July 6, 2009 update:
Excavation for the new Silver Spring Transit Center is well underway. Space is being set aside for the Purple Line and the Metropolitan Branch Trail alongside the CSX and Metro tracks.
April 1, 2008 post:
The alignment the future CCT takes across Colesville Road to connect with the Metropolitan Branch Trail will determine whether the CCT will complete an urban trail network of regional importance.
Looking north toward Colesville Road from above the Silver Spring transit center. The Georgetown Branch Trail now ends at Second Avenue on the north side of Colesville Road (right center in the photo above).
Click here for a larger view.
Construction of the new Silver Spring Transit Center will begin in earnest this summer. A three level bus deck will be built in the center where the bus bays are now. Two high rise buildings will be built at the northeast and southeast corners. The northern terminus of the Metropolitan Branch Trail will be built with the transit center construction. The MetBranch Trail will enter the transit center from the south, alongside the CSX corridor.
The future CCT needs a direct alignment that gives a safe crossing of Colesville Road and an easy MetBranch Trail connection through all of the heavy vehicle and pedestrian activity at the new transit center. The Purple Line transit/trail concept will provide this connection. The concept calls for the CCT to be built across Colesville Road and straight through the transit center alongside the CSX/Metro tracks on an elevated structure. The CCT would be at the same elevation as the CSX/Metro tracks but separated from them by a 25′+ buffer space. The CCT would also be at the same level as the existing MARC platform and the new second level bus deck, and would have a pedestrian bridge connection across to the elevators and escalators from the second level bus deck down to the first level of the transit center. The CCT be at the high elevation needed for a level connection to the MetBranch Trail at the south side of the transit center.
The Purple Line transit would also go across Colesville Road and through the transit center on an elevated structure, between the CCT and the CSX/WMATA tracks and about 20′ higher than the CCT. The structure holding the Purple Line high above the trail would be similar to that holding the Metro Red Line above the Beltway and Rockville Pike in North Bethesda.
It is unlikely the CCT will ever be built on this alignment without the Purple Line. The Metro Plaza Building proximity to the CSX tracks on the north side of Colesville Road creates a serious “choke point” for this alignment. The CCT can get through this choke point as a 10′ wide trail IF an agreement can be reached with CSX and WMATA to build a retaining wall at the minimum required 25′ safety standoff within their r.o.w., IF a several foot wide easement can be taken from the west side of the Metro Plaza building lot to allow the trail to be built to within 2′ of the building at the south corner, and IF we can fund the high cost of the retaining wall and the elevated structure over Colesville Road and through the Transit Center. We need the Purple Line to leverage the CSX operating agreements and easements, and to share the cost of combined transit/trail structures.
If the CCT is not built on this alignment, then the best alternative alignment past the Metro Plaza Building will be on along Second Avenue. But that will force the CCT onto an at-grade trail crossing of Colesville Road, a six lane highway busy with bus traffic coming into the busiest bus station in Maryland. After crossing Colesville Road the CCT must either use a path through the transit center or go around the transit center on a sidepath trail along Wayne Avenue and Ramsey Avenue to connect to the MetBranch Trail. Any route through the center will conflict with the heavy bus and pedestrian activity in the center, and will require cyclists to dismount and walk their bikes through most of the center. A sidepath trail going around the center must deal with the motor vehicle conflicts from crossing the entrances to the second level bus deck, the third level kiss-and-ride and taxi deck, and entrances to the high rise buildings.
You don’t have to be a trail advocate to want the direct CCT connection into the new transit center. Anyone who lives or works north of Colesville Road and wants to use Metrobus, MARC, or the Purple Line will want the grade-separated trail crossing of Colesville Road.