

I know that it might not be as cheap as Rapid Bus, but light rail is the right decision for Montgomery County. Its the quality option for the quality public.

Anne said...

The Problem with this direction of thought is that it leaves out the residents who it will effect.
I decided when I was expecting my daughter to take a job 3 miles from home -- at The Instistute for Genomic Research (TIGR). It was the first job I had working for Craig Venter. One day after riding my bike to the now Venter Institute, Craig asked me to start his Software Systems group. We used to laugh how he doubled my commute from 3-6 miles. But it was a fact. I could not bike those 6 miles, partly because there was not a good infrastructure to do so, but mostly because of time.
My husband had a stroke one year after I started that job and I had to manage a lot while still working -- caring for my daughter -- caring for my husband and now taking on the first bread winner position. But I was and still am a City of Gaithersburg Resident who works in Rockville. I grew up in Rockville -- attended Woodley Gardens elementary -- now the Rockville Senior Center which my mother uses and can walk to as I did when I was a student. Attended Julius West Junior Hight and Richard Montgomery. I went to undergraduate school at McGill University in Canada and I spent my Junior Year in Germany where I biked everywhere on proper bike paths -- which were wide to accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists. A separate paved area with markings much like you find along the potomac near the pentagon. But I came back here -- worked first in a variety of industries in Rockville and in McLean -- I attended Johns Hopkins on the university campus grounds off of Medical Center Drive.
My husband had a stroke and was rehabed both at NIH in Bethesda and at Shady Grove.
I now work in the Rockville Innovation Center -- where down the hall are two companies started by my former employees at Celera.
So I live in Gaithersburg and now can sort of bike to Rockville to work at the new Rockville Town Center.
What problem do you want to solve? The CCT seems to be solving a problem of offloading traffic of I-270 -- what does this mean for Gaithersburg? More traffic on its neighborhood roads. That's right Muddy Branch and Great Seneca Highway and Key West are our Neighbor hood roads.

You want to improve the flow of traffic on I-270 -- put the solution on the highway -- put rapid transit on the highway -- not in our neighborhood.

We want more bikeways -- we want it now.
I took the Washingtonian Woods Swim Team on a Bike Ride from Washingtonian Woods to Giffords in downtown Rockville. I could do it now biking from our neighborhood across Seneca Highway down Key West and across the new Bike Bridge along route 28 down to the neighborhood roads in Rockville West and into the town center. Doable but only pleasant over the bike way and through the ROCKVILLE NEIGHBORHOODS. Why? Because they are scaled for humans, pedestrians and bikes.

No to the CCT down Muddy Branch.
No to the changes proposed in the neighborhoods of Washingtonian Woods, Mission Hills, Amberfield and Dufief. No. This is not for a neighborhood what they propose.

We do the living, the working, the dying here -- we do not want to be disrupted by these plans and we do not wish for these propsed changes.
Expansion should happen south where there are now homes -- near medical center drive. Near Key West and Great Seneca Highway -- but not in the middle of our neighborhood.

Our way of life is under attack.
Please do not disturb Gaithersburg.

Don O'Brien said...

I disagree. You want the light rail to go into the dense residential areas. That way people don't have to get into their cars to access the CCT.

How many people do you think can walk to the Shady Grove metro? About 2% of riders? The closer the CCT is to someone's front door, the more likely they are to use it.

Now you can take heart, most of the CCT path is designed to access "yet to be built" communities, so the CCT won't ruin much of the area you are concerned with. Sure you will see it run down a portion of Great Seneca Hwy, but that's hardly mass destruction.