2020 | Transit

Maryland, Virginia consider bus service between Bethesda and Tysons

New transit idea part of draft report on possible congestion solutions

A traffic camera shows vehicles about to cross the American Legion Bridge into Virginia around 9:15 a.m. on Dec. 30, 2020.

Photo from Maryland Department of Transportation traffic camera

Maryland and Virginia are considering an express bus service to connect Bethesda in Montgomery County and the Tysons area in Fairfax County.

The planned potential service is part of a joint study by Maryland and Virginia transportation officials.

A draft summary report on the study — which also includes possible service to Germantown, Gaithersburg, Silver Spring — was released on Dec. 18.

The draft report on the Transportation Management Study identifies current and future potential projects that could help to reduce congestion across the American Legion Bridge, which connects Virginia and Maryland, as well as Interstate 495.

Maryland also plans to add toll lanes on the Beltway and I-270 to help manage traffic, as well, but a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the widening project has been met with opposition from county officials, environmental activists, the U.S. Navy and many in the community.

In addition to the express bus service, the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Maryland Transit Administration and Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) joint report also lists Metrobus service between Bethesda and Tysons, as well as Bus Rapid Transit service between White Flint and Tysons.

A total of eight potential transit routes are included:
● Bethesda to Tysons
● Germantown to Tysons
● Silver Spring to Tysons
● Gaithersburg to Tysons
● Frederick to Tysons
● Bethesda to Reston
● Bethesda to Dunn Loring via Tysons
● Frederick to L’Enfant via Arlington

The Washington Post first reported on the bus proposal.

There is currently no bus service between Maryland and Virginia across the American Legion Bridge.

“I-495 is one of the most congested roadways in all of Maryland and Virginia,” the report stated. “Traffic is forecasted to increase in the future. In conjunction with the planned managed/express lanes, there is an opportunity to efficiently and effectively provide transit across the bridge.”

According to the DRPT, the bridge carries an average of 235,000 vehicles daily — a number projected to increase to 280,000 by 2040.

The bridge previously carried 48,000 vehicles daily in 1965.

There are three potential investment packages for development:
● A baseline package that would include two main route connections providing peak service, consistent with locations identified in previous planning efforts
● A medium package that would include additional routes, increased frequencies and expanded off-peak service
● A high package that would include additional route connections, further increased frequencies and expanded off-peak service

Some bus service routes could begin before the planned express lanes are opened on the bridge.

A public hearing on the study is scheduled for Jan. 12. Comments can be submitted on the study until Feb. 1.

A Metrobus route previously operated service between Tysons and Bethesda and used the bridge between 1998 and 2003. But it was discontinued after the bridge’s bottleneck caused buses to experience long delays on the interstate, and a higher number of stops added to the length of a trip.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.