BRT on JBR, part four

Does BRT on JBR “save” the trail?

In the previous post of this series I discussed some differences between how Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail Transit may impact the Capital Crescent Trail if the Purple Line is built in the Georgetown Branch Corridor.

Some advocates for Bus Rapid Transit on Jones Bridge Road (BRT on JBR) claim this Purple Line option is the “win-win” option. This Purple Line option would not use the Georgetown Branch corridor west of Jones Mill Road.  Advocates for BRT on JBR assert that this alignment will result in the Capital Crescent Trail being completed into downtown Silver Spring, while also saving the trail from the devastation that (they say) will come with having the Purple Line alongside the trail in the Georgetown Branch Corridor.

BRT on JBR would run on Jones Bridge Road to the Medical
Center, then down Woodmont Avenue to Bethesda.
Map source: Action Committee for Transit

Claims that the BRT on JBR will not use the Georgetown Branch Corridor are very misleading. BRT would share the combined Georgetown Branch Corridor and the CSXT corridor with the trail for over 1/2 of the total length of the trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring, including on the Georgetown Branch Corridor through the only true park on the route, Rock Creek Park. Claims that some advocates are making that the Georgetown Branch Corridor is wider east of Jones Mill Road than it is in Chevy Chase are wrong. The Georgetown Branch Corridor is wide across Rock Creek Park, at 225′, but then is only 60′ to 66′ feet wide through the entire Lyttonsville section from near the Grubb Road access to beyond Stewart Avenue. This narrow section is the same length as the 66′ wide section at the Town of Chevy Chase.

If BRT on JBR advocates will accept BRT alongside the trail for over 1/2 of its length, including through Rock Creek Park and through some of the most narrow Georgetown Branch Corridor sections, then they must either acknowledge that transit and trail are compatible or they must ignore the trail east of Jones Mill Road.  

BRT on JBR advocates point out that the trail would not be disturbed for the section west from Jones Mill Road to Bethesda and the trail would not be forced to accommodate transit in the Bethesda Tunnel. But even this advantage will be partially offset by problems that will come with converting the Interim Trail to a permanent CCT without transit. If the Purple Line does not use this part of the Georgetown Branch corridor, then converting this part of the trail into a permanent CCT will become the sole responsibility of Montgomery County. Building grade separated trail crossings of Connecticut Avenue and Jones Mill Road, widening the trail, and even paving the trail cannot be taken as certain to happen.

A trail bridge over Connecticut Avenue may
never be built without the Purple Line

The medium and high investment LRT options and high BRT option would provide a trail bridge over Connecticut Avenue and an underpass under Jones Mill Road. Trail advocates will be very hard pressed to ever get the County to build these if not part of the Purple Line project construction.

The Columbia Country Club will fight efforts
to stop its encroachment on public land.

The Purple Line would force the issue of removing the fences at the Columbia Country Club to allow the public to use the 100′ wide public corridor there. Will the County have the resolve to face down the Club so trail users do not feel like they are in a narrow cage there if the Purple Line is not built? It has been many years since the ownership issue over the 100′ right of way was resolved in favor of the County by the courts, yet the County has shown no willingness to ask the Club to move the fences. The Club continues to boldly encroach on the public land, and will continue to use all of its resources to fight efforts to push the fences back.

Chevy Chase residents will likely fight
 efforts to widen and pave the trail.

The Purple Line would rebuild the trail as a 10′ wide paved trail. One would think that paving the trail would be a “no brainer” for the County. But many of the same local residents who proclaim “Save the Trail” on their backyard fences are opposed to paving and widening the trail because then the trail would no longer be the quiet neighborhood trail they have become accustomed to using. We will see “Save the Trail” advocates start lobbying in opposition to converting the gravel Interim CCT into a paved permanent trail within a nanosecond of a decision to not build the Purple Line.

BRT on JBR is not the “win-win” for the trail that advocates claim.  The trail would share the Georgetown Branch/CSXT corridor for over 1/2 of its length between Bethesda and Silver Spring with BRT instead of more compatible LRT. The benefit of being spared from accommodating transit west of Jones Mill Road and in the Bethesda Tunnel would be offset by losing the grade separated trail crossings of Connecticut Avenue and Jones Mill Road.  Trail users will likely face opposition to paving and widening the trail from Chevy Chase neighborhoods and from the Columbia Country Club.

How should trail users weigh these Purple Line issues? That will be the subject of the next (and last) article of this series.

2 Responses to “BRT on JBR, part four”

  1. Anonymous says:

    First off, the Georgetown Branch Trail is a great path in our community. I just wonder why the paving of this trail hasn’t be completed. Clearly as a cycling commuter the trail is a fantastic car free path, which I feel is a great alternative to cycling the roads of our county. Thing is when the trail is wet or muddy, it becomes a hazard for everyone on it. Bad conditions give cyclist an extra hard time getting around hikers/runners. Further more the trail itself looks like it’s falling apart in bad weather. We approximatly 10,000 people using this trail annually, why haven’t we paved it’s foundation for the future? So I ask,”When do we plan on improving the conditions of this path? And, who is holding up it’s development? I’ve also noticed the CSX bridge has a sign that says no motorized vehicle crossing. What are the bridge rules on the CSX bridge?

  2. silverspringtrails says:

    The CSX bridge was open to motor vehicles when I last crossed it this weekend. It is usually open to motor vehicles (except heavy trucks), taking turns on the one -lane span. Repairs have taken place recently that closed the bridge to motor vehicles, but the repairs appear to be over for now.
    As for paving the Interim CCT, it is County policy not to pave it until it is converted into a permanent trail. Years ago the CCCT was advocating to pave it, arguing that even if the paving lasted only five years or so before the trail had to be rebuilt with the Purple Line, that would still be worth it for the better trail use in that period. But now with money tight and the Purple Line construction potentially only a few years away, it looks like nothing will happen before the trail is rebuilt with transit.