2013 | News

Planning Board Agrees To Extend Public Commenting Period On Bus Rapid Transit

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The Planning Board has agreed to extend the commenting period on the department’s controversial Bus Rapid Transit Master Plan after a number of Chevy Chase West residents against the proposal claimed they only recently learned about it.

Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier agreed to extend the commenting period until June 7. It was originally supposed to end today (Thursday) before the Planning Board would begin worksessions leading up to a vote.

Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Chevy Chase) spoke Wednesday with interim Planning Director Rose Krasnow about the concerns from residents of the Chevy Chase West neighborhood. They say they haven’t heard enough about a proposal to dedicate two curb lanes of Wisconsin Avenue exclusively to buses between Bradley Boulevard and the District line.

Many at a meeting on Tuesday with Larry Cole, the Planning Department’s lead planner of the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, signed a petition to move back the public commenting deadline so they could register their complaints and concerns.

In response to one resident’s claim that the Planning Department did a poor job of letting the public know about the Bus Rapid Transit plan, Cole rattled off a long list of places around the county in which he’s done presentations and spoken with residents. Two of those took place in Bethesda in the last few months, in April at the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board and in March at the Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee.

There was also a Planning Board public hearing on the Plan on May 16.

In those meetings and again on Tuesday, Cole has repeatedly attempted to explain that the Master Plan process will not address some of the specific intersection-by-intersection concerns residents have.

Marie West, a Chevy Chase West resident who said the exclusive Bus Rapid Transit lanes would threaten the safety of schoolchildren, helped organize the meeting on Tuesday at the Concord Hill School.

At the meeting, Cole and Berliner chief of staff Cindy Gibson explained the process is far from over.

The Planning Board is expected to deliberate before sending its final version to the County Council sometime this summer. Gibson said she expects a County Council public hearing on BRT in September before a number of Committee worksessions and a full Council vote.

The Plan essentially sets the stage for the development of a BRT system.

It contains no timeline for starting the project, which at 79 miles and with 10 corridors across Montgomery County could fall in the $5 billion range. It would be up to the county executive and the staff of the county’s Department of Transportation to engineer the actual corridors, confer with the Planning Department on designs and construction and then budget the necessary capital funding. The County Council would have to approve those recommendations.