The idea for a monorail system between Frederick and Montgomery counties as part of a plan to relieve congestion on Interstate 270 is gaining momentum, according to public officials and business representatives.
Initially seen by some as a curiosity when it was announced in the spring, the proposal is getting a second look as the General Assembly begins its session Wednesday.
Gaining support for the proposal is still an uphill battle, but the idea is gaining traction, said Bob Eisinger, the Montgomery County developer who came up with the plan.
“It is getting much more serious,” he said Tuesday.
An agenda item expected to be passed by the state’s Board of Public Works on Wednesday for a plan to add toll lanes to I-270 in Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties includes language announcing that work is underway on a study to look at the monorail proposal’s feasibility.
A draft of the feasibility study is expected in the early spring, with a final report expected in May.
Acting Transportation Secretary Greg Slater hailed the monorail plan as a “really, really interesting proposal.”
Slater said the state is looking at other areas where monorails have been successful, to get an idea of what the practicality could be for the I-270 project.
The fact that it’s included in the I-270 proposal signals that the state wants to take a closer look at the project, said Rick Weldon, president and CEO of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce and a former state delegate.
Weldon planned to testify at Wednesday’s BPW hearing about the chamber’s support for the project’s potential as an alternative to adding capacity on I-270.
“We are enthusiastically supporting it,” Weldon said.
While it remains to be seen whether the proposal is financially feasible, it deserves to be studied further, he said.
Eisinger gave a presentation to the chamber’s Transportation Advisory Committee in June, and to the Rotary Club of Frederick later in the summer.
Rotary members were also impressed by the idea, said president Mark Lancaster, who called the presentation one of the best the group received all year.
You could tell by the questions Eisinger received that members were intrigued by the plan, he said.
Eisinger estimates the cost of building the 28-mile stretch between Frederick and the Shady Grove Metro station at $3.4 billion.
The plan to add toll lanes to I-270 and I-495 in Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties is estimated to cost about $11 billion.
According to a report released by Eisinger’s High Road Foundation in March, the monorail would reach speeds of up to 70 mph between stations, and make the trip from Frederick to Shady Grove in approximately 31 minutes.
It would have stations at Frederick, Urbana, the COMSAT facility in northern Montgomery County, Germantown, Metropolitan Grove and Shady Grove, with connections to MARC’s Brunswick Line at Metropolitan Grove and Metro’s Red Line at Shady Grove.
With plans to be built within the I-270 right of way, the plan has the benefit of not having to acquire more land through northern Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve and around Monocacy National Battlefield south of the city of Frederick, Weldon said.
The right-of-way issue, as well as the environmental impact of removing cars burning fossil fuels while stuck on I-270, are some of the things that have attracted Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo (D-Montgomery) to the project.
Fraser-Hidalgo, who chairs the Motor Vehicle and Transportation subcommittee in the House Environment and Transportation Committee, represents a district in northern Montgomery County with many constituents who make their way down I-270.
“I think it is very deserving of a shot,” he said.
The ability to build the tracks on poles in the I-270 right of way also decreases the project’s footprint of impervious surfaces such as asphalt and concrete, he said.
While Fraser-Hidalgo said he always thought the plan had promise, others he talked to were initially skeptical.
“Now, I do think it’s getting a more reasonable look,” he said.
Fraser-Hidalgo’s Montgomery County colleague Del. Kumar Barve (D), who chairs the Environment and Transportation Committee, said his committee will hold a briefing on the monorail proposal in the early weeks of the session to look at the pluses and minuses of the plan.
The proposal needs no new rights of way, can be constructed faster than adding more lanes to I-270, and can run in all kinds of weather — all compelling reasons to take it seriously, Barve said.
Monorail systems in other parts of the world do well in areas with concentrated populations, like the I-270 corridor, he said.
Barve said some old-fashioned transportation planners may roll their eyes at the monorail proposal.
“I don’t think that does the public justice,” he said.
And for the residents of his district in Gaithersburg and Rockville, anything that takes cars off the road is a good thing.
While I-270 may still need more lanes added, all options need to be examined and the monorail needs more exploration, Lancaster said.
And its visibility to drivers stuck in traffic on I-270 could make the monorail zipping overhead look like a more attractive option.
