Rails & Trails

Finish the Trail, Build Light Rail

We say "Finish The Trail/Build Light Rail" because building the Purple Line and finishing the Capital Crescent Trail go hand in hand. The Georgetown Branch railroad right-of-way is a valuable public resource, purchased for use as both a trail and a transitway. The Trail needs the transitway to be completed into downtown Silver Spring.

Light rail can be green and is compatible with trails, as seen here in Freiburg.

We are actively working to preserve and extend the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT). The off-road Interim CCT now ends in an obscure industrial park far from downtown Silver Spring. The trail must be extended into Silver Spring to complete an off-road trail connection between the Bethesda and Silver Spring urban centers. Extending the trail is also needed to connect it with the proposed 8 mile long Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT). The MBT will connect Silver Spring to Union Station in Washington, D.C. Several segments of the MBT are now open, and more are in planning and design. When linked together in Silver Spring, the CCT/MBT will create a trail network for the national capital region that will be an inspiration to pedestrian and bicycle activists across the United States. The completion of the Capital Crescent and MetBranch Trails has been named as a Regional Conservation Priority by the Washington Sustainable Growth Alliance, see A Call to Action (a pdf).

Transit opponents centered in Chevy Chase have wrapped themselves in the "Save the Trail" banner and try to raise fears that the Purple Line and Trail are not compatible. The truth is that:

  • The Georgetown Branch right of way was purchased by Montgomery County with $10 million of our tax dollars, for the specific purpose of using the Bethesda to Silver Spring segment for recreation and transit. Bruce Adams, who supported purchasing the right-of-way and creating the interim trail while on the Montgomery County Council, observed:

    "The Capital Crescent Trail is a regional jewel, but it would not exist today had the council not voted in 1988 to purchase the right-of-way for the rail line", and
    "For trail supporters to attempt to block the rail line by arguing that it will destroy the trail is just not playing fair."
    (February 6, 2003 letter to Montgomery Gazette).

  • The interim CCT will be rebuilt as a 12' wide paved trail. The trail will be wider and have a better surface than the Interim Trail has now. Safe separation from transit will be provided by a planted buffer. The trail will be several feet higher than the rail in most places. The trail will have new grade separated crossings of Connecticut Avenue and Jones Bridge Road for fewer conflicts with motor vehicles than the Interim CCT. There will be a direct off-road trail connection to the Rock Creek Trail.
  • The trail will be completed into downtown Silver Spring, with grade separated crossings of all major roadways. The trail traffic survey shows interim trail use is limited mostly to Chevy Chase neighborhoods, with little trail use east of Rock Creek. When the trail is completed through Silver Spring neighborhoods into downtown Silver Spring, trail use will increase to be much higher then now. There is no viable or cost effective alternative to a transit-trail project to complete the Capital Crescent Trail into Silver Spring.
  • The Capital Crescent Trail between Bethesda and Georgetown will not be altered by the Purple Line. Neither the State, County or Purple Line NOW! propose using that section of the Georgetown Branch right of way for transit.
MTA concept drawing
An MTA concept drawing of the CCT with the Purple Line in the Georgetown Branch Corridor.

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) has recently set the record straight at The Purple Line is Good for the Trail:

"Throughout this planning process, trail opponents have cloaked their opposition with positive spin, naming the anti-Purple Line advocacy organization "Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail" and circulating a "Save the Trail" petition. This has created a great deal of confusion, and we want to clarify - now that some time has passed - where WABA - as credible, regional cycling advocates who love the trail and have advocated for it from its inception - stand on this project."
"So let's set the record straight: The Purple Line is not going to destroy the trail. While the trail will change, in most ways it will be for the better. The fact is that the Purple Line is the best way - in fact, the only realistic way - to get improvements to the existing segments of the CCT and to extend the trail into downtown Silver Spring."

PLN will continue to support having the CCT meet or exceed national standards for hiker-biker trails. For more on how the Purple Line can work in harmony with the Capital Crescent Trail and urban spaces, please click on any of the related links below:

  1. A proven idea: Rails with trails
  2. A safer CCT: The Purple Line will make the trail safer.
  3. Pedestrian friendly: Light rail mixes well with pedestrians.
  4. Green tracks: Light rail will be green.

For information on why the Purple Line is needed to complete the Capital Crescent Trail, visit Silver Spring Trails

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