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Action Alert: Tunnel Funding Update

We sent out a notice yesterday afternoon about a Montgomery County Transportation and Environment Committee (T&E) meeting being held today, Thursday, March 5 at 2 pm, and asked you to send an email to T&E committee members to show your support for finding the funding to complete the tunnel. We have received additional information regarding the meeting we want to share:

The tunnel is not on the formal agenda for today's meeting, but we understand the topic will be raised and folks who would like to attend to show their support are welcome to do so. The formal scheduled hearing on the Capital Crescent Trail tunnel will take place in mid-to-late April and we will be sure to notify you of that meeting in advance.

At present, the hardworking staff and contractors are working to find ways to better fit its costs in Montgomery County's tight fiscal environment. Remember, even if savings are found, we will need our Councilmembers to work hard to make the hard trade-offs needed to find the additional funding, a process that begins well before we know those final numbers.

Thanks to those who have sent letters encouraging the completion of the tunnel. Your support is meaningful and important, so do keep those coming (and copy Purple Line NOW if you remember!)

See our Action Alert below for all the details.

Many of you know that in his most recent budget, the Montgomery County Executive failed to fund a long-promised tunnel for pedestrians and bikers in Bethesda as part of the Purple Line project which includes completing the Capital Crescent Trail from Bethesda to Silver Spring.

Please take a moment to email T&E committee members (individual emails are best, we understand), and let them know you want them to champion the completion of the tunnel as it was proposed and designed years ago. Their names and email addresses are at the end of this alert.

If we miss this window to construct the underpass alongside the Purple Line now, the obstacles to completing the tunnel in future years may prove insurmountable. Don’t be fooled by talk about being able to push the construction of the tunnel to a later date. Down the road, costs and disruption will be magnified, and delaying will risk compounding promises broken to the community. While we understand there will be tough trade-offs when searching for additional funding, if we miss this chance to encourage the Council to find the funding for the tunnel now, the trail will open incomplete and Montgomery County would take an unprecedented step back on its Vision Zero goals.

Here is the background you need to know before writing your email:

  • The Wisconsin underpass is not a new idea, it replaces a previously existing tunnel on the interim trail that led to the heart of downtown Bethesda, one that the last county council promised to replace as part of constructing the Purple Line.
  • Just as the Purple Line connects multiple Marc and Metro lines, the trail from Silver Spring to Bethesda will be a linchpin to a larger trail network, including the remainder of the Capital Crescent Trail, the Green Trail, and the Metropolitan Branch. This network is not just useful to recreation, but helps people access jobs, housing, and shopping, and its reach is magnified by the bike-friendly Purple Line.
  • The Bethesda to Silver Spring portion of the Capital Crescent trail will also be separated from highway traffic when it crosses Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase and Colesville Road in Silver Spring. The trail must also be separated from highway traffic when it crosses Wisconsin Avenue (as it did in the past) and continue below-grade in the tunnel.

Finally, it is important for all of us to understand and emphasize to our Councilmembers that no matter where you work or live, the tunnel will benefit the region as a whole. The trail will continue to serve as a commuter route for pedestrians and bikers from one end of the Purple Line corridor to the other. Having a safe crossing, as promised, benefits all of us.  

Please emphasize to the Council that you want them to make the tunnel’s completion a priority – many are leaning that way, but they need to know you understand there will be trade-offs with other projects. Tell them why the tunnel is important to you. And, if you remember, please copy us on your email.

Thank you for taking the time to send an email to the Councilmembers below. We do not expect any decisions regarding the funding to come out of today's meeting, but it is important they proceed with the understanding that they have our community’s support.

 T&E Committee Members (and Councilmember Friedson, in whose district the tunnel will reside):

As always, we will keep an eye on the proceedings and the progress as this issue makes its way through the process. Thank you for your time and your help!

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