New bus rapid transit plan won’t require more property along Md. 355

West Chevy Chase residents no longer have to worry about a “Green Mile” marred by bus lanes down its middle, which would have meant widening the road, and possibly acquiring land through eminent domain.

That idea has been removed from the latest draft of the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, which the Montgomery County Planning Board approved on Thursday.

In April, when the planning board OK’d dedicated bus lanes on Md. 355, stretching from Friendship Heights up to the Rockville Metro, some residents of West Chevy Chase protested loudly.

The planning board listened and the new plan represents that, said Larry Cole, the Montgomery County Planning Department’s lead planner.

The proposed rapid transit bus lanes are part of the comprehensive Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan that is meant to improve transportation options, be more environmentally friendly, and support local businesses, according to county planners.

The plan to use median bus lanes has been moved from Phase Two into the appendix. The County Council, if and when it adopts the plan, will not be adopting the appendix, Cole said. It is there for background and guidance for future decisions.

There will still be dedicated bus lanes on Md. 355, but they will run along curbed lanes. The county can create a curb lane without having to acquire anyone’s property.

Another change is the lanes on Md. 355 will now run as dedicated bus lanes from the Friendship Heights Metro up to Shakespeare Boulevard in Germantown, and then as mixed-traffic lanes up to Redgrave Place in Clarksburg. Most of what had been in Phase Two has been moved into the appendix, Cole said. Exceptions were made for corridors and jurisdictions with their own planning authorities.

Alex Posorske, the managing director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, called the plan “groundbreaking.”

“No other suburban region in the D.C. area is putting out something like this,” Posorske said.

The county is expected to add more than 200,000 residents in the coming decade and traffic will only get worse, Posorske said.

He called rapid transit bus lanes one leg in a three-legged stool. The other two legs, he said, were the Purple Line and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

“The trend is clear, people are driving less and less,” Posorske said. “There’s a real sea change in how people look at this.”

An interim copy of the plan should be available online by the end of the week, and the County Council is scheduled to take it up sometime in September.

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