Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett said the county will move forward with planning for one or two bus rapid transit corridors, despite his decision to at least temporarily ditch plans for an independent Transit Authority to build and operate the system.
Leggett made the announcement during a Tuesday press conference meant to highlight the county’s progress in the last year on economic development.
In his third inaugural address last December, Leggett included establishing a Transit Authority independent from the county’s existing Department of Transportation (MCDOT) as one of six economic development goals. Leggett and other county officials have said the independent agency was necessary because it would provide more financial flexibility to build the system, the first four routes of which were projected to cost $1.6 billion.
But the enabling state legislation for the Transit Authority met resistance from the beginning, eventually leading Leggett to decide in late October not to pursue the legislation in the upcoming session of the General Assembly.
The county executive said Tuesday he hopes to get a recommendation from MCDOT for the first one or two routes that would “at least be considered in the budget cycle that would come out next spring,” though he didn’t specify which corridors country transportation planners are considering or how the system would be paid for.
The four routes in the $1.6 billion estimate included MD 355 North from Clarksburg to Rockville, MD 355 South from Rockville to Bethesda, US 29 from Burtonsville to Silver Spring and Veirs Mill Road from Wheaton to Rockville.
“The good thing about the…transit operation is you never have to do all of it at one time,” Leggett said. “There’s still a question of where we will start. What we’d like to do is start in areas that are aligned with potential job growth, transportation needs as well as future challenges in terms of congestion we have in the county.”
Leggett said the county had always planned to implement bus rapid transit in a piecemeal approach, but that the Transit Authority would’ve allowed the county to “do it faster.”
Some, including two state legislators who were part of the county’s Transit Task Force last summer, suggested piloting bus rapid transit on either Veirs Mill Road or the Corridor Cities Transitway upcounty. District 16 Del. Marc Korman and District 15 Sen. Brian Feldman made the suggestion in a separate statement issued along with the Transit Task Force’s final report issued last month.