Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail

News about the Trail

Celebrate National Trails Day on Saturday, June 7
with a Free Bell or Whistle at our event on the CCT.

Installing bells on Nov. 9, 2013
CCCT volunteers installing free bells on bikes.
The Coalition will hold another of our periodic Bells and Whistles events this Saturday, June 7, 9 am-1 pm alongside the CCT at the north end of the River Road bridge. Please bring your bike so we can install a bell free. We will have free whistles for pedestrians.

CCCT holds "Bells and Whistles" events several times a year to promote safe and courteous trail behavior. The event this Saturday is in support of the American Hiking Society National Trails Day.

CCCT Annual Meeting Monday, June 9

2007 Annual Meeting sceneThe annual CCCT general membership meeting and picnic will be at the Elm Street Park in Bethesda on Monday June 9, 2014 beginning at 6:00 p.m. Rain or Shine!

All CCCT members and supporters are welcome to come to enjoy a casual evening in the park and to meet our CCCT Board and other trail advocates. We will have free food and drink, and children are welcome. We will have a brief business meeting to give a summary of our activities and goals, and to elect our board for the next year. This will be a good opportunity to share your ideas and concerns for the CCT with the Coalition Board Members.

The Elm Street Park is between Willow Lane and Elm Street, just one block east of Wisconsin Avenue. It is adjacent to the Interim CCT/Georgetown Branch Trail, with direct trail access from the east end of the Bethesda Tunnel. There is a public surface parking lot adjacent to the south side of the park on Willow Lane, behind the Montgomery Farm Women's Co-op Market at 7155 Wisconsin Avenue.

County Council commits $95M to finish the CCT.

On May 15, 2014 the Montgomery County Council approved a six year Capital Budget that programmed $95M to rebuild the CCT and extend it into downtown Silver Spring alongside the Purple Line light rail. This is the current cost estimate from MTA for the trail portion of the joint Purple Line/Capital Crescent Trail project. Under the agreement between the county and MTA, the county will be responsible for funding the trail costs. This approved Capital Budget shows the county is fully commited to building the CCT with the Purple Line as promised.

MTA is expected to release the Request for Proposals (RFP) within a few weeks. Four teams have been qualified to bid to build and operate the Purple Line under a Public-Private Partnership (P3) with the state. Construction could begin as early as 2015 if matching federal funding is received under the FTA "New Starts" Program.

Aerial Map of planned CCT at Rock Creek -
See the MTA website
for the aerial maps from Bethesda to Silver Spring, in larger scale.

The details of the CCT design will be determined as the selected Purple Line contractor team completes the final design. But the major features have been set as requirements under the RFP, consistent with the preliminary design approved in the federal Record of Decision. The major features of the planned CCT between Bethesda and Silver Spring are described in the MTA website at Those features include a 12' wide trail, paved, continuous into downtown Silver Spring, with bridges or underpasses at Connecticut Avenue, Jones Bridge Road, and Colesville Road. Crossings of Bethesda Avenue and 16th Street depend respectively upon how the Apex Building and CSX right-of-way issues are resolved within the next few months.

April 12 Bike Rodeo and Bells & Whistles.

Saturday, April 12, 10:00am - 1:00pm

A fun event for the whole family along the Capital Crescent Trail in Bethesda!

On the rodeo course

The Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail (CCCT) and the Maryland-National Capital Park Police will conduct a free bicycle rodeo for children and parents along the Capital Crescent Trail where it intersects with the Washington Episcopal School parking lot on Landy Lane, just off of River Road by the CCT overpass (look for the "Washington Episcopal School" sign).

Maryland-National Capital Park Police staff will be on hand to give safety awareness tips to children along with the rodeo, which will demonstrate basic cycling skills through a variety of fun activities.

CCCT Board Members will also be giving out free bicycle bells and whistles to trail users to promote giving warning on the trail.

We look forward to seeing you on the CCT!

For more information contact

Pilot Snow Removal Program to begin next year.

