|Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail|
Advocacy for the Trail
Major CCCT advocacy issues:
Action Plan for a Safe Trail
The Purple Line Transit
The Metropolitan Branch Trail
The Georgetown Boathouse
Completing the CCT into Silver Spring
Trail safety is the highest priority of the Board of the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail. The issue of Trail safety dominated the discussions during the monthly Board meetings in the winter and spring of 2007. The Board has concluded that the Trail safety problem must be addressed with a serious and sustained effort on several fronts - better trail engineering, better enforcement of trail rules, and safety education. On May 3, 2007 the CCCT sent a letter on Trail safety to the Montgomery Counry Executive, County Council, and Planning Board and to the National Park Service outlining what needs to be done and requesting the needed funding and support. The first recommendation is to widen the trail. That letter states, in part:
"The Capital Crescent Trail is by far the most popular trail in the Washington Area and many users are from distant states and consider the Trail an important part of their Washington visits. However, popularity has come at a price; the Coalition has become increasingly aware that as the number of users on the Trail has increased (see the latest traffic count done by CCCT volunteers at www.cctrail.org) to over one million uses per year, the number of conflicts between pedestrians and bicyclists has also appeared to be on the rise. Anecdotally, severe individual episodes evidence the need for measures that will enhance the safe use of the Trail. Number one among these is the need to widen the paved Trail between Bethesda and Georgetown, particularly in the area between downtown Bethesda and Massachusetts avenue, where use of the Trail is at its highest levels. Widening the Trail, making the paved portion at least 16 feet wide, will allow a greater separation between pedestrians and wheeled users such as bicyclists and roller bladders. While widening the Trail could be costly, there are few topological obstacles to overcome, thus making this doable over a short period of time. "
The letter lists more action that is needed from public officials or that CCCT can do to address all three areas of engineering, enforcement and education:
CCCT requested meetings with the County Executive, County Councilmembers, Planning Board Commissioners, and the County and National Parks officials, to begin the work to make these changes become a reality. CCCT has since met several times with Montgomery County Department of Parks. The Department of Parks commissioned David G. Dionne of Integrated Trail Management, LLC to do an independent assessement CCT maintenance and safety requirements, and a draft report has been completed. CCCT discussions with the Mo. Co. Department of Parks are continuing.
You can help us by letting your Councilmember and the County Executive know of your concern for improved safety on the CCT. Share your suggestions with us on what needs to be done at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail continues to neither support nor oppose transit alongside the trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring, so long as the trail remains as a good trail in the right-of-way. A neutral position best supports our efforts to improve and protect the Trail.
Over the years we have championed a number of CCT improvements that were controversial to transit advocates. Recent examples of these improvements include our intense lobbying to open the Bethesda tunnel (and kicking in $40,000 for an improved alignment and better lighting), and to open the trestle over Rock Creek (along with our $75,000 contribution for the observation areas at mid-span).
An earlier and more important improvement was our successful effort to open the section of the CCT between Bethesda and Silver Spring (a.k.a. the Georgetown Branch Trail, or the Interim CCT). In that effort, we were chosen to head the official Task Force appointed by the County to investigate pulling up the tracks and placing a trail along that section of the right-of-way (ROW). There were nine groups represented on that Task Force, ranging from groups absolutely determined to stop the rail transit, to groups whose sole purpose is to see that the rail transit connection between Bethesda and Silver Spring is built. Our neutrality on the transit issue gave us credibility with groups on both sides of the divide, not to mention our credibility with County officials on CCT issues which are colored by the rail transit debate.
It is very unlikely that the Interim CCT would have opened before the transit issue is decided without the CCCT neutrality on transit. The debate, and compromises, that led to the Task Force agreement in support of opening the Interim CCT is worthy of having its own documentation some day! The 1994 Task Force Report calling for opening the Interim CCT is at InterimUse.pdf . At the rate things are going, the CCCT leadership in that effort will have been responsible for 20 years of Interim Trail usage that wouldn't otherwise have happened.
