Planners Want Two Rockville Pike Lanes Assigned to Bus Network
Taking out two travel lanes from the Beltway to Western Avenue could add six minutes of travel time on the stretch for motorists by 2040.
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.
The recommendation is part of a staff draft of a Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan presented to the Montgomery County Planning Board Monday evening. The master plan includes a proposal for a 79-mile bus rapid transit system using 10 routes across the county.
The draft will undergo an extensive public hearing process before it’s submitted to the Montgomery County Council this fall.
Planners say the system will help Montgomery County meet an increasing transit demand as population and employment grows.
“An expansion of high-quality transit service will be needed to move greater numbers of people to and from jobs, homes, shopping, and entertainment areas, reducing the gap between transportation demand and supply and providing a reliable alternative to congested roadways,” the staff report read.
With limited space, however, planners are 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 predict the “355 South” corridor will be the most heavily used transit route, with a potential daily ridership of 49,000 between the Rockville Metro Station and Bradley Boulevard by 2040. The staff draft calls for the two median travel lanes of the six-lane route to be dedicated for bus use from the Capital Beltway to Bradley Boulevard, and the two outermost travel lanes to be re-purposed for the buses from Bradley down to Western Avenue, David Anspacher, a senior transportation planner with the county’s planning department, wrote in an e-mail to Patch.
Recommendations for corridors across the county vary from buses driving in mixed traffic to developing new busways separated from traffic. At Monday’s meeting, planners said widening the roadway along the southern portion of 355 wouldn’t be possible without “pretty severe impacts.”
“Lane repurposing is justified because the forecast transit volumes between the Bethesda and Grosvenor Metrorail stations exceeds the lane capacity,” planners wrote in an appendix to the staff draft.
The 355 corridor isn’t the only corridor where planners propose to take out travel lanes for dedicated bus use. According to Anspacher, other stretches of road flagged for lane re-purposing are:
- Shakespeare Boulevard in Germantown to Game Preserve Road in Gaithersburg along MD 355
- South of O’Neill Drive to 1,250 feet south of Shady Grove Road along MD 355 in Gaithersburg
- 1,000 feet south of Indianola Road to 270 feet north of North Campus Drive along MD 355 in Rockville
- Lockwood Drive to Southwood Avenue along US 29/ Colesville Road in Silver Spring
- Georgia Avenue to 16th Street along US 29/Colesville Road in Silver Spring
- Spring Street to US 29/Colesville Road along Georgia Avenue
- Wayne Avenue to DC Line along Georgia Avenue
- University Boulevard to the Washington, DC, line along New Hampshire Avenue in Takoma Park
The gaps along the northern portion of Route 355 are in the City of Rockville and the City of Gaithersburg, where planners said Monday buses are proposed to run in mixed traffic during the first phase of the transit system rollout.
“Where bus rapid transit would move people most efficiently in a corridor, the space needed to accommodate transit should be dedicated first to those bus lanes; the remaining lanes would then be available for general traffic,” planners wrote in the staff draft. “If congestion is too high in the remaining lanes, providing additional general traffic lanes should be considered. The impacts associated with constructing the additional pavement — construction costs, environmental impacts, community impacts, etc. — should be weighed against the benefits of providing more accommodation for the less efficient mode.”
View the staff draft online at the Montgomery County Planning Board's website.
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