Metropolitan Branch Trail
Moving forward in Mont. Co. and in D.C.
The Metropolitan Branch Trail (MetBranch) will extend along or near the CSX/WMATA corridor for over 8 miles from the Silver Spring Metro Station through Takoma Park to Union Station, in D.C. It will connect directly with the (future) Capital Crescent Trail to form the main spine of the trail network in lower Montgomery County. It will be an off-road trail where park land or rail corridor r.o.w. is available, and will be a side-path trail or will use bike lanes along streets elsewhere.
In Montgomery County:
The Montgomery County Planning Board approved a facility plan for Montgomery County’s segment of the MetBranch Trail in 2001 that calls for a first class trail continuous between the Silver Spring Transit Center to the D.C. line in Takoma Park.
Montgomery College has completed a short section of the MetBranch Trail through its Takoma Campus as part of its college expansion project. The Trail was build as a sidepath trail alongside Fenton Street when the street was realigned, shown here at left. A pedestrian bridge has been built over the CSX tracks to connect the new Takoma College buildings on Georgia Avenue with the main campus. This bridge also provides access between the Trail and Jessup Blair Park and the neighborhoods west of the CSX tracks. The bridge opened on July 28, 2004.
The City of Takoma Park has completed another contiguous section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail between Montgomery College and the District Line. It is a sidepath trail alongside Fenton Street and Takoma Avenue, shown here at right. It was first built with a temporary water-permeable stone-dust surface, but was replaced with permanent asphalt in January 2006 after evaluation indicated the trees adjacent to the trail would not be significantly impacted. These two adjacent trail sections complete an approx. 0.5 mile from Montgomery College to the D.C. line. An approx. 0.7 mile trail section remains to be completed in Montgomery County.
The next section of the MetBranch to be completed in Montgomery County will be a short section at the new Silver Spring Transit Center. The Trail is being built on the south west side of the new transit station, from the Red Line Metro station entrance at Colesville Road to Bonifant Street, as part of the transit center construction. The MetBranch Trail will connect at Bonifant Street to the future Capital Crescent Trail, which will be entering the transit center from the north on a trail bridge over Colesville Road and will pass through the transit center on an elevated structure. Transit Center construction began in summer, 2008.
It is the responsibility of Montgomery County DOT to build the remaining approx. 0.7 miles of the Metropolitan Branch Trail between the Silver Spring Transit Center and Montgomery College. MCDOT began Phase I concept design in 2004 and presented concept options to the Montgomery County Planning Board and to the County Council T&E Committee in 2006. The Planning Board and the Council T&E Committee both approved the “Option 1″ design with a trail alignment along the CSX corridor and having a new trail bridge over Georgia Avenue and a trail tunnel under Burlington Avenue (East-West Highway). The trail project transitioned to Phase II preliminary design in June 2006.
near the existing CSX railroad bridge under the approved plan.
In February 2008 design work on the project was put on hold on MCDOT’s recommendation that concurrence should first be obtained on the project’s concept from other affected agencies, most notably CSX and WMATA. But that decision backfired – in 2009 it became apparent the other agencies would not enter into serious discussions unless MCDOT could show more design information. See the State of the MetBranch post for more on this setback.
In February 2010, the County Executive proposed a new FY11-16 CIP Budget that would not restart design work until FY13 and that included no funding for construction. But the Montgomery County Council T&E Committee rejected the County Executive’s recommendation, and approved a CIP Budget with $12M+ for the trail that allowed design work to resume in FY11 and included funds for construction. Little progress was made by MCDOT on the design for the next two years however, even though funding was available. Then in February 2012 the County Executive proposed a new (FY13-18) CIP Budget that included no money for design or construction. Yet again the County Council rejected the County Executive’s recommendation and approved a CIP Budget that included funds for continuing work on the MetBranch Trail. The CIP Budget approved by the Council in spring 2012 included $12M+ to complete the trail design and to build the trail section from the new Sarbanes Transit Center to Georgia Avenue, including building the trail bridge over Georgia Avenue. Construction of the remaining section under Burlington Avenue to Takoma Park is not funded in the approved budget – an on road interim route on Philadelphia Avenue/Fenton Street will likely be used until funding for this last section can be found.
The unfinished 0.7 mile trail section in Silver Spring is in an area where several difficult issues must be resolved. The most significant design issue slowing progress at the moment is detailed at Off-track at the historic train station. But the biggest problem that has been slowing trail development has been the inaction and foot-dragging at MCDOT as described by WABA at Reminder – The MetBranch Trail is not finished:
“….Despite the existence of funding and the inclusion of the trail in approved master plans, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) has not even begun the design of the critical crossing of Georgia Avenue, much less initiated any form of construction. Instead, they continue to tiptoe around and negotiate with owners of the historic Silver Spring B&O Train Station, who do not want bicyclists able to travel along the master planned route, which includes an area the group currently rents as event space.”
“Four months after a meeting facilitated by representatives of the County Executive, we have seen no further action.”
In the District of Columbia:
The District of Columbia is building the 7 miles of the Metropolitan Branch Trail within D.C. Parts of the Trail have already been built or are under construction. A one-mile section of the Trail was completed first along McCormick Avenue at Catholic University. Another early trail section was built at the southern terminus of the MetBranch, along First Avenue at Union Station.
A crucial 2000 foot section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail was built with the New York Avenue Metro Station in 2004. But this section of the trail remainded unconnected until spring 2010.
In June 2010 the section of the MetBranch Trail between the New York Avenue Metro Station and Franklin Street was completed and opened. This section of the Trail passes by the Rhode Island Avenue Metro Station. This New York Avenue to Franklin Street Section, combined with the already completed sections at Catholic University and at Union Station complete the southern half of the MetBranch Trail in D.C. This is an approx. 3.5 miles of continuous trail.
The D.C. Department of Public Works (DDOT) is completing alignment studies and beginning acquisition of right-of-way for the rest of the Trail in D.C. The section from the end of McCormick Drive to the Fort Totten Metro Station is expected to be built next. The final concept plans for these remaining sections are being developed. More information on the status of the Trail in D.C. is available on the DDOT website, at www.metbranchtrail.com.