New Connections: Proposed improvements between Capital Crescent and Rock Creek Park Trails


The southern terminus of the Capital Crescent Trail. Photo by Kevin Posey.

Last week, I had one of the nicest bike rides of the summer. I cruised blissfully down the Capital Crescent Trail, soaking in the views of the Potomac and enjoying the shady tree cover. But the transition back to the on-street bike network was a harsh one, and my trail euphoria evaporated immediately.

For those of you who have ridden or walked along the Capital Crescent Trail and finished the trip at the southern terminus in Georgetown, you probably relate to the experience.


The Capital Crescent Trail ends at the dead end of Water St. NW.

The K Street/Water St NW situation is a scary one for bikes. Between the U-turning buses, trucks and vehicles, frustrated rush-hour commuters, lots of back-in parking, and missing sidewalks that force people to walk in the street, there is no clear area for cyclists to position themselves to avoid conflicts. And despite thousands of people using the corridor every day, it remains a mess.

Fortunately, there’s a plan to transform the corridor into something that works for people on bikes and on foot.

The Georgetown Business Improvement District (Georgetown BID) and District Department of Transportation (DDOT) are working to provide a better solution for K Street/Water St NW (this is the road beneath the Whitehurst Freeway- it is Water St. on the western end, and turns into K St. at Wisconsin Ave.) between the southern terminus of the Capital Crescent Trail (near Potomac Boat Club) to Rock Creek Park Trail, just east of 29th St. NW.

With funding through Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) Transportation-Land Use Connections Program, the project has taken off. Since January of 2016, Georgetown BID and DDOT have been gathering information and assessing the corridor, as well as reaching out to the public and business owners. They produced the conceptual design for the corridor in June 2016, and WABA and other stakeholders recently received an on-the-ground tour of what the concept plan entails.

Here’s what we learned:

The Capital Crescent Trail is a bicycle superhighway.

  • We all know it, but the numbers back up our instinct: The CCT is a bicycle superhighway. On this year’s peak day (Labor Day), more than 3,700 people rode under the Aqueduct Bridge at the southern end of the Capital Crescent Trail. That’s a boatload of folks on two wheels. In fact, if the Capital Crescent Trail traffic was measured like a road, it would be equivalent to a collector street! We must serve bicyclists better when they enter the on-road network.
    Beneath the Aqueduct Bridge, the Southern terminus of the Capital Crescent Trail, in Georgetown.

    Beneath the Aqueduct Bridge, the Southern terminus of the Capital Crescent Trail, in Georgetown.

Things will be A LOT better for bicycling.

  • Riding with car traffic along K/Water Street is not for the faint of heart. But the concept plan includes a two-way protected bike lane on the south side of K/Water Street. By providing protected infrastructure for bicyclists, it’s clear where to ride (away from cars) and allows many more people to access the corridor by bike.

    Georgetown BID is proposing horse troughs as potential buffers for the protected bike lane in the K St./Water St. Bicycle and Pedestrian Enhancements project.

And it will be a lot better for walking.

  • By providing protected infrastructure for bicyclists, there is a clear directive of where to ride. This will reduce the number of bicyclists within Georgetown Waterfront Park. Many ride through the Park because the on-street traffic is so unpredictable (read: dangerous).
  • The trail adjacent to K/Water Street is a fantastic connector, but is not all the way connected, and some would argue is better suited for pedestrians.
  • Additionally, the concept plan includes widening sidewalks on both sides of the street, meaning more room in front of Malmaison to drink your coffee, more space in front of Gypsy Sally’s to meet your friends before a show, and more room to simply WALK.

Will Handsfield from Georgetown BID explains the specifics of the concept plan.

But it’s not all about bicyclists and pedestrians.

  • The plan includes other enhancements that will make car traffic flow smoother, too, like the addition of a left turn lane for eastbound cars turning onto Wisconsin Avenue, and reducing the attractive nuisance of free parking spaces at the dead-end of the road, which causes significant traffic congestion.
  • Tour buses will also get a central drop off location on lower Wisconsin Avenue along with locations within a mile of Georgetown where they can reliably park and lay over.

Looking down to Water St. NW and Georgetown Waterfront Park. Photo by Kevin Posey.

