Federal Realty and JBG have filed plans for development on a site at the west end of the Bethesda Tunnel. The site includes the Thyme Square restaurant, Reed Street, and the vacant land in front of the Bethesda Row Cinema. Under the plans that have been submitted excavation for an underground parking garage would extend to the west portal of the CCT Tunnel. The Bethesda tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue would be closed during a 2+ year construction period. Trail users would be required to follow a detour route along Bethesda Avenue and across Wisconsin Avenue.
CCCT Board Members met with the development team twice during the winter and spring of 2007 to discuss the development proposal. CCCT pressed for changes in the plans, and did succeed in getting significant improvements in the plans for how the CCT would pass through the completed project. But CCCT was not able to get the plans changed to allow the Bethesda tunnel to remain open to trail traffic during construction. The development team indicated during both meetings with CCCT that the tunnel would be closed for 18 to 36 months.
This spring the developer submitted the plans to M-NCPPC for a mandatory review. On July 26, 2007 the Planning Board considered a request from M-NCPPC staff for a 90 day extension to allow more time to study issues related to the impact of the project upon the Trail and upon future Purple Line transit. CCCT Board Member Pat Baptiste spoke for the CCCT to support the time extension and to alert the Planning Board that closure of the tunnel was going to be a very major issue for the CCCT and for the community. The Planning Board granted the extension, and the critical hearing is now expected to come on or after September 20, 2007.
CCCT has scheduled separate meetings with M-NCPPC staff and the development team in late July and early August. CCCT will press upon all parties the importance of keeping the CCT in the Bethesda Tunnel and of keeping the tunnel open.