Property owners in Germantown offer cheaper Corridor Cities Transitway -- Gazette.Net


This story was corrected at 2:31 p.m. June 5, 2012. An explanation follows the story.

A coalition of health care organizations and major land owners in Germantown have proposed their own version of the Corridor Cities Transitway, saying the first leg of the proposed 15-mile public transit system could be built earlier and $310 million cheaper than currently planned.

As planned by the Maryland Department of Transportation, the Corridor Cities Transitway would cost $828 million, with construction of the first 9-mile segment beginning in 2018. It would rely on a system of guided busways, known as bus rapid transit, running from the Shady Grove Metro station in Rockville to the Comsat building in Clarksburg.

A group of property owners inside the Great Seneca Science Corridor, including Adventist HealthCare and Johns Hopkins University — both of whom are hoping to expand their Gaithersburg campuses — say they disagree with the state’s plan and want it built sooner.

“We believe this proposal is too expensive and takes too long to implement,” Adventist President and CEO William G. Robertson wrote in a statement.

The group released a study of the transitway May 22, offering a version that could start in 2014 with an initial cost of $235 million, $310 million less than the state’s proposal for the first phase.

The study — performed by Baltimore-based Kittelson & Associates, Inc. — does not offer many changes to the path of the busway, but does suggest having the buses enter regular traffic for short segments, such as between Kentlands and the Metropolitan Grove MARC station. This, along with using existing road medians instead of lanes near sidewalks, is meant to save the cost of land needed to make the dedicated lanes.

This version expects buses to run about eight minutes slower for trips down the entire transitway, the report states.

This slower-running but faster built system is supported by Marilyn Balcombe, president and CEO of the Gaithersburg Germantown Chamber of Commerce and member of the county’s transit taskforce, which was charged with designing a public transportation system for Montgomery County.

She said a lower cost system may have a better chance of becoming a reality.

“I think the cost savings totally makes sense,” Balcombe said. “These are practical solutions.”

The report has been given to county and state department agencies, who have yet to formally respond or incorporate it into their plans, she said.

Further construction in the Great Seneca Science Corridor — identified by planners as one of the county’s largest areas for future growth — is dependent upon the construction of the transitway and the relief of traffic congestion it is expected to bring.

Johns Hopkins presented plans for a 4.7-million-square-foot expansion to its campus in the science corridor in March of last year. Adventist proposed building a 50,000-square-foot cancer clinic and oncology center in October 2011. The completion of these projects likely would require the construction of the Corridor Cities Transitway, according to county records.

aruoff@gazette.netThis story was corrected to note that Adventist HealthCare and Johns Hopkins University are located in Gaithersburg.