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Posts Tagged ‘CCT’

Repair Work on the CCT, Mile 5.5


This past weekend WSSC discovered a problem with one of their sewer manholes and was forced to set up a temporary sewage pump-a-round that crosses over the surface of the Capital Crescent Trail. The crossing is located several hundred feet south of mile marker 5.5. The 4-inch line is covered with a plywood ramp and several traffic drums are in place to alert the public. The ramp should not be a problem for pedestrians. However, cyclists should reduce speed and use caution when crossing the plywood ramp.

WSSC is working out the details for the manhole repair and hopes to be finished in a week or so. Other options for the location of the pump-a-round pipe were considered. However, given the forecast for another storm coming up the coast on Wednesday. Placement of the bypass line through the adjacent stream culvert did not seem to be a viable option.

Support from Berliner, Floreen on Montgomery County Priorities

In the last post, Greg Billing explained the steps Arlington and DC have made in recent days to bring green lanes to these jurisdictions.  At the same time, Montgomery County legislators have been doing their part to ensure that the County works to become more bike-friendly as well.

Because much of this work has been done behind the scenes, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank two members of Montgomery  County’s Transportation and Environment Committee–Council President Roger Berliner and Councilmember Nancy Floreen–for their recent steps in support of bicycle facility improvements.

We have met with both councilmembers to discuss their approaches to better integrating bicycling into Montgomery Count’s transportation priorities, and both have responded in support of these efforts.

The first letter below is Council President Berliner’s letter in support of the Capital Crescent Trail.  The second is Councilmember Floreen’s letter specifying preference for buffered bike lanes and suggesting numerous opportunities for biking improvements downcounty in advance of bikeshare.

CCT WiscAve Crossing Sept2012

Bicycle Letter – Mobley

Action Needed to Protect the Capital Crescent Trail

Last week, WABA and others testified before the Montgomery County T&E Committee on the need for a safe Capital Crescent Trail (CCT) crossing of Wisconsin Avenue.  For a trail of the ridership and importance of the CCT, connectivity and safety are key components.  Thus, we continue to support the completion of the paved connection between Bethesda and Silver Spring alongside the Purple Line.

Wisconsin Avenue and the CCT Tunnel

Yet on the issue of the crossing of Wisconsin Avenue, the County has not committed to an at-grade crossing of sufficient design to justify the removal of the trail from the tunnel.  We recognize that the revised cost estimates of keeping both the trail and the rail in the tunnel have led county officials to consider removing the trail from the tunnel.  This is what the County Council’s Deputy Staff Director, Glenn Orlin, has recommended.

But to date, the County has made no commitment to a design that truly accommodates the ridership of the trail functionally and safely through downtown Bethesda, as the tunnel does.  WABA is not unyielding in its position on many details of the tunnel’s design, we cannot support the taking of the tunnel from cyclists without a well-designed, functional, and safe alternative.

The County has not yet committed to such an alternative design.  So in the absence of an appropriate alternative, WABA opposes the removal of the trail from the tunnel.

The Montgomery County T&E Committee will hold a critical vote this week on the future of the trail.  That vote will be followed by a vote of the full Council. Please CLICK HERE to send an email the Council supporting a safe and functional crossing at Wisconsin Avenue and the completion of this important connection from Bethesda to downtown Silver Spring.

Connecticut Avenue Crossing

Also at last week’s T&E Committee hearing, it was revealed that MTA is considering the removal of the long-promised grade-separated crossing at Connecticut Avenue.  Unlike the Wisconsin Avenue issue, this is not a matter of addressing higher costs due to the discovery of unanticipated construction conditions.  This is simply MTA looking to save money by reneging on its promise to provide a grade-separated crossing of Connecticut Avenue for the Purple Line and the Capital Crescent Trail.  WABA sent a letter last week telling Purple Line Project Manager Michael Madden, MTA Director Wells, and MDOT Secretary Swaim-Staley that this alternative undermines the project, betrays commitments to the public in general and trail supporters in particular, and should be pursued no further.

