New Lyttonsville area Purple Line/trail plans

Cross posted at GreaterGreaterWashington and at Washcycle.

MTA has posted the materials it presented at the Sept. 13 Lyttonsville neighborhood work group meeting. The presentation and project maps are on their website at Lyttonsville station area.

The most useful of these project maps for understanding the new plans for the future CCT through this area is the Design Option Roll Map.

Lyttonsville station area Purple Line map
Partial view of the Design Option Roll Map
(Click on image for the full map.)

I will attempt to list the significant changes for the CCT in the area plan, from the Rock Creek Park east to the CSX corridor. I recommend that the Design Option Roll Map be used to follow along.

  1. At Rock Creek: The CCT remains on the north side of the light rail tracks. The prior plans called for the CCT to switch from the north to the south side of the tracks at the Rock Creek trail bridge. The new plan holds the trail on the north side. The trail bridge is simpler since it does not have to twist under the Purple Line bridge. The access ramp from the CCT down to the Rock Creek Trail would be like before, except that it would be built on the north side of the berm. (Note that this access ramp is still under discussion between MTA and M-NCPPC. There are concerns about cost and the impact on the trees on the side of the berm, and a decision could be taken to just continue to use the existing connection on Susanna Lane.)
  2. At Grubb Road: A new bridge will carry the access path across the Purple Line tracks to the CCT on the north side. The drawings show a long switchback ramp to provide the elevation needed for the new access bridge. But the access path is roughly along the same alignment as the old Brookville Road bridge that crossed over the B&O tracks here long ago. The old bridge abutment can still be seen on the north side of the corridor from the Interim CCT. The railbed elevation is already well below the elevation the access path has now, and I believe the extent of the switchback ramp shown in the drawing is grossly overstated. When I asked Purple Line project manager Mike Madden about this, he indicated the ramp in the drawing was only conceptual and was not based on any elevation measurements, so it is likely overstated in the drawing.
  3. Grubb Road to Steward Avenue: An access trail paralleling the main trail. The drawing shows two trails alongside each other along the south side of Brookville Road. The main CCT is the wider trail (to be 12 feet wide) that is next to the Purple Line tracks. It goes under the Lyttonsville Place bridge and under the relocated Stewart Avenue bridge. The access trail is the narrower trail (to be 8′ wide) that is adjacent to Brookville Road and between Brookville Road and the main CCT. It serves as a Brookville Road sidewalk and also gives access to the main CCT between the Lyttonsville Place and Stewart Ave. bridges. The access trail crosses Lyttonsville Place and Stewart Avenue at-grade at the north end of the bridges.
  4. At the Lyttonsville station: The CCT is on the north side. Under the old plan, the Purple Line tracks and station were on the south side of the storage tracks in this area, and the trail was on the south side adjacent to the industrial lots through this area. Under this new plan, the trail and PL tracks are flipped to the north side closer to Brookville road. Note that MTA is considering moving the transit station location further east, closer to Stewart Ave. This would place the station closer to the entrance to the Walter Reed Annex – the area’s largest employer.
  5. At Stewart Avenue: A grade-separated crossing. It is proposed to shift part of Stewart Avenue to line up with the main entrance to the Walter Reed Annex, and to have Stewart Avenue cross over the CCT and the Purple Line on a new bridge. The old plan had both the trail and transit crossing Stewart Avenue at-grade. This change would remove the only at-grade roadway crossing on the CCT between Bethesda and Silver Spring, making the rebuilt trail 100% grade separated.
  6. At the CSX corridor: A relocated trail bridge. The CCT would cross over the CSX tracks on a new bridge similar to the old plan, but the bridge would be shifted to the north closer to Kansas Avenue. This would not be a significant change for the trail, but does reduce the impact of the Purple Line on Talbot Avenue. Talbot Avenue could remain as a two way street as it is now, and much less r.o.w. would need to be taken from the several homes on Talbot Avenue.

Overall I consider flipping the CCT from the south to the north side to be roughly an even trade for trail users. Access will be slightly more inconvenient from neighborhoods to the south, but easier from the neighborhoods and businesses on the north. The trail will be closer to Brookville Road – with more traffic noise. But it will also have a new grade-separated crossing at Stewart Avenue. Much like the lengthy discussion of north vs. south in Bethesda/Chevy Chase, your preference will be determined largely by whether you live or work on the north vs. the south side of the corridor. As always, much will depend on the details to be developed during the next design phases.

The MTA map of the Impact Comparison shows that the overall footprint of the project is little changed through this area. A few feet of r.o.w. would be taken on the north side, but a comparible area is spared on the south side. The notable exceptions are the parking structure for the Purple Line maintenance yard employees that would be built where the car storage lots are now, and the realigned section of Stewart Avenue that would be built where the landscaping stone storage yard is now.

Some residents from neighborhoods on the south side of the project are making claims that the new plan will impact them much more than the older plan, Proposed Purple Line stop for Silver Spring raises residents’ eyebrows. But I don’t buy it. The most active part of the project, the Purple Line main track and station, are moved farther from the south side neighborhoods. The storage tracks and maintenance building are only a few feet closer to the south side residences than in the older plan, and still have good separation from the residences. The parking structure will be closer to the Claridge House high-rise, but will a parking structure used by the approx. 200 employees really be that much worse than the car storage lots and landscaping business lots that are there now? Detailed noise studies have been promised by MTA.

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3 Responses to “New Lyttonsville area Purple Line/trail plans”

  1. good discussion and analysis of the plan — many thanks! — the graphic is most helpful in understanding what will be happening

  2. Dan says:

    I was also at the meeting & live in the area. I very frequently bike through this area.

    I generally agree that the north vs south switch of the tracks has plusses and minuses, but is fairly neutral in balance. One big plus of the new plan is that they no longer include car lanes for the length of the yard to let people drive to a maintenance building on the west end. This narrows the total width of the tracks & might make roofing the yard more practical. A roof would limit the disturbances to the community, increase the lifespan of the cars, & probably make them a bit nicer to work on in inclement weather.

    The big minus is that the new plan had added a fairly large parking garage that didn’t exist at all in the old plan. That garage is the closest thing to houses & will increase disturbances. Do you want a multistory garage suddenly appearing around 200 feet from your home or apartment?

    Did the original design not account for employee parking? With requiring such a large garage, are they assuming that almost all employees will drive to work right next to a mass transit stop? Moving parking north of Brookville Rd would, at least, create a buffer between the relocated maintenance building & homes.

    Like I said, I’m in this area frequently. The current business at the proposed garage site isn’t exactly scenic, but it’s very low traffic & I’ve never heard any noise from it. Having 200 cars entering & leaving a garage over 3 shifts will be a real change.

    It’s also clear that the complex & expensive new car bridge over the tracks rather than an at-grade crossing is primarily to facilitate access to this garage. If parking wasn’t south of the tracks, they would be able to save real money by not building this bridge. Building the garage & bridge over the tracks would also mean cyclists & pedestrians would have to go up a ramp to access the station/trail at this location. The current bridge doesn’t even look wide enough for 2-way car traffic & a pedestrian/bike lane.

    Given the large amount of parking in the area & that it’s next to train & bus lines, I’d like to see more thought to moving employee parking elsewhere. Perhaps a long-term agreement with the Walter Reed Annex?

    As an aside, one minus of having the trail & tracks north of the yard are that I don’t see any space for trees. This will mean almost a half mile of the trail will be completely unshaded. That will not make a good trail experience in this neighborhood. Perhaps sections could be shifted sufficiently south to allow for a row of trees?

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