The concept plan is compatible with future long-term plans.

  • If/when the Streetcar makes it to Georgetown, or when additional boathouses are developed near the aqueduct by the National Park Service, the road and lane configuration can change to accommodate it. In the interim, using attractive planters as physical separation for bikes will create a cycling environment unlike anywhere else in the city.

There is an opportunity for a really neat bridge over Rock Creek at the eastern end of the corridor.

  • To connect to Rock Creek Park Trail, bicyclists would still need to squish onto a seven-foot sidewalk below an overpass, shared with pedestrians, and lacking safe sightlines. A temporary scaffolding bridge over Rock Creek where there is already a DDOT freeway overpass could be a temporary solution as NPS and others plan for a permanent bridge at the corridor’s east end. This area is nearly impossible to see from the road, but would be a vital solution for both walkers and bicyclists, and an innovative alternative to the too-narrow sidewalk that currently connects K St. walkers and bikers to the Rock Creek Park Trail.

    A scaffolding bridge could span Rock Creek, an interim solution to connect the K St/Water St. improvements to the Rock Creek Park Trail.

This isn’t pie in the sky. It’s realistic, and many want to see it implemented.

  • The corridor is included in the 2005 DDOT Bicycle Master Plan, and is some of the lowest hanging fruit at this time.
  • Part of the corridor was also identified by National Park Service as one of 18 priority projects in their recently released Paved Trails Study (It’s project C1.1: Closure of Gap on Water Street NW b/w 30th and 31st St. NW.)
  • The community around this area is clamoring for improvements! The existing conditions are undesirable, and stakeholders from all different interest groups are eager to rally together to support a way forward.
  • This can be a great example of a public/private partnership. MWCOG, Georgetown BID, and DDOT have already shown a remarkable degree of cooperation in developing the concept plan, and the BID (a private entity) has stepped forward to offer various maintenance and implementation support that could make this streetscape the gold standard for a commercial area.


Something to note: The improvements in the concept plan relate to a current NPS Environmental Assessment regarding non-motorized boathouses in Georgetown. NPS has five proposed sites for new or refurbished boathouses along the waterfront. The Georgetown Nonmotorized Boathouse Zone Development Plan EA is open for comments until Sept. 30. We encourage you to comment!

We thank DDOT and Georgetown BID for their work on this project, and are excited to be part of the next stage.

The Purple Line Is a Go—And We’re Pumped

photo by Erica Flock

The soon-to-be longer Capital Crescent Trail. Photo by Erica Flock

On Wednesday morning, Maryland’s Board of Public Works approved a contract for a team of companies to build, operate and maintain the Purple Line, a 16-mile transit line that will link the Red, Green, and Orange lines in the Maryland suburbs.

So why does something as administrative as contract approval have us smiling? The Purple Line project includes substantial improvements to the region’s trail network.

Here’s what the Purple Line means for the trail system:

  • Paved and extended: The trail segment known as the Georgetown Branch Trail will be widened, paved, and extended into downtown Silver Spring.  Currently, the off-road section of this corridor is unpaved and underused, and the on-road section is unprotected and difficult to navigate. The continuous trail from Bethesda to Silver Spring will be rebranded as part of the Capital Crescent Trail.
  • Grade-separated from motor vehicles: This means that at street crossings at roads like Connecticut Ave and Jones Mill Road, long waits, blind corners, and narrow sidewalks will be replaced by bridges.
  • Connections: When completed, Silver Spring will be an important trail crossroads with direct links to Georgetown (via the Capital Crescent Trail), the National Mall (via the Metropolitan Branch Trail), and the Sligo Creek Trail (via the Silver Spring Green Trail).
  • Transit Access: Trail users will benefit from improved trail access around transit stations, which is good news for multi-modal travelers in both Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties.
  • Momentum: Purple Line service cannot start until the trail is complete, which keeps the pressure on to get the trail built.

WABA has been working for more than two decades on making the vision of a seamless trail from Georgetown to Silver Spring a reality. The Purple Line will make substantial improvements to a portion of that route, transforming the Georgetown Branch Trail segment into a safe, viable transportation and recreation connection between two of the county’s hubs of activity (Bethesda and Silver Spring).

