Dan Klotz wrote a piece for National Geographic's blog that paints the Purple Line/Capital Crescent Trail expansion project as the environmental bad guy.
Tuesday, November 17, is the deadline for proposals to knock down hundreds of trees and pave over a stretch of the popular Capital Crescent Trail in Montgomery County, Maryland.
If that sounds kind of backwards, well, it is.
That last sentence, at least, is right. As regular readers know, the popular Capital Crescent Trail is already paved and will be untouched by this project, the less-popular, but still lovable, Georgetown Branch Trail will by paved, but this is something most trail users and the groups that represent them support. And of course, knocking down trees is not the purpose of the project, but an unfortunate by-product. Certainly, reasonable people can decide that the loss of trees and the park-like feel of the current corridor is not worth the addition of transit and a more transportation-oriented trail, but one it's dirty pool to present it as something it is not.
The planned conversion of a greenspace corridor into a transportation corridor—for the commuter train system called the Purple Line—is taking place even though the land is flanked by two active transportation corridors, the I95 Beltway and the East West Highway, route 410.
If it sounds kind of backwards for National Geographic to present two highways as the green alternative to transit and biking, it is.
Klotz throughout the article continues to equate the paved portion of the trail west of Bethesda as the same thing as the future, currently-unpaved section east of Bethesda (usually known as the Georgetown Branch Trail. At one point, as a basis for the popularity of the trail, he links to an article about trail use that is based on two counters located where the Purple Line is not to be built. Such a failure is either due to an unprofessional lack of understanding of the issue or willful deceptive.
The article is full of other misstatements, like claiming that the right-of-way was "not even wide enough to fit a second set of tracks for the return trip." The ROW has enough space for two rail lines, the trail and some green buffer.
He tries to make the case that the project will somehow cause sprawl because "choosing cement over trees and prioritizing cars over parkland is a textbook symptom of suburban sprawl" and later that " It would be much better to scrap the current plan and figure how to do it right rather than to pave over greenspace and permanently plant more suburban sprawl." Which is a ridiculous argument to make. As Bryan McCann wrote in the comments:
The blogger suggests that the Purple Line will encourage suburban sprawl, with no evidence or logical explanation. It appears to me to do precisely the opposite, investing in public transport inside the beltway as opposed to new highways in Gaithersburg. Like my neighbors, I draw tangible benefits from living next to a wooded trail. But as Sierra Club endorsement suggests, the environmental interests of Montgomery and Prince Georges County at large would seem to be better served by the Purple Line. Reasonable people can disagree about the relative costs and benefits. But I do not believe this blog post offers an accurate assessment of those costs and benefits.
He calls for the light rail to run along East-West highway or the Beltway or, better yet, through a tunnel underground. But all of those options have been studied, and the reasons for them not being selected are well documented. He neither mentions this, nor addresses those reasons. I would have loved for a Metro-style Purple Line subway to have been the best option, but it wasn't, and we're at the point where we build this - and the trail extension to Silver Spring - or we don't.
Residents are supposed to appreciate that the plans call for adding a bike path next to the train tracks. We’d rather keep what we have, though—especially the trees.
For those who live adjacent to the ROW, that may be the prevailing desire, but for County residents it clearly isn't. And then on the subject of trees and greenspace, there are plans to mitigate the losses. From the EIS
Where forest impacts occur, MTA will comply with MDNR requirements for the final forest planting obligation. MTA will follow MDNR direction in offsetting those impacts by reforestation, which is planting trees in cleared areas, or afforestation, which is planting trees in areas not previously forested. Based on MDNR mitigation requirements, MTA has preliminarily identified reforestation sites and forest mitigation banks with available credits that could be used to satisfy the requirements.
MTA, through coordination with M-NCPPC, the NCPC, the NPS, and the public, will implement the following measures:
- Expand and upgrade facilities and plant trees in Glenridge Community Park, as well as convert approximately 2 acres of land currently used for the Prince George’s County Parks’ Northern Area Maintenance—Glenridge Service Center either to parkland within Glenridge Community Park or to upgrade and expand athletic fields at the Glenridge Elementary School;
- Restore park properties that are disturbed as a result of construction activities to acceptable conditions through coordination with the park owners;
- Provide replacement parkland for all park impacts; the amount and location of replacement parkland will be determined by MTA in consultation with park owners; and
- Coordinate selective tree clearing and identification of significant or champion trees with agencies having jurisdiction.
And of course, they will replant many of the trees in the corridor. There is some trade-off here, for sure, but Klotz oversells the negatives, without mentioning many of the positives. And he's deceptive about what is being destroyed here. Its classic "Save the Trail" tactics. I wonder why they are afraid of discussing the issue honestly?