CCT Crossing of CSX

Cross posted at

The MTA announced at the County Council Purple Line Master Plan work sessions last July that plans for the future trail crossing of CSX at Talbot Ave. had changed. A Google map of Talbot Avenue and the CSX tracks is below.

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The previous plan was for the future CCT to go between Talbot Avenue and the back side of Rosemary Hills Elementary School, and to cross the CSX tracks on a new trail bridge a few feet south of the historic Talbot Avenue Bridge. But Montgomery County Public Schools strongly requested that the trail cross the CSX tracks north of the school. The MCPS was concerned that if the trail were to pass immediately behind the school, it would require a high retaining wall that would badly impact the school.

Behind Rosemary Hills Elementary School

The MCPS has a valid concern. The school sidewalk behind the school is already pinched between the existing retaining wall for Talbot Avenue and the wall of the school building, and is heavily used by students and staff. A higher retaining wall there would be oppressive.

MTA announced to the Council at the July worksessions that they had developed a new plan that would have the trail cross to the other side of the CSX tracks before it reached the back of the school. The trail would be elevated on a ramp alongside Talbot Avenue and would cross the CSX tracks to the Hanover Street/4th Ave. area. Talbot Avenue would be shifted a few feet to the west and part of Talbot Ave. would become one-way. Additional right-of-way would be taken from five private homes along Talbot Ave. MTA did not present much detail at the Council worksessions.

The Sept. 13 briefing to CCCT provided more detail on the new plan. Parts of the MTA Plan and Profile drawings for that area are shown below.

Trail ramp between CSX tracks and Talbot Ave.
(click on image for a larger scale image)
Source: MTA Plan and Profile – Trail, Sept. 2010

Trail bridge over CSX tracks to 4th Ave.
(click on image for a larger scale image)
Source: MTA Plan and Profile – Trail, Sept. 2010

The first of the two plan views above shows the location of the new trail ramp between Talbot Ave. and the CSX tracks, from Michigan Ave. to Lanier Drive. That drawing also shows the additional right-of-way that must be taken from the five homes between Michigan Ave. and Lanier Drive to allow Talbot Ave. to be shifted to the west.

The next drawing shows the location of the new trail bridge across the CSX tracks, from the intersection of Talbot Avenue and Lanier Drive on the west side (Rosemary Hills side) to the corner of Hanover Street and 4th Ave. on the east side (North Woodside side). It also shows the trail alignment along 4th Ave. The trail will cross Talbot Avenue at the end of the single-lane Talbot Ave. Bridge.

The major drawback to this plan for trail users, compared to the old plan, is the new trail ramp. The ramp will be about 500′ long and will have a 5% grade to elevate the trail for the bridge over the CSX tracks. This total elevation is about the same as required in the old plan to cross CSX, but the old plan followed the grade of Talbot Avenue for a longer distance to beyond the Talbot Ave. Bridge to gain the elevation needed, for a gentler grade. The new ramp also separates the trail from the end of Lanier Drive, so local trail traffic going to/from Lanier Drive will have to follow a detour to access the ramp. Overall I consider the new plan to be acceptible for trail users – it is a reasonable compromise to spare the school from a severe impact.

I have heard some concerns about safety on the trail along 4th Ave. at the crossing at end of the Talbot Ave. Bridge. I don’t think that is a serious issue. That three-way intersection has an all-way stop. Motor vehicle traffic has to take turns on the one-lane bridge, creating regular gaps in traffic flow when trail users can cross the road. The old plan called for the trail to have two at-grade roadway crossings on the west side of the CSX tracks: Michigan Ave. at the corner with Talbot Ave.; and also Lanier Drive at Talbot Ave. These at-grade crossings would have been no better than we will now have at the end of the Talbot Ave. Bridge.

There was some discussion at the CCCT meeting about the impact this new plan will have on the five homes that will lose parts of their yards. It can be seen from the first of the two drawings above that the three homes on Talbot Avenue closest to Lanier Drive would only be slightly impacted, because of the orientation of the homes on their lots and the minimal amount of property to be taken. The two homes nearest to Michigan Ave. would be impacted more heavily and should be given significant compensation for the “taking”. Converting Talbot Ave. from two-way to one-way on this block would be a minor inconvenience. Lanier Drive/Pennsylvania Ave. is a good alternative route for the little through traffic that now uses this street.

