Montgomery Officials Say State’s Transitway Decision Imperils Tech Industry

Elrich
Montgomery County Executive Marc B. Elrich (D). Photo by Bruce DePuyt

The Hogan administration’s decision to remove a long-planned Montgomery County transit project from its list of transportation priorities will hamper the development of Maryland’s signature industries, local leaders said on Monday.

Those leaders — from county government, the state legislature and the private sector — urged MDOT reconsider their action, telling reporters at a news conference the state must put the Corridor Cities Transitway back on the front burner.

The CCT is a bus rapid transit project that would connect the Shady Grove Metro Station and the Comsat building in Clarksburg.

It would stretch 15 miles, stopping at two dozen stations along the way, running through what’s referred to locally as the Great Seneca Science Corridor. The link would connect the Universities at Shady Grove, the National Cancer Institute, Johns Hopkins University’s Montgomery County Campus, Adventist Shady Grove Hospital, and a host of biotech firms that have made the county a national leader in biomedical research and development.

“(Gov.) Hogan talks about the science corridor up here as one of the things that makes Maryland different, makes Maryland great,” said County Executive Marc B. Elrich (D) in an interview. “He touts the growing biotech sector.”

“If you kill the Corridor Cities Transitway,” Elrich added, “we have to shut down. We will not be able to approve much more development.”

Del. Kirill Reznik (D-Montgomery) called the CCT “vital” to the continued development of the state’s biotech industry.

“There are tens of thousands of jobs on the line and millions of dollars in potential economic development and opportunities,” he added. “We need the CCT restored.”

In defending their decision to remove the CCT from the state’s rolling six-year Consolidated Transportation Program, state officials have said they’re not killing the project, they’re shifting responsibility for it to the county.

“MDOT invested $38 million in the CCT to deliver the project design along with an approved environmental assessment from the Federal Transit Administration,” MDOT spokeswoman Erin Henson told Maryland Matters in September.

“This bus route is solely located in one county making Montgomery County the lead for future work on this local project.”

Montgomery leaders scoff at that explanation, noting that the project’s footprint has always been within the county’s borders. That didn’t stop the state from investing in its design and showcasing its benefits on MDOT’s own webpage.

“I think it is an excuse” to offload the project, Reznik said, “and it is not one that in any way conforms to any policy that has existed to date. This program has been on the CTP for 20 years and in all that time no one has ever said, ‘Well [it’s] internal to Montgomery County.’”

The CCT would run between $400 million and $800 million, Elrich said, more than the county could reasonably be expected to come up with on its own.

Given the benefits of the science corridor to the state’s general fund, the county should not have to, the executive added. “The investments we make and the businesses we bring here feed a lot of money to the state.”

Joining county leaders and state legislators at Monday’s news conference were business and Chamber of Commerce officials, some of whom have agreed to help pay for the project through the creation of a special taxing district.

“You can’t find that in any other state project,” said Elrich.

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) issued a news release called the Hogan administration’s decision “short-sighted and deeply misguided.”

“This program would provided much-needed transportation upgrades to the County and create good-paying jobs along the way,” he said.

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Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.

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