Councilmember Roger Berliner announced that a pilot snow removal program has been created for the CCT in a March 27, 2014 press release. The program should be ready by next winter.

CCCT Chair Ron Tripp described the importance of this program: "The Capital Crescent Trail serves a rapidly growing number of bicycle commuters each day through out the year. Each of these riders represents one less car on the roads, or one less seat occupied on Metro. Clearing the trail after significant snowfalls will allow bike commuters to maintain their regular commutes. The Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail applauds all efforts to keep the trail open year round."

Thanks to Councilmember Berliner and outgoing Parks Dept. Director Mary Bradford for creating this important program.

CSXT reversal may force changes to planned CCT "final mile" into downtown Silver Spring

CCCT presented testimony to the Mont. Co. Planning Board on 20 March 2014 at the Purple Line/CCT mandatory referral to emphasize our major design and construction issues for rebuilding the CCT alongside the Purple Line between Bethesda and Silver Spring. The CCCT testimony is available online here.

MCDOT announced at the same hearing that CSXT has apparently reversed its position, and will no longer grant right-of-way for the Trail in the 'final mile' into downtown Silver Spring. The blog reported on the meaning of this new position, and the most attractive alternate CCT alignment. That blog post is copied below. CCCT will be working with MCDOT and MTA to try to get the best outcome for the trail in the 'final mile' into downtown Silver Spring, and hopes to report more here soon on how this is being resolved.

From silverspringtrails:

I had reported last fall that MTA appeared to be well on its way to negotiating trail right-of-way with CSXT, at Purple Line nears agreement with CSXT on the Trail. MTA had received a letter from CSXT indicating that it would grant right-of-way if a 50' standoff requirement could be met, and MTA was confident it could meet this requirement. Everything appeared on-track for completing the CCT into downtown Silver Spring as long planned.

CCT plans now appear to be up in the air again. Gary Erenrich, MCDOT's Purple Line project coordinator, broke the news at the 20 March 2014 Planning Board Purple Line/CCT mandatory referral. Mr. Erenrich announced that CSXT was now refusing to grant right-of-way to MTA for the CCT, MCDOT was now responsible for any further negotiations with CSXT for trail right-of-way, and that as things stand now the CCT would end at Talbot Avenue as an off-road trail. I have since had an email exchange with Mr. Erenrich, and he has clarified that MTA received a letter from CSXT mid-January stating they would not grant any CSXT right-of-way for a trail alone, and that MCDOT was now evaluating the physical feasibility and the cost of alternative trail alignments. Mr. Erenrich expects their preliminary evaluation of the alternatives to be completed in a month or so.

At issue is an approximate 1300' of the planned CCT alignment behind the Park Sutton Condominium Building. The CCT can still be extended with the Purple Line to Talbot Avenue, where the trail will cross the CSX tracks on a new Talbot Avenue Bridge. There is non-CSXT right-of-way that can be used for the trail from the Talbot Avenue Bridge to Lyttonsville Road. County owned Third Avenue right-of-way will be used from 16th Street south to Colesville Road. But a significant bypass of CSXT property will be needed behind the Park Sutton building if CSXT refuses to grant trail right-of-way there.

It is time for "Plan B"!

The master plan trail alignment at Park Sutton (in green)
and an alternate "Plan B" alignment (in red).

Fortunately there is a good alternative trail alignment that can avoid CSXT property behind the Park Sutton building, shown above. This alternative would go around the front of Park Sutton by using Lyttonsville Road and 16th Street. Lyttonsville Road is overbuilt, and that extra wide road right-of-way can accomodate a full width trail with no need to 'take' private property. A trail along the west side of 16th Street will require either taking a strip of right-of-way from the Park Sutton Condominium Association, or putting 16th Street on a "road diet" and closing a southbound lane of the roadway for trail and sidewalk use.

