Today, I have received a report from my Transit Task Force that charts a course for Montgomery County that will ensure our continued economic growth and position us to remain competitive well into the 21st century. The Task Force has laid out a comprehensive, effective and efficient blueprint for action to make a rapid transit network a reality in Montgomery County. The plan embraces smart growth concepts that have the potential to create vibrant live-work communities with less reliance on single-occupancy vehicles. This is our future.
A rapid transit network is a perhaps the single most practical and cost-effective alternative in solving our significant transportation capacity problems and relieving not only current, but future congestion. Gridlock is rampant and is hurting our economy, our safety and our quality of life. That is why we need to invest in alternative transportation on a scale that will really make a difference to our residents and employers.
The Task Force recommendations lay out a practical, step-by-step roadmap to phase in a 160-mile rapid transit network in Montgomery County. The first phase emphasizes service to areas that are most critical to our economic development and connects our federal research facilities. The visionary plan provides a relatively low-cost option for significantly increasing transportation capacity, demonstrates the environmental benefits of implementing such a system, and charts a path to keep Montgomery County economically competitive in the region.
Components of the system are essential if the County is to implement already approved Master Plans. This initiative could also be the central part of a regional transportation and lifestyle strategy. The plan provides for integration to the Purple Line, actually incorporates the Corridor Cities Transitway into the rapid transit system, and rethinks the role of our Ride On bus system – the second largest bus system in the region.
We cannot delay implementation of this initiative. That is why I will begin immediately to work with the Montgomery County departments of Transportation and Finance to develop an affordable plan. In addition, I will be sending a Capital Improvement Projects budget amendment to the County Council to allow work on this critical transit network to continue during fiscal year 2013 while broader issues are addressed.
In my 2010 inaugural address I made a commitment to the residents of Montgomery County. I committed to convening a Transit Task Force -- and now 18 months later, they have devised a creative, thoughtful blueprint for how we can fully implement the transit we want and need.
I’m very grateful to the members of the Task Force for their incredible commitment and the outstanding quality of their work. They are an impressive group, led by Mark Winston. I offer my sincere thanks to the Task Force for their willingness to serve, their innovation and their dedication. The Task Force’s efforts will improve the lives of residents, employees and visitors throughout our County and our region. Together, we will continue to work towards solutions that will end gridlock.
As we look to the future of rapid transit in our County, we must ask ourselves, “What will happen if we do nothing differently – and simply cling to our current approaches in the hope that things will turn out all right?”
The answer must be that we will not leave this vital thing undone. Let us be assured that, in the long run, we and our children – and their children – will look back on this time and know that far-sighted decisions were made in the best interests of our community.