I've heard, but not seen photos of, that a large fence now blocks the Georgetown Branch Trail just west of Connecticut Avenue (but that you can still ride from Connecticut to Stewart Ave. Lyttonsville if you're willing to go around the closure sings). So with it REALLY closed, what next?
A day in court
There are still two court cases (for now) outstanding. There's the case about whether or not the Purple Line EIS has to be redone because it didn't account for a recent decline in Metro ridership and there's one filed last week asking the courts to prevent them from cutting down trees until the first case is settled. Final briefs in the first case were filed last week and the "oral arguments in the case could take place as soon as this fall." On the second case, Judge Leon on Friday denied a request to halt tree cutting.
However, he wrote in his order that he’ll wait until after a preliminary injunction hearing scheduled for Sept. 19 to decide whether his court has the jurisdiction needed to rule on the issue.
That's one day after the state said they're going to start cutting down the big trees, but they've agreed to wait to the 20th now, but not to delay cutting down smaller brush which could cost as much as $6.1 million. "Workers began cutting smaller trees — those less than nine inches in diameter — [last] week."
Some have complained about the rapid way in which the closure happened once permission to do so was given, but I agree with MD Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn on this one
“I find it hard to believe that anyone thought the trail wasn’t going to be closed after a year of litigation,” Rahn said. “I believe it’s common knowledge. We have been talking about this. There have been meetings. The fact is we need to get the project going and I do not believe the notice that was given was inadequate.”
Rahn said notification requirements were altered for the trail closure and for construction activity to occur near the Arliss Street tunnel and also at the Prince George’s County site where the project’s groundbreaking took place last week.
“I’ve got to stress that we are having to make up for nearly a year in delay caused by the lawsuit,” Rahn said. “It cost taxpayers’ money for delays. Frankly, it would cost the public far more than is reasonable to have waited another 30 days to have started work when the public clearly would have seen that construction is going to start.
I'm not sure what people would have done with more notice, except filed more lawsuits.
It's a little bit shameful that we have a 5-year closure with a mutli-year warning and the official detour is so awful (they're spending $5.23 million on it - which I can only hope includes the cost of designing the new tunnel). Some of the signage has been up for over a year, but it's not clear that the detour will change the streets in any way other than added signage despite earlier plans for bike lanes.
While the official detour uses streets many feel are too busy, Mayor Flynn claims that the streets in Chevy Chase are just too quiet and residential to handle cyclists.
But Flynn said past town leaders raised safety issues about encouraging pedestrians and cyclists to cut through quiet neighborhoods.
“There are safety issues; we have narrow streets, a lot of shared driveways,” she said. “The houses are closer together than you might think. The streets are residential streets — they weren’t designed with the trail,” said Flynn.
It does indeed sound very dangerous. I guess we have to look for Goldilocks streets. Rahn gets it right again.
“I find it interesting that Chevy Chase refused to put up signs to designate the alternate route for the trail,” Rahn said. “If Chevy Chase is concerned about this, they should cooperate with helping people know how to get through their community.”
The Air Rights Tunnel
The tunnel will be rebuilt in two parts. One part will be done as part of the Apex Building and the other will be built by the County.
The portion to be built as part of the replacement building is in dark blue and the county section is in light blue on the right-hand side of the image.
Carr wants to replace the existing structure at 7272 Wisconsin Ave. with office and apartment towers that could soar 300 feet into the sky. The company has also agreed to construct a shell for a future Purple Line station beneath the complex, and despite the legal entanglements that have delayed the light-rail project, the Maryland Transit Administration is holding Carr to a late 2018 deadline, according to the June 19 waiver application.
Sticking to this schedule requires an expedited demolition process, Carr argues in its request for a noise waiver effective from Aug. 1 through Oct. 31.
I'm not sure if the tunnel has been closed down yet or not, but with the rest of the trail closed it's kind of moot.
The developer is also planning to close the Capital Crescent Trail tunnel below Wisconsin Avenue during construction. Carr needs a county permit to shut down the tunnel, and the approval process is on hold until the developer submits a proposed path for rerouting pedestrians, said Tim Cupples, a county transportation designer.
The tunnel will likely remain closed for several years during the redevelopment project, Cupples said.
At last report, in last March, the county had not budgeted the money for the new trail, though they were approving money for the design.
the County Council’s transportation committee approved a $3.8 million budget item to be funded over three years to plan and design the tunnel that would extend from the planned Purple Line station underneath the Apex Building on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda to Elm Street Park in Chevy Chase.
Deputy Council Administrator Glenn Orlin said the county plans to complete the design of the trail tunnel by 2020, then construct it from 2020 to 2022 so it can be finished by the time the Purple Line is planned to open. County officials have estimated the tunnel may cost from $15 million to $30 million, but an exact cost won’t be determined until the design process is complete.
So to get the full trail we need the Purple Line project (~2022), Apex Building project (~2018) and Montgomery County Tunnel (~2022) project all to be complete.
The project will actually include two tunnels for trail users. One will be the new full trail tunnel, but it will also include a pedestrian tunnel that connects to the Bethesda station. There will also be an overpass to take the trail over the Purple Line.
The trail will then travel along the north side of the tracks, over Connecticut Avenue, under Jones Mill Road and then to Rock Creek Park.
The Rock Creek Trestle
The current Rock Creek Trestle will be removed and the trail will go across Rock Creek on its own bridge. It will have a connection to the Rock Creek Trail and then carry the trail over the tracks to the south side.
At times, old bridges will be advertised for reuse and in fact the Capital Crescent/Georgetown Branch Trails use three re-purposed bridges (one of which, the Talbot Avenue bridge is currently available for reuse), but I doubt this one would be a good candidate for saving. They should burn it to the ground for old times sake (the bridge was a frequent target of arsonists over the years).
At the CSX tracks, the trail will again cross over the Purple Line (and the railroad tracks) and follow along those to the Silver Spring Transit Center where it will meet up with the Met Branch Trail - which one can dream will be complete all the way to Union Station by 2022.