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Council OKs $500,000 for more rapid bus studies

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Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson

The Montgomery County Council approved $500,000 to conduct more studies on the potential of a bus rapid transit network, slicing the county executive's $1 million request in half.

County Executive Ike Leggett asked for $1 million to study portions of a potentially $8-to-$10 billion BRT project, but council members debated the merits of giving $1 million to studies for projects they haven't approved and questioned whether it was an appropriate time to give the full amount of money asked for.

The council approved the money to go toward studies for service planning and integration and transit signal priority. Other planning -- including creating pedestrian and bike improvements and Park and Ride studies connected to the rapid transit -- were rejected.

County Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Tom Street told the council that the money would go toward creating a conceptual plan that would provide a better estimate of how much the project would cost and allow better implementation of the transit system.

Councilman Roger Berliner, D-Bethesda, thought the $1 million should be handed over, saying if the studies need to be done, they need to be done.

"And yet now we are quibbling over [an extra] half a million to make sure if we launch this we do it right," he said. "I personally don't get it. I personally believe we ought to give the benefit of the doubt to the county executive and his people and do every one of these studies if we're going to move forward with the rapid transit system."

Councilwoman Nancy Floreen, D-at large, disagreed. She questioned why the council would approve funding for studies on aspects of the BRT they haven't even approved. After the council has approved which corridors would be included in the BRT would be the time to implement further studies, she said.

"Once we decide what that 'something' is, yes, let's make those decisions," she said.

The decision passed 8-1 with all council members but Floreen voting to give the money to the county executive.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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