Trail users need to go to the MTA meetings! I’ve touched on some of the major trail features of the newest Purple Line/CCT plan in this blog series. Many other design issues came up at the Sept. 13 CCCT meeting: details of access paths and crossings all along the trail; questions about retaining walls and fences between rail, trail, and neighborhoods; adequacy of the sound barriers; trail access at the transit stations, etc. These “details” will be important to the quality of the trail. MTA will be holding public “work sessions” on different aspects of the Purple Line design – including work sessions focused on different parts of the trail. It is important that trail users attend. MTA needs our perspective. Contact MTA at to be put on their list to receive meeting announcements.

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3 Responses to “CCT Crossing of CSX”

  1. Dan says:

    I think this revision is going to get them into a bit of trouble. Let’s say I’m a pedestrian or cyclist going up Lanier. I want to get on the trail to go to downtown SIlver Spring. Am I going to detour back a block to Michigan so that I can go up a 5% grade ramp or will I simply go on the Talbot Bridge and enter the trail at that location. In fact, why anyone want to go up a 5% grade ramp at Michigan when they can simply walk an extra block and enter the trail at the Talbot bridge?

    Assuming I’m right, this will have two significant effects. First, the Michigan entrance will be primarily for people traveling west on the trail. This might give the designers a bit more flexibility regarding how to build the ramp and minimize taken property.

    Second, once the CCT provides an easy way to walk or bike downtown, there will be a significant uptick of pedestrian and cycle traffic on that bridge. There are already quite a few walkers (including people who cut across the school’s field and through a gate right near the bridge). This could cause use issues. My suggestion would be to make sure the Talbot bridge is wide enough to have the same single lane of car traffic and a second, physically separated lane for 2-way bike & pedestrian traffic. If that’s not done, there will be a car bottleneck if drivers also waiting for people to cross and a narrow bridge. That bridge with more pedestrians and impatient drivers is multiple accidents waiting to happen.

  2. admin says:


    I agree that the limited access to the planned trail ramp is undesirable for peds and cyclists who use Lanier Drive. But I don’t agree that this will increase ped and cyclist traffic on the Talbot Ave. vehicle bridge overall. Users of the future CCT will mostly not be using Lanier and will stay on the trail to use the ramp. Much of the through ped and cycle traffic that now uses the Talbot Ave. vehicle bridge will be taken off the bridge by the new trail. The number using Lanier Drive is low compared to those who stay with the trail to Michigan Ave. and beyond.
    Making the Talbot Ave. vehicle bridge wider is not an option politically – the historic bridge is caught in local politics, with Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville wanting a bridge and North Woodside wanting no vehicle bridge here at all. The politics has taken on a racist tone, and politicians decided to maintain the status quo as the easiest path. The MTA is planning on keeping the historic single-lane center span in place in deference to Mont. Co.

  3. Dan says:

    I’m not sure why you think much of the through ped & cycle traffic on the bridge will be removed by the trail. Yes, the people who are going to the current terminus of trail and continuing to downtown Silver Spring won’t be on the Talbot Bridge anymore, but people in the Lyttonsville/Rosemary Hills neighborhoods will. I suspect most are currently walking across the bridge to get to the Seminary/Georgia shopping areas and that won’t change.

    For the people in this neighborhood, unless someone lives right by the bridge, it’s probably faster to walk to East-West Hwy to get downtown. Once the trail is complete, walking across the Talbot bridge and entering the trail there will be the fastest and flattest way to get downtown. It might even be faster than waiting for a bus. If designers don’t realize this, it might cause some headaches in the future.

    Call me an idealist, but I prefer my politicians to take the right path not the easiest path. If a better bridge can be built for the same money as taking down the graffiti-covered bridge and reassembling it, I’d rather push for that. I recognize that people in Woodside would rather not have the car traffic, but the status quo wouldn’t be changing. There will be a one-lane car bridge beforehand and a one-lane car bridge that’s safer for pedestrians afterwords.