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Montgomery T&E Committee Chair Berliner on Purple Line and CCT Considerations

For those of us working on the new Capital Crescent Trail and the Purple Line, it was a surprise to learn recently that the Maryland Transit Administration believes that in order to achieve the original objective to have the trail travel through the Wisconsin Avenue tunnel, it will cost an additional $40 million – 43 % of the total coast of constructing the entire trail.  As a result the MTA is now asking the County to provide guidance on this and other issues related to the design of the Trail.  The State will design and build the Trail, and the State expects the County to pay the cost of the Trail.

I want to make sure that we have looked at all the options carefully before we make this important decision.  The Montgomery County Planning Board will consider this issue on November 17th and I look forward to receiving the benefit of their work.  We want to ensure that we are capturing a long-term vision, and not a short-sighted solution.  We need to look at all the alternatives and be sure we understand the implications from a community point of view while being fiscally responsible.

I will be meeting with WABA’s Executive Director and other stake holders to work to find the best solution.  In any case, I remain committed to the Capital Crescent Trail’s future viability.

The author is Chair of the Montgomery County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy, and Environment Committee.

2 comments
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Adam Wenner
Adam Wenner

Agree with Ed. Also, to deal with increased bicycle and pedestrian traffic crossing Wisconsin Ave. and to preserve safety, it would be relatively inexpensive -- compared to $47 million certainly -- to hire a crossing guard for to work during weekend peak hours in the spring and summer. Suggest we take some of the savings and put a bike lane on River Road north of the Whole Foods, where it is pretty dangerous cycling.

Ed Comer
Ed Comer

Roger. As an avid bicyclist who uses the trail regularly both for commuting and recreation, I think it is absurd to spend $ 40 million to route the trail through the tunnel. The simple fact is that the trail already has to cross Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues to reach the tunnel. so there will be an important grade crossing. It would be relatively easy and far less costly than $ 40 million to route the trail up Bethesda Avenue and alongside the Farm Women's Market through the Elm Street Park back to the trail right-of-way. One could even devote an entire lane of parking along Bethesda Avenue to the trail and lose at worst 10 or so parking spaces in order to help make this route safer. Although this route would require the crossing of Wisconsin Avenue, I do not think the addition of a grade crossing to the one at Woodmont Avenue would be so onerous to require spending $ 40 million. One of the attractive feastures of the trail is the fact that it does bisect downtown Bethesda. The current grade crossing is a very popular place for cyclists to meet and invites many cyclists to stop at nearby resturants, coffee stores and bagels stores. It is one of the reasons why the Bethesda Avenue area has become so popular. I know many people who ride from DC or Virginia to stop in Bethesda for lunch or refreshments. Extending the trail in a protected way up to Wisconsin may invite bicyclists to stop at the many other restaurants and stores along Wisconsin Avenue. One of our region's other popular trails, the Mt. Vernon Trail, crosses over a mile of urban streets in Alexandria, but I do not think that has diminished the value of that Trail to cyclists of to the stores that they stop at along theway. The very fact that Wisconsin Avenue does carry a lot of traffic will incent cyclists to take care to cross more safely. Finally, I think it is important to take note of what happens when Beach Drive, a very popular cycling route, crosses Connecticut Avenue, another highly trafficed road. At that intersection cyclists have the option of using a trail which goes under Connecticut Avenue or stopping at a light and crossing Connecticut Avenue at grade level when the light is green. In my experience most cyclists choose the grade level route. In conclusion, the Purple Line will be an important additon to our needed transportation infrastructure. It needs to use the Tunnel. Spending an additional $ 40 million to avoid one additional grade crossing for bicyclists is simply not worth the money. Ed Comer, Bicyclist and long-time Bethesda resident.

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