CCT Closed from Fletcher’s to Water Street due to Combined Sewer Spill

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Unfortunately, as many commuters have discovered, the rainfall this week led to combined sewage spill near the Potomac that has closed the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT) from Fletcher’s Cove to Water Street.

From C&O Canal Historic Park (NPS) Superintendent Kevin Brandt:

As you probably know this week’s storms created a huge sewage spill along the CCT.  As the areas largest organization that uses the trail I thought it might be helpful for you to hear directly from the NPS…. As we get more information from DCWater we will share it.  We apologize  for this situation and hope that DCWater mobilizes quickly to begin the cleanup and make the area safe for visitor use.

  • The break caused an estimated 5 million gallons of Combined Sewage Outflow (combined storm water and raw sewage) to flow over land, across the CCT, and into the Potomac River.
  • We are still working to understand the scope of impacts and damages to park resources and facilities
  • The CCT from Fletchers Cove to Water Street in Georgetown is closed for the foreseeable future while repairs and clean-up are underway
  • Respect the closures as they are in place for public health and safety reasons
  • CCT users are being detoured onto the Canal towpath
  • The NPS is working closely with DDOE, DOH and DC Water to be able to open this popular bicycle trail and crucial and commuter route as soon as it is safe to do so
  • We expect to receive a clean-up plan from DC Water Friday or Saturday
  • The NPS discourages public fishing and river use in the Potomac River south of and including Fletcher’s Cove at least until Monday May 5th at noon.  The NPS further recommends that users who may have contacted contaminated surfaces or the river sanitize equipment, clothing and skin.
  • Untreated sewage may contain many pathogens causing a variety of illnesses ranging from e-coli to hepatitis. If people come into contact with the untreated flow they risk getting sick and bringing these pathogens into their homes.

Thanks,

Kevin Brandt

 

Superintendent

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

A Quick Primer for Those Who Don’t Generally Pay Attention to Water Infrastructure

A combined sewer line is a pipe that carries a combination of sewage from buildings and stormwater runoff from catchbasins to water treatment facilities.

When rain falls in a sufficient amount that the pipes can’t handle the volume, those pipes are designed to overflow a mixture of sewage and stormwater into our water bodies, such as the Potomac.  Mechanically, this overflow from the pipes happens when an inflatable dam that holds back the water is deflated to release the water and pressure.  In this case, it appears that the inflatable dam did not deflate, so the mixture was forced to exit elsewhere and it did so through various other openings near the CCT.

DC water has provided physical barricades, signage, and contractors indicating the trail’s closure and has a team working to clean the trail and nearby vegetation.

Please respect the closure so that the cleanup team can get this work done as quickly as possible, as a spill of this sort raises human and environmental health concerns that must be addressed before the trail can be reopened.

 

Repair Work on the CCT, Mile 5.5

From MNCPPC:

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.

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.