I have heard from several sources other than Councilmember Hans Riemer that the root problem with advancing the MetBranch Trail is now the issue of getting permission from Montgomery Preservation, Inc. for the Trail to cross their Silver Spring Historic B&O Station property.
But now I have received this comment to my prior post from Judy Christensen, Executive Director, MPI:
We were as shocked and surprised as anyone when we heard that the CIP funds for this project were cut from the budget. We were told that it was an interim solution for fiscal reasons and that eventually, the trail would be built. As for us announcing that we did not want the trail through our property, that is simply not true. We did not want the canopy fenced off from the station since we use it in our programs and hold a legal easement from CSX for its use and maintenance. We also did not want a bridge structure on the property. Below you will find our standard reply to inquiries, which I am going to post on our website and on the trail websites. There will be more information in the future. MPI is actively pursuing a route through the front of our land, but we need to recapture parking and hammer out liabiilty and other issues.
Here is our real announcement. Let me know if there are more questions.
MPI has NOT denied passage of the Metropolitan Branch trail through our property. This is simply not true. MPI welcomed the Metropolitan Trail as a way to showcase the historic B&O Station to trail users. Last spring DOT presented MPI with a trail alignment through our property that far better accommodates our programs, and MPI thought we were all going forth with this design. MPI asked several times to meet and address implementation issues such as the loss of parking, liability and compensation but DOT did not meet with us again.
A Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) historical easement prohibits MPI from altering or changing the B&O Station property or structures without approval from MHT. DOT knew of this in 2005, and knew the MHT had problems with the design and wanted alternatives, yet did not pursue MHT approval We were as startled as everyone else that the County Executive recommended an interim at-grade crossing and removed CIP funding from the project. MPI was assured that this was a fiscal decision and eventually the problem would have to be resolved and the trail completed. However, this does give MPI and DOT the time it needs to deal with the implementation and approval issues with the Maryland Historical Trust. We recommend the restoration of funds for planning and consultation with stakeholders to the budget so it can move forward during this period.
Executive Director, MPI
I’m not sure what to make of all this. Is MCDOT and the County Executive using the ongoing negotiations with MPI as an excuse to continue their foot dragging on the MetBranch Trail??
Councilmember Valorie Ervin has sent a letter request to Council President and T&E Committee Chair Roger Berliner requesting a report on the status of the MetBranch Trail. That is more necessary now than ever. We all have a right to know who is the real problem here.