Toole Design Group has done a preliminary assessment of these and other alignment alternatives that were developed by M-NCPPC, and they reported their conclusions at Assessment of Bicycle and Pedestrian Issues Along the Purple Line Corridor (pp. 27-29). Toole Design Group assesses the bypass route to be less desirable than the more direct alignment in the CSXT right-of-way, and urges trail planners to make every effort to continue working with CSXT to achieve this alignment. Toole cites the bypass route's longer distance and a roadway and parking lot crossing as deficiencies that make the bypass less desirable. But missing from the evaluation is any consideration of elevation changes along the alternative routes, and that is a MAJOR omission which, in my view, invalidates the Toole rankings!

The terrain behind the Park Sutton building is challenging for building a trail. Even if CSXT reverses itself yet again and agrees to grant right-of-way, the trail will be required to maintain a 50' standoff from the railroad tracks vs. the 25' standoff that had been assumed in the earlier master plan alignment. That additional standoff will push the trail down the side of the railroad berm, to be at or near the very low elevation of the Park Sutton parking lot. Take a "walk about" in this area and you quickly realize that if the trail drops to the parking lot elevation, then the trail must rise 30-40' in elevation in a short distance to rise out of the parking lot to the 16th Street Bridge at its south end. Extensive and expensive switchback or elevated structures will be needed to manage the trail elevation change along this alignment. In contrast, the total trail elevation change along the bypass option alignment would be much less because this alignment skirts around the low elevation of the parking lot. Most trail users would much prefer the much gentler grades along the bypass option alignment, even if there is an additional distance of 500' and a crossing of a driving lot entrance and driveway. The bypass alignment also has the significant advantage of being less isolated, with more "eyes on the trail" and more escape opportunities, for better perceived and real safety.

Toole correctly recognizes in their alternatives assessment that the 1300' section behind Park Sutton is not the only area where trail planners will need to work with CSXT. There are other small areas where CSXT right-of-way or construction easements will be wanted. (At Talbot Avenue, under the 16th Street Bridge, and at Colesville Road come to mind.) MTA and MCDOT should continue to make every effort to engage CSXT in discussion of trail issues. But in my view, opting for "Plan B" now at Park Sutton can take the major 1300' long sticking point off the table in CSX negotiations. That can improve the chances of getting CSXT cooperation on the remaining much smaller pieces. Any remaining pieces could be portrayed as not significantly challenging the overall CSXT corporate policy of no right-of-way for trails.

Apex owners still debating move, hope for a new Bethesda Tunnel is still alive.

Bethesda Now reported on April 2, 2014 that the owners of the Apex building are still considering redevelopment of their building site, see Pharmacists Group Still Debating Apex Building Redevelopment. We reported here last November (below) that time was running out. That is true more than ever now, but it is encouraging to learn that the building owners are considering this very seriously. We will likely know the outcome within a few months.

Planning Board gets some bad news about
plans for a new Bethesda Tunnel.

Nov. 12, 2013

We reported in September about progress in planning for a new trail tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue with the Bethesda Purple Line Station, at CCT News and Events. M-NCPPC planning staff have since prepared a draft plan recommending that the "Option 1" trail tunnel be developed, in addition to the surface trail route along Bethesda Avenue and Willow Lane. That tunnel route and the surface route are both described in some detail at the M-NCPPC webpage Bethesda Purple Line Station.

Proposed surface and tunnel routes for the CCT
(Source - M-NCPPC Public Hearing Draft Plan)

On November 7 the Planning Board held a public hearing to take testimony on the proposed Bethesda Station. CCCT presented testimony at the hearing in support of a trail tunnel, see CCCT testimony (pdf).

The plans for a new trail tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue suffered a setback at the public hearing when representatives of the APEX Building owner testified that they believe it would be too disruptive of their operations to tear down and rebuild their building on the short schedule required for the Purple Line. The building owner's concerns were reported at Bethesda Now - Razing building would not be worth it.

