The announcement of the closure of Georgetown Branch trail has led to concerns about notice, duration, and the alternatives available. Purple Line NOW supports calls for quality pedestrian and bicycle detours during construction on the Georgetown Branch trail. Although closure of the trail is disruptive to users, we remind everyone that this disruption will ultimately result in a light rail connection between Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park, and New Carrollton, and a finally completed Capital Crescent Trail from Silver Spring to Bethesda. The expanded and improved trail will be eight feet wide and paved along its entire length. It is also important to note that the interim Capital Crescent Trail has existed for so many years because transit advocates pushed decades ago for the purchase of the right-of-way for use as BOTH a hiker-biker trail and a light rail connection.
Unfortunately, the lawsuit filed by project opponents has delayed the onset of construction by a year, which has directly resulted in an accelerated construction timeline and a host of additional complications. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated the project’s approval, and the District Court determined that the environmental complaints were without merit. However, legal vindication cannot restore the lost year - nearly a sixth of the estimated project time - nor the estimated $150 million cost of the delay, which were sacrificed in a relentless stalling campaign by project opponents.
We are sympathetic to citizen complaints about the Jones Mill detour route, and Purple Line NOW supports efforts to negotiate an official route through the Town of Chevy Chase that would mitigate many of these concerns. As this is being resolved, we would highlight the efforts of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, which has identified a range of preferable options immediately available to cyclists.
We have been hearing a range of questions from our members about the construction process, seeking explanation about the extent of the closure and information about when construction may affect their neighborhoods or business districts. The challenges and confusion resulting from lawsuit-induced delays also highlights the need for official mechanisms for coordinating between citizens, Maryland, and the concessionaire. The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) initiated a process last year of Community Advisory Teams (CATS) that were put on hold due to the plaintiff lawsuit. We are hoping the CATS will provide a critical communication link between the project developers and the impacted communities and we wrote to the Maryland Department of Transportation before ground-breaking, urging them to convene these teams as soon as possible.
We have long anticipated that the onset of construction would bring new challenges, though in this case these were magnified by delays imposed by plaintiffs at every step of the process. Nonetheless, regardless of the source of these challenges, we intend to do our part to collect and share official statements and support the efforts of those seeking to mitigate disruptions while maximizing the benefit of this necessary east-west transit connection and completion of the hiker-biker trail network.