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The Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) announced a new bus route slated to ease the week-day trip for commuters to Bethesda in the New Year. Beginning Jan. 3, 2012, staffers at Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB), Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other area travelers can ride the No. 203 MTA-commuter bus from two locations in Columbia, Md., and two others in Montgomery County.

The new route will make two stops in Bethesda: the first near Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) on Jones Bridge Road, and the second on Rockville Pike near Medical Center Metro. Fares on the new route will be waived for the first two weeks.

"We're pleased this new bus route will provide commuters with another option to get to work," said Jeff Miller, NSAB transportation program manager. Designed to service the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and WRNMMC, the new bus line will run along Maryland's newest toll road Route 200, also known as the Intercounty Connector (ICC). The No. 203 will operate weekdays, with three morning trips, a single midday trip, and three afternoon trips.

The transit benefit program can be used to cover the bus fare which ranges from $5 each way or $38.25 for a 10-trip ticket, to $144.50 for a monthly pass. Parking is free in Park and Ride lots at scheduled stops along the route. A fifth pick-up location, at the Georgia Avenue Park and Ride in Montgomery County, will be added once work is completed on the Maryland Route 97 commuter lot.

According to the MTA, the service expansion is part of a larger plan to help accommodate the estimated 40,000 to 60,000 extra jobs expected in Maryland over the next six to ten years due to Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).

For the latest schedules, maps, and information regarding routes along the ICC, visit the MTA website at Details pertaining to the No. 203 route should become available on the site soon, according to MTA officials.