The Purple Line is GOOD for the Trail

Last week, a public meeting was held by MTA on the future of the Purple Line and the accompanying trail improvements to the Capital Crescent Trail that would make the portion of the trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring a more viable connection between these two employment and transit hubs.

After more than a decade of debate, you might think that questions about the future Purple Line would be put to rest.  But as work has continued, budgets have tightened, and cost estimates have been released, some trail opponents are bringing up the same misleading arguments about lack of public input, expense, and harm to the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT).

Throughout this planning process, trail opponents have cloaked their opposition with positive spin, naming the anti-Purple Line advocacy organization “Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail” and circulating a “Save the Trail” petition.  This has created a great deal of confusion, and we want to clarify—now that some time has passed—where WABA—as credible, regional cycling advocates who love the trail and have advocated  for it from its inception—stand on this project.

So let’s set the record straight: The Purple Line is not going to destroy the trail.  While the trail will change, in most ways it will be for the better.  The fact is that the Purple Line is the best way— in fact, the only realistic way—to get improvements to the existing segments of the CCT and to extend the trail into downtown Silver Spring.

WABA outlined our reasoning  for the Montgomery County Park and Planning Commission in 2008:

WABA has studied the arguments of Purple Line opponents about the impact of a transit line running parallel to—and in the same right-of-way with— the Capital Crescent Trail with great interest.  We have considered their claims carefully, and we think they are simply incorrect.  The Purple Line build options in the environmental impact statement are fully consistent with preserving the trail . . . . WABA prefers the light rail versions to the bus line options because rail would more effectively integrate the area’s transportation infrastructure, including Metrorail and alternative modes of commuting such as bicycling.

WABA also noted that the infrastructure built for light rail will provide the maximum number of opportunities to include trail crossings to avoid several dangerous intersections:

The existing trail includes at-grade crossings with limited visibility or heavy automobile traffic at Jones Bridge Road and Connecticut Avenue . . . . Once the trail reaches the western part of Silver Spring, cyclists and walkers are dumped onto the streets, and they are forced to cross wide, busy intersections at 16th Street and at Colesville Road.  The heavier investment Purple Line options provide for the trail to cross all of these intersections on bridges or under tunnels, improving safety.

Montgomery County and MTA planners have adopted each and every one of the specific recommendations we made in 2008.   At a briefing for the board of the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail, MTA showed how the trail will be extended by an additional 1.4 miles into downtown Silver Spring as part of the Purple Line project.  The CCT will connect directly to the future Metropolitan Branch Trail in the new Silver Spring Transit Center, as WABA requested, to complete the missing northern link in the long-planned “bicycle beltway” beginning at Union Station, extending north to Silver Spring, west to Bethesda, and south again through the District of Columbia ending in Georgetown.

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