GERMANTOWN — Local elected officials and members of the community have been disappointed to find out that Maryland transportation officials have nixed plans to fund bus transportation that would connect the up-county with more populated areas closer to the District.
Designs for the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) have been in the works for the last decade.
The CCT was initially designed to be a light rail system that would run from Shady Grove to Frederick County. However, in 2012, the state decided to change the plans to a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT).
A BRT line is one in which buses serve a community with dedicated bus lanes, traffic signal priority and enhanced stations, according to the Federal Transit Administration. They also note that BRT has become increasingly popular in big cities that are looking for cost-effective solutions to traffic congestion.
Despite local support for the CCT, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) removed it from its list of priorities and left it to be funded by local jurisdictions.
According to Montgomery County Planning, the project is estimated to cost upwards of $828 million.
In response to the state’s decision to remove the transitway, local officials held a press conference and a community town hall on Oct. 29 to make it clear that the CCT is a needed addition to local infrastructure.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich kicked off the press conference in Darnestown by explaining that much of the development in areas like Clarksburg happened because of the promise of the CCT.
“(The CCT) was key to the development we did in Clarksburg, the whole point of making a development in the northern part of the county that would work was ensuring that it would be connected further south by transit,” he said. “We have many people in the northern part of Montgomery County that are essentially stranded. And (cars) are not a solution that works for Montgomery County they’re auto-dependent; they have to crawl onto I-270 every day that is an absolutely impossible trick.”
He explained that the commute down from Frederick County could be upwards of an hour and a half one way.
“This situation is intolerable and needs to be addressed,” Elrich said.
Council Vice President Sidney Katz cited the county’s need for a multimodal approach that could include BRT, light rail and cars.
“Let me say it very clearly, Montgomery County needs multi-modal solutions,” he said. Katz also noted just how important the CCT is for economic development in the county.
Councilmember Evan Glass also echoed Katz’s sentiments when he explained that the CCT would be a way to drive economic mobility in the county.
“The CCT is an important project about individual mobility, but it is even more important to recognize the economic mobility that this project will provide. The greatest indicator of an individual’s ability to move up the economic ladder is that person’s ability to access our transportation networks,” he said.
“By leaving the up county high and dry as the governor has done, he’s leaving hundreds of thousands of people out of the economic ladder so that they can’t reach their furthest potential.”
Councilmember Craig Rice took an even stronger stance when he said that Gov. Larry Hogan is guilty of unfulfilled promises and questioned the governor’s economic priorities.
“This decision by the governor is one that is very questionable,” Rice said. “I would ask you, Mr. Governor, are you truly committed to economic development? Are you truly committed to the promise? Or are you more sold about selling Thrasher’s French Fries and funnel cakes on the Eastern Shore than you are about ensuring that Montgomery County and the state of Maryland becomes the hub for biotech in the United States?”
Members of the Maryland House of Delegates and Senators also held a town hall Monday evening so the community could ask officials questions about county transportation. The town hall was hosted by Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo (District 15) and State Sens. Nancy King (District 39) and Brian J. Feldman (District 15).
Members of the community asked questions about the mid-county Highway (M-83), which would extend from Clarksburg to Derwood as controlled access, six-land highway, widening portions of the beltway and reducing the number of drivers that use residential roads to skip congestion on the highway.
The town hall allowed the community to ask local officials and experts questions by writing them down and passing them to the front of the auditorium. However, it did not allow members of the community to voice their own concerns.