Extending a rapid bus network across the American Legion Memorial Bridge is being considered as a way to improve the commute on the Beltway between Fairfax and Montgomery counties.
Other options include restoring Metro's express bus service to the corridor and adding more lanes. All are scheduled to be discussed Wednesday at a meeting of the Montgomery County Council's transportation committee, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the Virginia and Maryland departments of transportation and Metro.
Traffic on the top stretch of the Beltway across the Potomac River has been a topic of concern for years. But as Virginia works to expand its side of the highway, some Montgomery County lawmakers see more urgency in the project, foreseeing a buildup of frustrated drivers entering Maryland.
"We have to figure out a way to move more people across that bridge. [Bus] rapid transit by definition does that," said Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner, chairman of the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee.
Bus rapid transit, or BRT, consists of buses that travel in dedicated lanes and use features like off-board fare collection to speed up commutes.
A route that travels the bridge could connect to a proposed 160-mile, $1.8 billion network of BRT routes across Montgomery County, suggested Berliner, D-Bethesda.
Though Montgomery County Councilwoman Nancy Floreen, also on the committee, said she likes the idea of a transit-based solution, she doesn't know if BRT is the right kind of transit.
"I personally would love to have a connection on Metro from the Red Line over to the Silver Line," the at-large Democrat said.
Light rail, commuter rail, commuter bus and BRT are all among the options being examined in a study of commuters traveling between Northern Virginia and the other parts of the Washington region, said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton. A second study is looking at ways to expand the capacity of all the bridges that cross the Potomac.
"Right now, I think everything is on the table," he said. "The issue is what will bring the most congestion relief to the region."