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Trail supporters should seriously challenge Ms Meade's assertion that funding the 5' sidewalk is up to the county, as a county responsibility to build the trail. That 5' sidewalk is essential as a major access path to the Purple Line Platform and new South Red Line Metro Entrance from the residences and businesses east of Wisconsin Avenue. With more people projected to use the Purple Line platform every day than use the trail there in an entire week, the majority of users of that sidewalk will be Purple Line users. So why does MTA think scarce trail funds should be used to build the path that accesses their transit platform??

Why not shave the Wisconsin Ave down to 2 lanes? I'm sure drivers won't mind. Bikes are toys. I just didn't know.

Given what we're losing, I hate being the one to say "I told you so," but several of your were lavishing praise on O'Malley like he was the next coming. They haven't even broke ground and already they're delivering bad news. And I don't buy the gas tax crap--Virginia is halfway done with the Silver Line because the business community and a bipartisan group of legislators produced a solution nearly everyone was happy with. It's easy to lose ourselves in personal politics, but O'Malley isn't doing us any favors and quite frankly, never was. All politicians talk a big game and few walk it. We would fare better with no path and just dirt because it would lessen the likliehood of trying to share a 5' path with tons of pedestrians. What a joke!

Maybe if "Save the Trail" transit opponents spent more time advocating for a realistic solution instead of trying to tear decades in the making transit plans down we would have a better outcome.

Take a parking or driving lane away from cars and use that space to create a safe separated trail space for bicycles and walkers to use. 5 feet of sidewalk is going to be dominated by people accessing the Purple Line station, you won't be able to use it for anything else.

http://i.imgur.com/wqTaK.jpg

Paint it green, or red, or whatever color to make it stand out and make it a real separated space. Lots of energy should have been spent trying to find a high-quality alternative solution but then again the real goal of "save the trail" folks was never about the trail but about killing the transit project so it doesn't disturb the golf course.

A 5' path is a joke.

The existing tunnel is already well used by pedestrians and that will only expand when there is an expansion of Metro services. I doubt 5' will be enough just for pedestrians. It is particularly well used by teenagers, given the proximity to Bethesda and BCC high school.

As for cyclists sharing: this is a major throughway: people are not just out for a Sunday tour. I predict people will detour onto major roads if the tunnel gets too crowded.

Isn't the whole reason they're building the Silver Line, MLD, because of the ridiculous east-west traffic on 410, Randolph, Viers Mill, etc? The roads seem inadequate enough to handle current traffic loads so it's beyond a pipe dream to expect them to give up space for us.

By decades do you mean since the late 90s, aka a decade and a half? It will be just like the ICC and we won't see it built for another 20 years.

T: part of the rationale for building the Silver Line is to move more people. MD410 is insufficient. Of course, this should not be done by taking away the best non-motorized East-West route. If they are interested in moving people, they need to keep a realistic pedestrian and bicycle route.

Purple Line.

Personally, I think I would find a long 5' wide path in the tunnel kind of unpleasant.

I predict people will detour onto major roads if the tunnel gets too crowded.

They absolutely will. Cyclists won't even be allowed on the trail there. A person walking a bike IS a pedestrian.

But for cyclists the detour will be a minor inconvenience. For walkers a much larger one. So this addresses that issue.

@Wayne: I should clarify that Ms. Meade did not state who would pay for the sidewalk. She only said that the matter was up to MoCo, which is responsible for the trail improvements. I think that MoCo signs off even if nothing is to be done, because until it signs off, the other options are theoretically on the table.

@T: Comparing the Silver Line is a bit unfair, since we don't have a parallel toll road to pay for construction. A toll on the beltway would be analogous, but that is even less politically feasible than gas tax. And Purple does not have the same guaranteed direct benefits to business as Silver. In PG, TOD is economically marginal as it is, without charging to pay for the Purple Line. A windfall tax would be a good idea, but it would be speculative.

Not to say that gas tax is the only way, just to say it won't be easy.

@All: The 5-foot sidewalk is alot better than nothing. And that's all it's meant to me. I hope they tell us the cost soon.

@ Jim Titus

"She only said that the matter was up to MoCo, which is responsible for the trail improvements."

