Purple Line LPA selected

You already know that yesterday, August 4, Governor O”Malley announced that he has selected light rail along the future Capital Crescent Trail to be the Local Preferred Alternative (LPA) for the Purple Line. If you missed the news because you were vacationing on the back side of the moon, you can catch up with the washingtonpost.com or purplelinenow.com.

Map of Purple Line alignment

partial MTA map of the Locally Preferred Alternative

The MTA put a map and a description of the LPA on their website yesterday at purplelinemd.com. The MTA description of the LPA is seven pages long. I’m extracting here those LPA characteristics of immediate interest to users of the future Capital Crescent Trail.

What’s next:

During the next phase of the project, Preliminary Engineering, the Final Environmental Impact Statement also will be prepared. The FEIS will include analysis of reasonable alternatives developed and detailed development of the proposed alternative. This will include the development of more specific environmental and engineering information including detailed environmental testing and mitigation plans, geometric alignment designs, bridges and structures, station locations and design, landscaping features, access and operating strategies, drainage, right-of-way requirements, maintenance of traffic during construction, phasing of construction, and a detailed financial plan including funding commitments. Minor alignment and engineering adjustments to the selected alternative will occur during final design and construction phases of the project.

The alignment:

Starting on the western end of the corridor, the Purple Line LPA uses the new southern entrance to the Bethesda Metrorail Station with a direct connection to the Metrorail Red Line via high speed elevators. It follows a surface alignment along the Georgetown Branch right-of-way, crossing over Connecticut Avenue and under Jones Mill Road. The Capital Crescent Trail will be completed: paved and landscaped, providing a continuous trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring, providing direct connections to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, Rock Creek Trail, and the Green Trail.

The Purple Line LPA stays on the south side of the CXS corridor until just past Spring Street, when it will cross over the tracks to enter the Silver Spring Transit Center on an aerial structure one level above the existing tracks; providing good connections to the Metrorail Red Line and the MARC Brunswick Line, and many bus routes.

It exits the Silver Spring Transit Center to follow Bonifant Street on the surface and have a station integrated into the new Silver Spring Library. It continues on Wayne Avenue at grade, in shared lanes with added left turn lanes.

Upgrades:

The changes from the Medium Light Rail Alternative as defined in the AA/DEIS are: – The Capital Crescent Trail would continue through the tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue. This has strong support from local bicycle and trail advocacy groups. An alternate route will be provided by a County-planned route along Elm Street Park and on Bethesda Avenue.

Continued refinement and modifications will occur along the entire corridor, but areas expected to be the subject of additional detailed study include: – Capital Crescent Trail: Montgomery County and many trail advocates have requested that the trail be widened to as much as 16 feet, where feasible. The design of the trail including the trail width, location, and landscaping will include participation by local residents, trail users, and adjacent property owners.

On compatibility:

How will the Light Rail and the Capital Crescent Trail coexist?
The use of the Georgetown Branch right-of-way in which the Interim Georgetown Branch Trail is located has been a highly contentious issue for many community members and trail users. Light rail and pedestrians have been shown to be compatible around the world. The MTA has worked with trail designers, the adjacent communities and Montgomery County (who will operate and maintain the trail), to improve the trail and create a more appealing trail experience by shifting the trailto the north side of the transitway, placing the trail 3-4 feet above the level of the tracks, and adding a landscaped buffer. The MTA will continue to meet with local trail users and residents in the development and evaluation of designs for the trail.

Governor O’Malley pledged to preserve the Capital Crescent Trail during his comments at the announcement. County Executive Ike Leggett was on hand to speak in support the governor’s decision, and his comments were especially strong that he would protect and preserve the Trail alongside the light rail.

I believe the LPA defines a transit concept that can co-exist very well with the Trail. But the devil is in the details, and the details still have to be nailed down during final design. Two big “details”: grass tracks, and trail width. Grass tracks can go far to keep the green in the trail experience. A wider trail would be a gift to all trail users, except local residents who want to keep the trail as a semi-exclusive neighborhood trail.

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