Please join us in expressing our opposition to this backsliding plan to have the Purple Line and the CCT cross Connecticut Avenue at-grade rather than via a long-promised bridge by emailing Mr. Madden at mmadden@mta.maryland.gov.

CCT Update

Last week, WABA and other community leaders and trail advocates met with Montgomery County T&E Chairman (and now Council President) Roger Berliner to discuss the future of the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT).

The purpose of this posting is to share: (1) the pending decisions on the CCT’s future; (2) the alternatives under consideration, (3) the deficiencies in those alternatives, or information regarding those alternatives, and (4) WABA’s request to resolve those deficiencies.

1. The Pending Decision

Montgomery County must decide how to proceed with the CCT’s crossing of Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda. The initial plans called for continuing the trail–along with the Purple Line–through the existing tunnel right-of-way with the trail component stacked atop the rail component. However, revised cost estimates from MTA for this portion of the trail have reached $40M due to the difficult construction techniques needed to safely create the necessary height to accommodate such stacking within the tunnel, prompting the County–which is largely footing the bill for trail improvements–to study alternatives.

2. The Alternatives

The County is seeking additional information from MTA on a number of alternatives. The preferred option already presented by MTA, which was the basis of the $40M figure for the trail crossing, included increasing the available height of the existing tunnel to allow for the stacking of the trail above double-tracked rail operation. The County has requested information on a number of potential changes–each of which merits full consideration and entails numerous complexities. For the sake of simplicity, and because WABA’s interest is in the impact of changes on the trail rather than rail operations per se, I have combined several alternatives under “Physical Changes to the Purple Line.”

  • A. Physical Changes to the Purple Line

The County has requested further information from MTA regarding potential changes to the physical configuration of the rail platforms that might allow movement of the rail line such that the CCT could use the existing tunnel without the costly stacking.

  • B. Operational Changes to the Purple Line

The County has requested further information from MTA regarding potential changes to the operation of the Purple Line that might allow the rail and trail components to safely operate side-by-side within the existing tunnel.

  • C. Stacking Trail over Rail within the Tunnel

The County maintains the option to stick with the longstanding design, with the trail stacked above the rail within the tunnel, heightened to allow for both. However, selecting this option at current cost estimates would require rejection of the recommendation of the County Planning Board.

  • D. Enhanced On-Street Trail Crossing

The plans for the trail crossing have long included an on-street crossing of Wisconsin Ave. as part of the project to provide connectivity to shops and businesses and an at-grade alternative to the tunnel. This alternative would enhance in some manner that on-street crossing while foregoing any grade-separated crossing.

3. The Deficiencies in the Alternatives Under Consideration, or Information About those Alternatives

As a preliminary to the discussion of the alternatives, it is important to note that separate entities are largely responsible for the highly interrelated rail and trail component of these projects. MTA is largely responsible for the design and funding of the Purple Line, while Montgomery County is largely responsible for the design and funding of the Capital Crescent Trail improvements. Thus, information on changes to the rail come from MTA, while independent assessments of trail options that depend less on changes to the Purple Line could be generated by the County.

Information on options A and B, which require changes to rail design or operations, has been requested from MTA, and extensive study is expected on the potential impact of any change on future rail usage. WABA hopes that MTA’s further study will reveal viable alternatives for the Purple Line that will allow changes to lower the cost of improving the CCT through the existing tunnel.

But we are concerned that if MTA concludes that no such changes are viable, the County is considering no option to retain grade-separation, and seemingly conducting no study–similar to that requested of MTA on the rail component–addressing the impacts of this major physical change in the trail design on future trail usage or safety. County leaders and trail users deserve to know the feasibility and cost of the next-best grade-separated CCT crossing of Wisconsin Ave., as well as the impact of grade separation on the trail’s future usage and success. To treat the existing tunnel as the only possibility for a grade-separated crossing is to unnecessarily constrain the project’s possibility, and to fail even to study the impact of grade-separation at a high-traffic trail crossing is to ignore the importance of this feature on safety and trail usage, as shown in nationwide best-practices and research. Decision-makers, trail users, and residents deserve to know what they will lose if they choose to forego grade separation, and should attempt to include an alternative grade-separated crossing that does not require the use of the existing tunnel among the options for consideration.