“You start to think, well, maybe that could be me,” he said.
As the headline says, the proposal is gathering speed. It already has more speed than any monorail ever will. The only model that gets as many people from Frederick to MoCo, DC and NoVa as need to get in the time available is the unit coal train model. A unit train has only one destination, and everything on the train goes there and gets offloaded. So fill up the cars in Frederick with passengers, freight them to the Gaithersburg Metro, then dump them on the platform. Return for another load. To speed things up, the unloading could be done exactly like a coal car is unloaded. Either it is flipped over and everyone falls out onto the platform, or the bottom hoppers open and everyone falls into a pit. Line the pit with mattresses and you're off. Far more efficient than any silly monorail.
There seems to be many things you see as being silly and most are new. Just dump them like a school bus is unloaded.
Blah, blah, blah, just put in more lanes. You know, using the head moron's infrastructure plan - oh that;'s right, he doesn't have one, although he promised us one. Of course, he promised no ore wars too. LOL . Anyway this work should have been done 25/30 years ago. Acturally perhaps even 40 years ago. I was so glad when I was able to stop commuting to Rockville in the early 90's and instead to downtown Baltimore. It was much easier on 70 (although the beltway etc. would get jammed up). At least they had the vision in the early '70s to put in 3 lanes on I-70. Of course, nobody wants to pay anything anymore (ie: fuel tax) so we can build and maintain roads, so I hope all of the tax avoiders are enjoying their commute lol. I feel for the rest of the folks.
A rare voice of reason.
You're certainly right about taxes. No one wants to pay them but they sure like, and rely on, the benefits.
Politicians are so afraid to be seen raising taxes that the federal motor fuel tax has not been raised since 1993! Meanwhile, the cost of everything -- labor, construction materials, land -- has increased.
A person with a vehicle that gets 25 mpg is paying just two (2) cents per mile for fed and state fuel tax, combined. $0.02/mile. Or just $0.01/mile for a 50 mpg hybrid.
That needs to be raised to 2-4 cents per mile, indexed for inflation. Then we could have a first class transportation system.
- toll lanes and buses (BRT - Bus Rapid Transit).
- toll lanes and monorail
- extending Metro
- light rail
- Marc side rail to Frederick
"In June, 2019, when the Maryland Public Works Board approved Governor Hogan’s plan to widen I-270 and the Beltway with toll lanes, the board also insisted that the state study the feasibility of building a monorail between Shady Grove and Frederick." "That request came at the behest of The High Road Foundation, a private organization that’s been developing preliminary plans for what a monorail could look like. If built, the foundation’s plan would see a 27-mile monorail, mostly along I-270, with six stops: Frederick, Urbana, Comsat (Clarksburg), Germantown, Metropolitan Grove, and Shady Grove. They say the elevated monorail would take 31 minutes to get from Frederick to Shady Grove, carry between 39,000 and 55,000 riders per day, and cost around $3.4 billion to build." "If Maryland goes ahead and builds its I-270 express toll lanes all the way to Frederick, by far the cheapest transit option would be to run buses in the toll lanes. Cost $11 billion plus buses. Buses would have the added benefit of being able to continue on to downtown DC, Tysons, or anywhere else, without forcing a transfer to Metro." "To actually be as good as a monorail (or any train), buses on I-270 would need frequent all-day service, and bus way stations either “in-line” with the highway or along easy to reach, fast bus ways slightly off the highway. Making buses exit to take long, slow, winding, routes through surface streets to reach stations won’t cut it.
" Added road lanes and monorail - $11 billion for toll lanes, $3,4 billion for monorail. If built, the foundation’s plan would see a 27-mile monorail, mostly along I-270, with six stops: Frederick, Urbana, Comsat (Clarksburg), Germantown, Metropolitan Grove, and Shady Grove. They say the elevated monorail would take 31 minutes to get from Frederick to Shady Grove, carry between 39,000 and 55,000 riders per day, and cost around $3.4 billion to build.
Extending Metro - "Metrorail is a non-starter to go all the way to Frederick. It’s too expensive, and extending it to Frederick would cause operational headaches all the way to Metro Center and Glenmont. Maybe someday Metro will extend deeper into the suburbs, but not that deeply anytime soon."
