A connector trail between the Little Falls Trail and the Capitol Crescent Trail now has a final design. It makes for a longer connection than one of the other options, but it's also safer, cheaper, and will have less environmental impact.
The route Montgomery's planning department is recommending for connecting the two trails.
Right now, the only route between the two trails is through the parking lot of the Bethesda Outdoor Pool. The hard surface trail will run along the south side of Hillandale Road, then along the east side of Little Falls Parkway.
The connector trail will have at-grade crossings at Hillandale Road and one of the pool parking lot's entrances. It will be 860 feet long, and the cost is estimated at $408,000.
The Montgomery County Planning Board recommended this trail over another option, a boardwalk that would have been a more direct connection and would have avoided entrances to the pool, also would have cost $200,000 more.
The design process initially included three total options, all coming as results of a trail alignment study. Those options were two shorter routes on the north side of the pool and a longer one, similar to what the planning board chose but with the crossing of Hillendale at the north side of the pool.
Based on community input, especially from the Little Falls Watershed Alliance (LFWA) which proposed the recommended option, these options were refined to two: what's now being proceeded with, and the boardwalk.
The boardwalk would have been 525 feet long, on piers with a concrete deck and a section of concrete paving and stairs. It would have made for a shorter and more scenic trip between the two trails, with fewer places where bikes and cars would have had to share the road. But it also would have cost $617,000 and required construction in the Willett Branch stream buffer and removal of several trees including a 22-foot pine tree.
The planning board recommended the hard surface trail because it will cost less, doesn't run through the woods, and will have less of an environment impact (it will also require construction in the Willett Branch stream buffer, but would only impact, not remove, seven trees, all under 12' tall).
Leading up to the decision, the LFWA, Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail (CCCT) and Kenwood Forest II Condo Association all supported the hard surface trail over the boardwalk and no-build options. The CCCT opposed the boardwalk, primarily out of a concern for safety. They believe that the safest place to connect to the Capital Crescent Trail is at the intersection with Little Falls Parkway, where traffic is already slowed down, not farther north where cyclists are up to speed.
Meanwhile, three local residents, including at least one daily bike commuter, supported the boardwalk and another supported the boardwalk and Option C from the original trail alignments. In addition, six individuals, the Chevy Chase West Neighborhood Association, and about 100 signatories to a petition were against building anything altogether, finding the project to be too costly and environmentally damaging.
The connector trail currently has no funding, and there are no immediate plans to begin construction.
Cross-posted at GreaterGreaterWashington
Addendum: Below are some quotes from supporters of the No Build option that I left out of the GGW post:
The whole point of the trail is exercise and enjoyment, not how fast we can get from one end to the other.
BARELY ANYONE actually travels between the two trails especially by bicycle...there is no safety issue unless you go through the parking lot at high speed, which you shouldn't do anyway.