A paved trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring could not happen without completion of the Purple line. This project will contribute significantly to the regional trail network in Montgomery County, and is one of the many ways the region’s trail network is growing. We applaud Governor Hogan for moving the Purple Line project forward and the Montgomery County Council for their long support for the trail and commitment to funding for it.

WABA will continue to track progress on the development of the trail, and will keep you informed along the way.

—For a deep dive into the details of the trail changes and improvements, see here.

Capital Crescent Trail to be extended

photo by Erica Flock

photo by Erica Flock

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) recently announced the Purple Line light rail project in suburban Maryland will move forward, ending months of deliberation. As part of this rail project, the popular Capital Crescent Trail will be extended from its current endpoint in Bethesda to downtown Silver Spring.

Completion of the Capital Crescent Trail from Bethesda to Silver Spring is a major WABA advocacy priority. These two economic centers of Montgomery County are only 4.5 miles apart, but lack a direct and low-stress bike connection. The trail will be completely separated from motor vehicle traffic, even at intersections. This will require a number of new bridges and a tunnel. When complete, you’ll be able to ride your bike from Bethesda to Silver Spring in about 20 minutes at a comfortable pace.

Montgomery County is responsible for the cost of the trail project, about $55 million.  The County has budgeted funding for the trail in the last five Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budgets. The County is committed to completing the trail with the Purple Line.

Governor Hogan’s approval of the Purple Line project is contingent on reducing Maryland’s  state contribution from about $700 million to $168 million. This reduction would come from a mix of sources. The Maryland Transit Administration is looking at changes to the overall project to reduce the cost. The Governor is asking Montgomery and Prince George’s County to increase their contribution. And finally, the Governor will ask the private teams bidding on the project to increase their capital contribution. The details of this arrangement were not announced.

Though Montgomery County will be looking to find additional funding for their contribution to the Purple Line, we expect their commitment to completing the Capital Crescent Trail from Bethesda to Silver Spring will be honored and the trail funding will remain in place.

You can read our analysis of the Purple Line / Capital Crescent Trail project here.

Whole Foods Bethesda and WABA!

wfm_bethesda_logo-01Our friends at the Whole Foods Bethesda store, (conveniently located right on the Capital Crescent Trail) have selected WABA as the beneficiary of their next 5% day. This means that on Wednesday, April 8th, WABA will receive 5% of the store’s total receipts!  

The first 25 WABA shoppers who show their member card, buy a membership, or check in with our WABA staff to confirm status, will receive special Whole Foods swag bags, plus win other fun prizes. For all our family riders, there will be a fun scavenger hunt and healthy snacks and kids prizes too! So bring your shopping lists and get ready to stuff your panniers.

After you stock up on groceries, meet and chat with WABA staffers (and a few guest star Board members) about WABA’s work in Montgomery County.

Plus, we’ll have a table set up to hand out maps and other goodies for WABA supporters who say hi!

Updates on Important Bike Funding Debate in Montgomery County

We wanted to share some details about a quiet advocacy victory that happened this week:

Last month, funding for bike infrastructure in Montgomery County looked bleak. County Executive Ike Leggett had sent his proposed budget amendments to the County Council, including major cuts and delays to the entire bikeways program—most significantly, the Met Branch and Capital Crescent Trails.

Two weeks ago, WABA sent a letter to the Montgomery County Council asking that the bikeways budget not be cut or delayed.

Just this past Monday, the next part of the process began. The Transportation & Environment (T&E) Committee held their budget work session. The T&E Committee’s role is to assess the budget amendments proposed by Executive Leggett and to pass a final budget later this spring. Overall, the committee supported the funding of bike projects. The committee is comprised of Councilmembers Berliner, Floreen, and Hucker, all of whom were present. Additionally, Councilmember Riemer (not on the committee) attended the hearing in support. Many Councilmembers asked the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) to keep moving bike projects forward, despite various challenges. You can watch the full discussion on the Montgomery County Council website here.

Here are some of the highlights.

