Is MoCo abandoning the MetBranch?

Cycle MoCo reports that Montgomery County is requesting state funding to establish BikeShare, including at Silver Spring and Takoma Park. But at the same time the Montgomery County Executive is moving to kill the only planned trail connection between Silver Spring and Takoma Park – the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

County Executive Ike Leggett has released his proposed FY13-18 CIP budget, and his budget proposes two changes for the county’s section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail:

  • All funding for r.o.w. acquisition and construction is deleted from the CIP budget.
  • The proposed route, if it is ever built, has been thrown out of the CSX corridor and across state highways.

The previous approved FY13-16 CIP budget contained over 12M$ for trail design and for r.o.w. acquisition and construction of the section of the MetBranch from the Silver Spring Transit Center to Georgia Avenue. This section of the MetBranch was to have been completed by FY16. Under this new proposed budget there is no funding for any r.o.w. acquisition or construction through FY18.

To add insult to injury, the new proposed budget also shows that MCDOT plans to change the route of the MetBranch Trail, if it is ever built. The MCDOT plan would eliminate the grade-separated trail crossings planned for Georgia Avenue and E-W Highway and instead force the trail across both of these busy state highways at-grade.

The MCDOT proposed MetBranch route down Philadelphia Avenue.
Source: Proposed FY13-18 MetBranch CIP budget

The County Executive and MCDOT want to take the trail down Philadelphia Avenue across business driveways of the many small auto repair shops along the way, and across both Georgia Avenue and E-W Highway at-grade. This proposed trail route is not new. It has been proposed by MCDOT and rejected several times at public workshops, Planning Board hearings, and County Council proceedings over the past 10 years in favor of a route along the CSX corridor with a trail bridge over Georgia Avenue and a trail tunnel under Burlington Avenue (E-W Highway).

MCDOT proposes that the MetBranch cross Georgia Avenue
at the light at Sligo Avenue.

I’ve posted here about the foot dragging by MCDOT throughout the MetBranch project history. But this new threat to the project is breathtaking in its inconsistency with the hype we are hearing from the county. Just as Montgomery County tauts BikeShare as proof of its commitment to increase cycling in Silver Spring and Takoma Park, it proposes cutting the most important cycling and walking infrastructure in this area.

The MetBranch Trail is not quite dead in Montgomery County yet. The Montgomery County Council has overridden efforts from the County Executive and MCDOT to gut the project in the past, and will have the opportunity to do so again during the upcoming budget deliberations. But this proposed budget is the most serious threat to the MetBranch Trail that I have ever seen.

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5 Responses to “Is MoCo abandoning the MetBranch?”

  1. IMGoph says:

    This would be terrible! I hope the residents of Montgomery County can get together and fight for the trail!

  2. admin says:

    Councilmember Hans Riemer sent me this:

    “It is indeed problematic that they are withholding funds, but the reason is that they can’t get the B&O station owners to grant them right of way. I definitely agree about making a lot of noise on this and maybe we can find a solution, but we need to get the B&O nonprofit turned around.”

    I knew that the owners of the historic B&O station were raising objections. It appears that foot dragging at MCDOT is not the real problem this time.

    Wayne Phyillaier

  3. wow, thanks for heads-up — I have run the current Metropolitan Branch Trail from Silver Spring to Union Station a few times, and you’re right, the Georgia Avenue crossing is not an easy one!

  4. Follow the link above for more on the refusal of Montgomery Preservation Inc. to allow the MetBranch Trail to cross the station property.

  5. MPI objected strongly to some of the features presented to it with the 2004 design through our property, the separated trail and the bridge ramp in our parking lot. That is fact. However, there is more to the story as there always is. Let’s go ahead.

    MPI met face to face with County Executive Ike Leggett in early January to try to get MCDOT to work with us on a front route through the property. At that time the “interim” route at grade across Georgia Avenue was presented and we were told all funding was gone. We were also told in no uncertain terms that the trail WOULD be built. We submitted our preferred route across our property to the Maryland Historical Trust for comments.

    The stickler is not the route or the trail crossing MPI’s property, it boils down to the bridge ramp and bridge. We are told that the original design we agreed to of expanding the existing bridge is not doable. Well, we need an alternative that MPI can live with as well. Many bloggers have talked about alternate routes and options that we are new to us, and perhaps we need to explore others. MPI is open to suggestions and wants to solve the issues. But we want to be part of the solution, not have designs presented to us out of the blue without our input and needs recognized.

    Judy Christensen