- light rail . Diesel Multiple Unit or DMU trains can run on elevated or flat ground. They are suburban trains that travel between small towns and villages. It mainly runs on small gauge and engine is attached to a coach. It’s similar to MEMU trains
.The foundation hasn’t compared to all other modes, such as the kind of DMU trains that are increasingly common for long-distance routes extending beyond the end of the subways and light rail. But their numbers are compelling enough to warrant a closer look
Extending Marc on a side route to Frederick. MARC’s Frederick spur, which aside from its extremely limited schedule has to travel far outside its way in between Frederick and Germantown. Adding 50 trains a day to the existing MARC spur would still result in a long, slow, indirect trip. "The High Road Foundation says their plan is cheaper than Metro but not bus rapid transit, which is potentially correct but shouldn’t be taken as a given, considering Miami recently discovered monorail would be more costly than heavy Metro. The foundation hasn’t compared to all other modes, such as the kind of DMU trains that are increasingly common for long-distance routes extending beyond the end of the subways and light rail. But their numbers are compelling enough to warrant a closer look.
Dick, long post, but I will only address the MARC issue. There are only so many train slots available from CSX to accommodate extra trains, so there wouldn't be room available 50 trains a day. They could either add a couple of additional cars per run, or they could build another track paralleling the existing CSX trackage in their right-of-way, which would be extremely expensive. If we continue to build it, they will still come, resulting in even more development. Farmer's lands are now more valuable to them as property to be sold to developers than farming. I think we should let the natural barrier of time and money to commute stand. Those that think it is economically feasible (for most it's really not, all costs considered) will continue down the road, others will work locally, and demand for housing should drop.
"If we continue to build it, they will still come, resulting in even more development."
My thoughts exactly gabriel.
FredCo is being destroyed by residential sprawl. It's 'death by 1,000 cuts' -- "Just one more townhouse development. What's a few thousand more people?" And a few more, and a few more...
My first choice is as you said, "... let the natural barrier of time and money to commute stand."
That said, it seems inevitable that *something* will be built. Assuming that's the case, we should promote the following:
1) Under no circumstances should we allow a "P3" scam. Any highway; commuter rail, or monorail is a natural *monopoly*, like electric, cable, and natural gas. Metro has no competition, neither do area highways -- 15/70/270. Handing control of an Interstate -- even a portion of it -- or monorail, etc, over to a for profit corporation whose first duty is to its shareholders is a recipe for being ripped off for the duration of the contract (usually 50 to 100 years).
2) The focus should be on some form of rail -- monorail or DMU -- operated by the state of Maryland, not an avaricious corporation (many of which are foreign).
3) The last choice should be widening 270, for reasons you and I have laid out: it will spur more development; and with a few short years the traffic will be as bad as it is now, on it's way to getting even worse. The construction delays will be epic. Commute times will become drastically longer.
However, if the state gov't insists on being short-sighted and adding lanes, they should be open to ALL motorists, 24/7. No fees, tolls, or Lexus lanes!
Informative GGW article Dick, thanks! [thumbup]
The global monorail market was valued in 2016 for a period of ten year future at less than seven billion USD. Where did the Montgomery County developer get his estimated financial of the twenty-eight miles costing, essentially, half the value of the entire global market? There are very few triple digit monorail market value reports for the same ten year period. - Of the monorails that exist in the USA, less than five are considered part of an urban transportation plan. Most monorails are are classified as "Amusement" - How does this impact infrastructure resilience, in alignment with Federal standards for funding? - And the fun part - we still get those added lanes and those toll/surveillance booths at a cost of allegedly eleven billion USD. - Why not just the eleven billion for a more robust monorail system? Because three billion USD for 28 miles? With labor and material costs? Aerobus [USA] is listed as a monorail maker. Infrastructure Resilience ... Here is fine presentation about it by Rand Corp: https://www.rand.org/multimedia/video/2019/12/06/built-to-last-planning-and-funding-resilient-infrastructure.built-to-last-planning-and-funding-resilient-infrastructure.html
The $11 billlion estimated cost in 2017-$s of 2x2 extra lanes in over 60 miles of widening on 270 and 495. One estimate of the cost of the 24 miles of I-270 from Frederick to I-370 at Shady Grove is $2.5 billion. That is the trip supposed to be covered by the $3.4 billion monorail. As well as being more expensive to build monorail (MR) has many problems attracting significant ridership (1) getting to the MR station at the start of the trip. A station downtown Frederick as proposed by Eisinger would mean driving East Street. And where do you park? No station parking is proposed. Who is going to use a bus to get to the MR station? 2. I-270 traffic can branch off at any of a score of places and proceed to thousands of destinations whereas the MR only really connects with the DC Metro. So for example drivers going to N Va or Annapolis many other places will find the MR useless. 3. Certain classes of traffic will find the MR impractical and will stay on 270 -- tradesmen with tools and materials, people who like to combine shopping with their commute 4. People who like to be able to go when they're ready will find the MR timetable a bear. ... all the reasons transit ridership is so small, like 2 or 3 pertcent. MR is after all just another form of transit. Transit can be defined as the mode that the chattering classes want other people to use.