Met Branch Trail in Silver Spring

The Metropolitan Branch Trail project is being considered in two phases. Phase one is the trail from west of Georgia Ave. to the Silver Spring Transit Center. while phase two is the trail segment east from Georgia Ave. to Montgomery County College. The T&E Committee recommended restoring the original project timeline, not the proposed delay. Phase one cannot start until two buildings are constructed. Without the delay, the anticipated completion of the trail would be 2019.

During the discussion, MCDOT showed plans for the trail around the historic B&O Station. As currently planned, the trail will not go under the trail station canopy. It will curve around the north and east side of the station. Councilmember Floreen voiced many concerns with this plan (Around 43:00 in the video). She clearly wants the trail to follow the master plan alignment which is the straightest path through the property, underneath the canopy. She thinks curvy trail around the entire property is a lose-lose scenario for trail users and for Maryland Preservation Inc. (owners of train station).

The Committee also asked the trail to be built at a width of 11-12 feet with a two-foot shoulder where possible. It was clarified that the trail will have lighting. The Committee wants MCDOT to show how to make some progress on phase two as well. After much discussion, the Committee asked MCDOT to come back to the committee with revised plans for phasing, budget and timeline later this spring. Councilmembers were clearly frustrated with the lack of progress on the trail.

Seven Locks Road, MacArthur Blvd, Falls Road, Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas, etc.

County Executive Leggett’s proposed budget recommended delaying all of these important bike projects. However, the T&E Committee recommended restoring all the funding to all of them. Councilmember Hans Riemer–who championed the Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas (BPPA) last year–was astonished that the program was proposed to be cut after just one year. MCDOT presented progress made so far on the BPPA program, much of which has been planning work. Implementation of bike and pedestrian safety improvements are scheduled to begin soon, if the Committee’s recommendations are accepted and the program is not cut.

Capital Crescent Trail – At-Grade Trail at Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda

The general consensus at the hearing was to pause the development of the at-grade trail and crossing at Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda. Without a firm date for Purple Line construction, development of the at-grade trail is less pressing. As it stands, the trail tunnel will remain open to trail traffic until construction of the Purple Line starts.

Thank you to everyone who reached out to Council. We will be meeting with both Councilmember Berliner and MCDOT Director Al Roshdieh in the coming weeks. We will share our thoughts with him on these budget amendment among other issues.

No Tunnel for the Capital Crescent Trail at Wisconsin Ave

The Bethesda tunnel. Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

Plans have fallen through for a Capital Crescent Trail tunnel underneath Wisconsin Ave in downtown Bethesda. Montgomery County attempted to facilitate a redevelopment of the Apex Building that would have allowed a large and more efficient Purple Line light rail station and trail tunnel. In a closed session several weeks ago the County Council, at the recommendation of County Executive Ike Leggett, decided not to move forward with this attempt.

WABA is disappointed that the county has abandoned these plans. The Capital Crescent Trail is one of the most travelled multi-use trails in the county, and the Purple Line transit project is a once-in-a-lifetime investment in better trail infrastructure. Redevelopment of the Apex Building would have allowed for the best possible station and trail.

The construction of the Purple Line will connect the Capital Crescent Trail to Silver Spring and will upgrade all trail crossings along the corrdidor, which is why WABA supported the project. The loss of a grade-separated crossing where one already exists is a significant compromise and loss. Wisconsin Avenue is the busiest road in downtown Bethesda. More than 1.3 million people use the trail annually. An at-grade crossing of this road is not an acceptable long term solution.

Repeat, there will be no trail tunnel.

A redevelopment of the Apex Building would have allowed the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) to design a larger, more efficient Bethesda Purple Line station with better multimodal facilities. A new building above the station would be considerably taller and denser. The plans also included a bicycle and pedestrian tunnel underneath Wisconsin Ave for the Capital Crescent Trail.

With this latest news, the MTA will go forward with the original plan for the project: when construction begins in late 2015, the existing trail tunnel will be closed and the light rail station will be built in that space. The completed station will include a very narrow pedestrian (and walking bicycle) entrance from Woodmont Ave. The Capital Crescent Trail will follow a surface route described below.

Now what happens to the Trail?