Jim - my point is that MTA is viewing this sidewalk only as a "trail improvement". But why would MTA even consider building a platform in the tunnel, and NOT build a sidewalk to it that would be needed for transit users to get to it from the east side?

re: detouring onto the road not an inconvenience for cyclists.

1. It will be an inconvenience/safety hazard for children or those pulling children. There are many day care centers and schools in close proximity.
2. The cyclists will be an inconvenience for cars. Of course, this is something we can highlight, to encourage MTA to consider the extended impact.

All in all, if the purpose of the purple line is to move more people, having a 5' trail in the tunnel creates a new choke point that transfers congestion over to the surrounding streets.

Narrowing a 10' or more trail to a 5' trail does not sound like a "trail improvement"

I fail to understand why "tunnel" is a misnomer. It's clearly a tunnel. Yes, it's topologically equivalent to a bridge, but shouldn't we then call it a "teacup"?

Typically, MTA sees its responsibilities as only building transit. So they don't do trails, mostly, although it's complicated. E.g., they are providing ROW of a recently abandoned industrial RR spur that they had which will allow for the extension of the NCR trail to the Warren Road LR station.

But wrt the Purple and Red Lines, they don't see their role as building a trail. I did get into the W. Baltimore County ped and bike plan a recommendation that the Red Line in Baltimore County be built with a parallel trail.

Anyway, there is no way that a 5 foot sidewalk should be considered acceptable for the Purple Line. It's better to put it at grade then to build infrastructure that doesn't mean generally accepted standards.

1. FHWA recommendations for sidewalks in highly pedestrianized areas would be 8-12 feet wide.

- http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2011/06/tension-in-urban-sidewalk-design.html

I tried to put recommendations in the W. Balt. County plan on sidewalk width based on distance from the station. Within 1/2 mile it should be 10-12 feet.

2. Speaking of FHWA, the Shared Use Path Level of Service Calculator should be used to determine how wide a shared use path should be in association with the Purple Line.

- http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/pedbike/05138/

There is no way that 5 feet is recommended. AASHTO guidance, which I don't recommend, is a minimum of 8 feet. The recommended minimum in the Shared Path LOS calculator is 11 feet.

@Richard Layman,

Wayne may actually have the numbers, but as far as I know, the 5-foot sidewalk costs relatively little because that is how much room they have. Any wider, then they have to move building foundations. So maybe a 6-foot sidewalk costs an extra $20 million with the risk of building collapse.

The at-grade facilities are going to be built one way or the other. The main question now is whether to build the 5-foot sidewalk also, because they can, or just not bother.

@Wayne: Your point seems valid to me. I just wanted to make sure that no one construed what I wrote as implying that MTA is dodging the costs by calling it trail-related. Whether they are or are not, they didn't specifically address cost allocation at the meeting, only the fact that MoCo still would have to sign off. Given how closely you follow the issue, you could have gotten that from one of your many sources.

@antibozo. If you dig a passageway underground, its a tunnel; if you put a structure on top of a road built at grade, the road does not become a tunnel. Am I overlooking a subtlety in your question?

If they have the horizontal space for one sidewalk, maybe they could build two or three at different elevations. With three, there could be one for pedestrians and a cycle track in each direction.

Ramps would be tricky tho.

The point isn't the price, it's that you shouldn't build substandardly narrow sidewalks. In other words, local and state law shouldn't allow it. Look at the FHWA guidance for both sidewalks and shared use trails and you'll see that in this case, a 5 foot sidewalk wouldn't be recommended.

If it's not recommended, don't build it.

WRT the issue with children, yes, it's an issue, but affects fewer than 10% of the users. Furthermore, people with kids on a 5 foot wide sidewalk in a tunnel are endangering their children anyway (cf. Ita Lupina).

A very high quality surface routing could be created, along the lines of treatments used by the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, which I wrote about here: http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2012/02/purple-line-and-bicycle-trail-conflict.html

@Jim, we have the ICC, which is an equivalent length toll road, albeit far more expensive.

Despite it's politics, Virginia has a much stronger trail system, at least in this area. I think it's hard to argue that one. And I think it should be a starting off point. If folks are going to say xyz politicians support us then they should demand the support. Otherwise they shouldn't lecture the rest of us on who likes bikes and who doesn't.

OK, I thought you were advocating a wider sidewalk. I think I understand your point now.

