Councilmember Marc Elrich (D-At large) on Monday wrote a letter to the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board urging its members to support a Connecticut Avenue transitway, which did not make it into the Planning Board- approved Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan now in front of the Council.
That master plan will be the subject of at least two Council public hearings, set for Tuesday and Thursday of next week.
At issue in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area is the plan for a Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue route, which has stirred up plenty of opinions about taking away a lane of regular traffic and the system’s effect on neighborhoods in Chevy Chase.
A Connecticut Avenue BRT route was in Elrich’s original proposal, a study for the county by a planning consultant and the report by the county’s Transit Task Force. A Connecticut Avenue route was not one of 10 recommended by Planning Department staff, which did its own analysis of demand for a bus system. From Elrich’s letter:
Connecticut Avenue is heavily congested and backed-up during both morning and evening rush hours. The Planning Board Draft acknowledges this fact as did the transportation review of the area done for the recent Chevy Chase Lake sector plan. Currently buses are infrequent and stuck in the same traffic as the cars on Connecticut Ave., and the Purple Line stop planned for Chevy Chase Lake runs east-west and so will not help with north-south traffic. Because the congestion on Connecticut Avenue is clearly one-direction in the peak direction, BRT would only need one dedicated lane and could run in mixed traffic lanes in the non-peak direction.
Elrich was the lone councilmember to vote against the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan, which will allow the redevelopment of the area around Connecticut Avenue and Chevy Chase Lake Drive on the basis that a planned Purple Line station for the area will support new businesses and residents.
The area failed traffic studies, but Council staff said the vast majority of the existing and projected traffic comes from commuters traveling through the area on Connecticut Avenue and wouldn’t come from residents at new multi-family buildings. Elrich argued the Purple Line, the 16-mile light rail that will travel from Bethesda to New Carrollton, shouldn’t be used to justify more development because it won’t alleviate Connecticut Avenue congestion.
The Citizens Advisory Board, a group of area residents who advise county government leaders, didn’t take a position on Elrich’s request. The Board will send a letter in support of the BRT master plan concept, while advising the Council of the specific issues some have with the proposed Route 355 route.