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Montgomery County Applying For Federal Grant To Help Rockville Pike BRT Study

By Aaron Kraut

Tuesday - 4/8/2014, 12:45pm  ET

 Bus rapid transit on Rockville Pike, rendering via White Flint Partnership

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation, with help from a group of White Flint developers, is applying for $3 to $5 million of federal grant funding for a study of bus rapid transit on Rockville Pike and Wisconsin Avenue.

The county last year approved a master plan to allow for 81 miles of bus rapid transit routes over 10 corridors, including on Route 355 from the D.C. line, through Chevy Chase and downtown Bethesda to White Flint.

The master plan doesn’t prescribe specific road treatments for each corridor, leaving that often controversial topic to MCDOT through further study.

The federal TIGER Grant money the county is applying for would help with that planning, according to Francine Waters, a senior managing director at Lerner Enterprises and one of the leaders of the White Flint Partnership.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee, Waters said the group was looking for letters of support from other local advisory boards to submit with the application.

Montgomery County spokesperson Esther Bowring said MCDOT isn’t yet certain of the scope or the amount of money that will be in the grant request. David Winstead, an attorney and advisor for the White Flint Partnership, is preparing drafts of the grant application.

Grant applications are due April 28. Montgomery County, though the State Highway Administration, has $10 million in state funding for studies of future bus rapid transit systems on Rockville Pike and Route 29 in Silver Spring.

The White Flint Partnership’s involvement is another indication of how badly the area’s major developers want another form of transit in the rapidly changing section of North Bethesda.

The Partnership identifies a center-lane rapid transit concept on Rockville Pike as one of its main objectives, along with realizing the massive mixed-use redevelopment laid out in the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.

The Planning Board version of the bus rapid transit master plan showed two median lanes that would be reserved for bus use only on the southern section of Rockville Pike. That could mean taking mixed-traffic lanes for transit, especially in sections of the road where there isn’t enough right-of-way to add lanes.

In its deliberations over the master plan, the County Council took that language out of the plan and made it clear that specific road treatments would have to be determined through further studies.

Also at the end of this month, the county is set to start forming advisory committees for each proposed bus rapid transit route. The input of the advisory committees was another requirement inserted into the plan by the Council.

Rendering via White Flint Partnership