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Local officials announce naming contest for new bus rapid transit system

Local and state leaders launched a naming contest Thursday for a long-anticipated bus rapid transit system that aims to reduce traffic along the heavily congested Route 29 corridor and parts of Montgomery County.

Names up for vote by the public include the words "flash," "rapid" and "swift" as local and state officials move to secure funding for the $67 million system, which has been contemplated for years.

The first route includes a 14-mile system in Montgomery County along part of Route 29 that borders Prince George's and Howard counties. Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman is in early discussions with Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett to make the route a bi-county service.

More than 13,000 Howard County residents commute from Howard to Montgomery County daily, according to county data.

Leggett plans to start the service by 2020, and it would kick off a countywide network planned in Montgomery.

The project is partially funded by a $10 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation that was announced in late July, and with $2 million from the Maryland Department of Transportation. Leggett has also committed nearly $6.5 million in Montgomery County funds for planning, design and outreach.

Kittleman hailed the grant funding as a positive step, saying many area commuters have to bear the burden of a "congestion tax" by spending time in traffic that could be spend with family and at work.

Route 29 is the busiest corridor in Maryland. On average, buses take 20 percent longer to make trips along the corridor than other automobiles, according to state data.

The new buses will run on regular lanes but, similar to a rail system, would have limited stops, priority at traffic signals and include real-time arrival information.

Kittleman said building more roads was financially unfeasible. The transit system will use existing roadway pavement to minimize the cost of major infrastructure improvements.

"We can't build roads to help solve this transportation problem," Kittleman said Thursday morning.

The system will include 12 stations, 10 bike share stations and sidewalk upgrades in Montgomery. County estimates show one BRT vehicle can take up to 90 cars off the road.

A randomly selected grand prize winner will receive an iPad, Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil. Additional winners will be selected at random to win a variety of prizes including Starbucks gift cards, swag, and more. Voting closes on Jan. 20, 2017 at 5 p.m.

To submit a vote, go to http://getonboardbrt.com/vote/httphttp://getonboardbrt.com/vote/http://getonboardbrt.com/vote/

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