The future of the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) is in doubt after the Maryland Department of Transportation removed the project from its latest list of priorities.
The most recent draft of the Consolidated Transportation Plan, a detailed agenda for statewide transit projects, states that the CCT has been removed from the development and evaluation phase.
The total cost of the has been estimated at more than $800 million, with $545 million dedicated to initial construction, according to an online description of the project from the Montgomery County Department of Planning.
The state’s change is a death knell for the long-anticipated project, which was previously listed as a potential priority even as it was left unfunded by the state, said state Del. Kirill Reznik, whose district includes Germantown, Montgomery Village, Clarksburg, and Gaithersburg.
The CCT has been listed as a transportation project in Montgomery County for nearly a decade, Reznik added. The transitway was originally planned as a light-rail line from Shady Grove to Frederick County, but MDOT gradually shortened the anticipated route to end in Clarksburg.
In 2012, then-Gov. Martin O’Malley announced that the project had been changed from a light-rail line to a bus rapid transit system. The Federal Transit Administration described that type of project as a high-speed bus line with dedicated lanes and right-of-way under most traffic signals.
The planned route extended from the Shady Grove Metro station to the COMSAT site in Clarksburg — a roughly 15-mile line with stops in major new residential developments.
“I was very displeased when it became a bus rapid transit system, but at least the project still existed,” Reznik said. “There was at least the idea of public transit upcounty and a hope that we could expand the project later.”
“Gov. Hogan has put a final knife into the heart of what could be a very useful transit line in a rapidly growing area of the county,” Reznik added. “The previous plan put the project on ice, but at least it was still listed. This latest move signaled to all of us that they weren’t going to go forward with anything.”
Both Reznik and Del. Marc Korman, chair of the Montgomery County delegation in Annapolis, said the move came despite the state’s previous support of the project.
On Twitter, Korman cited a February statement from Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn that touted planned highway improvements and specifically mentioned an anticipated investment in the CCT as a way to reduce congestion.
But Erin Henson, the director of public affairs for MDOT, said the state outlined plans to transfer the CCT to Montgomery County in 2018 after a $38 million investment in the project. That funding allowed the project to reach a 30% design milestone and covered an environmental survey required by the Federal Transit Administration.
“This bus route is solely located in one county making Montgomery County the lead for future work on this local project,” she wrote in an email statement. “As outlined in MDOT’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) policy, MDOT’s decision to participate in a BRT corridor project is based on whether the project is expected to connect multiple jurisdictions in more than one county.”
The state also plans to dedicate 10% of the state’s future toll revenue to funding projects such as the CCT, Henson added.
The state’s intention to transfer the project to Montgomery County didn’t mean that it was accepted, Korman argued on Twitter. In an August letter to Rahn, County Executive Marc Elrich wrote that he was “frankly surprised” to learn that a recent meeting with state officials had been interpreted as a transfer of the CCT.
Al Roshdieh, the director of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, also declined to accept the transfer when the state suggested it in 2018, confirmed Steve Aldrich, a supervisor with the Montgomery County Planning Department.
The county could not move forward with the CCT without significant financial assistance, he said.
“Given our recent [Capital Improvements Program] process, I am 100% certain that MCDOT does not have the resources or funds to move on this project without significant funding from [the Maryland Transit Administration],” Aldrich wrote in an email.
Even before the project was removed from the state’s list of priorities, there was no funding allocated for its development. Still, its inclusion on the Consolidated Transportation Plan was a sign that MDOT remained committed to the transitway, Reznik said.
The department originally planned to apply for federal funding to supplement the project, he added. By transferring the project to Montgomery County in the most recent plan, the state effectively killed any hope of development.
The planned bus route was intended as a major supplement to the Great Seneca Life Sciences Corridor, a section of Montgomery County that links new residential developments to major biopharmaceutical companies such as AstraZeneca and federal agencies including the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The route would allow employees at those businesses to commute from home to work without having to battle congestion on I-270, said Marilyn Balcombe, the president of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce.
In 2010, Montgomery County passed a master plan that focuses heavily on the CCT to expand jobs and economic development in more distant municipalities. The news came as a blow to upcounty residents, including Balcombe, who had been anticipating the project for years.
“It’s devastating,” she said. “For years, there’s been talk of expanding lanes or adding roads or funding transit to increase capacity on the I-270 corridor. And none of it has been done. So, you’re adding thousands of people upcounty and not providing any transportation solutions whatsoever.”
Kate Masters can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org