The Planning Board has a Nov. 21 work session scheduled on this Master Plan Amendment and will vote on Dec. 5 whether to transmit the plan to the County Council. The County Council is expected to hold a public hearing after it receives the plan. CCCT will continue to engage the Planning Board and County Council on the trail tunnel, but it is not clear to us at this time whether there is still a path forward for a new trail tunnel if the APEX Building owners are opposed to redeveloping their building.

Our Nov. 9 "Bells and Whistles" event
was held under a sunny sky.

Installing bells on Nov. 9, 2013
CCCT volunteers installing free bells on bikes.
It was a pleasure to meet and greet Capital Crescent Trail users again on Saturday, Nov. 9 when the Coalition held another of our periodic Bells and Whistles events!

A sunny day favored us as bicyclists, walkers, and runners stopped by the CCCT table at River Road to pick up bicycle bells and pedestrian whistles. Bells and whistles were free, including installation on the bike! A dropbox photo album of the event is online here.

CCCT holds "Bells and Whistles" events several times a year to promote safe and courteous trail behavior. Our next regularly scheduled event is in April, but a short notice event may be held in winter if an unseasonably warm weekend is forecast. Check our website for a notice if you are heading out on the trail on a warm winter weekend and want to greet us.

CCCT teamed with M-NCPPC Park Police to host
a Bike Rodeo along the trail in August.

Oct. 29, 2013

It was a pleasure to meet and greet so many Capital Crescent Trail users last August 17 when the Coalition held one of our periodic Bells and Whistles/Bike Rodeo events!

On the Rodeo Course
Testing bike skills on the rodeo course.

A sunny day greeted bicyclists, walkers, and runners on the Saturday morning as they logged their miles, connected with family and friends, and stopped by the CCCT table to pick up their free bicycle bells and pedestrian whistles. Bells and whistles were free, including installation on the bike! Kids learned safe bicycling skills on a fun and challenging course set up by the staff of the Community Services Unit of the Maryland - National Capital Park Police. For more about the rodeo, and a rodeo photo album, see our Rodeo Report.

CSXT will allow the Trail to use its right-of-way,
with a condition.

Oct. 29, 2013

CSX into Silver Spring
CSXT corridor into Silver Spring.

CSXT has sent a letter dated Sept. 3, 2013 to MTA Purple Line Project Manager Mike Madden in response to MTA's request to use CSXT right-of-way for extending the CCT into Silver Spring with the Purple Line. CSXT has agreed to make an exception to its policy against allowing trails within its right-of-way, but with the condition that the Trail must maintain an offset of 50' from any live track.

Mike Madden has indicated that MTA can meet the CSXT offset condition. The planned alignment can be modified in the Talbot Avenue area to avoid using CSXT right-of-way, by changing the bridge the trail will use over the CSXT tracks. The trail alignment can be shifted a few feet east within the CSXT right-of-way between Lyttonsville Road and the 16th Street Bridge, to increase the offset. The trail alignment can continue to use Third Avenue right-of-way south from the 16th Street Bridge as planned.

CCCT continues to neither support nor oppose the Purple Line, provided that if the Purple Line is built the CCT must be rebuilt to a high standard in the Georgetown Branch corridor and must be extended into Silver Spring with the Purple Line in the CSXT corridor.

CCCT comments on the Purple Line FEIS.

Oct. 29, 2013

The Maryland Transit Administration released the Purple Line Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for review on Sept. 6, 2013, available online at The six-week public comment period ended on Oct. 21.

Several major trail design issues surfaced in the FEIS that caused CCCT to ask whether the MCDOT/MTA design team is using the resources needed to properly design a multi-use trail of high regional importance like the CCT. These include:

  • MTA asserted that MCDOT has responsibility to get CSXT right-of-way, yet MCDOT disputes this.
  • Neither MTA nor MCDOT appear to realize there are alternatives to using CSXT right-of-way to extend the CCT into Silver Spring, even though off-road alternatives have been known to many trail planners for years.
  • MCDOT and MTA are proposing a trail design at Talbot Avenue that fails to meet basic trail design guidelines and best practices.

