After five years of study, Montgomery County approved a plan for a 10-route, 81-mile bus rapid transit (BRT) network yesterday. If built, it could be the nation’s largest BRT network.

The County Council unanimously voted for a plan to set aside road space for BRT on several major roads, including Route 355, Route 29, Georgia Avenue and Veirs Mill Road, all of which already have high rates of transit use. It proposes dedicated bus lanes in 78 percent of the network, whether by repurposing existing lanes or widening roads to add new ones.

Supporters say the plan will give travelers an alternative to sitting in traffic while supporting sustainable growth in places such as White Flint and White Oak. “There’s no real way forward in this county without transit,” says councilmember Marc Elrich (D-At Large), who first proposed a BRT network in 2008.

Now that the plan has been approved, the county can begin detailed work on specific routes. Department of Transportation director Art Holmes wants to look at Route 355, Route 29 and Randolph Road first, while the Maryland State Highway Administration is already studying BRT on Georgia Avenue and Veirs Mill Road.

The plan has been controversial. While many civic, environmental, activist and business groups endorsed BRT, a vocal minority in some neighborhoods, including Four Corners and Chevy Chase West, fought the plan based on claims that it would take their property or endanger their children.

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Dan Reed blogs at Just Up the Pike. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.