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Montgomery County officials extend public comment for rapid transit

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Local,Maryland,Transportation,Kate Jacobson,Montgomery County

Montgomery County officials are giving county residents more time to raise concerns about the county's proposed bus rapid transit system after they complained they did not have enough time to study the plan that would add bus lanes to some of the county's busiest thoroughfares.

Montgomery County Planning Board Chairwoman Francoise Carrier said she would extend the public comment period until June 7, from an original cutoff of May 30.

The request came after a public hearing on Tuesday, when residents from Chevy Chase West told Master Planner Larry Cole they were upset they didn't get more notice about the meeting and they were not prepared to comment on the project.

The 78-mile proposed bus rapid transit system would center around Route 355 from Clarksburg to Bethesda and Route 29 in the Silver Spring area. Parts of it would mean widening roads and using medians for roadway, while others would take away lanes from cars for the buses.

Marie Park, a Chevy Chase West resident, said the neighborhood, located in between Little Falls Parkway, Bradley Boulevard and Wisconsin Avenue, has problems with the plan. She said implementing the bus system along Wisconsin Avenue in that area could endanger pedestrians and school children who walk along the road.

Councilman Roger Berliner, D-Bethesda, said he asked the planning board to reconsider the May 30 testimony date because his constituents were requesting more time.

"Naturally, they're asking questions about the project at a very granular level," he said. "And that's understandable that people want to know how will this affect my life. The whole goal of rapid transit is to enhance the quality of life in our community."

Planner Larry Cole said the county is in the preliminary phase of planning, and as officials delve into the plans, residents will have a chance to comment in the future.

Cole said he sympathizes with residents who are not well educated on the issue. He was surprised, though, because the planning board has hosted dozens of community meetings and advertised the plan in public places; the issue has also received a lot of press.

"We're just talking about the master plan," he said. "That has a 2040 [implementation] forecast. It's not going to happen tomorrow."

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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