Plans for the Purple Line have always included the construction of an additional “surface route” for the Capital Crescent Trail through downtown Bethesda. You can think of the surface as the “business route” and the tunnel as the “express route”. The Montgomery County Dept. of Transportation is developing the plans for the surface route right now. The Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail (CCCT) and WABA have been involved for over a year with a stakeholders group advising MCDOT on their plans. With the tunnel now off the table, the surface route will carry all of the traffic on the Capital Crescent Trail.

The stakes are now much higher for the design and execution of this surface route. Councilmember Roger Berliner has tasked MCDOT to build a “gold standard” trail experience for the at-grade crossing of Wisconsin Avenue. MCDOT is hoping to have draft plans to present to the public later this fall, finish designs and begin construction by next summer. This sounds like an aggressive timeline because it is one—the surface route must be completed before construction starts on the Purple Line, as the tunnel will be closed. We will post notice about a public meeting here when the information becomes available.

What next for the trail?

WABA has been working for more than two decades on the Capital Crescent Trail. The trail is a well loved community resource which provides an important recreation, fitness and transportation benefit to visitors and residents of all ages. The vision has always been a seamless trail from Georgetown to Silver Spring. While the Purple Line will complete a major gap in the trail, it leaves behind a new one.

We are disappointed by this loss of an tunnel option and hope that County officials exhausted all options before making this decision. We expect a safe, grade-separated crossing of the trail at Wisconsin Avenue to be the long-term solution.

Tell Montgomery County you want a safe trail crossing

Don’t Let MCDoT Eliminate Part of the Capital Crescent Trail

Updated 4:15pm.
We received the following email from Bruce Johnston at MCDOT informing us that the agency has suspended its request to MTA:

Good afternoon Shane,

As directed by Director Holmes, MCDOT staff has contacted MTA to suspend the previous orders to MTA to make changes to the Capital Crescent Trail configuration at Jones Mill Road.

Subsequent to the aforementioned order, additional engineering information has been provided to our staff, which is currently being reviewed by MCDOT engineers.

After our evaluation is complete, and before any further decision is made, the results of our evaluation will be vetted with the Capital Crescent Trail stakeholders, including the bicycling community.

Be assured that Washington Area Bicyclist Association will be involved.

I hope this information is helpful.

Bruce Johnston


Thank you to everyone who contacted the County Executive, T&E Committee, and MCDOT about this matter. And thank you to Bruce, Director Holmes, and MCDOT for reconsidering this decision.  We look forward to continuing to push for a safe, well-designed Capital Crescent Trail with grade separated crossings, as promised.


Original action alert below

After years of public input and agreement on the design for the future Capital Crescent trail, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) just moved unilaterally to eliminate the long-promised grade-separated crossing of busy Jones Mill Rd.


The grade separation makes the trail safer, and safety is vital to ensuring this heavily travelled trail remains a viable transportation option. Through thousands of hours of meetings on the future of the Capital Crescent Trail, County officials have promised safe crossings of major roadways that don’t leave bicyclists competing with cars or pressing “Walk” buttons and waiting for minutes.

But the County’s own transportation officials just sent a letter to the Maryland Transit Agency (MTA), requesting that the separation be removed from the request for proposals (RFP). Despite years of working together on this project, MCDOT did not notify the public. They did not hold a meeting. They did not mention this at a Council hearing. They did not send a note to representatives of the bicycling community. It is unclear whether they even communicated their intentions to the County Executive.

Frankly, they tried to sneak this past without any of us noticing.

We noticed. We noticed that at the first opportunity to save money by sacrificing trail safety, they attempted to do so in a manner that evades public scrutiny and reneges on years of promises.

We need you to take action today to tell the County Executive that we will not stand for such a downgrade to our prized trail, or for such misleading actions from our local transportation officials.

Our hope is that the County Executive’s office was as misled as we were, and that they will immediately, clearly, and unambiguously tell MTA that the County is NOT seeking an amendment to the Purple Line RFP to eliminate the grade-separated crossing at Jones Mill Road.

With years of work still ahead to complete the trail as promised, we cannot stand for a precedent of closed-door decisions that remove, or compromise, long-promised trail improvements.

For an in-depth engineering perspective on why a grade separated crossing is both doable and the best option. check out this post at Silver Spring Trails

For WABA’s position on the Purple Line project, have a look at this post.