In addition to our concerns that an important option is missing from consideration, we are concerned that the on-street option (D) is insufficiently defined to provide a proper basis for decision-making. While decision-makers and trail users are told that this option includes an “enhanced” on-street option and not simply a removal of the grade-separation portion of the existing plans, no further clarity or commitment is provided on the nature or extent of the enhancements. As a result, various decision-makers and groups may have differing visions of this alternative and its strength in providing a safe and efficient crossing suitable crossing for a trail of this stature and usage. All parties deserve a clear definition of the alternatives at-hand. And with a potential cost savings in the range of $40M contained in this alternative, we hope and expect that the enhancements will be substantial and sufficiently important in their contribution to the usability of the trail that they merit full consideration by County officials.

4. WABA’s Proposed Approach

WABA has sent the following letter to Chairman Berliner asking that the County seek the additional information necessary to make a fully informed decision on the future of the trail. While we hope that MTA will find a method of accommodating the trail within the existing tunnel, this would require a change to their preferred method of proceeding. And as advocates for the best possible trail and crossing, WABA asks that the county take steps to evaluate the importance of a grade-separated crossing, account for the importance of grade-separation to trail usage and safety by including an alternative grade-separated option, and clearly define the proposed enhancements that would be included in the on-street option that would make it more than a fallback cost-savings at the expense of trail users and to the detriment of the project.

Berliner Cct Letter

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.

Capital Crescent Trail Outreach April 23rd

Photo by Kevin Harber

With the return of warmer weather and increased traffic on the area’s trails, we want to remind cyclists of the importance of riding in a way that protects oneself and considers the rights and enjoyment of others. Last week’s collision on the CCT provides yet another reminder that on multi-use trails that cross roadways (another use), everyone has a role to play in keeping the interactions safe.

In October, WABA met with Councilmember Roger Berliner of Montgomery County, the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail, officials from the relevant parks and police agencies, and representatives of trail-adjacent civic assocations to discuss ways to make trail usage safer and more enjoyable for all.  In the end, each group agreed to reach out to its membership to provide information on how to enjoy the trails safely.

So WABA will be out on Saturday, April 23rd providing information on trail safety and usage, biking in the region, and the future of the CCT–in addition to answering any bike-related questions you have for us.  We will also be providing bells (while supplies last) to cyclists who lack them.  By DC law, a bike must have a bell.  And if you ride trails, a bell is a good idea even if not required in your jurisdiction.

We will be near the Georgetown and Bethesda CCT trailheads and roving along the trail informally from 10am to 2pm on Saturday, April 23rd.  Stop by and say hello.

And in the meantime, cyclists, remember these trail safety tips:

  • Ride right, pass left.
  • Signal audibly when passing.
  • Yield to pedestrians and oncoming traffic.
  • Be sure there is space to pass safely before attempting to pass.
  • Beware of dogs and their leashes.
  • Children may lack the coordination to keep in a straight line.  Pass carefully.
  • Stop at stop signs, and ensure that it’s safe to proceed before crossing roadways.

And to non-cyclists, we hope that you will also help us to share the trails safely by following these suggestions.

  • Walk on the right, and allow room for faster travelers to pass on the left.
  • Be sufficiently aware of your surroundings to hear an audible warning.
  • Know that “On Your Left” is a common audible warning by a bicyclist that means “I am passing you on your left.”  It does not mean you should move to the left.
  • Keep your dog controlled and on its leash.

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.

The rebuilt trail will be more complete, wider, better paved, and better separated from motor vehicle traffic than the interim gravel trail that exists today.  As WABA recommended, the trail will be paved and 12’ wide from the Bethesda tunnel to Silver Spring.  The trail will have grade separated crossings of all busy highways, including Connecticut Avenue, Jones Mill Road, 16th Street, Spring Street, and Colesville Road.  The trail will be safely separated from the transit tracks by a landscaped buffer and fencing, and it will include direct access to five transit stations, including at the Bethesda and Silver Spring Metro stations.

