Montgomery Planning Board to Review US 29 Bus Rapid Transit Project from Silver Spring to Burtonsville

July 20, 2018

Montgomery Planning staff recommends approval with suggested improvements for pedestrian and bicycle access

SILVER SPRING, MDThe Montgomery Planning Board, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, will hold a public hearing on the mandatory referral for a 14-mile bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor connecting Silver Spring and Burtonsville at its meeting on Thursday, July 26, in the Planning Board Auditorium (8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD). The Planning Board will review the US 29 BRT project that has been proposed by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. US 29 is one of 10 recommended transitways recommended in the 2013 Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan.

The public is welcome to testify about the BRT project. Go online to the Planning Board website for sign-up details.

View the Mandatory Referral staff report for the US 29 Bus Rapid Transit Project.

The project includes six main components:

  • New limited stop bus service
  • Dedicated transit lanes on the existing outside shoulders between MD 198 and Tech Road.
  • High-quality transit stations
  • High-quality transit vehicles
  • Station access improvements

“Montgomery Planning strongly supports this bus rapid transit project, which will provide substantial benefits to existing and new transit riders along the US 29 corridor,” says Montgomery Planning Transportation Planner David Anspacher. “This project is an important step toward the creation of Montgomery County’s planned bus rapid transit network.”

Mandatory Referral is a process mandated by state law through which public sector projects and public and private utilities are reviewed by the Planning Board. The Planning Board’s decisions and recommendations are advisory only.

Project Benefits, Impacts and Costs

The benefits of the US 29 BRT project are substantial. In 2020, there are anticipated to be 13,000 daily bus boardings along the US 29 route. Of this number, about 4,000 boardings would be new transit riders and about 9,000 boardings would be existing bus riders who would benefit from higher quality transit service.

In 2040, there are anticipated to be 20,000 daily boardings along the US 29 BRT corridor, of which 5,700 would be new transit riders and 14,300 would be existing bus riders who would benefit from higher quality transit service. The project is projected to result in substantial travel time savings for BRT buses compared to local buses:

  • Burtonsville Park-and-Ride to Silver Spring: BRT will be 26 percent faster than local service.
  • Briggs Chaney Park-and-Ride to Silver Spring: BRT will be 22 percent faster.
  • White Oak to Silver Spring: BRT will be 35 percent faster.

Montgomery County Planning Department staff recommends approving the US 29 BRT mandatory referral and suggests several separate projects to improve walking and bicycling access to the bus rapid transit stations. The suggested projects include:

  • Sidewalks on National Drive between the Burtonsville Park-and-Ride station and Burtonsville Town Center.
  • One-way separated bike lanes on Castle Boulevard between Briggs Chaney Road and Castle Ridge Circle.
  • A shared use path on Lockwood Drive from US 29 to Northwest Drive.
  • A shared use path on the east side of US 29 between Lockwood Drive and the southern entrance to the Burnt Mills Shopping Center.

In addition, staff recommends specific upgrades at several stations, including bike racks, signage, sidewalk widening and other improvements.

What is Bus Rapid Transit?

Bus rapid transit (BRT) is a high-quality and high-capacity system that delivers fast, comfortable, reliable and cost-effective transit service. Enabling this service are dedicated transit lanes, branded stations and buses, off-board fare collection, real time information and fast and frequent operations, among other upgrades. Because BRT is similar to a light rail or metro system, it is more reliable, convenient and faster than other bus services. With the right features, BRT can avoid the causes of delay that slow local bus services.

The 2013 Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan and amendments, including the 2014 White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan, are the guiding policy documents for BRT in Montgomery County along US 29. The functional master plan identifies 10 bus rapid transit corridors and includes recommendations for:

  • Master-planned rights-of-way
  • Station locations
  • Recommendations for dedicated transit lanes
  • Number of additional lanes that can be added to the road to provide dedicated bus lanes.

This BRT project is currently being advanced by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) in cooperation with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The $31.5-million project is being funded through county and federal funds, including a $10 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

What is a Mandatory Referral?

A mandatory referral is a review process conducted by the Montgomery County Planning Board for all public sector development projects located in Montgomery County submitted by federal, state, and local governments and public and private utilities. These projects include roadway improvements, transit systems, schools, fire and police stations, and other public facilities. Because the Planning Board’s decision and recommendations are advisory only, an applicant may overrule the Planning Board’s disapproval and proceed with the proposed project. However, Planning Board recommendations can improve a project and submitting agencies often adopt them.

For more information, contact:
David Anspacher, Transportation Supervisor at the Montgomery County Planning Department
Telephone 301.495.2191