I-270 transit line caught in legal battle over 'Science City'

Local,Maryland,Rachel Baye

Plans for a new transit system that would carry residents from Shady Grove north to Frederick is getting caught up in the fight over Johns Hopkins University's right to build a "Science City" in Gaithersburg.

The Corridor Cities Transitway -- better known as the CCT -- is a planned bus system expected to carry an average 47,700 daily riders between the Shady Grove Metro station and COMSAT's headquarters near Clarksburg. High-speed buses would come every six minutes during rush hour, stopping at 16 stations in a 15-mile stretch, state documents say.

One of the planned stations is in the middle of Johns Hopkins' Science City, a 23-building research and development campus along the Interstate 270 corridor.

The university's plans are at the center of a lawsuit filed by the family that sold the land for the 108-acre campus to Hopkins at a deeply discounted price of $5 million under the condition that the property -- formerly part of a 138-acre tract included in Belward Farm -- be developed and used only for academic purposes. The family also stipulated that the university could not sell or give away any portion of the land, including to the state to create a mass transit system, said Tim Newell, the nephew of the donor.

"I am completely in support of mass transit, and it's something that needs to happen," Newell said. However, the current plans violate his aunt Elizabeth Banks' agreement with Johns Hopkins.

If the university upheld its end of the deal and created a strictly academic campus, there would not be enough riders to justify a stop in the middle of the land, Newell said. "You're talking almost four times less development."

Johns Hopkins University spokeswoman Robin Ferrier said the university has not violated the agreement, but declined to answer any additional questions.

The dispute is in Montgomery County Circuit Court, and a scheduling hearing is planned for July.

Depending on how the court rules, the Maryland Transit Administration may re-evaluate its plans, said spokesman Terry Owens.

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