Montgomery County endorses light rail route, I-270 toll lanes

By Katherine Shaver
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday officially endorsed building a light rail line and adding two reversible highway lanes to ease traffic congestion in the growing Interstate 270 corridor.

The 6 to 3 vote for light rail over a bus rapid-transit system mirrored a straw vote taken last week. The two new lanes on I-270 would be free for buses, carpools and van pools; others would pay a toll.

The lanes would carry traffic south during the morning rush and north during the evening commute. The I-270 proposal calls for widening the interstate north of Route 124 where it narrows to three lanes in each direction.

A transit line, called the Corridor Cities Transitway, would compete for scarce federal construction money along with two other Maryland projects: a Purple Line between Bethesda and New Carrollton and a Red Line in Baltimore. Council members who supported a less-expensive busway option for the transitway said the state has little chance of winning highly competitive federal money for three relatively expensive light rail lines. Light rail supporters said they think it has a good chance because a Corridor Cities Transitway would be far cheaper than both the Purple and Red line rail projects.

A 14-mile light rail line between the Shady Grove Metro station and the Clarksburg area is estimated to cost $999 million, and a busway is estimated to cost $533 million, according to a state analysis.

The council also voted to change the transit line's route to better serve Kentlands town center and to travel through the planned Crown Farm and Gaithersburg West developments.

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