CCCT concluded in its FEIS comments:

"MCDOT and MTA must act well together as a CCT design team if we are going to realize the potential of the CCT. If the Purple Line proceeds to final design, the design team should include designers who have professional training and experience specific to multi-use trail design, and who have the responsibility to design the CCT to meet or exceed current trail design guidelines and best practices."
See the complete CCCT response at CCCT FEIS Comments.

Bethesda Tunnel options presented.

Sept. 4, 2013

We reported last April at Changing plans for the Bethesda Tunnel that an effort was underway at M-NCPPC to induce the property owner to redevelop the Apex Building. The Post reported in August that the effort is starting to work: Pharmacist' group shows new interest in Purple Line. M-NCPPC is now holding a series of three open houses to show what a new Purple Line Station might look like if the Apex Building were redeveloped. County planners are showing two options for a new CCT tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue for consideration. The first open house was held on Sept. 3. All the presentation material is now available for review at Bethesda Purple Line Station

Bethesda Station area with two CCT Tunnel Options
(Source: M-NCPPC Bethesda Purple Line Station)

Both of the trail tunnel options presented would be IN ADDITION to the alternative surface trail route now being planned and described at Changing plans for the Bethesda Tunnel. We find that both have strong advantages and drawbacks. Both would give trail users a safe grade-separated crossing of Wisconsin Avenue. Option 1 would be a shorter tunnel with a straight sight line for good perceived safety, but would be only about 13' wide and would have a steep (approx. 8%) grade at the east portal. It would also have an at-grade crossing of 47th Street. The Option 2 tunnel would be longer with a curve, but can be wider, would have a more gentle grade and would not cross 47th Street at-grade.

CCCT is planning to submit written comments on the tunnel design options, and is currently holding a slight preference for Option 2.

CCT Tunnel Option 2
(Source: M-NCPPC Bethesda Purple Line Station)

M-NCPPC will be holding two more open houses, on Saturday Sept. 7 and Monday Sept. 9. We encourage trail users to look at the presentation materials presented at the M-NCPPC website Bethesda Purple Line Station, attend an open house to learn more, and submit comments to the county planners at a meeting or through their website. You may express a preference for either tunnel option - but please let planners know how important it is that a CCT tunnel be completed in addition to the surface route.

New 5 1/2 foot wide gate at Georgetown Trailhead

June 23, 2013

The National Park Service has modified the Georgetown Trailhead to address a serious problem of motor vehicle incursions upon the Trail. A new gate, 5 1/2 feet wide, has been installed. We have recieved this update from the NPS:

The bicycle-friendly gate has been installed at the Water Street entrance to the Capital Crescent Trail. Cyclists should use caution when entering or exiting the trail at this location. Additional signage and striping has been installed to warn all visitors approaching the gate.

UPDATE: ABC Channel 7 has a video report at Capital Crescent Trail gated to prohibit cars.

The gate is shown in these two views:

gate as seen looking toward Water Street
Looking south toward Water Street

Entering the CCT from Water Street
Entering the CCT from Water Street

The NPS has issued a press release to explain the need and rationale for the gate and other changes at the Georgetown Trailhead, at NPS News Release. From the NPS release:

"In recent months we have become concerned for the safety of Capital Crescent Trail visitors at the end of the trail on Water Street in Georgetown as one serious injury and an increasing number of near-miss accidents between bicyclists and cars have been reported," confirmed Park Superintendent Kevin Brandt. "Before another serious injury occurs we will take actions to minimize the risk posed to park visitors using the trail for recreation."

Plans to enhance visitor safety and improve the aesthetics of this historic area include filling in all ruts and depressions in the drive-through arch of the Alexandria Aqueduct to create a smooth and level surface. Installation of a bicycle-friendly gate at the Georgetown side of the aqueduct will prevent vehicles from driving upstream and replace the single bollard located 200 feet upstream that had previously served this purpose but that was knocked over frequently by errant cars. Signage and striping to warn visitors as they approach the gate and direct them towards the 5 1/5 feet-wide opening will be installed. Additional signs will be posted that alert visitors to the fact that they are leaving a non-motorized trail and entering a public road.

