Montgomery, Md., Planners Back Bus Rapid Transit Over Light Rail for I-270

By Katherine Shaver
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Montgomery County planners have recommended that a bus rapid transit system be built along the Interstate 270 corridor, saying that the other choice, a light rail line, would be too expensive to win federal funding.

The recommendation goes against the views of most Montgomery public officials and business groups. They have called for light rail as a more permanent investment in the rapidly growing and traffic-congested corridor between the Shady Grove Metro station and the Clarksburg area.

The Montgomery Planning Board staff also called for I-270 to be widened with express lanes for carpools and toll-payers. The board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the staff report Monday before making recommendations to the county council. The council will make its recommendations to the Maryland Department of Transportation.

State transit officials have said that a 14-mile bus rapid transit system would cost about $450 million to build and that light rail would cost $778 million. The highway widening is estimated to cost $3.8 billion.

Planners said a bus rapid transit system would be more flexible than light rail because buses could leave "fixed guideways" to better serve neighborhoods.

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