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In today's edition of Purple Line NOW News, here's what you'll find:
- A Recap of our latest forum on Completing the Capital Crescent Trail
- Show Your Support by Becoming a Sponsor of Purple Line NOW - All Levels Welcome!
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CONSTRUCTION NEWS TO KNOW
Completing the Capital Crescent Trail
Thank you to all who came out to the Jane E. Lawton Community Center last Thursday evening for Purple Line NOW’s forum on Completing the Capital Crescent Trail, our seventh forum in the Envisioning the Purple Line series that we host along the project’s corridor.
We had a packed house to hear an energetic, informative, and expert panel who helped walk us through where the trail is right now, in terms of construction, but also gave us a sneak preview of what we can expect when it is all finished. At the end of their individual presentations, the panelists spent over an hour answering audience questions and explaining how the process works and how the different entities are working together. A big thank you all of our panelists for the insightful answers they provided to our audience's thoughtful questions.
One of the panelists had an awesome announcement to make. You’ll have to keep reading to find out what brought smiles to the faces in our audience last Thursday and we are sure you will give a silent cheer, as well!
(Never fear, if you were not able to make the forum, we are only providing an overview of the highlights here, but thanks to our dedicated volunteer, John Wetmore, we will have the entire forum up on a YouTube channel soon.)
Ralph Bennett, President, Purple Line NOW
Purple Line NOW Board President, Ralph Bennett, welcomed everyone to the event and thanked all of our generous and awesome donors who continue to make this series possible. You can see all of our sponsors at the end of this newsletter. We could not continue our services without their financial support!
First up to speak was Peter van der Waart, the new CEO of the Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP). They are sometimes known as the concessionaire – the folks who are building the line.
Peter van der Waart, CEO of PLTP
Peter began by showing a series of slides and gave a status update of the project all along the corridor. He then turned his attention to the completion of the trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring with a series of slides that brought into relief how much improved the trail will be for the community once it is finished. To illustrate those changes, we want to highlight one slide, in particular, because we think you may be as tickled as we were to read how the new trail will differ from the old trail.
Photo Courtesy of Purple Line Transit Partners
As you can see in the graph above, during the period when the interim trail is closed during construction, the old gravel surface of the trail will be replaced with a paved surface (the bikers in the audience may have cheered a little at this news!) The new trail will also be nearly 12-feet wide for most of its length. There will be two-foot shoulders on both sides of the trail, with 23 well-marked access points. For those wanting just a smidge more trail to bike, ride, and hike, the new version will be about a mile longer and extend into downtown Silver Spring, creating new connections with other trails.
Photo Courtesy of MTA
Even better news? The trail will be ADA accessible and, for those using the new Purple Line to access the trail or vice versa, Purple Line trains will provide bike storage.
Fun fact: Did you know that the Netherlands, Peter’s home country, is the only country with more bikes than people? Twenty-two million bikes versus 17 million people!
And now for the big news...
Peter said his group is working very hard to find a way to open the trail earlier than expected! As you may recall, the trail was due to open concurrent with the opening of the Purple Line, but, he said, they understand the desire to seek ways to allow public access during the rail car testing phase as the right-of-way would no longer be an active construction site. This could move forward the complete trail’s opening day by as early as a year before the light rail project opens in late 2022 or early 2023. Peter cautions the decision is not yet final and the public will need to be aware the trail may open and close during this phase to allow for the safety of both trail users and construction staff, and the opening may only involve a portion of the trail at any given time. But, this is the kind of progress we love to hear!
Councilmember Hans Riemer
Next up to speak was Montgomery County Councilmember At-Large, Hans Riemer. Councilmember Riemer brought the group through the history of the project, noting that he first became involved with county politics when he participated in meetings on the project in his neighborhood and saw the project as a great idea, but one that needed defenders. He then acknowledged some audience members in the room who played key roles in his early involvement. The Councilmember touched on related bigger picture issues, including the question of how to ensure there is sufficient nearby affordable housing for people who would be using the trail and the Purple Line.
He cited progress that the county is making with 900 units already constructed and 1,700 additional units in the pipeline. Bethesda is part of that pipeline with affordable unit set-asides for even some of the tall, privately owned, and not mission-driven new residential buildings. Councilmember Riemer ended his remarks by saying he believes the pipeline of new construction, nonprofit developers, and county purchase is the way to address housing affordability.
Peter Gray, WABA Board Member
Peter Gray, Board Member of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), spoke about the potential of building out the trail underneath Wisconsin Avenue, with the caveat that this will cost millions of dollars which are not presently in the county budget. He remarked that the design for this portion of the trail looks great, but it will need the county’s funding to be realized.
Peter noted that the interim trail route currently in place is problematic, and emphasized that Montgomery County Department of Transportation, as well as the town and villages of Chevy Chase, should have a “direct and signed route between Bethesda and Rock Creek." He asked for regular updates about any proposed changes and for follow-up from all the entities involved when those changes occur.
Matt Johnson, MCDOT
Matt Johnson, Project Manager, Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), spoke next and reminded us that although the trail is being built by the Purple Line Transit Partners, it is being funded by Montgomery County. Many of you may not realize the Capital Crescent Trail is owned by Montgomery County and they will be responsible for maintaining it into the foreseeable future.