NPS releases Boathouse Feasibility Study

May 26, 2013

Illegal parking at the Georgetown Trailhead
Illegal parking at the Georgetown Trailhead
The National Park Service has issued a feasibility study to assess several options for new boathouses and boat launch sites at the Georgetown Trailhead. Some study recommendations protect the trail, including the recommendation that any boathouse at the upriver location be much smaller than had been proposed earlier for the Georgetown University Boathouse. But all options considered have the potential to worsen conflicts between trail users and motor vehicles in this area if access and parking is not carefully managed.

See our report NPS Boathouse Feasibility Study for a summary of the issues and CCCT's response.

Changing plans for the Bethesda Tunnel.

April 29, 2013

It has been just over a year since we passed on the bad news that the Trail would not remain in the Bethesda Tunnel with the Purple Line light-rail, because it was judged that building both together in the tunnel under the Apex Building would have too much cost and too much risk of destabilizing the building. Instead the CCT is now planned to follow a route along Bethesda streets and to cross Wisconsin Avenue at-grade. See our summary of that decision at Council weighs options for the Bethesda Tunnel.

Several ideas for alternative CCT and pedestrian routes across Wisconsin Ave. have advanced over the last year to try to compensate for the expected loss of the Bethesda Tunnel route: 1) a new plan for a sidewalk through the tunnel; 2) the plan for an alternative CCT surface route along Bethesda Avenue; and 3) a new proposal to tear down the Apex Building and build a new, separate tunnel for the CCT.

alternative routes across Wisconsin Ave.
Alternative CCT routes at Wisconsin Avenue

For more on the current status of these alternative routes, see our full report HERE.

Free Bells, Whistles, Bike Rodeo April 20, 2013

bike rodeo
On the Bike Rodeo Course

WHAT: Bells and Whistles and Bike Rodeo on the CCT

WHEN: April 20th from 11:00 to 2:00pm Saturday, April 20

WHERE: Washington Episcopal School Parking lot next to the CCT at River Road.

HOW: CCCT volunteers and Montgomery County Park Police installed bells on bikes and handed out whistles to runners and roller-bladers. Park Police conducted a "Bike Rodeo"

WHY: SAFETY - Bells and whistles warn others and increase awareness of trail users presence. Bike Rodeo participants learn the proper way to wear a helmet, perform hand signals, how to ride safely and have fun riding through a cone course.

For more information:

In praise of a reliable workout buddy

A beautiful ode to the Capital Crescent Trail has been written by regular trail user Lenny Bernstein and published in the Washington Post Wellness Section on Feb. 26, 2013: In praise of a reliable workout buddy. From the article:

"...I've walked, run and biked every inch of the CCT hundreds of times over the years - in the dark and at dawn, in 95-degree summers and 10-degree winters, alone and with groups of more than 100. I know the location of every water fountain, pothole, access point and secluded emergency pit stop. I plan my workouts around them. We all do.

Yet the trail is also a major commuter artery, a rush-hour bike highway whose traffic increases every year. That dual purpose makes the CCT a rare and valuable asset among the nation's 1,768 rail trails, which cover more than 20,000 miles."

CCCT Chair Ron Tripp and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy spokesman Jake Lynch also offer their insights on the history and value of the CCT. From Jake Lynch:

"When you try to estimate ... what a trail like this is worth, ...that sort of value is priceless. You can't put a price on it."

This article is a good read for everyone, whether new to the trail or a long time trail veteran.

More news is available in our Crescent Newsletter, available online at our Newsletter webpage.

Some past website stories are at:
2011-12 Archived News
2010 Archived News
2009 Archived News
2008 Archived News
2007 Archived News
2006 Archived News
Trestle Archived News

Safety is NO ACCIDENT - Courtesy is Contagious