Now, will these improvements come without investment?  Of course not.  But the more recent release of a $65M cost estimate for completing the trail has brought trail opponents back into the picture.So let’s put that $65M in context.  Certainly, we could demonstrate that much of the cost allocated to the trail is actually for access to the rail stations that would exist, regardless of the trail’s status.  And we could argue that certain costs for moving the existing trail were computed in a way that is never applied to similar relocations of roadways.  But even if we accept the $65M, we can still show that, as a transportation investment, this trail is good buy.

Yes, $65M is a lot of money.  In the context of our own personal or family economies, it is overwhelming—and that is why opponents of the trail are citing it. It is a big number, and that is all they want people to hear, even if that big number represents a good investment in transportation infrastructure.

So let’s take that $65M and place it in the cost context of transportation infrastructure.  Looking at current projects in Montgomery County, a standard resurfacing of existing roadway is slated to cost $3.5M for a 1.4 mile stretch of roadway—with little to no change in transportation effectiveness. (Resurfacing University Blvd. from Arcola Ave. to Colesville Rd.) And improving a single roadway intersection is budgeted to cost $62.5M—nearly as much as the entire trail, even accepting the $65M figure. (Georgia Ave. at Randolph Rd.) And that’s not even comparing it to the truly expensive projects, such as the $2.5 BILLION Intercounty Connector, whose affiliated bicycle-related projects to serve east-west traffic already have been undermined.

So here is the bottom line:  Yes: $65M is a big number when compared to a weekly grocery budget.  But it’s not a big number when compared to the massive costs accepted simply as necessary to  move cars around our region.  And here, we know that this trail is a better investment in moving people because we already know that the paved portion of the CCT moves over a million people every year from DC to Bethesda, but experiences a significant drop-off in usage when it leaves Bethesda and becomes unpaved.

WABA looked at the Purple Line years ago and concluded that the rail option was the best thing for cyclists, and for the region’s mobility.  Looking at it again—in the context of regional growth, the progress in Silver Spring, and the ongoing work on the Metropolitan Branch Trail—we are even more convinced of that conclusion today. We know Silver Spring is growing.  We know Bethesda is growing.  And we know that regionally, Silver Spring is to become a major multi-modal transportation hub. Completing the Purple Line and accompanying trail continues to be the best and most effective opportunity to contribute significantly to the regional trail network in Montgomery County, and to enable people to travel by bicycle.

As mentioned yesterday, WABA will be at the Bethesda CCT trailhead and along the trail providing safety tips, route guidance, and other information to cyclists.  If you have questions about the trail or the impact of the Purple Line, we would be happy to answer them.  Look for us from 10am to 2pm.

Note: This posting is adapted from an article in the forthcoming issue of RideOn–WABA’s quarterly newsletter for members.  Thanks to Casey Anderson and Wayne Phyillaier for their contributions to the article and for their ongoing advocacy in support of the trail.

Bradley Boulevard Meeting Notes

Wednesday night’s Bradley Boulevard Public Meeting was fundamentally about the potential configurations of 4 items in a redesign of Bradley Boulevard from Wilson to Goldsboro:

1. an 8′ shared-use trail;

2. a northern sidewalk; and

3. a southern sidewalk.

Roughly a year after the last presentation of design alternatives (numbered 1, 2, and 3) to the public, MCDOT presented 3 revisions (4a, 4b, and 4c).  These revisions were various combinations and/or moderations of the original 3 alternatives.  All variations  include bikeable shoulders and a vegetated bioswale to meet the County’s environmentally sensitive design requirements, as well as stormwater quality and quantity regulations.

  • Alternative 4a:

Includes an 8′ shared-use path, bikeable shoulders on both sides of the roadway, and a sidewalk on both sides of the roadway.  The 12′ path from the original alternatives has been reduced to 8′.  And this is the only alternative containing any shared-use path.

  • Alternative 4b:

Includes sidewalk on both sides of the roadway with bikeable shoulders, but no shared-use path.

  • Alternative 4c:

Includes sidewalk on the north side of the boulevard only, with a bikeable shoulder on both sides.