CCCT neutrality on the transit issue continues to be important as we move forward. The possible location of the Purple Line within the Georgetown Branch ROW between Silver Spring and Bethesda presents quite a complicated set of issues. If transit does go forward as currently proposed, the CCT will remain in the ROW but will run alongside the rail. This would dramatically alter the park like character of the current trail in that section, but it would open a direct trail extension from the current eastern terminus of the off-road trail at Stewart Ave. to the transit center and future Metropolitan Branch Trail in Silver Spring. On the other hand, if the Purple Line is not built within the ROW, we retain the park like character of the current trail, but it would be impossible to get an off road trail extension into the Silver Spring transit center. Because there are significant positives and negatives for the CCT whichever way the Purple Line decision goes, the Board of the Coalition for the CCT has decided to remain neutral on this issue. That doesn't mean we are ignoring those developments; we are actively engaged in the discussions involving the Purple Line, with our attention focused on making sure we end up with a first class trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring after the dust settles.
Decisions by local and state government are favoring the Purple Line light rail. In January 2009 the County Council and County Executive recommended that the Purple Line light rail alternative be built. In August, 2009 Governor O'Malley announced the state was selecting the Purple Line light rail alternative and was applying for federal funding for construction. In April 2010 the Montgomery County Planning Board approved a Purple Line Functional Plan draft for consideration by the County Council. The CCCT was fully engaged in the development of the Functional Plan draft, participating as a member of the Master Plan Advisory Group (MPAG) and contributing much of the draft language describing the characteristics the Trail should have when rebuilt alongside the Purple Line. The CCCT's participation in MPAG does not imply support for the Purple Line, but rather CCCT's determination that IF the plan does go forward then it should be the best plan possible for the Trail under that decision.
It is great that there are active citizens groups involved on both sides of the transit issue who are pursuing what is best for them. CCCT believes it is important that the trail has an advocacy group that remains outside this one very divisive issue and that has credibility on CCT issues with groups on both sides of the divide.
Our official position statement:
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Build the Metropolitan Branch Trail:
Why is the Metropolitan Branch Trail important to the Capital Crescent Trail?
The Metropolitan Branch Trail is the missing link for the 22 mile "bicycle beltway" trail loop that includes the CCT and the National Mall. The MBT will also give the CCT a safe off-road trail connection to the Sligo Creek/Anacostia Tributary Trail system. The MBT is essential to complete the regional trail network that will connect the CCT to many destinations and neighborhoods in eastern Montgomery County and in D.C.
See www.metbranchtrail.com for the status of the MBT in DC.
The Montgomery County section of the MBT has been long planned!
The Montgomery County Council approved the Silver Spring CBD Master Plan in 2000, calling for the CCT and the MBT to be built as a continuous, high quality off road trail system directly through Silver Spring along the CSX rail corridor. The Master Plan specified that these trails should have grade separated crossings of busy roadways, including Georgia Avenue and Burlington Avenue (a.k.a. East-West Highway). The following year Montgomery County Park and Planning developed a CCT/MBT Facility Plan that explored cost and feasibility of trail bridges and underpasses, and recommended a new trail bridge over Georgia Avenue and a trail underpass at East-West Highway. Both the Master Plan and the Facility Plan were developed with much input from CCCT and WABA representatives, from numerous public workshops, and from public hearings.
After several years of inaction, DOT carried out concept design studies for Montgomery County's short section of the MBT. In May 2006 DOT presented the project to the Planning Board and argued for a weaker, low cost trail alignment option that did not have a new trail bridge over Georgia Avenue or a tunnel under East-West Highway. CCCT testified in strong support of the bridge and tunnel. The Planning Board agreed with CCCT and the public and recommended the trail be completed with a bridge and tunnel. In June 2006 the County Council Transportation and Environment (T&E) Committee reviewed the project and directed DOT to begin final design for the trail with both a bridge and a tunnel on the Master Plan alignment.
The MetBranch project slowed within DOT, but is now back on track.
DOT did not seek funding to begin the final MetBranch project design after the Council decision in 2006 because (DOT asserted) it was necessary to first engage CSX and WMATA in substantive discussions of right-of-way issues on the Master Plan alignment before DOT can begin the design. But when DOT approached CSX and WMATA, DOT found that both CSX and WMATA were open to discussing the issues but would not enter substantive discussions until DOT had more specific design plans to present, which of course DOT did not have because DOT had elected to postpone design until after the discussions. Several years were wasted in this bureaucratic "Catch-22", and in early 2010 DOT still did not seek funding to begin final design and construction in the County Executive's proposed FY11-16 CIP budget.