Your view is that it would be better to have no pedestrian underpass than to build the 5-foot sidewalk, even though the high-quality surface route will be built regardless of whether the 5-foot sidewalk is built.

You and Wayne clearly have very different views: Wayne thinks that the 5-foot sidewalk is so essential to the station that MTA should pay for it, while you think it should not be built at all.

I gather that by "cf. Ita Lupina" you mean that some people would ride their bikes on the sidewalk regardless of rules against doing so, and that illegal cycling in the tunnel would endanger children.

I hope I have accurately summarized the views offered here on a matter over which I claim no expertise. On this, I'm just reporting what I heard.

@T
Isn't the whole reason they're building the Silver Line, MLD, because of the ridiculous east-west traffic on 410, Randolph, Viers Mill, etc? The roads seem inadequate enough to handle current traffic loads so it's beyond a pipe dream to expect them to give up space for us.
If you look at my picture I'm not taking any road space away from those heavily traveled corridors. It would be a short segment just to get around this tunnel issue - the rest of the trail is going to be built along the Purple Line ROW.

By decades do you mean since the late 90s, aka a decade and a half? It will be just like the ICC and we won't see it built for another 20 years.
The county bought the rail ROW in 1988 with the intention of eventually running rail transit on it. It was turned into the trail as an amenity while the transit plans were worked out. So yes, two decades of plans.

Look at what Richard Layman posted above about the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. That is the kind of high-quality surface route people who wanted to "save the trail" should have been arguing for the entire time.

@Jim Titus: "You and Wayne clearly have very different views: Wayne thinks that the 5-foot sidewalk is so essential to the station that MTA should pay for it, while you think it should not be built at all."

I think you have captured my view correctly. Yes, of course a 5' sidewalk is substandard, but it is far better than no sidewalk through the tunnel at all.

@T: I doubt that MDOT could raise much (if any) money by increasing the toll on the ICC, and it does not really serve the same people as the Purple Line. How much money do you think could be raised by increasing the toll.

I don't really follow your second paragraph. Maryland politicians have had an aversion to creating public goods in which the users pay, preferring to tax the general public instead. Probably because Democrats tend to be that way. The inferiority of suburban Maryland trails is probably for other reasons, however, such as unique situation that led to Nellie Custis trail being built as part of the original construction of I-66, the relatively poverty of Prince Georges County and eastern DC.

It is highly likely that the transportation planners and politicians will point to the 5' tunnel as a reason to not do anything else, such as providing a realistic alternative route. A wider tunnel is expensive. A surface level trail with dedicated signals will be a lot cheaper, but will be "too expensive" or "interrupts traffic too much".

Therefore, I do not agree that "5' sidewalk is substandard, but it is far better than no sidewalk through the tunnel at all."

Children on the trail includes kids walking. A 5' path with increased traffic is like narrowing Wisconsin Ave to one lane in Bethesda

@SJE: "It is highly likely that the transportation planners and politicians will point to the 5' tunnel as a reason to not do anything else, such as providing a realistic alternative route."

Sorry, but I think you are totally wrong on this point. The County has already programed several million dollars and is developing plans for just that alternative surface route - regardless of whether the 5' wide sidewalk is ever built. Construction is programmed to start after the Lot 31 development project is completed, so avoid having both sides of Bethesda Ave. torn up at the same time. Construction is to be done before the tunnel is closed for Purple Line construction, so there will not be any period when there is not a continuous trail through downtown Bethesda.

detouring onto the road not an inconvenience for cyclists.

Subtle point: I said it was a minor inconvenience, not no inconvenience.

1. It will be an inconvenience/safety hazard for children or those pulling children. There are many day care centers and schools in close proximity.

Perhaps it will be a safety hazard, but that isn't yet established. I'm more hopeful. It shouldn't be an inconvenience for those pulling children, because you're still talking about only a small detour. Perhaps some kids will find it to be a large inconvenience. But on average, it will be small.

All in all, if the purpose of the purple line is to move more people, having a 5' trail in the tunnel creates a new choke point that transfers congestion over to the surrounding streets.

And not having a 5' walkway in the tunnel will make that choke point worse.

Narrowing a 10' or more trail to a 5' trail does not sound like a "trail improvement"

No, but creating a 5' walkway where there is none is.

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