On May 11, Governor Martin Oâ€™Malley announced that the locally preferred alternative (LPA) for the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) will be Marylandâ€™s first bus rapid transit system, with a route that includes a proposed Kentlands station. The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) will now submit the project for federal approval.
As planned, the system would operate along a 15-mile north-south corridor from the Shady Grove Metro station to the COMSAT facility near Clarksburg in Montgomery County.
The CCT will utilize state-of-the-art buses that burn alternative fuels and feature multiple doors that open at sidewalk level. The buses will operate in dedicated lanes separate from regular traffic, and passengers will board at 16 stations located in or near dense residential communities or business centers. Average daily ridership is expected to be 47,700 by 2035.
â€śThe CCT Bus Rapid Transit line will provide easy, accessible, cost efficient transportation for Montgomery Countyâ€™s neighborhoods,â€ť Maryland Governor Martin Oâ€™Malley said in a statement. â€śThis north-south transitway line will reduce our dependence on cars as we continue our goal to double public transit use by 2020. The CCT will support nearly 15,000 jobs in the corridor, help facilitate smart growth through mixed-used development, and it can be built in a timely manner.â€ť
As planned, the CCT will be constructed in two phases. Phase I will involve the nine-mile segment between Shady Grove and Metropolitan Grove, and Phase II will run for six miles from Metropolitan Grove to COMSAT.
According to Terry Owens, chief public information officer for the MTAâ€™s Office of Media Relations, the Phase 1 route will follow the west side of Great Seneca Highway across Kentlands Boulevard at-grade and rise to the area behind the Lowes Lumber yard. Buses then will cross Main Street and turn east along the south side of Quince Orchard Road.
Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney Katz had nothing but praise for the CCT.
â€śI think itâ€™s terrific for the local economy,â€ť he said. â€śThe way the traffic is in our area and with the price of gas, anything that can help move people in an effective, comfortable, practical way is certainly going to help â€” especially people who are commuting to or from the area.â€ť
Katz also said plans to locate a station near the Kentlands Square Shopping Center will help with future development there. He added that bus rapid transit is faster to build and more practical than light rail. It is also more flexible, because if something is blocking the dedicated lanes, the buses can use the regular lanes.
City council member Ryan Spiegel also declared himself a â€śhuge supporterâ€ť of the CCT.
â€śThis alignment is optimal â€” itâ€™s exactly what we wanted,â€ť he said. â€śKentlands, Lakelands and QOP were supposed to be transit-oriented communities. I donâ€™t think weâ€™ve seen them reach their full potential, and that potential will be unleashed by the CCT.â€ť
However, Spiegel said funding remains a significant hurdle.
â€śItâ€™s all going to come down to money,â€ť he said. â€śThe CCT is competing with other projects in the state for federal funds, and the federal budget is a mess right now.â€ť
But he said the fact that the state has recommended bus rapid transit over light rail will be an advantage in competing with other, more expensive rail projects.
Owens said the next step is to apply for entry into the Federal Transit Administrationâ€™s (FTA) New Starts program, which supports local transit projects. The application, due this summer, will include a project management plan, financial capabilities statement, real estate acquisition plan, and safety and security plan.
If all goes well, the CCT will receive FTA approval to begin preliminary engineering by spring 2013. Final design activities are scheduled for the winter of 2014 – 2015.
Officials will seek a full-funding grant agreement from the FTA and begin acquiring right-of-way permits in the summer of 2017. Construction is scheduled to start in fall 2018, with service beginning in 2020.
â€śThe announcement of the LPA is a major step forward in that the state has now decided on the mode of transit it will build,â€ť Owens said. â€śThe MTA will continue to engage the public and stakeholders as we work through this process and continue to welcome the publicâ€™s input.â€ť