In spring 2010 the County Council T&E Committee recommended that $12.2M be added to the County Executive's proposed CIP budget for the MetBranch Trail, to design the entire remaining Montgomery County section and to buy right-of-way and build the "phase 1" section from the Silver Spring Transit Center to across Georgia Avenue, including a new trail bridge at Georgia Avenue. Construction of the remainder from east of Georgia Avenue to Takoma College would remain unfunded for now, to be completed later as "phase 2". An along street interim route on Philadelphia Avenue could be used in Fenton Village until "phase 2" is completed.
The full council approved the CIP budget in May 2010, including the funding for the MetBranch that was recommended by the T&E Committee. The approved funding document spreads the funding for designing the remaining Montgomery County MetBranch section and for building the "phase 1" section over six years:
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Downsize the Georgetown Boathouse:
Oversized Boathouse Threatens the Georgetown Trailhead
In 2003 the Coalition became aware of the serious negative impact that a proposed Georgetown University Boathouse (GUB) would have on the gateway to the trail in Georgetown. The controversial history of this proposal was first featured in our Fall 2003 Crescent and updated in our Fall 2006 Crescent.
We question the need for a building of the size proposed in the current GUB design, if they are allowed to build adjacent to the trail. While we agree that the general idea of creating more boathouse space along the Georgetown Waterfront is a good one, we also do not believe that the public at large is best served by the proposed location for the GU boathouse - along the CCT, just upstream from the Washington Canoe Club. However, given how deeply GU & the NPS have dug their heels in for this site, we are not fighting the location. What we are adamantly opposed to is the enormous size of the proposed boathouse. Accordingly the Coalition joined the Defenders of Potomac River Parkland in opposing construction of this enormous structure along the trail.
In January 2008 the CCCT sent a letter to the National Park Service questioning some of the findings of the Boathouse Environmental Impact Statement, reported here. We still have not seen a substantive response to the concerns raised in our letter. The Park Service continues to delay a decision.
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Completing the CCT into Silver Spring:
Open the CCT to neighborhoods east of Rock Creek!
The Interim CCT provides a scenic crossing of the Rock Creek stream valley on the Rock Creek Trestle. But the off-road Interim CCT ends in an industrial area at Stewart Avenue, over one mile from downtown Silver Spring. The Georgetown Branch Trail completes the trail connection from Stewart Avenue to downtown Silver Spring.
The Georgetown Branch Trail is an on-road bike route with numerous crossings of busy roadways. This on-road trail is neither attractive nor safe - leaving trail users with no effective trail connection between Bethesda and Silver Spring and leaving Silver Spring neighborhoods without any easy access to the CCT. The CCT traffic survey performed in 2006 showed that use of the Interim CCT near its end at Stewart Avenue was barely 1/10 that elsewhere on the CCT.
We will not realize the full benefit of the Capital Crescent Trail until the Trail is complete and safe to downtown Silver Spring.
A plan for for action:
A comprehensive study on completing the CCT into downtown Silver Spring has been completed by professional trail consultants Lardner and Kline: "Facility Plan for the Capital Crescent and Metropolitan Branch Trails".
This Plan also recommends that an Interim Trail be built into downtown Silver Spring. An Interim Trail would provide improvements in trail continuity at modest cost while we wait for transit decisions. The Interim Trail would follow the CSX alignment wherever possible, and use alternate routes along streets where a CSX r.o.w. is not available. The CCCT supports this Interim Trail, but only as a temporary trail. It is too indirect and has too many at-grade crossings of busy highways to be appropriate as a permanent CCT.
This plan can be used to advance the Interim Trail and to make the Trail safer and more accessable for neighborhoods east of Rock Creek:
Since 2007 there has been no further development of this Interim Trail plan, in large part because recent Purple Line decisions are making it appear ever more likely transit/trail construction may begin in this corridor in the future. It is difficult to justify the cost of further Trail development at this time unless it can be coordinated closely with the Purple Line design. A notable exception is the "16th Street to Fenwick Lane" trail section, which is on the opposite side of the CSX tracks as the planned Purple Line tracks and can be built now with little concern for future conflict with Purple Line track construction. As reported in January 2009 by the Gazette, local volunteers from Woodside have tired of waiting for a permanent trail, and are clearing a walking path on this alignment.
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November 28, 2009
Safety is NO ACCIDENT - Courtesy is Contagious