Road Spending Threatens to Crowd Out BRT in Montgomery County

Montgomery County, Maryland, has an ambitious forward-looking vision for a bus rapid transit system, calling for an 81-mile network that would offer a way to bypass gridlock in the growing D.C. suburbs.

Bus rapid transit in Crystal City, Virginia. Photo: Beyond DC via Flickr
Bus rapid transit in Crystal City, Virginia. Photo: Beyond DC/Flickr

But that plan is now in jeopardy. It looks like county officials with the power of the purse are signaling they’d rather shell out for an expensive road. Pete Tomao at Greater Greater Washington explains:

By 2040, Montgomery will have 70% more congestion, 40% more jobs and 20% more residents. Better transit, which BRT would achieve, is a way to address this coming challenge.

But recent attempts to actually fund it have met resistance. Many supporters of the system are worried about stalled progress. Now, BRT funding from the state is set to run out, and BRT’s future in Montgomery could be in doubt.

Every two years the County Executive submits a plan for capital improvements in what’s called the Capital Improvement Plan. The CIP is a budget that encompasses 6 fiscal years and is amended every two. While council staff notes road funding has been down in recent years, it acknowledges that it still dwarfs that of other jurisdictions in the region.

One road in particular stands out as particularly expensive: Montrose Parkway East. With a price tag close to $140 million, Montrose Parkway East is 20 million dollars more expensive than it was two years ago. The project is in the Pike District, an area the county wants to encourage walkability, but building the road would only invite more people to drive.

Tomao says the project list can be changed by a vote of County Council, and that transit advocates should get busy trying to convince them.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Transit Center makes a convincing case that L.A.’s falling transit ridership is due to cuts in bus service. And The Urbanist discusses Seattle’s plans to convert a mixed-traffic streetcar to a line with exclusive right-of-way.

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