The Post has the alarming news that the costs associated with the Capital Crescent Trail, related to the Purple Line project, have gone up from $65 million to $103 million.
The rising cost estimates from the Maryland Transit Administration reflect more detailed designs that illustrate the difficulty and “risks” of trying to build the trail and rail line through the tunnel beneath Wisconsin Avenue and two office buildings, according to the 80-page report.
This comes less than a year after the price rose from $25 million to the $60-65 million price. Wayne Phyillaier pointed out then that that wasn't actually the price for the trail - and those comments are still valid and worth rereading now - but nonetheless this could be a setback to those who want to see the trail go through the tunnel.
MTA officials say more detailed engineering has revealed potential problems with the tunnel design, including the need to strengthen or rebuild at least 35 columns that support the Apex office building on the west side of Wisconsin. Excavating to lower the train tracks to provide enough head room for trail users also would be costly, transit planners said.
In order to make room for the trail, they have to excavate to lower the tracks about 8-10 feet. But doing this exposes the bottoms of the Apex Building supports as well as the piers of the previous Wisconsin Avenue bridge, which were not removed but rather cut off and buried. The Apex building supports will have to be strengthened due to the exposure for which they were not designed. That's what makes that the trail expensive, but
While MTA has not advanced the design of an option with only the Purple Line in the tunnel to a level where a firm determination of these impacts and risks can be made, it is likely that some columns or bracing grade beams would still be impacted.
It matters because...
The MTA has asked Montgomery County to decide whether it still wants to build the trail in the tunnel. County officials say they would be responsible for paying for the trail construction, but they would seek some money from the state.
Montgomery council member Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), whose district includes the trail, said the county remains committed to rebuilding it, but cost will be a factor.
“We’ll have some interesting negotiations ahead with the state as to what its responsibilities are and what our responsibilities are,” Berliner said.
Right. Montgomery County is paying for the trail, and Maryland is paying for the train. So I'd be suspect if Maryland is assigning the cost of each part too. It's like letting someone else divide up the bar bill without looking at it yourself.
The state’s latest cost estimate puts trail construction at $93.9 million. But if costs for safety lighting, landscaping and benches are included, the total increases to $103.3 million. About 43 percent of the total trail costs stems from the 1,000 feet inside the tunnel, planners said.
The other option would be to reroute the trail onto local streets to avoid the tunnel, requiring trail users to cross Wisconsin.
It will not take long for the anti-Purple Line groups to grab onto this.
There are some other interesting tidbits from the white paper summary.
- The industry standard for lighting is that there be for facial recognition. Montgomery County wants to provide less and thus save $4M
- "The type of landscaping and hardscaping that is envisioned with the current cost estimate is not as extensive as has been depicted in some of the renderings"
- All the landscaping between the trail and the rail is considered a trail expense.
- MTA would like guidance on whether to continue to design the connection between the Capital Crescent Trail and the Rock Creek Trail.
- It might be cheaper to buy and tear down the Apex building than to try and stabilize it. Either way, they'd still need to excavate to get under the Wisconsin Avenue bridge.
- The truss for the trail would have to be built outside the tunnel and then moved inside it and jacked into place. That isn't easy or cheap.
The paper notes that if the Air Rights Building were to be redeveloped, that could lower the cost by as much as $19 million, but even that isn't guaranteed.