The Planning Department staff has submitted their thoughts on Bus Rapid Transit on Route 355. Below are the highlights. (If you need to get caught up with what’s going on with BRT on Route 355, read our blog on the topic.)
1. Advance Alternative B, Median Transitway, as the preferred alternative and seek to increase the use of two-lane median transitways, especially south of Shady Grove Metrorail Station.
2. Construct the MD 355 BRT project in two phases: a. Phase 1: Clarksburg Outlets to Rockville Metrorail Station, including the spur to Germantown. b. Phase 2: Rockville Metrorail Station to Downtown Bethesda.
3. Advance preliminary engineering for both the Veirs Mill Road BRT project and the MD 355 BRT project concurrently. Prioritize construction of the entire Veirs Mill Road BRT project and Phase 1 of the MD 355 BRT project.
4. Proceed with the Snowden Farm Parkway alignment in Segment 7.
5. Concur with the recommended station location and phasing.
6. Conduct additional traffic evaluation and mitigation to determine whether it is feasible to convert general purpose traffic lanes to transit only lanes to reduce the cost and impacts of the project without creating excessive traffic delay.
7. Develop and implement interim improvements to Rockville Pike in White Flint to spur redevelopment and property dedication.
Here are more sections of the staff report that directly affect the White Flint/Pike District area:
Due to the high cost of right-of-way acquisition in Segment 2 (White Flint and Twinbrook), staff believes it would be unwise to implement BRT in this area until additional property dedication occurs. Understanding that current market conditions make redevelopment (and therefore property dedication) unlikely without transforming MD 355 from an auto-centric highway to a multimodal boulevard, staff recommends developing an innovative and exciting program of improvements to spur redevelopment by improving multimodal connections and implementing placemaking activities that create a buzz for Rockville Pike, including: White Flint Circulator Bus, Streetscape Enhancements, Off-Peak Parking, Additional Protected Pedestrian Crossings, Sidewalk Improvements along MD 355, Bikeway Improvements on Side Streets.
The cost of right-of-way acquisition in Segment 2 (White Flint and Twinbrook) is estimated to be about $184 million for Alternative B and Alternative B Modified and $99 million for Alternative C, or over 20 percent of the total cost of each alternative. This presents Montgomery County with a dilemma. Due to these high costs, there is an incentive for Montgomery County to delay implementation of BRT in Segment 2 in the hope that redevelopment and the resulting right-of-way dedication will reduce the cost and impacts of property acquisition. However, due to current market conditions, property owns have indicated that they are unlikely to move forward with redevelopment until MD 355 is transformed from the unenticing auto-centric highway that it is today into an appealing multimodal boulevard as envisioned in the White Flint Sector Plan.
Friends of White Flint will provide testimony at the Planning Board hearing Thursday night at 6:15 that argues for constructing the White Flint section first since it has the highest projected ridership and is such a vital component of the implementation of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan. While we agree that making the Rockville Pike area and side streets prettier, more walkable, and more bikeable are key priorities, that alone may not be enough to transform the White Flint area.