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Rockville Pike Dedicated Bus Lane Proposal Heads Back To Planning Board

The planning board will once again take up a bus rapid transit concept, including a proposal to dedicate Rockville Pike travel lanes for the high-speed buses.

The Montgomery County Planning Board will decide Thursday whether to advance a into the public hearing stage.

As a part of the proposal, Montgomery County planners are recommending that two travel lanes of Rockville Pike from the Capital Beltway to Western Avenue be re-purposed as dedicated rapid transit bus lanes. Planners say the rapid transit route would draw high ridership, but drivers could see their afternoon rush trip increase by nearly six minutes from Western Avenue to Cedar Lane by 2040.

Recommendations for corridors across the county vary from buses driving in mixed traffic to developing new busways separated from traffic. Planners are also recommending taking out travel lanes to make way for the buses along certain sections of roadways in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Germantown, Gaithersburg, Rockville, Takoma Park and Silver Spring.

Planners say the system will help Montgomery County meet an increasing transit demand as population and employment grows, though critics have worried losing travel lanes on Rockville Pike and other congested county corridors could add to commuting woes for drivers.

The Planning Board initially took up a staff draft of the plan last month, and asked for several revisions, including more explanation of the decision-making process behind the recommendations.

Along with lane re-purposing, planning staff are expected to discuss transit station locations and phasing for implementation.

A public hearing is planned for May 16 and additional work sessions are expected in June and July before the proposal is submitted to the Montgomery County Council July 25.

Public testimony won't be taken at Thursday's work session, which is expected to begin around 9:25 a.m. Check the Montgomery County Planning Board's website to view the public hearing draft [PDF] and to watch online. 

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