Expanded MARC service is the answer. We can do it faster and cheaper than this monorail project. The biggest expense will be land acquisition.... and possibly needing to acquire CSX's tracks and instead of paying them to run the MARC on their tracks at limited times, they can pay the State of Maryland to run their freight over those tracks. Probably get better safety maintenance out of such a move as CSX has a deplorable maintenance rep. AND the Monorail would make the MARC train redundant and unnecessary.
Do you really think CSX will go for that? I don't think so. Why should CSX pay Maryland for using the track, when they already own it?
And it's too expensive.
This is an interesting thought but why not just extend Metro up to Frederick.
Because the Monorail is much cheaper.
Perhaps a high-speed trolley in the fast lane.
At one point a Japanese company was planning to build a high speed (~300 mph) train between DC and Baltimore. Just putting that out there.
"dump all the people?" Just like out of a school bus?
this is a better, cheaper, faster, and more effective proposal than adding lanes. which is literally the only other thing on the table right now
[lol] Cars underutilized? Really, Bunny.[lol]
what does that even mean? it would cost less than half of what expanding 270 would, will be done faster, and will alleviate traffic better. but you see something that is better for the environment and immediately reject it because your brain is rotting from 20 years of fossil fuel propaganda disguised as news
I don't think a monorail is a good idea, but I like the title of the article.
I think I prefer the idea floated in a previous article - to add a lane to 270 just for busses and people who pay extra to drive on it.
The $11b is the whole of the beltway and the whole of 270. The monorail for $3.4b is just 24 miles Frederick to I-370. One estimate of the extra 270 lanes Fred-370 is $2.5b because most of the $11b, $8.5b goes on the southern portion of 270 and the DC Beltway. Ther monorail is expensive because it is a 24 mile long bridge with electrical systems and elaborate switches and the monorail cars. $3.4b is probably optimistic. My guess is it would end up about twice as expensive per mile as widening the highway. Most of the highway widening is moving dirt and laying pacement. Plus widening odd bridges here and there. The users of the road provide their own cars, the monorail has to order and very specialized cars. If you believe the monorail is cheaper, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.
When I lived in Texas some years ago, Dallas was planning for transit and one of the local leaders proposed Monorail. He was laughed at. But it was a good idea. I do not know the capacity, but if that ever becomes a problem they can add cars or even run a second line. Certainly, it is worth trying. I did find more about Dallas "If there is one man in Dallas who represents the voice in the wilderness, it's Max Goldblatt. Born on December 6, 1911, the son of an immigrant Jewish family, he became a businessman, politician, and spokesman. He has been described as a dreamer, visionary, a man with integrity, vocal and opinionated. In the Dallas Times Herald, April 9, 1990, Max quoted in response to being called a political gadfly, "Socrates was a political gadfly; I'm glad to be in his company." His ideas on issues facing the city of Dallas were often unique. Undaunted by critics, he continues to espouse his ideas. ... He was nicknamed "Monorail Max" because of his very vocal attempt to bring the Disney Corporation to Dallas in order to build a monorail. He continually criticized DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) for being inefficient and antiquated. The monorail idea was shunned and laughed at by the city leaders. However, it may be that his futuristic approach was just "ahead of his time".' https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/dalpub/08520/dpub-08520.html
Check out the Texas rapid rail project and see how well that is working out.
