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I agree that Montgomery County should plow the Capital Crescent Trail. However, we should recognize that the actual plowing costs would only be part of the total costs. Plows+refreezing=potholes, which would need to be repaired. We should also recognize that there are other stakeholders than cyclists, most notably pedestrians and parents of kids who use trails to get to schools, who might have different priorities for which trails should be cleared. Finally, Richard Layman may be right that snow removal should be addressed when new trails are being proposed. On the other hand, be care of what you wish for: such considerations could discourage cash-strapped jurisdictions from building trails.

I am confident that the approx. 3 mile section of the paved CCT that is in Mont. Co. will come out at the top of any prioritized list for clearing when all stakeholders are included. Note the CCT trail use survey showed that not only was the CCT the most heavily used trail in the County, but the majority of users at the busiest spot - at Bethesda, were NOT cyclists, but were pedestrians and joggers.

CCCT 2006 Survey

Guez, you're right. In an earlier version I had all stakeholders included and I guess that got removed. I'll correct it.

When I lived in Chicago years ago the lakefront trails were all cleared every time it snowed.

Even some minimal clearing would make a big difference. For example, if they had plowed once after the big snow storm, it would not have formed large packed chunks that take weeks/months to melt.

As for cost/benefit, this is a commuter route, not a side street. You could use the same logic and not plow any residential street until the CCT was done first.

Another point is that the MOCO official said that he hadn't received complaints. Well, we know what to do about that :)

There is currently only one section of the trail that is unrideable without studded tires from Bethesda into DC--a couple hundred yards just before the train tunnel. In other parts where there is ice on the trail there is always a track of clear pavement. Of course, if this all starts melting and refreezing each night with the warm spell, all bets are off for those who are studless.

I haven't been on the CCT this winter. How many days, would you say, was it before it was rideable by those without studded tires?

This subject was beat to death on GGW after the snowstorm (I refuse to call it a blizzard because, except for about an hour or two and ONLY in St. Mary's County, it didn't even come close to meeting blizzard criteria).

It basically boils down to two camps. On the one side, you have those who demand that trails and sidewalks be cleared right away. Whereas on the other side, you have those who argue that it isn't cost effective for the city to purchase all the necessary equipment for those rare times that it snows heavily here.

This is what Minneapolis, MN does (which averages about as much as DC and Boston combined). Sidewalk clearing is the responsibility of the adjacent landowner. Bike trails are the responsibility of the park board, except for two commuter trails that are cleared by the city's Public Works Department.

While the city (and its various entities) clears the bike paths, it occasionally takes a couple days before they get to all of them. And this being a Northern city, it's to be expected that they won't be able to fully clear the trail, which in Minneapolis is not much different than the residential streets. To fully clear everything all the time would take a phenominal amount of resources that the city just doesn't have. So it's expected that there may be a bit of lingering snow/ice on the trails and the side streets.

Early Man--One important issue is that even if most of the trail is passable, there's no way for most people to know that. If I ride the 6 miles from my house to the MVT only to find out that it's too icy, there's no other way to get to the 14th St. bridge and I'm kinda screwed. As a result, I'm more likely to sit it out longer following a big storm. If I know that the local gov. is committed to plowing the trail, however, I wouldn't be so hesitant to take the chance.

Reston trails are plowed shortly after snow has accumulated. During and just after the most recent storm they were plowed twice, and subsequent passes were made to check for snow that accumulated due to plowing done by others, including VDOT. The Reston Association has decided that it's a priority that people be able to get around on foot, bike, etc. and that means they need safe places to walk and bike. Maintenance staff say the plowing does not cause any additional damage to the trails, one argument used by some organizations for not plowing.

wrt "plowing" you really just need a rotating brush on a tractor, so yes, damage to the trails isn't really an issue.

There are many ways to address it. WRT costs and the other comment, 1. you still have to include it in the plan whether or not it gets built, and if that is a justification for not building since in this region snow is a minimally important issue overall, then it's and excuse. There are friends groups, etc.

2. Whether or not you think it should be addressed, I am doing a plan for a section of Baltimore County and as a planner, it's my job to raise these issues, if I am trying to produce a good plan, and it would be irresponsible for me to not try to be as comprehensive as possible.

(And yes, re Froggie's point about Minneapolis, I think we want a plan for snow removal-maintenance, but don't expect that it necessarily be done absolutely immediately, that it could take a couple days.)

A real issue is that parks depts. generally close facilities "at dusk". What does that mean to bicycle commuters using trails? That's something we're making sure to address in the plan I am working on.

Similarly, in the context of this discussion, NPS does the same thing -- close parks at dusk, therefore no lighting of trails.

This becomes a significant issue with the creation of the Fort Totten area segments of the Metropolitan Branch Trail. They are nowhere near being resolved.

And note that the MBT was first conceptualized in 1988.

Froggie, I see your point, but I'd agree with Richard too. I don't expect the trail to be cleared the next day, but I don't want to wait and let Mother Nature be my snowplow either. And the argument that "we get little snow here so investing in snow clearing equipment is wasteful" falls apart because we do invest in snow clearing equipment but only for roads (and some pedestrian areas - Metro does a good job with this).

Since there seems to be no technical reason the trails can't be plowed (at least, none was given) the reason seems to be one of priorities - as in clearing Parkways for drivers is more important than clearing trails for trail-users AND clearing trails for trail-users falls below our threshold for value, which we can't define. So I think that's what I'm bothered by.

Even just one pass with a snowplow on the section near the Dalecarlia Tunnel within a couple of days after a heavy snow would make a big difference. That one section always takes many days longer than the rest of the trail to clear by melting.
I understand the reluctance to make the investment needed to be able to plow all of the trails immediately after every snow storm. But the rigid insistence of the Parks Dept. that they will do no plowing at all is nuts.

I know it's been mentioned, but Minneapolis does an amazing job at this. They just have a guy in a pickup drive the Greenway after it snows to plow it. One trip down, one trip back. It's not perfect, and has ice and such, but it's a thousand times better than without plowing!

I agree with Wayne and Washcycle. MOCO seems stuck in an all-or-nothing mindset. It reasonable to argue that full clearing immediately after a storm, and regular treatment is too expensive. On the other hand, a simple once over with a truck would have done a world of good and would be far less $.

The ice on the trail is mostly from the mid-Dec storm (and will probably be there for a lot longer). It is one thing to argue that it unreasonable to clear the trail immediately. It is another to argue that a commuter route should be largely out of action for the better part of a month (commuter is not just bikes, but all the people walking especially around upper CCT).

Wayne: I have seen ice in that area well into Spring

Heck, what about just salting the thing?

Or have the county provide salt boxes like in Baltimore and allow volunteers to do the salting.

Salting may not be ideal but the trail would clear very fast and at minimal cost.

Heck, just driving over it to break it would be an improvement!

Regarding sidewalk/trail plows: I'm not an expert, but in the places that I have lived with heavy snow, the plows are heavy duty equipment (with a big shovel-like think on the front) and they do damage sidewalks (don't know about trails). I'm not sure that a street-cleaner-like brush system is adequate for the kind of snow that we had last month. Of course, that was a once-in-a-decade snow. But it is why we're having this discussion now.

There are some negative environmental impacts of salting, so that's probably the main reason against salt.

You run the brush through the storm. The snow a couple saturdays ago was no big deal if you cleared snow a couple times earlier that day. It stopped snowing around 6pm.

Late to the party here - I don't have details on their performance in this particular event, but Columbia does a decent job of clearing their trail network fairly quickly. I guess that's partly thanks to all the CA fees residents pay...

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