Woodside debates CCT plans

Dec. 27 update:

The MTA has made the drawings that were presented at the Dec. 16 Woodside meeting available. These are large (5-14 Meg) pdf files.

Profile looking south near North Springwood Drive

Dec. 17, 2010 post:

Several residents who live near the future Capital Crescent Trail in Woodside have expressed concerns about the impact the Trail will have on their homes. The MTA has responded by holding a meeting with Woodside residents and other interested public to discuss the Woodside area CCT design plans. Approx. 30 local residents braved the cold and snow to meet with Purple Line Project Manager Mike Madden and other members of the PL design team at the Coffield Community Center in Lyttonsville on December 16, 2010.

The future CCT will cross the CSX tracks at Talbot Avenue and will be on the north/east side of the CSX tracks through Woodside to downtown Silver Spring. The future CCT will be adjacent to Woodside homes from the 16th Street railroad bridge to the Spring Street Bridge.The Purple Line light rail will remain on the south/west side of the tracks until just before the Silver Spring transit Center. The light rail and trail will both be built at the same time by MTA, but since the light rail is on the opposite side of the CSX tracks from Woodside the light rail and 16th Street station design was only briefly touched on – the focus of the meeting was the trail design.

Among the concerns raised by residents during the meeting about the future CCT: possible loss of private yards from the residences along Third Avenue; loss of neighborhood privacy; undesirable increase in lighting near the trail; crime from the trail; and the cost of the trail.

View Larger Map
The future CCT will be between Third Avenue and the CSX tracks at Woodside.

The MTA showed plan drawings and typical section drawings that showed how the 12’ wide trail with 2’ wide shoulders would fit within the space available between Third Avenue and the CSX tracks. The chain link CSX fence that is now between the train tracks and Third Avenue would be removed and replaced by a concrete crash wall and the trail. The crash wall is a requirement from CSX, to protect trail users from train accidents. There would also be a retaining wall between the trail and Third Avenue in some places where the Trail and Third Avenue are not at the same grade. Third Avenue would not be narrowed, realigned, nor restricted to one-way vehicle traffic. Nothing would be “taken” from any of the side yards along Third Avenue – an important point since fliers passed in the Woodside neighborhood by trail opponents proclaimed that homes would have their yards taken for the trail.

View Larger Map
Looking south along Third Avenue at North Springwood.
The CSX tracks are out of view on the right. The future CCT will be between Third Avenue and the CSX tracks.

Current plans do not yet show details for fencing height and style – these will be determined later in the design process. Some residents at the meeting expressed a desire to have extensive fencing to isolate the trail from the neighborhood to protect the neighborhood from crime, or to screen homes from the trail for privacy. Others pointed out that too much fence would block Woodside residents from having any access to the trail. MTA representatives pointed out that there are only one or two residences adjacent to Third Avenue where the trail is elevated higher than the street so that visual screening from the Trail might be a strong issue. Fencing details can be worked out collaboratively between MTA, the residents, and trail advocates as the design progresses.

Several residents were very concerned that the Trail would bring excessive lighting – stray lighting from the Spring Center on the other side of the CSX tracks is already at an undesirable level for some residents. Mike Madden indicated MTA is in discussion with the County on the trail lighting policy. The County position has been that trails they maintain will not have lighting and will be closed at dark. But the CCT will be the primary access path for pedestrians to reach the Purple Line stations between Bethesda and Silver Spring, and MTA will need the trail to be open near the stations during the hours the Purple Line will operate. Lighting can be designed to be focused down onto the trail, to minimize the stray light impacting the neighborhood. Lighting details will be worked out as the Purple Line preliminary design progresses.

The discussion about fears that crime would come into the neighborhood from the trail was more difficult and contentious. Some residents came to the meeting convinced the Trail will bring rapists and thieves to prey on the community. MTA team members pointed out that many studies had been done on trail safety and the great majority have found trails do not bring crime. Casey Anderson, Woodside resident and WABA board member, described the recent positive experience on the Mathew Henson Trail and also the nearby experience with the CCT in Bethesda. Another Woodside resident pointed out that the recent attempted rape in the neighborhood that was cited as an example of crime near the CSX tracks actually began on Spring Street, and that the would-be rapist attempted to drag the victim toward the CSX tracks because that area was secluded and trashy – a condition that would be corrected by the Trail. Mike Madden offered to bring representatives from the Mont. Co. Police to a future neighborhood meeting to discuss measures that can be taken to address crime. But some of the local residents appeared unmoved in their conviction that the CCT will bring crime to the neighborhood.

At the end of the meeting several residents expressed the view that it was ridiculous to spend $60M for a biking trail. Mike Madden had pointed out that this cost estimate was very approximate and depended on how the cost share for construction items needed by both the transit and the trail, like retaining walls and grading, would be apportioned between the trail and the transit. Madden also pointed out that not all of the $60M would need to come from the County – there may be other state funding sources that are not part of the transit funding that can be tapped.

I left the meeting with the impression that a few of the residents appear to be intent on killing the trail and they will continue to use the crime and cost issues to try to raise community opposition. The trail opponents will not be credible when they assert trails bring crime when there are so many studies of trails nationwide and so much experience on nearby trails that counter that claim. We will need to address the trail cost issue more directly. That will be the subject of a future post.

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3 Responses to “Woodside debates CCT plans”

  1. I live within about half a mile of the trail and strongly support it (and the existing Georgetown Branch/Capital Crescent Trail, and the Purple Line) — crime is a false issue — the trail will add huge value to the neighborhood, and will take traffic off the roads (as well as enhance our lives in less tangible ways).

  2. Casey Anderson says:

    Not to steal any of your thunder for the upcoming post, but I wanted to point out that among the many reasons that the $60 million figure is misleading is that a trail already exists for most of the alignment — what we’re really talking about is the cost of moving the trail (and improving/extending it while we’re at it) so the train can use the same right of way. In this sense, the trail cost is largely of a type that must be borne whenever a new road, transit line, or other transportation facility is built. In the case of the ICC, for example, many homes had to be bought and torn down, at great expense to taxpayers and at tremendous cost in terms of disruption to the lives of people whose houses were taken to make room for the highway. In the case of the Purple Line, nobody’s home will be taken — and while the trail will have to be moved, the cost of doing so is comparatively small. A transit line or road in any other alignment would undoubtedly involve much greater costs for condemnation of private property and demolition of existing structures.

    Of course, critics will say, “Sixty million dollars for a bike trail — that’s outrageous!” The question that must be asked, however, is, “Compared to what?” The CCT already gets 23,000 users a week passing the Bethesda trailhead, and when it is extended and improved as part of the Purple Line project, it will undoubtedly get even more traffic. The Bethesda BRAC project was originally budgeted to cost $212 million just to widen four intersections to make traffic flow more smoothly, and the project’s planners admitted that congestion would return to pre-construction levels with a few years. The fact is that big infrastructure projects are fiendishly expensive — and high quality biking and walking trails like the planned CCT improvements actually compare pretty favorably in terms of cost effectiveness.

  3. David J says:

    The trail is very much needed. :-) It will be especially important to have great trails soon as gasoline prices will be rising dramatically over the nexty 10 years.