This week, WABA and MoBike met with Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett to discuss the removal of the Metropolitan Branch Trail’s (MBT) funding from the Executive’s proposed CIP budget. The County Executive stated that the removal was due to disagreements over how to proceed among various interested parties, including the historic preservation community and the bicycling community, and that his removal of the funding was meant to buy time for resolution, not to kill the project.
When asked if his office would be willing to convene a discussion among the stakeholders to facilitate communication and reach a solution, he agreed. We look forward to that meeting, progress on the trail’s design and construction, and a quality connection from Union Station into Silver Spring.
Of course, it is the Montgomery County Council that will ultimately vote on the CIP. Yesterday, Deputy Council Staff Director Glenn Orlin’s CIP recommendations to the Council were posted on the County’s website. The entire memorandum is worth reading, but on the MBT:
Council staff recommendation: Retain funds in the CIP to fund the same scope as in the Approved CIP, plus the construction of the path on the west side of Fenton Street from New York Avenue (where the trail adjacent to Montgomery College now ends) north to King Street, completing the design by FY14 and construction of this portion of the trail by FY16.
The report continues, stating that “The Council’s role cannot end merely by programming these funds. One or more Councilmembers will need to get personally involved–on a regular (perhaps monthly) basis–to make sure this project proceeds.”
There are numerous hearings and hurdles still to be overcome to restore the funding of the trail, but we are grateful for the personal attention of Montgomery County’s executive and legislative leadership. We will continue to push for restoration of design and construction funding as recommended by the Council staff and continue to work, with the support of the County Executive’s office, to reach a resolve to those issues that led to the Executive’s proposed removal of funding.
We will continue to provide updates on progress. Montgomery County residents, please be ready to take action and contact your elected in support of bicycling as the capital budget proceeds through Council review and the operating budget recommendations are soon to be released. This is a critical time for the Metropolitan Branch Trail, the Capital Crescent Trail, and the possible introduction of bikesharing in the County.