Montgomery County residents voice concerns about rapid bus network

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Local,Maryland,Transportation,Kate Jacobson,Montgomery County,Metro and Traffic

Montgomery County residents are raising concerns about the county's proposed bus rapid transit system after planners revealed a scaled-back system that would center around Route 355 from Clarksburg to Bethesda.

About 50 people testified to the county's Planning Board for more than three hours voicing their support and discontent for the planned 78-mile network.

Representatives of various community groups said they were worried that taking lanes away from traffic and widening roads on Route 355 and Route 29 in Silver Spring would disrupt residents and create even more congestion for commuters.

Bethesda resident Robert Dyer called the proposed system a "war on cars." He said bus rapid transit would not alleviate congestion or move people up and down the county effectively.

"I think an anti-car attitude is counterproductive at this point," he said. "We're talking about moving a million people in Montgomery County. I would really urge you to put this in the context of the entire county's interest."

The plans include eight corridors in the center and downcounty regions were some buses would run on a combination of new bus-only lanes in current medians, repurposing existing lanes of traffic and mixing buses in with regular traffic.

The original plans, featuring 160 miles, would have cost more than $10 billion, but county officials reduced the size of the network to bring down the price.

Others expressed frustration that residents have continually asked questions about the effects of the bus rapid transit system and have received few answers.

"We are constantly told so much of what we ask is in the details to be worked out," said James Williamson, a Silver Spring resident. "Shouldn't we have the answers before we go farther along and spend upwards of $10 billion on something no studies have shown will improve traffic?"

Transportation advocates voiced support for the system, including members of the Action Committee for Transit, saying less dependence on cars will help solve some of the traffic issues currently gridlocking the county.

"We must increase our people-moving capacity rather than seek to move the most cars at the fastest speeds possible," said Tina Slater, president of the group. "How can we move people without widening roads?"

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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