The Maryland Transit Administation (MTA) believes that a five foot sidewalk along the Purple Line is feasible and cost-effective, according to Monica Meade, a transportation planner for MTA. Speaking to the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (MBPAC) at MDOT headquarters in Hanover, Maryland last Friday, Ms. Meade explained that the final decision is up to Montgomery County, which would fund the bicycle and pedestrian accommodations along the Purple Line. "We hope that cyclists will walk their bikes along this sidewalk because it is too narrow to pass a pedestrian," she added.
Ms. Meade also declined to say whether the Purple Line is likely to be built on schedule or delayed several years due to a lack of funding. When I asked whether MTA or MDOT has any contingency plans for funding the Purple Line if the gas tax is not raised, she said that even that "is a question for the politicians." (Recognizing that this might be outside her scope of expertise, I had emailed that question a day ahead to allow her to get clearance for whatever answer she might provide.)
Much of the discussion among members tracked the issues raised by commenters on this and other blogs in the Washington area. Ms. Meade reminded everyone that "tunnel" is a misnomer: MD-355 has always had a bridge over the tracks, and the surrounding land was graded to the street level. Several people asked whether the trail can eventually follow the Purple Line, when the buildings nearby are rebuilt. Ms. Meade said that this would be up to Montgomery County, although SHA would also have to agree to widen the bridge abutments.
Michael Jackson of MDOT engaged in a colloquy with Ms. Meade about whether cyclists could be allowed to ride between the tracks, at least during off peak times when the headway would be 12 minutes or so. Ms. Meade pointed out that this would require grading a roadbed between the tracks, but more importantly there would be safey issues in getting people off the tracks when trains arrived. Mr. Jackson persisted, pointing out that this problem would already be faced for the at-grade portions of the Purple Line. Another attendee pointed out that if MDOT now has faith that cyclists can get off the tracks as a train approaches, maybe it should reconsider its position that cyclists could not get out of a proposed Henson Creek Trail tunnel under the beltway when a creek is rising.
(Jim Titus represents Prince George's County on MBPAC, and is also on WABA's Board of Directors. The opinions stated here do not represent the official views of either MBPAC or WABA.)