Getting the Trail Repaved
The Capital Crescent Trail (CCT) between Bethesda and Georgetown was originally paved between 1992 and 1995, over 25 years ago. While there has been some spot repaving, much of the CCT still has its original asphalt. Our Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail (CCCT) historians say the section in Montgomery County (owned by Montgomery County Parks Department) cost about $50 per linear foot to pave, while the section in Washington DC (owned by the National Park Service [NPS] as part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park) cost about $25 per linear foot to pave, so the DC section has thinner asphalt that is more easily damaged. Also, the Montgomery County section has dirt/gravel shoulders over much of its length, while the DC section does not have has shoulders in most places, and the shoulders it has are often only on 1 side.
The DC section of CCT is clearly overdue for repaving, with a lot of bumps from roots and frost heaves, and many dips due to subsidence, making for a rough surface. While the Montgomery County section is in better shape, it is still at the age where the remaining original asphalt should be replaced and the shoulders regraded, and there are a few places that badly need repaving, such as between the Bradley Blvd overpass and Weiner Plaza (just south of the Ourisman garage).
The CCCT has been in touch with the Montgomery County Parks Department regarding the condition of their section of the CCT. The Parks Department is aware of the need for trail improvements and is working on a plan to accomplish this. However, as with the NPS section improvements, it will take several years to be achieved.
With repaving, the CCCT favors widening the trail. The original pavement is 10 feet wide, while current design guidance for a trail as busy as the CCT calls for a minimum of 12 feet paved width with 2 foot unpaved shoulders on both sides. In particular, bicyclists passing between other traffic, which is somewhat common on the CCT, is considered safe only with a trail width of at LEAST 11 feet. Also, it would be particularly helpful to add shoulders on both sides along as much of the DC section as possible, to provide space for walkers and runners who prefer not to be on the asphalt, and to reduce plant overgrowth of the asphalt, which is endemic in the DC section. In Montgomery County, there are multiple parts of the CCT where the shoulder on one side is missing, or rough, or narrow. And there are even parts with no shoulders, such as just below the water plant bridge.
References for shared-use trail design guidance:
Chapter 5: Design of Shared Use Paths, 2010 AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities
Sections 7.3: Path Cross Section and 7.6: Shoulders, 2015 Maryland State Highway Administration Bicycle Policy & Design Guidelines
FHWA-HRT-05-138 - Shared-Use Path Level of Service Calculator - A User's Guide - July 2006
The CCCT has been trying for years to persuade the NPS to rehab and resurface their section of the CCT. In the past, the problem has been the annual major under-funding of maintenance for national parks. However, in 2020 Congress passed and the President signed the Great American Outdoor Act, from which funds will be available for improving the trail. The NPS does now plan to resurface the CCT. However, it will take a couple of years for NPS to develop the plans, complete environmental assessments, invite bids, etc. Consequently, we won’t see any significant improvements on their trail surface until probably 2024,
The NPS is working on some of the immediate trail problems, especially in the Palisades where there has been erosion of the slopes both above and below the CCT that threatened the integrity of the trail.
The CCCT will continue to provide updates on the plans and progress made by the National Park Service and Montgomery County Parks Department for improvements to the CCT.