Matt agreed with the previous presenters about the necessity to open the trail as soon as it is safely possible. He also discussed the surface trails and bike routes through Bethesda and the larger network to which the trail will connect. He gave more detail on the tunnel, noting that the new Carr property building is being constructed with a shell that will allow easy connection once the tunnel under Wisconsin is in place. The tunnel itself is funded for design, but not construction as Peter mentioned above. At the other end, the transportation department is working with the Parks Department about the entrance to the tunnel portal.
Matt also highlighted the redesign of Woodmont and Bethesda Avenue which will tighten up the turn radii to protect pedestrians, as well as the creation of bicycle tracks in both Silver Spring and Bethesda which will connect with the trail. The Woodmont Avenue cycle track is in the first phase of construction, as well as the Montgomery Lane track near East-West Highway. You may remember that Silver Spring has already built separated bike and pedestrian lanes. And, the project design includes a secure bike parking area near the Silver Spring Metro station.
David Anspacher, MC Planning Board
The next panelist, David Anspacher, who is the Transportation Supervisor for the Montgomery County Planning Board, emphasized the importance of bike trails of sufficient width, so both walkers and bikers can be accommodated side-by-side. David also said that Montgomery County is looking at lighting for the Capital Crescent Trail for nighttime use. The Planning Board has created a Bike Stress Map and is now kicking it off for pedestrians, as well. He invited everyone to check out the Bike Master Plan and Walking Plan on the Planning Board’s website. This will help prioritize investment for Purple Line stations. Access right now to some of the stations, he said, is not great, so this tool will help them understand where investments need to be made.
Councilmember Andrew Friedson
Our final speaker for the evening was District 1 Councilmember Andrew Friedson. Councilmember Friedson began by stating that he is a life-long member of District 1 in Montgomery County and that the project “is as old as he is,” having begun in his birth year. Many of our long time volunteers can appreciate that sentiment! He remembers, as student body president while completing his studies at the University of Maryland, the route through campus being heavily debated. Interestingly, Andrew was also on staff of the Board of Public Works when the project came before their body in Annapolis.
The councilmember emphasized the trail is not just for recreation, that residents and workers use the trail for commuting to and from work and school, as well. With over a million people using the trail per year, the trail is “one of the most important trails in our region and one of the most heavily used trails in the country,” he said. He agreed the trail will not be considered complete until the pedestrian tunnel on the Bethesda portion of the trail is complete. Councilmember Friedson also highlighted the need for the restoration of the tree canopy once the project is finished.
Again, a big thanks to all of the panelists, for their time and dedication to this project and most certainly to making the trail better for all of us who live, work, and play in the community. Thank you, as well, to our audience, who came to learn about what's happening along the trail. We hope this overview was helpful for those who use the trail and are eager for its grand reopening!
PURPLE LINE NOW NEWS AND EVENTS
Next Forum: TBD
These fora are an invaluable source of information and we hope you’ll join us at one in the future. We are always open to ideas about where we should host our next event. Send your suggestions to us at [email protected].
PURPLE LINE NOW ACTION
Thank You to our Many Sponsors!
We hope you will join us in thanking the following folks for their dedication to making sure Purple Line NOW continues its work and take a moment to join them! If you need more information before you push the donate button, click here to read all about what we do with your donations! All levels of sponsorships are welcomed and appreciated!
As always, we are happy to share financial information about our operating expenses and our income. Just shoot us an email or give us a call. When we say we do a lot on a skinny budget, we mean it.
Remember, with your donation, your name (or your business name) will be listed on our website and in event literature and signage for a year following your donation.
WE APPRECIATE THE GENEROUS SUPPORT FROM OUR SPONSORS!
CHEVY CHASE LAND COMPANY
THE MALLOY AND SANDERS FAMILY
TINA, DON, AND JESSIE SLATER
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND UNIVERSITY COLLEGE (UMUC)
ATU Local 689
Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce
Bee and Brian Ditzler
Nancy and Rob Soreng
Action Committee for Transit
Dr. Troy Jacobs and Dr. Kawsar Talaat
Landmark Realty, Inc.
Christine Scott and JohnR Llewellyn
Dave and Linda Anderson, Elizabeth Barbehenn, Ralph Bennett, Glen Bottoms, Jonathan Elkind,
Andrew Fellows, Neil Greene, Virginia Haufler, Melanie Isis, Kevin Kirby, Mary Lanigan, Rhonda Long,
William Mallari, Anita Morrison, Gareth Rosenau, Bill Strein, Eric Talbot
Tim Anderegg, Charles Bell, Douglas Bowen, Casey Brennan, Jeff Cronin, Ronit Dancis, Joseph Fainberg,
Miti Figueredo, Patrick Flaherty, Cody Goebel, David Hondowicz, Greg Madde, Mark Mesiti-Miller,
Judith Morenoff, Rodolfo Perez, Mark Posner, Jason Poteat, Dan Reed, Frederick Schultz,
Elizabeth Shannon, Jerry Withers, William Young