After a brief introduction of the project team by project team leader Pat Shepherd, the community took a few moments to ask general questions before breaking up into smaller groups to review the individual cross-sections.  The primary concerns expressed during this period related motor vehicle volume and whether this project would increase traffic along the roadway.  Concerns were expressed about the roadway being widened.

Ms. Shepherd clarified that the roadway was not being widened, but that a left turn lane is proposed to be added at Wilson Lane, where the level of service is currently “F” and there are frequently rear-end collisions with drivers trying to turn left, as well as  increased maintenance needs and significant dangers to cyclists from motorists passing left-turning vehicles on the right shoulder.

Given the existing high volume of bicycle traffic along this stretch of Bradley Boulevard, as well as the potential that exists to link this neighborhood to the CCT, the Bethesda Trolley Trail, the C&O Towpath, and the retail and job opportunities in Bethesda, WABA supports the alternative that includes the shared-use path.  While all options are likely to improve conditions for cyclists, shared-use paths are more accessible for many.

Thus, WABA supports alternative 4a.  It provides the greatest improvement for bicyclists and pedestrians, and does the most to contribute to a truly multi-modal, walkable, bikeable neighborhood.

All are encouraged to send comments to Aruna Miller and Pat Shepherd.  (And they do count and consider them.  They noted that they received 140 comments after the last public meeting.)

You can send an email supporting Alternative 4a, which includes the shared-use path, HERE.

Further information about the project can be found HERE under “Bradley Boulevard Bikeway.”

MoCo Councilmember Berliner Focuses on CCT Safety

The Capital Crescent Trail busy with walkers, bikers, and rollerbladers.

Last week, WABA board member Casey Anderson and I attended a meeting convened by Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner to discuss trail safety on the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT).  Also in attendance were officials from the relevant parks, planning, and police agencies, as well as citizen representatives and representatives of the Coalition for the CCT.

The meeting was intended to allow all to discuss how to more safely share the trail and was notable for its focus on a variety of solutions and on the willingness of all users to work together to make the trail a better option for cyclists and walkers.

The county is looking into numerous educational and infrastructure improvements designed to minimize conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians, including increased signage, side-of-path improvements, and other engineered solutions.

I reiterated our concerns regarding the 15mph speed limit that, if enforced, would undermine the usefulness of the trail as a transportation path and raised the point that an across-the-board imposition of a speed limit does not address the myriad of behaviors — on the part of both cyclists and non-cyclists — that lead to conflicts on the trail. I acknowledged, however, that both cyclists and non-cyclists have a responsibility to be considerate of other trail users and to work for solutions that will make the trail safer and more pleasant for everyone.

The meeting focused primarily on low-cost solutions that those of us in the room could bring about in the near term. So while the officials will continue to look into the longer-term, infrastructure-based solutions, we want to remind our members and supporters to:

– Be courteous and respectful on the trails.
– Give notice as you pass, even if the pedestrian or jogger is wearing headphones.
– Give other trail users plenty of space.
– Pass safely, and accept that sometimes safety and civility may dictate that you put a foot down.

WABA will remain vigilant in asserting the rights of cyclists to use appropriate recreational and transportation facilities like the CCT, and we’re happy to report that no one at the meeting proposed draconian measures to keep cyclists off the trail or lessen its effectiveness as a significant commuter route. But acting with consideration and care for others can, and should, go together with defending our rights.

Representatives of walkers and other trail users from neighborhoods along the trail agreed to communicate with their constituents with similar safety reminders in the spirit of working together to make the CCT safer and more pleasant for everyone.

We’d like to thank Councilmember Berliner for convening this meeting. It is always helpful to know that the county is seeking solutions, even if they are in the exploratory phases. And we appreciate the frank but friendly discussion among all officials and users.

We look forward to working with Councilman Berliner’s office and the Coalition for the CCT in the coming weeks to expand our outreach efforts on the trail.

If any of our members or supporters would be interested in volunteering to conduct outreach on the CCT, please email us at waba@waba.org.

– Shane Farthing, Executive Director

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