Maryland is NOT Texas and will never be like Texas. And that is why I moved to Maryland.
I know this is just a beginning, but surely 3.4B is no way near what this would cost. Considering what the dollar value will be in 20 years before they even begin this possible project. Perhaps add another 2B to it, maybe?
You must be thinking of the Monocacy Blvd. project. A monorail could be erected quickly if funded.
The monorail is the best choice. Even before I got to the end I was thinking about people in cars sitting in traffic while the monorail zooms past overhead.
The monorail has potential to take one third of the cars off the road. Connecting it to Metro and Marc makes it very feasible.
Build the Monorail first, we may not need the extra lanes and would save 11 million dollars.
Testify Dick! [thumbup]
The Simpsons, Season 4, episode 12 (Marge vs. the Monorail)... Considering this show has a solid history of anticipating events, it may be worth re-watching this one.
I've sold monorails to Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, and, by gum, it put them on the map! Well, sir, there's nothin' on Earth like a genuine bona-fide electrified six-car monorail!
How about ten monorail cars?
What about us brain-dead slobs?
“You’ll be given cushy jobs”. (Sorry I’ll try and stop myself now)
“What’s it called?” 😆
you're right a cartoon from 20 years ago is definitely a more helpful resource than the countless existing monorails all over the world
Yah, but it was a good episode.
sean... It is called humor. If you don't appreciate it, fine. At least some folks I rarely agree with here found a bit of a chuckle with it as well.
sean. I found info on 72 existing monorails in the world, the vast majority of of the amusement park / airport type with a total length of less than 2 miles. China has 4 monorails of medium distance (closer to what is being proposed here). Problem is, none of the information includes price, either total, price per mile, nothing. Adding lanes, we know the cost, metro as well.
But to the heart of your objection, there are not "countless" monorails all over the world. There are a finite number, of which we can garner some information.
Monorails have to be elevated at least five feet. Light rail does not, but it can be elevated.
I'm on your side sean, but ya gotta admit, that's a funny episode. [smile]
I was thinking of that Simpsons episode also. Probably that is why I was immediately put off by the idea when I saw the article. [ohmy]
three... I couldn't help myself. It was a great episode.
I'd prefer to leave everything as-is, to discourage additional development. However, if the state is definitely going to do *something* then I think a monorail or DMU is the way to go, but that Simpsons episode is hilarious! [beam]
The idea is very good but may possibly be already obsolete. With the onset of battery and fuel cell technology, it may not be practical to build such a bricks and mortar concept anymore. Consider carefully before beginning. It may become possible to have flying passenger transport while leaving existing roadway generally for freight. The mag-lev concept is more than 30 years old; it may finally be the age of Spacely Sprockets (Meet George Jetson.......)
Is there any flying cars now? When, if ever will they be available? Ten, twenty, thirty years? And putting EVs on the road does not relieve congestion.
Not before we get really good auto-pilots and a fail safe way to land when in trouble. Otherwise - just forget air cars.
Uber’s working on this, just thinking about a bunch of literary art majors who are flying people around as side gigs is already given me nightmares.😳 (And before anyone says “you don’t have to take them” Romberg they’ll be flying over you head too)
The 25% coal 35-40% natural gas and 33% nuclear tech you mean. It's a cleaner mix than gasoline or diesel, that's what.
Monorails have been around since 1901 when the world's first was opened in my father's home town of Wuppertal in the Ruhr region of Germany. It runs mostly above the small river that runs the length of the city -- about 7 or 8 miles from memory. I traveled it as a boy of 13. It is mostly used by sightseers, tourists, an d a few locals. There are now about 50 MR systems around the world, most of them shuttles for airports or in amusement parks. The handful used for transit tend to be in multi-million population metropolitan areas as an alternative to tunneiing subways. They are in densely populated areas. I haven't been able to find any example of a MR used as a connector between a small fringe city like Frederick and the extreme end of a metro area subway system along a sparsely populated (between Frfederick and Clarksburg) highway corridor like 270.
That’s sure thinking out-of-the-box. Go OVER all those vehicles.
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