Inaction in Annapolis threatens CCT.

The Montgomery County Council made a full commitment to completing the Capital Crescent Trail into Silver Spring with the formal endorsement of the Capital Budget last Thursday, May 24, as reported by the Gazette at Capital Budget includes money for Bethesda Metro Station and by many other newspapers and blogs. The approved FY13-18 CIP budget included $27.6M to rebuild the CCT with the Purple Line from Bethesda to Lyttonsville, with another approx. $20M pledged by the Council to finish the CCT into downtown Silver Spring by FY20.

I contributed an article to the CCCT Spring Newsletter that outlines what changes this funding can bring to the CCT. From that article:

The T&E Committee did vote to program $27.6M in the FY13-18 CIP budget to rebuild the CCT alongside the Purple Line as a 12 foot wide paved trail from Bethesda to the CSX corridor at Lyttonsville. This included the estimated cost for a new trail bridge over Connecticut Avenue, a trail underpass at Jones Mill Road, and an off-road connection between the CCT and the Rock Creek Trail at Rock Creek Park. Funding is included for some limited trail lighting at the Purple Line stations and major trail access points, and for enhanced landscaping (plantings) between the CCT and the adjacent neighborhoods. (Funding for landscaping between the CCT and the Purple Line tracks is being included in the separate MTA Purple Line budget.)

The Council vote was designed to have the Montgomery County CIP budget match up with the state’s proposed Purple Line budget, to coordinate trail construction with Purple Line construction. The Council intends to program the funds to build the CCT extension down the CSX corridor into downtown Silver Spring in the next FY15-20 CIP budget, to complete the Trail into Silver Spring in 2020. This would be the same year the Purple Line is planned for completion.

The County Council has made a strong commitment to the CCT during an especially difficult budget year by standing up and commiting nearly $50M to the trail. I have been waiting for many years for the CCT to be completed beyond Chevy Chase through my Woodside neighborhood into downtown Silver Spring. I thank the Council for making this commitment.

But the CCT schedule is matched up with the Purple Line schedule. It now appears our legislature at Annapolis is undercutting the Purple Line by inaction, and with it the CCT – see Purple Line funding uncertain with failure of Maryland gas tax hike. If the state legislature fails to “man up” and take on the issue of finding a stable funding source soon for the Transportation Trust Fund, then both the Purple Line and the CCT will be very significantly delayed.

I’ve outlined elsewhere on this website at (Future) Capital Crescent Trail why completing the CCT is so intertwined with the Purple Line. It is not possible to separate the CCT from the Purple Line project and to complete it into Silver Spring ahead of the Purple Line without changing the CCT to be on a very badly compromised route. To further show that is true, I repeat the challenge I’ve made to the “Save the Trail” advocates many times: If you can find a credible plan to finish the trail as a quality off-road trail without the Purple Line, then please share that plan with the rest of us. If you don’t have a plan you will share, then we can only conclude you have no credible plan to finish the trail.

The CCT may be getting stalled by inaction at Annapolis, but things are looking a little better for the connecting Metropolitan Branch Trail. The County Council also approved the restoration of approx. $12M in the CIP budget for design and construction of the Metropolitan Branch Trail. The impass between MCDOT and Montgomery Preservation Inc. (MPI) over the proposed alignment of the Metropolitan Branch Trail through the historic B&O Train Station property still remains unresolved. But this restoration of funding allows the MCDOT to continue to work this issue, and MCDOT, MPI, WABA and CSX have met recently to explore options. Hopefully we can report some forward movement on the MetBranch soon.

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