Capital Crescent Trail to add another element to Purple Line Debate

Capital Crescent Trail to add another element to Purple Line Debate

It’s been years in the making, but in just a matter of days, plans for the Purple Line could make an important turn.

The Montgomery County Council must decide whether to keep the popular Capital Crescent Trail in an underground tunnel in Downtown Bethesda, Md. where the Purple Line is set to be built.

The county could save major money by simply moving the trail above ground.

“Because we have so much traffic in Bethesda and it’s only going to get worse with these new building projects,” said NW resident Kathy Mack.

Pedestrians and bikers who use the Capital Crescent Trail—running underneath Wisconsin Avenue in Downtown Bethesda—told a Montgomery County Council Committee Thursday that they were reassured time and again that the trail would stay underground, even with the construction of the Purple Line.

A proposal to make it a dual purpose tunnel with a bike and pedestrian path built on top of the new Purple Line would cost the County about 50 million dollars. Money the county can't afford, many say. But, some say it would be worth it.

“Its' a special place and we need this kind of open space,” said Chevy Chase Resident Julia Randall.

Beyond the cost, the state says the project would be risky—requiring rebuilding and reconfiguring support beams under the buildings.

“That means that the offices in there, the employees in that building are (laughs) in there while this construction goes on so as a result we have to monitor that construction very carefully,” said MTA’s Purple Line Study Manager, Michael Madden.

An alternative, less costly plan would move the trail above ground, across on Wisconsin Avenue. The plan is supported by County Staff, The Chamber of Commerce and even some trail users.

“There’s gonna be lights, signals. As long as you’ve crossed a street before, how is it going to be any different,” said Chevy Chase Resident Paul Rodriguez.

But the County Transportation Director, WABA and local residents passionately disagree.

The council seems at odds too.

“It's gonna cost a lot but everything costs a lot,” said Nancy Floreen, a Democrat of the Montgomery County Council.

“It's hard to justify spending 50 million dollars to keep it underground at that segment,” said Hans Riemer, a Democrat from the Montgomery County Council.

The county transportation committee will vote on the issue next week.